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Cow Burps and Global Warming: How Gassy Cows are Warming the World

There’s a ton of buzz out there about how cow farts are contributing to global warming. But did you know that most methane emissions from cows and other livestock (like sheep) aren’t from flatulence?

They’re from burping. In fact, up to 95% of methane emissions from cows come from burping… and it’s hurting the environment.

But before we dive into the impact, let’s talk about how cows produce methane.

Also – check out these other beef / climate change posts –

How do cows produce methane?

Cows and other livestock (like sheep, goats, giraffes, and deer) are ruminants — a class of mammals in which most have four stomachs and store their food in the first chamber called the rumen, before regurgitating it. Inside the rumen are microbes that aid with digestion.Several of these microbes emit gases, including methane. When a cow burps (or farts), it releases methane. It’s estimated that a single cow lets out 30-50 gallons of methane per day. 

Wow, that’s a lot of methane. But so what?

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is twenty times more potent at trapping heat from the sun than CO2.

Given our global proclivity for beef (and the size of cows), cows produce more methane than the rest of livestock combined. In the United States, cow burbs account for 26% of the country’s total methane emission.

This means there’s a ton of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions coming from livestock all around the world, every. single. day.

Yikes. What can we do?

Emissions from agriculture are expected to increase by up to 30% by 2050 — unless we get serious about reducing it. People’s go-to solution here is typically to address the burps. Researchers have looked at everything from methane-reducing vaccines to changing up cows’ diets.

But here’s the issue with that — it’s not just the cow burps that are harming the environment. It’s the demand for beef. Raising livestock takes a huge toll on the environment, from deforestation to water-use to plant elimination. If you’re serious about reducing the impact of livestock on global warming, then you’ll have to get serious about reducing your meat. Because the less meat we eat, the less heat!