An oversimplified explanation of how cattle agriculture contributes to global warming

One comment

My journey with meat has been everything but normal. I went from being a cheeseburger in paradise kind of girl to someone who now, never buys meat really at the grocery store or chooses a burger only if it’s already been purchased and prepared.

I’ve become comfortable now saying while in a culinary setting,

  • “I don’t eat beef for environmental reasons.”
  • “I’m mostly plant-based.”
  • “I consider myself a flexitarian.”

All varied answers but with one initiative in mind.

There’s reason that there’s been massive hype around the two main plant-based meat companies: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meats. That’s because they are solving a huge problem related to global warming and climate change.

This was something I never understood (what is the problem and why is it a big deal to solve it?) until learning about it in chemistry class my senior year of college. How is cow agriculture and beef specifically directly linked to warming our globe?

First, we must take it back a step to understand what is the greenhouse effect? I’m envisioning a Jimmy Neutron brain blast where we’re pulling info that we definitely learned but forgot from high school or college science class…

The Greenhouse Effect: what is it again?

This is a completely oversimplified, normal non-scientist way of describing what it is:

  1. Basically our sun emits it’s warmth into our atmosphere.
  2. It then bounces off of the surface of the Earth back into our atmosphere to go back out to space.
  3. When it bounces BACK into the atmosphere, some of it gets trapped to warm our atmosphere. Which to be clear, we need or else we would be freezing! Greenhouse gases are the ones responsible for trapping this heat so that we can live on Earth. Think: Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Ozone and more.
  4. However, when there are TOO many greenhouse gases that means that MORE heat is being trapped than is necessary or normal for our Earth. It’s trapping too much heat.

I hope that makes a little more sense!? Here’s a diagram again that I was probably shown in science class.

Image result for greenhouse gas

Picture Source:

Greenhouse Gas: a gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation

Source: Oxford Dictionary

Okay okay so what does this have to do with cows then?

Cows produce METHANE. One of the “worst offending” greenhouse gases. According to National Geographic, every time a cow burps or for lack of a better word, farts, it releases methane which is 28x more powerful at warming our earth compared to carbon dioxide. These human influenced (meaning cows meant for our beef and dairy consumption) attribute to 40% of the methane released in our atmosphere today and include 1.4 billion cattle.

My thought process? If I can create less of a demand for my own beef and cattle consumption, that would result in less cattle agriculture, and methane release. If I spend my dollar toward plant-based burgers, plant-based meats with drastically less harmful environmental impacts, I will be leaving less of a detrimental footprint to our earth.

SO that is the long winded answer, as to why I don’t eat beef if it is my own choice to purchase it. The reasoning behind my own choices. The good news? I freaking love the beyond burger. If you’re making one for the first time or giving it a try, you can leverage my guide on how to make the perfect one! 

Whatever you decide to “be” or however you decide to consume on a regular basis – you don’t have to decide for forever or for your future. It’s a journey. And it changes.

I started eliminating burgers now and then as I began to learn about the impact and then finally I found myself saying “I don’t really eat beef.” However if I was at a grad party and they were already prepared, I would eat one because I felt, well, it’d be going to waste anyways and it wasn’t my own decision to purchase them. Why not enjoy one at this point?

It’s a journey. And it starts with being aware.

What are your thoughts on this? How have your consumption habits changed in the past, if any, related to the environment?


The Sustennial

1 comments on “An oversimplified explanation of how cattle agriculture contributes to global warming”

Leave a Reply