January 11, 2011


Is there a glass of milk sitting on the table as you read this over breakfast? Bet you didn’t know that the production of milk is one of the big offenders in the creation of damaging greenhouse gases.  How are dairy farmers are working to improve this situation? By reducing cow burps!

That’s right. Half of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with each gallon of milk take the form of methane gas, which is released both when cows burp and when they produce manure (that is, when they poop). And it’s not just a problem here. A British study found that methane emissions from gassy cows are responsible for 4% of the U.K.‘s total greenhouse gas emissions. A 2006 United Nations study found that cows produce a staggering 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions — more than planes, trains and automobiles combined.

Can burping cows really be responsible for all this? When cows digest their food, stomach bacteria produce methane, an ozone-forming gas considered 23 times worse than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere. "A lot of people think this gas is coming from the rear end," explains Nancy Hirshberg of Stoneyfield Farms in Highgate, Vt. "Ninety-five percent is actually from the front end, from the burps." Stoneyfield Farms is one of the many dairy producers who are working to develop new kinds of feeds that will help cows digest their food better, as well as constructing machines called methane digesters, which convert the bad methane gas to usable biogas.

Some families have one meat-free and dairy-free meal every week to help this problem of burping cows!


Posted by: Seymour Simon

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