Cows are being blamed for climate change, here are the facts

Cattle consume carbohydrates in plants like native grasses and corn grain. These carbohydrates contain carbon, the fundamental element of all living things, which is derived from carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

When cattle eat carbohydrates, some of the carbon gets converted to CO2 and methane (CH4) by the rumen microbes. About once a minute, a series of rumen contractions releases this gas mixture from the animal’s mouth in a process called eructation, or more simply, belching. If this natural belching process doesn’t occur, cattle can suffer from bloat.

When the methane cattle release enters the atmosphere, it does have an effect of trapping heat energy. However, methane doesn’t stick around very long in the atmosphere.

Over the course of a decade, the methane emitted from a cow will be transformed through a series of photochemical reactions to carbon dioxide. That carbon dioxide can then again be taken up by plants, and the cycle repeats.

This process has been happening since the first animal took a breath million of years ago.

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