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A few weeks ago, the Golden Globes went meatless in an attempt to combat climate change.  Not surprisingly the Oscars soon followed suit. Sorta, they had a few sustainably raised meat options.  Many folks on the internet have asked “How does not eating meat help the environment? It’s spurred a “long winded” discussion at our house about beef and gas.  Granted, our talks about methane tend to be about the the kind that’s generated by our elementary school boys.  Don’t worry, you won’t need a tooter, I mean, tutor, to understand the science in this post.  Beware, the puns in this article are going to be ridiculous and in poor taste.  Prepare your hearts.

The anti-beef moooo-vement

Here’s the science as to why people in the moo-vies feel like they are being eco-friendly giving up meat and dairy.  Cattle are ruminants. Meaning, the food they eat is processed for an extended period of time in their stomachs.  Sidenote: contrary to popular belief, cows do not have four stomachs.  Here’s a video that explains how their digestive systems process the products they eat

Like humans, cattle have bacteria in their gut which aide in the digestion of their food. One of the gasses expelled as a byproduct that has caught the attention of celebs is methane.  Ironically, the backend of those poor beasts has received blame for all the terror and destruction.  You would be mis-steak-en ff you believe that cow farts are the culprit.

Here’s a helpful infographic about methane production.

A group of black cattle stand in a row at a concrete feed bunk.  The viewer sees the cattle from the rear.  It appears that they are standing in a feedlot.  The ground is dirt and covered with manure.
Cows at the bunk

What’s the beef with methane?

It’s true.  The greatest production of methane comes not from flatulence but eructation.  In seven year-old boy terms, cow burps are more gassy than cow poots.  Don’t believe me?  NASA let one rip and released an article discussion the various gas compositions cattle emit. 

Studies have shown that cattle are greater producers of methane than other domesticated animals like pigs, chickens, or sheep.   Understandably, the size of the animal is a factor. Duh. However, diet also greatly impacts the amount of methane that is produced.

Methane is a concern to climatologists. It accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gases. Butt, it takes about 20-30 times longer to be reabsorbed.  That’s quite a bit of “hang time”.  The more greenhouse gasses, the more heat is trapped in the atmoshpere.  It’s the “dutch oven” effect.  You can read more about this here.

It’s the cars, not the cows!

A common argument I hear from my beef buddies is “Why are they taking it out on the cows with the largest portion of greenhouse gasses come from transportation?”  The EPA reports that 82% of the greenhouse gasses that are in the atmosphere are comprised of carbon dioxide or CO2.  Even though it is the largest portion of gas, it also dissipates more rapidly. 

Interestingly, there are other forms of human activity that “belch” methane into the atmosphere (Sorry, not sorry.) Plastic bags, trash from garbage dumps, and human energy consumption of oil and natural gas generate a majority of the methane in the environment.   The irony is that all those things are byproducts of putting on award shows like the Oscars.

The picture is complete covered with triangular signs. The sigs are outlined in red with CO2 written in black in the middle of the triangle.
Carbon Dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas

The Real Beef Rub

Did you know the average length of the Oscars is approximately 200 minutes.  According to terrapass.com, the carbon footprint of a person live streaming a tv show for a half of an hour is like driving 4 miles.  Live-streaming the whole Oscars akin to driving 26 miles.  This year, 29 million people watched the event.  What if, for fun, we pretended that half of the viewers live-streamed that night. Even if only half of the viewers watched on a device, it creates a carbon footprint equivalent to 377,000,000 miles of driving.  Tell me again, how does not eating meat help the environment?

Let’s be real.  The drama with the Oscars has a little bit to do with meat production.  It has more to do with the disconnect between what celebrities say and do.  The mostly “meat free” meal may have been purely a gesture to raise awareness. The move was a bit absurd considering the amount of excess that goes into the production of an awards show.  For people who make amazing movies, it seems like they struggled to know their audience.

Manure-vering the cow conundrum

The Academy Award, an Oscar, is an acknowledgment from the world that they have reached the apex of their craft.  In their defense, the nominees have earned the honor for their achievements.  We have lived, loved, and swooned over the characters, movies and stories they have created. They deserve to have an award show.

Beef friends, relax.  We can handle the relinquishment of our favorite proteins in award shows menus. We should remind our Hollywood activists that there is a whole bunch of other products they should nix for their night out. This includes designer shoes, high-end clutch, perfumes, deodorants, shaving cream, soaps and body adhesives that keep your upper lady parts mostly covered. Did you know cows are responsible for all these products?

A line of dairy cattle stand at a feed bunk.  The cattle are a soft brown-gray.  They have yellow tags in their ears.  The grass they are eating is bright green.
Cattle eating grasses at the bunk

Here’s an idea…

The average nominee spends around $1.5 million to get ready for their big night. What if, the actors took a pledge to reduce their Oscar preparation spending by $500,000?  Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see that cash donated to a cause that would actually make a difference in the environment?  What about sending that money over to plantatree.org. Ten million greenhouse gas absorbers could be added to the ecosystem.  That’s just for one award night!

Beef friends, we’ve got to be transparent.  I get it.  People have burned us in the past.  Not all cars that drive slowly past your barns are PETA spies. Be open to people. Encourage their interest in how their food is raised.  In the absence of information, people will fill in the blanks.  If you are looking for an incredibly helpful article in how to discuss this topic with, check out this article by Dr. Sarah Place, a researcher for sustainable beef production.

The Mommster and Meat

Are you wondering “why should I listen to a lady with five kids about the environment and animal husbandry?”  I have a secret informational tool. I call it “the internet”. It gives me the SAME information as those folks in $10 million dollar dresses. In addition, you should know that I had a major crush on this farm kid in college.  I signed up for a few animal science classes so I could “inadvertently” cross his path.  I received quite the education in livestock production. He ended up with a wife!

Steak Oscar 

I have to share this before I go… did you all know there is a culinary delight called “Steak Oscar”?.  I don’t care who ya are… that’s funny.

Thank you for reading “How does not eating meat help the environment!”