Cattle in pasture

Cattle graze in a pasture after a rainstorm in southern Deuel County, S.D.

I am so tired of seeing posts on social media about how cow burps and farts are causing global warming. Almost on-cue, there was a veterinary continuing education webinar about this topic and I thought I’d share the information that I learned with you.

The actual statistics

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 1.9% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from beef cattle.

Isn’t it incredible how social media and the news can take hold of 1.9% instead of mentioning that transportation accounts for 25.8% and electricity accounts for 30.6% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions? Nobody wants to get rid of their cars but they want to get rid of cows. Let me show you how that makes no sense at all.

Vegans

When people choose this lifestyle in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, they are fooling themselves.

If every single American – that’s 328 million people – were to go vegan, we could decrease the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 2.6%, which equates to a mere 0.36% globally. Therefore, that 1.5% of Americans that are vegan are completely insignificant when it comes to changing the climate with their diet.

Newsflash that won’t show up on the news: you can’t eat your way out of climate change.

Environmental stewardship

Beef producers around the country have always been huge advocates for caring for the environment. Since the 1970s, U.S. beef producers have decreased their greenhouse gas emissions by 9% per pound of beef. They did this by improving their genetics, nutrition, utilizing growth-promoting technology and through better operational management strategies.

Healthy, efficient cattle eating diets that incorporate grain produce less methane. Countries that are not incorporating the above technologies and research are much less efficient and therefore, their cattle produce more greenhouse gases than our cattle do.

Cattle: The upcyclers

How would we utilize the more than 770 million acres that is unfarmable rangeland without cattle?

Cattle are the original users of solar energy and the original upcyclers. They take cellulose in plants that is made from sunlight and convert it into usable products for us. Cellulose in grass is very low quality for us to eat versus the extremely high quality protein that cattle convert that grass into.

Cattle also can graze cover crops that are used to decrease soil erosion, increase soil fertility, decrease weeds, and increase biodiversity. Over 90% of the grain that finishing cattle eat is not even in competition with the human food supply.

Consumer responsibility

The USDA states that more than 20% of edible beef is wasted at home, in restaurants, and in grocery stores. If consumers reduced their waste by half, they could improve beef sustainability by 10%.

U.S. beef producers are incredible. They produce the most environmentally-efficient beef in the world and they do it ethically, responsibly and with their whole hearts.

Thank you to all of you for your hand in feeding the world, sustainably.

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Animal Medical Care in Brookings, South Dakota.

The Vet Report is provided in conjunction with Prairie View Veterinary Clinic with locations in Miller, Redfield, Wessington Springs and Highmore, S.D. Questions? Send an email to owner Eric Knock, DVM, at reknock@venturecomm.net or write 321 E. 14th St., Miller, SD 57362.

Tri-State Neighbor Columnist

Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz is Associate Veterinarian at Animal Medical Care in Brookings, South Dakota.