Tuesday, June 19, 2007


A fun story on NPR this morning taught me something interesting. It was part of their Climate Connections series, which is great, but a little late to the party, if you ask me.

As many people know, cows and other ruminants are responsible for a large proportion of the methane in the atmosphere. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than environmental boogeyman carbon dioxide. I'll stay off my soapbox about Big Meat and Big Dairy, but I do encourage everyone to consider a more plant-based diet from local sources.

There's hope from agricultural science, even if everyone continues their carnivorous ways. As I mentioned, livestock are a large source of methane gas. It is acknowledged to be an issue for those fighting global warming. In fact, researchers in New Zealand are working on ways to reduce the amount of methane involved in ruminant livestock digestion. The interesting thing I learned through this story was that, contrary to popular belief, the methane released by ruminants during digestion is not cow farts. Instead, the methane is a byproduct of the bacteria that reside in the digestive tract. It is either absorbed into the blood and exhaled or directly burped out by the cows and sheep (and camels, deer, llamas, etc.). No farts.

Who knew?

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