Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Q&A with Diane Karr


Consumers deserve the truth about how their food is grown, and farmers deserve to have their work represented accurately.

Diane Karr
Blue Hill, Neb.
Diane Karr, Blue Hill, Neb.

Q: Is livestock destroying the atmosphere?

Diane: When it comes to livestock emissions, the most common misconception I see is the idea that cattle are a major contributor to greenhouse gases and that reducing the consumption of meat will help our planet with regard to climate change. That’s not the truth whatsoever. Livestock accounts for only 4% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Q: Would giving up meat reduce our carbon footprint?

Diane: Reducing or eliminating the consumption of meat would have such an immeasurably small effect on overall greenhouse emissions, that there is no reason to include it as a strategy in living sustainably. Based on research by Dr. Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist in Cooperative Extension at the University of California, Davis, our efforts would be better focused on other aspects of consumer consumption.

Q: How does agriculture recycle greenhouse gases?

Diane: U.S. agriculture is a major air purifier. An example of agriculture’s role in recycling, is evidenced in the biogenic carbon cycle: Carbon is stored in plants and feed and is consumed by ruminants, like cattle. Cow manure and belches release carbon as methane. Methane is then converted to carbon dioxide over about 10 years. As part of photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is captured by plants.

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