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Methane and cattle (Ockham's Razor)

 
wayne boardman
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Location: Southern Maine, nudged by climate change into zone 6a
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A well-reasoned commentary describing why the responsible raising of grass-fed cattle is not the problem that it's sometimes claimed to be. A summary of the Ockham's Razor podcast:
A lot of people, amongst them Britain's Lord Stern and Sir Paul McCartney, argue that eating less meat could help save the planet. But there is a growing body of evidence that it is not simply a case of less meat means less heat. Rural journalist Asa Wahlquist takes a closer look at this issue.


The transcript is at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/cattle-and-methane/4182182
 
R Scott
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That is the first time I have heard the argument that growth hormoned feedlot cattle are better for the environment. And it is a valid argument for methane (although when you add the inputs for growing the grain it, too, is not as simple).

I guess the lesson is scientists lie as bad as statisticians or politicians when they go in with a pre-determined position to support.

what happened to repeatable measurable double blind??

 
John Polk
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Probably neither you nor I could afford to hire a scientist and his lab.
Monsanto, Bayer, and the rest of BigAg have a whole team of scientists working for them.

I guess that scientists can figure out which side of the bread is buttered.



 
wayne boardman
Posts: 13
Location: Southern Maine, nudged by climate change into zone 6a
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Actually, the link I posted above was to a different podcast than the one I listened to. I meant to point to this one: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/what27s-your-beef3f/4165970, which includes a link to the transcript.

When Mark Whittaker, a cow farmer and journalist, moved to the country for a simpler life, he did not expect to discover that his cows would be blamed for their contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Some good quotes:

There have always been large numbers of ruminants on the planet with herds of millions of bison and wildebeest wandering majestically across the plains of America and Africa. Suddenly, after two centuries of industrialisation we’re trying to dump all this heat at their hooves.

A study by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service found grass fed-beef requires just half a calorie of fossil fuel to create one calorie of food, whereas a 2002 study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that it took a whopping 35 calories of fossil fuels to create just one calorie of grain fed beef - 70 times more.


and

There are those like Dr Rita Schenck in the US who specialises in life cycle assessment who says that growing grains takes carbon out of the soil, while well-grazed cattle put it back in. She’s studied a farm in Nebraska which had corn fields, planted pasture and native pasture. There was twice as much carbon in the pasture soil as the corn field soil. And she concluded that grass-fed beef was actually carbon positive.


He also presents a good take-down of schemes that hype reduced dietary cholesterol.

Joel Salatin has made most of the same points, but it's good to hear it from the other end of the world.
 
Walter Jeffries
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A study by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service found grass fed-beef requires just half a calorie of fossil fuel to create one calorie of food

A lot less than half a calorie of fossil fuel on a lot of grass fed animal farms. We use very, very little fossil fuel here on our farm. Even that half calorie estimate is high. Keep in mind they're averaging in the wrong way with the right.
 
Cj Sloane
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Walter, you have to include the fossil fuel used to create and transport the tractor trailer loads of whey that get delivered to your place for your pigs!

Walter Jeffries wrote:We use very, very little fossil fuel here on our farm.
 
Taylor Stewart
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One of the most significant overlooked pieces of the puzzle (by the "scientific experts"), is the presence of methane consuming microbes that live in healthy pasture soil. Non chemically treated soil that has a mix of flora and fauna can consume a large percentage of the methane produced by grazing ruminants. Many of the pastures that are managed for conventional production are sprayed for invasive species, thus impacting the life within the soil and the entire plant community. Plus the use of chemical wormers kills a lot of soil life when they are passed through the gut of the animal.

I've seen industrial advocates quote a study that tried to prove grassfed was a major methane issue, it's a bunch of junk. The study that I've seen quoted was not a study, more of a survey that took bits and pieces from from other studies to try and prove their point. Take into account the issue of anaerobic digestion of manure in a lagoon, the evaporation of ammonia from urine in a feedlot, the production and delivery of grain, the use of chemically derived fertilizer, the use of feed trucks and feed mixers, the hauling of mass quantities of manure, and of course the trucking of feeder animals to and from the feedlot, and all of a sudden it doesn't take an expert to realize that feedlot beef is not what I would call earth friendly.

A healthy prairie soil holds what, about 20 tons of carbon/acre? So we plow up the prairie, plant grain, feed it to ruminants, and our carbon concentration drops to about 5 ton/acre. Of course the problem can't be cropping/feedlots....it has to be the natural grazing systems that have existed since well before human civilization.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Cj Verde wrote:Walter, you have to include the fossil fuel used to create and transport the tractor trailer loads of whey that get delivered to your place for your pigs!


I do include that. The cheese maker is just over the mountain from us so the distance is very minimal.

However, not only do I include that but you must credit us for the fact that we are taking the whey out of the waste stream which saves energy and resources. That gives us a positive balance in the environmental bank.

On top of that, our farm's pastures and forests soak up over 1,500,000 pounds (1.5 million) of carbon a year from the atmosphere and a lot of nitrogen as well. This gets stored in our forests, in the soil building and goes into the animals.

In other words, we produce very green ham. Would you like green eggs with that? We have those too.
 
Chris Kott
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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*chuckles*

Dr. Seuss was way ahead of his time.
 
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