It is always told that eating meat is bad for our climate. This is most often explained by mentioning following reasons (Source):
- Methane is produced when digesting the food and also the faeces of cows produces greenhouse gasses afterwards
- Fertilizers produce greenhouse gases
- The processing of food with machines produces CO2
- The farming of land with tractors etc. produces CO2
The last three points I can understand. But I have some problems understanding the first. My questions in this regard are:
- Cows emit methane. But the methane is produced by digesting plants. The plants themselves got the carbon from the atmosphere. So at least this is a closed cycle and no net greenhouse gases are emitted. Isn’t livestock therefore climate neutral?
- It may be that especially for factory farming, forests are cut down. This produces a lot of CO2. But I also heard that the plants that are grown may store more carbon then the trees that were there before. Is this true? If no, is this really the only reason meat is not carbon neutral?
- How is the carbon footprint of livestock even determined? Is it really determined by the forest which was cut down in order to produce food or is just the methane exhaust of the livestock measured?
In this source it is stated that grass feed cows may be carbon neutral in the long run (under optimal conditions) and may even increase carbon capture in the short run. Nevertheless, nothing is stated why this is not true for crop feed cows (how do crops and grass differ in this regard?)
On this site it is stated that “[Only] In a stable climate, trees store more carbon than grasslands”. But what’s about crops like wheat? They have more biomass and deeper roots than simple grasses. Also there may be several wheat plant on the area one tree takes. I found nothing regarding this on the web.
Ps. I am not a biology professional so please forgive me if I misuse some terminology and do not cite scientific papers.