UC Davis Prof Dismisses Climate Doom By Livestock. Cows Lead To Greater Food Yield, “Carbon Sequestration”

UC Davis professor Frank Mitloehner dismisses the claims that livestock is bad for the planet, says ruminants in fact enhance global food production and sequester carbon.

Ruminants play a critical role in feeding the global population, sequestering carbon, says UC Davis professor Frank Mitloehner. Photo: P. Gosselin

Climate activists insist that people need to drastically reduce their consumption of meat, especially beef, if there is to be any hope of rescuing our climate.

Producing beef consumes huge quantities of fresh water, takes up great areas of land that could otherwise be used for growing vegetables and leads to massive emissions of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas that is helping destabilize our climate.

The great benefits of livestock

But Frank Mitloehner, Professor of Animal Science Department at the University of California-Davis, disagrees with the alarmist claims made about cows and explains why in the following video:

The first big misconception, Mitloehner says, is the belief that 70% of agricultural land is being used by livestock and thus crowds out vegetable and plant-based food production. “Why not use it to grow plants directly?” Because it isn’t feasible Mitloehner explains.

Using a sheet of paper, Mitloehner demonstrates how much land is used globally for agriculture: about one third of the earth’s land surface, of which two thirds is so-called “marginal land”, i.e. land that is not suitable for growing crops and is thus best used for ruminant livestock to graze on.

Ruminants produce food on land that can’t grow crops

The advantage is that ruminants are able to convert the plants that are non-edible by humans, and thus “convert them into animal-source food,” says Mitloehner. “Without ruminant animals, we could not make use of that amount of agricultural land.”

In other words, crops cannot be grown on marginal land, but livestock can graze on it and thus produce food for us.

Ruminants important in fertilizing arable land

The remaining one third of the agricultural land is so called “arable land”, which is land that is suitable for growing crops. This is less than 3% of the earth’s total surface.

Mitloehner reminds that the arable land needs to be fertilized, and that half of this fertilizer is organic manure coming from the ruminants on the marginal land.

Keeping livestock “precisely what needs to be done”

“If we were to forgo animal agriculture altogether, then it would effectively mean that we would throw away 70% of all agricultural land and we would have to replace all the organic fertilizer that goes on this land with chemical fertilizers, which are very carbon-intensive in their production,” says Mitloehner.

Keeping livestock on marginal land “is precisely what needs to be done,” he says.

Methane overstated by a factor of 4!

Mitloehner is not alone in contradicting claims that cows have a huge impact on climate change.

Leading climate scientist, Myles Allen “believes the effect of cattle on climate change has been overstated,” reports The Vancouver Sun here.

“The traditional way of accounting for methane emissions from cows overstates the impact of a steady herd by a factor of four,” says Allen.

8 responses to “UC Davis Prof Dismisses Climate Doom By Livestock. Cows Lead To Greater Food Yield, “Carbon Sequestration””

  1. oebele bruinsma

    ” Methane overstated by a factor of 4!

    Mitloehner is not alone in contradicting claims that cows have a huge impact on climate change.”

    Bacteria in the air and in the soil love methane as building blocks for use in their metabolisms. Methane is essential and biological and therefore its place in the chain is existential and ESSENTIAL.

  2. John F Hultquist

    I live in cattle country.
    I’ve made a small garden by removing rocks,
    adding sand, manure, and wood chips. And a fence.
    Deer love gardens.
    A few vegetables grow well here, especially onions.
    Many popular vegetables (tomatoes) need special care,
    or won’t ripen but maybe one year in four.
    In the last 10 years there are mini-farms with
    goats and llamas. I wonder if these earn enough to pay
    their way, or whether the owners subsidize them.
    We prefer horses, but they don’t earn anything.
    They do keep the plants (relentless) under control.

    1. tom0mason

      Cattle country was bison country before the westerners arrived …
      From wikipedia

      The American bison or simply bison (Bison bison), also commonly known as the American buffalo or simply buffalo, is an American species of bison that once roamed North America in vast herds. Its historical range, by 9000 BCE, is described as the great bison belt, a tract of rich grassland that ran from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, east to the Atlantic Seaboard (nearly to the Atlantic tidewater in some areas) as far north as New York and south to Georgia and, according to some sources, down to Florida, with sightings in North Carolina near Buffalo Ford on the Catawba River as late as 1750.[2][3][4] It nearly became extinct by a combination of commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and introduction of bovine diseases from domestic cattle. With a population in excess of 60 million in the late 18th century, the species was down to just 541 animals by 1889. Recovery efforts expanded in the mid-20th century, with a resurgence to roughly 31,000[5] wild bison today, largely restricted to a few national parks and reserves. Through multiple reintroductions, the species is now also freely roaming wild in some regions in Yakutia as well as Mexico.

      [my emphasis]

      Nobody seems too worried about bison, buffalo, or any wild animal farts, but back before westerners got real interested in expanding across all continents many large mammals dominated the flora and fauna.
      Africa had millions of antelope, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, hippos, etc; Indian and south Asian had lots of bison known as Gaur, along with many elephants and rhinos, and many other large mammals; South America had abundances of Water Buffalo – Bubalus Arnee and other variant species, plus many other large mammals.

      No people have not worried about all these wild animals (that Europeans have helped in reducing) and their gastric venting, only cow farts matter!

  3. Aussie

    Methane is in theory a greenhouse gas but in reality, like so much about climate change the truth is quite different. Because methane absorption bands almost completely overlap with water there is very little effect and its concentration in the atmosphere is exceptionally low. And the Greens never tell you that it breaks down in 10 years…

    Anthony Watt has a good article explaining this better than I do.

    Just remember METHANE EMISSIONS DO NOTHING FOR THE CLIMATE as water vapour prevents its greenhouse effect.


  4. Yonason

    For the sake of the climate, and of humanity at large, I recommend drastically reducing consumption of climate activist bull$#^&.

  5. M E

    Not only cattle live in less productive land . Sheep/goats in herds were the most productive in marginal lands in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean originally. They ate the scrub and contributed to the change of landscape to semi desert. I suppose that is why they were despised by the agricultural Egyptians who used the Nile floods to irrigate land which could be ploughed.
    No doubt we should not eat mutton either. But where will we get the wool for our woolley hats and scarves when we demonstrate about climate change?

  6. Ulrich Elkmann

    As usual, looking at the actual numbers puts some extra facets on the whole question. For once, use of fertilizer in Germany has declined by about 40% over the last 30 years, from 4.3 million tons in 1990 to 2.4 million tons in 2019. The decline has been rather steady. Of these, about 45% of all arable land was fertilized with organic fertilizer – “Gülle” in German – that nice brown liquid smelly stuff which we have been talking about – with about two thirds used for growing crops and one third for meadows for grazing livestock. The rest is inorganic fertilizer, minerals to some extent, but mostly fixed nitrogen via the Haber-Bosch process.

  7. Zianezo

    Thank you very much.

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