Recently The Shuttle published an Eco Tip that we reduce our personal impact on the environment by going meatless. I disagree.
It’s true that a cow’s gut microbes produce methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming at a far higher rate than carbon dioxide. But the methane that cows and sheep burp makes up but a small fraction of anthropogenic methane production. The real culprit for skyrocketing methane levels is the oil and gas industry. If you want to personally control methane production, lower your thermostat! Ditch your car and ride a bike! Reduce your biowaste! Stop Pennsylvania from drilling the Marcellus Shale!
Second, industrial cattle farming is just as bad as we think it is from an environmental standpoint. Manure vat ponds are a large source of emissions. Vast tracts of land across the U.S. have been taken over to grow monocultures of corn to feed cows, humans, and cars (in the form of ethanol), depleting the soil and decimating biodiversity.
Monoculture farming of soy, wheat, and rice is no better in terms of soil depletion and biodiversity. Sadly, even organically-grown mono crops aren’t much better.
There is another path, one that improves our ecological footprint by repairing depleted, barren soils and increasing biodiversity: regenerative ruminant grazing.
Regenerative agricultural projects are repairing the soil and ecosystems in test projects worldwide. In recent scientific studies, holistically managed cows were shown to be net sequesters of carbon and increased the biodiversity of the land they grazed.
If we really seek to save the planet with our stomachs, I propose that instead of Meatless Mondays, we start serving meatballs — from grass-fed, locally-raised lamb and beef, of course!