Are Beef Cattle Herds Carbon Sinks?

They eat grass (carbon sink), and grow (absorbing carbon). Then they are killed and eaten by humans. They produce waste (which is recycled in the soil, promoting grass growth).
So does raising beef add to CO2, or reduce it?

Beef production is carbon-positive. You need to figure in all the fuel that it takes to harvest the feed and transport the meat, etc.

It’s also a slow-moving environment disaster in many other ways. Beef is a very inefficient way to obtain calories, leading to malnourishment worldwide. Cattle also consume tremendous amounts of water, due to the growing of Alfalfa for their feed, and water is becoming a scarce resource. And, or course, beef is bad for you, at least in the quantities that Americans eat it.

The carbon all gets recycled eventually. You eat it, metabolize it and release CO2. But much worse is all the methane belched and farted by the cattle. Methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than CO2, although it has a shorter dwell time in the atmosphere. But cattle raising contributes seriously to climate change.

A net carbon sink would be pulling carbon out of the air and keeping it out of the air for long periods of time. Cows do pretty much the exact opposite.

They take in carbon that was in grass or other food, and release it into the atmosphere as exhaled CO2 and farted methane. Any carbon that gets sequestered in their own bodies is freed up within a few years as they get eaten by us.

Generally speaking, any form of animal life isn’t going to have much impact on the carbon balance in the long term. For the most part, life is just cycling the carbon pool around and around. Humans are making impact by pulling carbon out of the ground and putting it into the air, making an overall net difference. Trees live long enough that they could be considered sinks, particularly if they die and get buried in some way before being decomposed.

Cows produce enough methane out of both ends that there have been serious research projects on how to recapture it as an energy source. So no…

Most beef cattle are grazed until it’s time to fatten them at a feedlot. So, there’s little “fuel that it takes to harvest the feed” nor “the growing of Alfalfa for their feed” and there’s nothing to show that eating beef is bad for you.

Methane is a nasty greenhouse gas, so it’s not quite as simple as “returning the CO[sub]2[/sub] to the atmosphere”.

Isn’t the ‘leading to malnourishment worldwide’ either, even if someone is saying that the basic American diet represents ‘malnourishment’.

I think you’re missing a few words from your post. I can’t make sense of it.

It’s the drugs. I was just saying that meat isn’t leading to malnutrition world wide, at least it’s not one of the major causes of malnutrition world wide.

This is incorrect.

From here.

This grain could be used to feed HUMANS, and isn’t.

As far as eating beef being bad for you, well, there’s not much debate on that topic, but you can disagree if you want.

Um…your cite is talking about farm ANIMALS, not specifically beef cattle, which is what you claimed. The picture on your cite are pigs…they aren’t the same thing as cows, though I can see the confusion. :stuck_out_tongue:

I disagree with you that eating beef is bad for you as well, btw. But feel free to believe what you like, as you say.

Anything carbon-negative in nature would have to be an organism that eats CO2 and turns it into solid carbon on its own accord. That pretty much limits things to plants and diatoms and things like that.

I have this fantasy that someone will genetically engineer a carbon-locking food crop like massive, fast-growing sweet potatoes so big that we have to dig mines to harvest them, but even so they’ll just grow and grow. And somehow I suspect that if we visit other planets and find evidence of life, all we’ll ever find is giant feral yams, the last-ditch effort at organic carbon sequestration gone wild.

It’s true a lot of crops are used to feed animals- mostly pigs, chickens, and of course cattle (those last couple months at the feedlot is heavy on the corn). But “dent” or “feed” corn is not “corn on the cob” or “sweet corn” that we think of when we eat corn. You wouldn’t like it, and the yield per acre is about ten times what that of sweet corn is. Thus, actually we get better protein yield by feeding this rough grain and even silage to animals, then eating the eggs, milk, and yes, meat of the animals. And of course you know, there’s no significant issue with food* production*it is getting the food to the mouths that is the biggest issue.

Americans already eat too much HFCS in their diet, increasing it would be bad. (The “C” stands for “corn”, dontyaknow).

As far as cattle being grazed, here’s a dump of some google searches:
http://beefmagazine.com/pasture-range/grazing-systems

http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2629.html

(this PDF talks about using cattle to graze crop residues, which would otherwise be wasted)

No one doubts eating *too much *red meat can be bad for you. Eating too much HFCS is bad for you. Eating too much of a lot of stuff is bad for you- try getting half your calories a day from macadamia nuts and see what happens.

You folks might consider this source too “crunchy” for your tastes, but their points are still valid.
Why raising cattle causes global hunger.