Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Real Cost of Food

Was able to spend only two hours at a Community Conference in Lanfyllin, Montgomeryshire today. It was organised by 'Dolen Ffermio', a charity dedicated to raising awareness in farming communities of the North/South interdependence in agriculture. I was sorry to leave, having enjoyed a 'goat burger' for lunch. It was an instructive two hours, especially when Professor Nigel Scollen of Aberystwyth University, and Professor Chris Reynolds of Reading University began answering questions about the impact of methane produced by cows and sheep on the environment. There is no doubt that the f**ting and belching of farmed animals is an important issue. Very definitely not a laughing matter. Much important research is being undertaken to reduce the amount of methane produced. It all depends on diet, on maximising life span and productive output from each animal (to reduce the number needed), and efficient management of grassland. Garlic is reputed to be good, except it makes cow's milk stink.

I was surprised how seriously the threat to traditional livestock farming is being taken. There has been a successful campaign by lobby groups, particularly those dedicated to promoting animal welfare and vegetarianism, to link livestock farming with global warming - today's hottest issue. No-one can deny that farming animals for meat produces methane which contributes to global warming. But its nothing like as straight forward as it seems. And then I opened today's telegraph, and there it was, an article by Louise Gray under the headline 'Eat less meat and save the planet " says quango'. It seems that the Sustainable Development Commission are jumping on the bandwagon, and championing the vegetarian and organic option - despite 'organic' livestock farming probably being more methane productive than its conventional equivalent. If these people have their way, what are we going to do with all the CO2 absorbing grassland of Wales. As Marie Antoinette (or Rousseau) might say of today's Welsh people, "Let them eat grass". Its enough to make me want to start active farming again.


JB said...


Methane produced by livestock is dwarfed by that produced from rotting vegetation, fallen leaves etc. I'm just glad I didn't have to sit through this rubbish.

bonetired said...

I wouldn't say dwarfwd. The Wiki figures are a bit out of date but Wetlands accounts for about 37% of atmospheric methane whereas ruminants generate about 19%. Problem is that the C-H bond in methane absorbs strongly in the Infra Red at arount 3000cm^-1 which is slap bang in the greenhouse wavelengths. Interestingly the C=O bond absorbs at a wavelength that has less impact for global warming - methane is about 20 times a greater greenhouse gas than CO2

Glyn Davies said...

JB - It wasn't rubbish. In fact these two professors were very supportive of the livestock industry, and were talking good common sense. Their message was that its only sensible to acknowledge that methane production is an issue - which science can do something about. Anyway, bonetired has put you right on this!!

JB said...


It seemsyYou acn find a scientist to support any opinion. This one is from Nature:

The global atmospheric methane burden has more than doubled since pre-industrial times1,2, and this increase is responsible for about 20% of the estimated change in direct radiative forcing due to anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions. Research into future climate change and the development of remedial environmental policies therefore require a reliable assessment of the long-term growth rate in the atmospheric methane load. Measurements have revealed that although the global atmospheric methane burden continues to increase2 with significant interannual variability3,4, the overall rate of increase has slowed2,5. Here we present an analysis of methane measurements from a global air sampling network that suggests that, assuming constant OH concentration, global annual methane emissions have remained nearly constant during the period 1984–96, and that the decreasing growth rate in atmospheric methane reflects the approach to a steady state on a timescale comparable to methane's atmospheric lifetime. If the global methane sources and OH concentration continue to remain constant, we expect average methane mixing ratios to increase slowly from today's 1,730 nmol mol-1 to 1,800 nmol mol-1, with little change in the contribution of methane to the greenhouse effect.

Anonymous said...

The anthropogenic global warming theory has now been categorically disproved by the world’s most eminent climatologist, atmospheric physicist, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT.

The speculative, computer generated findings published by the IPCC have been proved to be wrong. They claim to show that as the temperature at the sea surface rises, the outgoing radiation in the upper atmosphere falls because of greenhouse gases.

In contrast to the computer results, which are only theoretical, Professor Lindzen’s results are based on fifteen years of empirical scientific measurement of the actual temperature.

These results show that as the temperature increases, so the amount of radiation escaping into space also increases. This means that global warming is not the result of greenhouse gases but is a natural phenomenon.

Term papers said...

I think Much important research is being undertaken to reduce the amount of methane produced. It all depends on diet, on maximizing life span and productive output from each animal to reduce the number needed, and efficient management of grassland. Garlic is reputed to be good, except it makes cow's milk stink.