One of the more ludicrous positions of some in the green movement is to go “meatless” in the interests of having fewer cows resulting in less methane, a greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere. The problem with such extremism is that cows not only produce essential milk and protein-rich meat, but also are increasingly producing energy to heat homes and businesses.

Natural gas, or “biogas,” is increasingly being produced from cow manure and other animal waste. Organic waste-producing facilities called anaerobic digesters are under construction in several states that will breakdown animal waste into usable fuel and fertilizer. Several new digester facilities are being built around dairy farms where the operators will purchase cow manure from nearby farmers, extract the methane in the digesters, and connect to natural gas pipelines to distribute the energy for residential, governmental and commercial use.

Biogas technology was part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, which included a tri-agency report in 2014 that outlined the potential of converting cattle waste to energy.

As reported recently in the Wall Street Journal, natural gas from animal waste is more expensive to produce than from hydro fracturing shale formations. Manure from up to 30,000 cattle is required for each anaerobic digester facility to be economical. Nonetheless, the biogas from cows and other animals is in demand from consumers, companies and local governments in the interests of lowering greenhouse gas emissions and generating tradable carbon credits.

The utility company, Dominion Energy is expanding its investment in the production of biogas. The company recently made a financing deal with Dairy Farmers of America and Vanguard Renewables to construct and operate digesters around clusters of dairy farms in five different states.

Some environmental extremists obsess about the volume of methane produced by cows that add to carbon emissions. A single cow, in fact, produces in one year the equivalent carbon emissions of a mid-size SUV driving 12,000 miles. Still, cows are invaluable for a healthy diet of protein from meat and milk products, which developed countries take for granted. For the developing world, higher protein diets are in much greater need.

Global warming alarmists are increasingly attacking meat as a way to fight climate change, as CFACT recently discussed. The United Nations’ Environment Program recently claimed, “huge reductions in meat eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change.” The global citizenry fortunately knows better than U.N. bureaucrats and others producing anti-meat “studies,” as meat consumption has increased substantially, particularly in the developing world.

Still, the war on meat, because of cow emissions, continues to the point of extremists hoping to drive up food prices to discourage consumption. Joining this anti-meat fray are some politicians who imposed “meatless Mondays” in school districts around the country, including the nation’s largest district, New York City, with one million students.

The anti-meat agenda was in full throttle at the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain. The delegates were pushing for nothing less than an all-plant based diet as another means to fight climate change. However, as CFACT reported, that did not keep many of the delegates themselves from consuming meat at a nearby Burger King.

A Whopper for me, not for thee.

The increasing use of cows to now produce renewable energy should temper such hypocritical anti-cow, anti-meat extremism.

Using anaerobic digester technology, methane from cows will increasingly be diverted to biogas to add to the renewable energy supply, rather than add to greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy and other farmers also can earn extra revenue from the sale of manure and, in some cases, lease the acreage to energy companies to house the anaerobic digester facilities to produce the energy. There is an added bonus: after the methane is extracted from animal waste to produce energy, the liquid and solid remains can be retaken for fertilizer and compost.

Green extremists at the United Nations and elsewhere who are waging war on meat need to rethink their approach, which always was senseless and counterproductive. Cows can produce much more than milk and meat. Using anaerobic digestion technology, cows, pigs and chickens are increasingly producing energy while reducing emissions in the process. A “win-win” proposition.


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  • Peter Murphy

    Peter Murphy is Senior Fellow at CFACT. He has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy, both in the non-profit sector and in government in the administration of former New York Governor George Pataki. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the NY Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @PeterMurphy26 Website: