The Gassy Cow by Melinda Johnson


Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images [2]

Methane is one of the most widespread greenhouse gases released in the U.S from human activities [1]. Around the world over 60 percent of methane emissions come from human activities such as industry, agriculture, and waste management activities [1] Agricultural activities include the raising of livestock. Livestock, specifically cattle, release methane as a part of their digestion process [1]. Cows are very gassy animals and emit methane through belching and flatulence [2]. Agriculture is the primary source of methane emissions around the world [1]. This is an important issue because methane is more effective at trapping heat when compared to carbon dioxide and causes 25 times the effect on climate change when compared to carbon dioxide over a 100-year period [1].

How to reduce emissions from livestock?

1-Adjust feeding practices-an example of this would be to improve pasture quality to increase animal productivity (milk yield or meat productivity), which can reduce the amount of methane emitted per unit of animal product [1]

2-Oregano- Cows do need some bacteria in their bellies or they would die [2]. However, oregano can be used to cut down on some of the bacteria [2]. There are essential oils in oregano that contain an antimicrobial called carvacrol [2]. This antimicrobial can kill some of the bacteria in the cow’s stomach that produce methane [2]. The cow loses energy by releasing methane [2]. If the bacteria can be blocked, then the cow will have more energy to produce milk [2]. This possible solution is climate friendly however the drawback to using oregano is that it can be expensive [2].

3-Decreased consumption of meat and dairy products- The United Nations suggests a global move towards a meat and dairy free diet to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change [3]. If we all choose to eat less meat and dairy, then there will be a decrease in the need to mass-produce cattle and other livestock.

Implications for social work.

Social Justice-Methane emissions is an issue that affects all of us. Social workers can work to help reduce the effects of this issue.

Social workers can assist groups in organizing and working to make the public more aware of issues surrounding agricultural methane emissions and the need to become less reliant on meat and dairy products.

Social workers can assist organizations with writing letters to lawmakers and understanding how to utilize community forums when discussing concerns with methane emissions.

Social workers can work with farmers, community members, and groups to push for legislation that offers livestock producers tax deductions or subsidies for altering the food they provide to cattle with the goal of reducing methane emissions.

Social workers can teach individuals, families, and communities about the potential dangers of red meat and dairy consumption. They can also teach individuals, families, and communities how to find and prepare healthier foods.



[1] Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. (2016, October 06). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from

[2] Can Oregano Fight Cow Belches – And Climate Change? (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from

[3] Carus, F. (2010, June 02). UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet. Retrieved March 05, 2017, from




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