Every steak has the carbon equivalent of a tank of gas so it would be healthier for the climate, our hearts and of course the cows to avoid it altogether. But since the US remains big consumers of meat and dairy, farmers have found additional value in their manure that is a step in the right direction. Most farmers recycle the nutrients from cow manure by spreading it back on the fields. The manure fertilizes the crops so they will grow and create more food for the cows and thus more milk for humans. They call this process a closed loop, where the nutrients are used and reused in a continuous circle. Ecologically speaking, it is a good system but manure creates odors and methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, about 30 times more potent than CO2.
Companies like Farm Power insert a methane digester’s into a dairy farmer’s existing nutrient loop, so that all the raw manure is processed and then sent to the farmer for use on his fields. Instead of releasing methane into the atmosphere, however, they have captured it for use as biogas. When they burn the captured methane, it creates electricity that they sell to the utility company. Methane digesters are considered carbon offsets, as they create large net reductions in greenhouse gases and can attract investment from companies trying to balance their carbon footprint with development projects. Cows eating kelp is another creative way to reduce methane emissions but more on that later.
In addition carbon farming and field rotation can store carbon in the soils which each % of Co2 held in the soil increases it’s capacity to hold water by 10%. Carbon farming is an important technological solution to keep farms viable and the atmosphere safe.