Eat skippy instead: 5 percent drop in greenhouse gas in 5 years
Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-12-19
Although I don’t eat mammals, I’ve long advocated that kangaroo replace beef and lamb for health and environmental reasons. However, I wasn’t aware until reading an article with some striking figures in this week’s New Scientist just how much such a swap could help control carbon emissions: worldwide more than emissions from all transport systems combined.
In "Szechuan skippy, anyone?" (2007-02-22) and "Put another skippy on the barbie" (2003-03-09) I covered a range of benefits, including some minor economic ones, that would accrue from replacing European meat-producing livestock with kangaroos. These had more to do with health and conservation of the landscape than anything else. I still stand by those remarks.
I knew that kangaroos belched and farted less than cows and sheep, but New Scientist’s "How kangaroo burgers could save the planet" (2008-12-17), or, in the print edition "Kangaroos to the rescue" (20/27 Dec 2008 issue) was an eye-opener. Here are a few snippets (slightly paraphrased) from the article:
- 48% of New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions arise from cattle, sheep and goats.
- Worldwide, livestock burps are responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions – more than produced from all forms of transport combined.
- Methane accounts for the bulk of ruminant green house gas emissions, one tonne of the gas has 25 times the global warming potential of the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.
- Kangaroos produce barely any methane (see diagram) as their dominant gut flora are acetogens, not methanogens.
- Annual CO2 equivalent production of methane: Kangaroo=2.6kg, Sheep=152.kg, Beef=1670kg
Replacing a third of Australia’s sheep and cattle with kangaroos would slash cattle emissions and reduce the nation’s entire greenhouse gas output by 3 per cent.
In other words, swapping half our sheep and cattle for kangaroos, apart from the significant benefits to the land outlined in my previous posts, could achieve KRudd’s pitiful target. And how long would that take given the lifespan of the bulk of sheep and cattle bred for meat? Farmers could increase meat production while dramatically lowering carbon emissions.
- Google search for kangaroo at the Oz 2020 Gabfest site (most documents seemed in favor of kangaroo products and swapping from other meat animals)
- From the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN)
- Other Balneus posts:
- "Kangaroo Meat Could Help Australia Cut Gas Emissions" (National Geographic 2008-08-22)
- "Eat Kangaroos to Fight Global Warming" (New York Times 2008-12-12)
- "Fauna Farming" (ABC Landline 2008-03-09)
- "Native wildlife on rangelands to minimize methane and produce lower-emission meat: kangaroos versus livestock" (George R. Wilson & Melanie J. Edwards, Australian Wildlife Services, Canberra, ACT, Australia, 2008 in doi:10.1111/j.1755-263X.2008.00023.x)
- Methane from the foregut of cattle and sheep constitutes 11% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions
- methane from livestock is equivalent to two-thirds the emissions produced by the Australian transport sector (National Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2005).