pile of manure

Manure & Its Impact On The Environment

Providing enough food for the people of the World is no simple task. Billions of animals are raised each year to keep our stomachs full and to keep up with the demand for food. Take a moment to think about how large of a number one billion truly is. Let’s focus on a smaller number, say 89.9 million. Picture 89.9 million cows in a very large pasture, an ocean of cows. Now imagine all those cows pooping several times a day, everyday. That’s exactly what happens everyday here in the United States.

According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association the cattle inventory as of January 1, 2015 was 89.9 million. On average, one cow can produce 65 lbs of manure a day. That’s nearly 12 tons of poop a year from one animal! Believe it or not, but that’s nearly 1.1 billion tons of cow manure expected to be produced this year in the United States alone. Holy COW Batman, that’s a lot of shit!

truck of manure

Why does any of this matter? Why is any of this information important outside of being the obscurest trivia question?


Cow emissions are actually more damaging to the planet than CO2 from cars. You may not have heard, but cow have been blamed for a number of other environmental problems as well. Desertification, creating dead zones in oceans, destroying coral reefs, poisoning rivers and drinking water, and oh yeah, did I mention the introduction of alien species? Yes, sadly the cow has had a part in all of this according to a 400-page report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow back in 2006. The report also surveys the damage done by goats, pigs, chicken and sheep. But in almost every case it all comes back the World’s 1.5 billion cattle. Livestock are responsible for and estimated 18 percent of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. That 18 percent is more than cars, planes and all other forms of transportation combined! The culprit:

cute cow

Livestock are contributors of more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the World’s emissions of ammonia (One of the main causes of acid rain); as well as an significant contributor to global methane (CH4) emissions. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is produced from the decomposition of livestock manure under anaerobic conditions. Technically anaerobic conditions are defined as, “the conditions in which, as a result of both chemical equilibria and biochemical activities, oxygen is not available for redox reactions. Instead, other oxidized compounds may be present which can be used by micro-organisms for specific types of energy metabolism.”

In other words, the bacterial rich environments found in large piles of manure metabolize other microorganisms found in waste, and release an array of gasses into the atmosphere as a result. The bacteria thrives in oxygen deprived environments like a big pile of poop, hence the anaerobic bit, and all of this goes into overdrive the warming it gets. If you have ever been near a large cattle farm on a hot summer day you have actually experienced this first hand. That smell of manure that travels for miles is the smell of bacteria at work.

The report concluded that massive damage done by livestock will more than double by 2050 as demand for meat increases, unless drastic measures are taken. This is a huge environmental problem that not many people know about. Unfortunately, there’s no clear or easy solution since cows are just so damn delicious. The number of cattle being raised will only increase going forward, so what do we do to get a handle on emissions from manure?

Find out in my next segment!


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What Is AaronFreeman.net?

Welcome to the site, my name is Aaron Freeman and like most people I’m wasteful. I put this site together to discuss ways people are limiting or making use of trash in their lives. On average, people generate about 4.3 pounds of waste each day. This adds up to 220 million tons of waste a year in the United States alone. That’s a lot of trash and a lot of waste contributing to a number of environmental issues.

Unfortunately our comfortable lifestyles do take a toll on the planet. I’m not only referring to environmental concerns, but the availability of our planet’s finite resources as well. The simple truth is Earth cannot sustain human life as we know it indefinitely. But fear not, we’ll be long dead before there’s any real problems right, shouldn’t it be the next guy’s problem? There’s really no chance for us to see any extinction level event in our lifetime due to pollution, or any other number of avoidable environmental disasters. The key word there is “avoidable”. Yes, the next guy will need to deal with our impact on the environment in some way, but it’s up to us to make sure it stays manageable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those crazy save the Planet types. I am just stating a fact that Earth cannot sustain our way of life. We should be aware of the impact we have on the Planet and take some form of action to lighten the burden for the next guy. My goal is to become less wasteful and to get others thinking the same. There’s so much more than just, “Going Green” to talk about. Recycling and composting are important, but both are rather boring topics to discuss. I’m interested in the strange out of the box ideas that most people wouldn’t even consider doing to reduce waste. Especially solutions that involve using waste to reduce more waste in the future. There’s so much that we discard that can be salvaged or re-purposed.

What I hope to accomplish is to inspire and instill the idea that reducing waste does not need to be a daunting task. There’s no need to go crazy when it comes to going green because every little bit helps. Keep it simple, make it fun, think of new ways to limit your waste, and inspire others to think about their environmental footprints. I hope you continue to check out the site in the future and join in on the discussion.

What have you done to become less wasteful?

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