Burping and farting cows blamed for damaging the environment

Yes, you read that right ? ?.

Burping and farting cows make the production of butter three-and-a-half times as damaging to the environment as plant-based spreads, according to a new study.

An estimated 12 million loaves of bread are sold in the UK each day – and Brits want something to spread on their butty or toast.


With food production a significant cause of global environmental change, with the food sector responsible for up to 30 per cent of greenhouse gases, scientists carried out tests comparing plant-based spreads and margarines against dairy-based equivalents.

They found that for each kg of product, the ‘mean average’ CO2 equivalent for plant-based spreads was 3.3kg – compared to a staggering 12.1kg for dairy-based products.

This was an increase of more than three-and-a-half times, based on analysis of 212 plant-based spreads and margarines across 21 European and North American markets, and 21 dairy butters.

In the production of raw milk – the key ingredient in dairy butter – 39 per cent of the greenhouse gases come from enteric emissions, which is methane caused by cows burping and breaking wind.

In fact, just one 250g pack of dairy butter equates to 1 kilogram of cow emissions (kg CO2 eq).

And while carbon dioxide regularly gets the bad publicity, methane is about 80 times more powerful than its greenhouse gas cousin when it comes to trapping heat and is responsible for 25 per cent of global warming.

The report has been published in The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.

It says that cattle feed production and livestock rearing – including cow-related burps, farts and manure management – contributed significantly to climate change impacts, with a higher impact than most other factors.

Packaging for plant-based spreads makes up eight per cent of its emissions compared to one per cent for butter, with the latter often wrapped in a lightweight foil or paper parchment compared to a tub.

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