Opinion: why methane from cows is being unfairly treated

George King, 03/02/2023


In this contributed article, New South Wales producer George King argues that livestock-related methane emissions are being unfairly treated by governments and pushes for the industry to have input into the climate narrative. Mr King is also on the newly-elected Cattle Australia board. Opinions expressed in this item are his own.



The world clearly has environmental problems which need to be addressed. But the most ineffective imaginable way to address an environmental problem would have to be at the atmospheric level.

The climate alarmists are happy to ignore biodiversity loss, desertification, habitat loss, extinctions and aridification as they are localised problems which can’t be centralised.

Instead, they are worrying about natural atmospheric gasses because they can be used to generate enormous wealth for the so-called ‘elitists’.  Carbon Dioxide (Co2) was getting a bit tired so they are now focussing on Methane (CH4) as the greenhouse gas (GHG) we need to panic about. 

Biogenic Methane from ruminant animals such as cows has an atmospheric life cycle of about 12 years, that is, methane released from herbivores into the atmosphere react with hydroxyl radicals and sunlight and breaks down to form Carbon (Co2) and Water (H2o).  Twelve years in geological terms is almost what you would call instantaneous.

And the Carbon released by herbivores?

This carbon came from the atmosphere, it was used by plants to grow through the photosynthetic process, the grass was eaten by a cow and the atmospheric carbon was released back into the atmosphere where it just came from.  Cows cannot release Co2 into the atmosphere, they can only cycle it.

The methane released from cattle is being broken down and cycled safely back into the atmosphere through natural processes as it has been for millions of years.

The domesticated world cattle population has been stable at about one billion animals since 1975. Superior genetic selection and improved pastures have made present day cattle yield more meat in a shorter period.  Cattle are a carbon sink in themselves, as is every living thing, they are also organically renewable which is a lot more than can be said for solar panels and industrial wind farms. 

In 1975 the world human population was about half of what it is today, 4.063 billion people.  The atmospheric carbon levels were about 330ppm, today they are a bit below 420ppm.  In 1975 Methane was 1,483.57ppb, today it is 1,895.3ppb.

The only constant over the past 47 years has been the global cattle population, yet many ill-informed and grossly negligent governments around the world are calling for the reduction in cattle numbers by 30pc to ‘save the planet’, starving the planet is what they will achieve.

Why are cows being blamed?

Global methane levels recorded the largest annual increase ever observed in 2021, somehow this is the cow’s fault.

The global cow population has remained stable over the last 47 years and the biogenic cycle of methane emitted from cows is fully recycled, why are cows being targeted as the enemy and blamed for this problem?  Why are farmers being forced to pay for a problem which doesn’t exist?  Why is industry pouring millions of dollars into an imaginary fix?

The Australian Cattle herd is around 28.8 million head, the ‘accepted’ figure is the Australian beef and sheep industry contribute about 10pc to our total greenhouse gas emissions.  Insects emit more methane than cows, who is going to feed them the seaweed?  How on earth can a grazing animal which lives on grass which is grown from atmospheric gasses contribute to greenhouse gas emissions?  Will the mass production of red seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiforms) have an environmental impact on the oceans?  Will growing seaweed result in trihalomethane production with a by-product of ozone depleting bromoform?

Those who are pushing for the reduction of cattle with the human protein being derived from lab grown meats have no regard for the environment or the health of the humans who are unable to source essential bioavailable nutrients from the fake foods.  Before taking advice from environmentally illiterate billionaires, it would be wise to follow the money trail of where their suggestions lead.

Well managed grasslands can sequest up to 10 tonnes of Co2 per hectare per year.  95pc of our cows are on grasslands, the 5pc which are in feedlots make up 50pc of beef production.

Feed lotting in Australia is incredibly efficient and sensible given our climate variabilities.  Greenhouse gasses the feedlot industry generates are negligible, water vapour is responsible for around 80pc of the planets heat dynamics.

Our industry needs to get onto the front foot and have input into the narrative, not just reactively respond to the current insane agenda.


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  1. chris henggeler, 10/04/2023

    Hear hear! and Thank you George.

    Walter Jehne on Methane:

  2. david laurence fearon, 09/02/2023

    well said George– we need more people like you to speake up cheers Dave

  3. Chris D, 08/02/2023

    The Methane from cattle argument has no basis in science.
    No single research centre has ever bothered to check the massive methane production from rotting rainforest. While on a mining project I measured levels exceeding 4 times the accepted WHO levels up at Gove whereas the Inverell saleyard measured the following Wednesday morning were non-existent. The same calibrated gas tester was used in each case.
    The game is up Adam Bandt.

  4. Chris Howie, 07/02/2023

    Great article George. Fact based common sense.

  5. John Shawyer, 06/02/2023

    Excellent piece George
    Our levy funded industry organisations need to start “showing” evidence that animal agriculture and the associated products produced from those farming practices are actually part of the solution to the worlds environmental problems not the cause.

    A major problem is that our and other industry organisations have put themselves in a poor negotiating position in which they all lose the argument before they even start by agreeing that there is a climate issue around methane/carbon in the first place. There is not and never has been, and there is plenty of “true” science available to back up such an argument should they look and do some real homework.

    It should be made very clear to the Government that they have to “Prove” that animal agriculture is contributing to climate change! which of course would be impossible for them to do.

    Pushing back strongly on this UN sponsored climate nonsense which has nothing to do with saving the planet and everything to do with wealth transfer from rich nations to poorer nations needs to be exposed by our industry organisations.

    This dose not mean that pollution of all sorts from our industry should not be reduced, managed or eliminated where possible (methane and carbon however are not a pollutants). Sustainable and or regenerative business practices in all industries should always be the aim.

    When it comes to this whole climate issue there is an old saying that rings very true – “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold to the masses over time, the actual truth will seem preposterous and it’s speaker a lunatic”.
    Our industry organisations need to have the strength to be seen as the lunatics for a while as they help destroy the lies that have been sold to the masses.

    Sadly this web of lies will not do anything to change climatic conditions around the planet at all – ever!, and will only leave nations worse off economically and environmentally through ridiculous climate measures such as Pine Tree plantings and solar farms on prime ag land, wind farms and the like. It’s insanity.

    Some more fact/science based push back information can also be found in the following books –
    * “Green Murder” by Ian Plimer.
    * “The Great Plant-Based Con” Why eating a plants-only diet won’t improve your health or save the planet! by Jayne Buxton
    * “Apocolypse Never” by Michael Shellenberger

  6. Philip Hughes, 06/02/2023

    Great work George
    This information needs more airplay with the wider public arena to bring some balance back into the debate.

  7. Andrew Wrigley, 05/02/2023

    Love to read your stat’s on “natural gas” production and emissions over the last 47 years George
    Even if the Europeans give Putin an out looks like their gas and their beef is going to get a lot more expensive
    Great article

  8. Dixie Nott, 04/02/2023

    What a good opinion piece! So refreshing, a man in charge of the facts and not afraid to voice them. Can the Emperors pull up a pair of dacks please, you have no clothes.

  9. Peter Paradice, 04/02/2023

    Thanks George for daring to speak the truth against those building PC-WOKE empires on false premises. The orthodox narrative of “evil ruminant agriculture” is fueled partly by some who are simply anti-meat and others who wish for agriculture to be kept inside the same tent as the “resources” sectors who are unable to claim a proximate temporal carbon cycle. If you want to go down the carbon trading route – then once ag is outside the tent the transaction could be one way. Others could pay ruminant ag (food producers) to make their natural cycle smaller and thereby claim an offset. However for ag to be lined up to pay a CO2e carbon tax or purchase credits is simply illegitimate.
    As noted by Peter Bishop in an earlier comment, those who are open to understanding the true underlying premise in this misguided debate should visit Professor Frank Mitloehner on YouTube. Send the link to to your political representatives. Ask them to explain why we are having this damaging discussion.

  10. Loretta Carroll, 04/02/2023

    Well said George King, our industry needs more of this type of commentary and we need to look at the real science behind the real issues not the multi-million dollar self-interest selected science point of view. My concern is what is happening in the Netherlands and New Zealand will undoubtedly spread if producers don’t stand up and get the real science out there. Maybe livestock producers should be seeking a credit for this important recycling process, and one might argue we are assisting in achieving a greener planet! Producers know that livestock protein is extremely important for the health of humanity and undoubtably many questions hang over the safety of these other protein forms – the article linked below suggests that the Impossible Berger may not be safe to eat. According to the article Rats fed the genetically modified yeast-derived protein soy leghemoglobin – the burger’s key ingredient – developed unexplained changes in weight gain and signs of toxicity. Report by Claire Robinson and Michael Antoniou, PhD

  11. Nick Burton Taylor, 04/02/2023

    Congratulations George on a well balanced and thoughtful exposition on an issue, where the industry has been hijacked by misinformation and uninformed commentary with alternate agendas. If one is prepared to look holistically at ruminant production and grassland/rangeland management there is a natural harmony and cycle which is both ecologically balanced and beneficial . The ruminant production cycle preserves the grass cover and the sequestration of carbon and supports the organic health of soils. To measure the negative affect of methane at one narrow point in this cycle is disingenuous. The industry must work to have a measurement system and understanding of the overall benefits and not focus on one negative aspect only.

  12. Michelle Finger, 04/02/2023

    Fantastic to see a board member of the new Cattle Australia openly questioning the methane narrative & the sea weed insanity.
    “Follow the money” indeed.
    Congratulations & thankyou George King, your backbone & honesty is what our industry needs.
    A really positive start, hopefully we continue to see more of this from Cattle Australia.

  13. Peter Bishop, 03/02/2023

    This is what Dr Frank Mitloehner has been saying for years. Great to see George voicing this sound evidence. Good luck on the new board.

    • Rob Moore, 04/02/2023

      Yes another is a Dr Albrecht Glatze from south America a rangeland scientist who proved this beyond doubt with ch4 levels and graphs all the way back to when the wilderbeast roamed the lands. This was back before Kevin07 drank the coolade. Note the Dutch who are normally switched on people have signed up to reducing their herds by a million head. ,equals suicide to economy and protein.

      Imo This stance/ debate should be motivation enough for any thinking meat breeder to join up to Cattle Australia

  14. Rob Moore, 03/02/2023

    Congratulations George,
    Your article here is the most reasoned and balanced report that I have read since this “gaslit problem ” demanded that we (beef producers) fund a a small army of researchers to come up with a solution.Govt agendas via MLA love all the confusion and money wasting.
    Meanwhile as voice for producers only via Cattle Aust- you have laid down the antidote in a clear concise manner.
    Termites produce much more ch4 than cow burps-so whether it is via the bovine or the white ants- who cares!

    • George King, 04/02/2023

      Thanks Rob, I’m a big fan of the work the MLA has done in engaging consumers. Jason Strong’s strategy of inclusion and onboarding consumers to the environmental credentials of the Australian Beef Industry has been second to none. Now the industry has to focus the discussion away from an unrealistic atmospheric fix to a real world on-the-ground environmental fix.

      It is going to take an enormous combined effort promoting the benefits of supporting farmers to moderate the climate which will have a carry on benefit of global food security.

  15. Bill O’Connell, 03/02/2023

    Spot on George King. I wish politicians had as much sense as you do. Great to have you on the Cattle Australia board.

  16. Graham Finlayson, 03/02/2023

    Well said George
    That’s about the most concise wrap up of the facts on this topic that I’ve read since studying this subject as an environmentally conscious contributor to the cattle industry over twenty years ago.
    There are some great young heads involved on the Cattle Australia board and I wish them every success.
    They are a breath of fresh air.

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