Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Which came first the chicken or the egg in being green?

Thank Gluttony It’s Wednesday

Yes today’s G word is one of the seven deadly sins. Gluttony can be loosely defined as eating or drinking more than you need to the point of waste. The word is derived from Latin from the word to swallow or gulp. We in the USA certainly know how to gulp and if I remember right Seven Eleven even named their drink size the Gulp. I don’t want you all to stop eating steak or hamburgers as I love these menu items and can think of nothing better than sitting on Sam’s deck eating one of their burgers and gulping a diet coke. However the consumption of meat protein over the past thirty years has quadrupled on the planet and this is a major contributor to global warming.

The habit of eating meat has moved from the Occident (west) to the Orient (East). The collective mass of all livestock on our planet is now almost twice as much as the collective mass of all humans living on earth. For most of history the collective mass of humans exceeded the collective mass of our livestock. Most of our grains and soy beans are fed to livestock. Cattle in particular are large generators of greenhouse gases in the form of methane. Before all of you giggle because of bathroom talk, you have the wrong end of the cow. The predominant quantity of greenhouse gas emanates from the mouth of a cow. You need to remember that pound for pound methane is twenty one times worse as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Why do cows emit methane from their mouths? The reason is that cows belong to the group that are called ruminants or those that chew their cud. The polite word for the act of belching is eructation. Approximately 8% of the fodder fed to a cow winds up as methane that is eructated. This volume of methane is approximately one hundred gallons of gas a day. Before you all rush out to capture gas from the mouth of a cow remember this is not liquid volume but gaseous volume. The amount of energy contained in each cow’s daily eructation is about equal to the energy in a pint of pure ethanol.

Now that we know cows emit a massive amount of greenhouse gas, we need to answer the question whether cows are more efficient at converting feed to meat than other livestock? Sorry cows are not the most efficient at this task, broiler chicken are the most efficient. Chickens require 3.4 pounds of feed for one pound or ready to cook meat, cows require 6.2 pounds of feed. Before we blame cattle for all of our ills, pigs require 8.4 pounds, eggs 3.8 pounds and cheese requires 7.9 pounds. Therefore if you want to lower your greenhouse gas footprint, next time you are on the deck at Sam’s eating lunch order a chicken breast with cheese sandwich instead of a bacon burger. Actually ordering a veggie burger made of soy would save the world all of the conversion losses of growing, transporting, butchering, and refrigerating the food we eat. In fact the United Nations is suggesting that humans adopt an increasing amount of soy in our diets as a method to mitigate global warming. While science is certainly on the side of the UN’s argument, I believe a nice juicy burger is still one of life’s pleasures and I will do my part to save the planet by carpooling. Based on the conversion of feed we also know that the chicken came before the egg.


  1. Great posting to encourage more "green" eating habits. Now if I could only convince my husband to embrace the veggie burger we might get somewhere. Will washing down a veggie burger with a cold frosty beer or a side of fries help at all?

  2. No it won't, wife. We should all be happy about eating our own food preference while washing it down with a cold beer, regardless of the meal!

  3. did you all know beer was first invented as tranportable food in the ancient middle east. We should just drink beer and nothing else