You get what you pay for

Wonk Room » The Politics Of Wired: Saucy, Ignorant Contrarianism

So it takes 25 organic cows to make as much milk as 23 industrial ones. More cows, more cow emissions. But that’s just the beginning. A single organically raised cow puts out 16 percent more greenhouse gases than its counterpart. That double whammy — more cows and more emissions per cow — makes organic dairies a cog in the global warming machine.

Recollect that conventional agriculture is petroleum-based agriculture. Which means what didn’t factor into the Wired author’s accounting were:

– The carbon footprints for the oil exploration and refining, coupled with the carbon footprints involved in the manufacture of the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides demanded by conventional agriculture.

– Nor were the carbon footprints calculated for the transportation of these components of factory farming from manufacture to feedlot; nor was the general carbon footprint of Big Ag factored in, where GMO (again, petroleum-based) rules.

There’s another point here: when you’re talking about 60-80% reductions in CO2, even a 25% difference in the output of your dairy cows (assuming it’s not negated by the cost of trucking in the oil-fertilized feed and so forth) is not going to get you anywhere. That’s the difference between needing to cut down to 4 cows versus 5, not 23 versus 25. (Then of course there are the details about methane actually being useful as a feedstock, but that’s even further down in the weeds.)


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