• Question: Why do cows realease badder methanethan humans?

    Asked by Bethany is @home! on 18 May 2020.
    • Photo: Jean O'Dwyer

      Jean O'Dwyer answered on 18 May 2020: last edited 19 May 2020 9:14 am

      Great question! Cows have different microbes in their stomach to help digest tough grasses etc. When these microbes break down the food, they release methane- the cows then release this when they burp. An average cow can release around 200 litres of methane a day! This is an issue as methane is 28 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, so it contributes to climate change. Humans release methane too, but because our diet and gut microbes are different, we produce much, much less (thankfully!).

    • Photo: Chloe Matthews

      Chloe Matthews answered on 18 May 2020:

      Hi Bethany, great question. The methane that cows burp out isn’t necessarily worse than the methane that humans burp out, they just produce a lot more methane. The reason they do this is because they have a different way of digesting their food than we do. They have four stomachs and we only have one! It is in their first stomach that they produce most of their methane through digestion of their food. Microbes help to digest their food in the rumen (the name of the first stomach). The microbes that produce methane are called methanogens!
      Different diets (grass vs cereal) also impact how much methane cows produce. If you have any more questions about this feel free to ask. It’s one of my favorite areas of science! 🙂

    • Photo: Aruna Chandrasekar

      Aruna Chandrasekar answered on 18 May 2020:

      Cows don’ release “badder” methane, they release about 28 times more methane than humans on average. The reasons this is such a big problem is because they are being extensively farmed for dairy and meat, which has led to more than average methane emissions contributing to man-made global warming and climate change.

    • Photo: Aisling Ryan

      Aisling Ryan answered on 19 May 2020:

      This is really good example of quantity versus quality!!
      Because cows release a lot more methane (a larger quantity) than humans, it’s going to have a larger impact because there is so much of it!
      Because humans produce a much smaller quantity it has a smaller affect, which is why you might describe cow methane as ‘worse’ and human methane as ‘better’ (which is quality) but really the cow just produces a lot more (quantity). Of course producing more methane is bad because methane is a greenhouse gas and is part of the large build up of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that contributes to global warming and climate change.
      So cows and humans produce the same methane (there is only one type), cows just cause more trouble because they produce a lot more!