Climate Minute: Are Cows Good or Bad?

Both? Neither?

Andrew Gaertner
1 min readDec 1, 2022


Photo by Pixabay:

I am a mostly plant-based life form, but last week I ordered a steak from our local bar. It was delicious. Am I the one who is killing the planet?

In the 1990s, I went vegetarian for several years. Cattle grazing was taking up too much land and cows need ten times as much land as grains. #savetherainforest

I wasn’t thinking about climate change back then, but now we have a new reason to not eat beef. Cow farts. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and cows produce a lot of it. Yikes!

The problem comes when simple logic is applied to complex systems.

We lived next door to the Marin Carbon Project for a few years. They were showing that rotational grazing could store carbon in the soil. Alan Savory shows how (little prayer for all the elephants killed).

Many places unsuited to growing grains could become carbon sinks. A natural version of rotational grazing built the carbon-rich prairie soils of the midwest.

We need nuance to policy decisions and we need to involve ranchers in carbon capture programs rather than demonize them.



Andrew Gaertner

To live in a world of peace and justice we must imagine it first. For this, we need artists and writers. I write to reach for the edges of what is possible.