Fact Check: Are cattle not a producer of greenhouse gases?-thip

Do animals not generate greenhouse gases?

No. Ruminant livestock, such as cows, are a major producer of greenhouse gases. They produce methane and nitrous oxide as a part of their normal digestive process. These animals contain microbes called methanogens which produce methane through enteric fermentation. Similarly, Nitrous Oxide is released through their excreta as a part of digestive routine.

Quick Take


A social media post claims that cows do not emit greenhouse gases. We fact-checked and found this claim to be False. All ruminant livestock, including cattle, are major producers of agricultural greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide.

The Claim

An Instagram post that features a picture where cows are grazing in a grassy field reads, “There are no greenhouse gas emissions in this photo,” 

greenhouse gases

Fact Check

What are greenhouse gases?

Greenhouse gases, or GHGs, are gases in the earth’s atmosphere that influence the earth’s energy balance by trapping heat. These are either made naturally or anthropogenically (man-made). The most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Additionally, there are a few other gases, such as water vapour, etc., which are present in very low concentrations. If the concentration of these gases is increased, there is an amplified greenhouse effect which eventually leads to global warming.

Do animals, such as cows, not produce greenhouse gases?

No. Cattle are considered to be a primary agricultural source of greenhouse gases. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States, “Cattle (raised for both beef and milk, as well as for inedible outputs like manure and draft power) are the animal species responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions.”

Methane, which is a significant greenhouse gas, is normally produced by ruminant livestock, such as cattle, through their digestive process. These animals have a rumen or fore-stomach that contains microbes, which are called methanogens. These microbes can digest coarse plant material and produce methane as a by-product of digestion (enteric fermentation). Eventually, this methane is released into the atmosphere through a procedure called animal belching. Most of the greenhouse emissions from the agriculture sector come through enteric fermentation. 

As per the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (ICAT), cattle excreta (cattle urine) produces another greenhouse gas, Nitrous Oxide, during their daily digestive routine. 

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