Beans, beans, the musical fruit

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated February 13, 2018
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Time to order extra beans in your breakfast burrito. It may seem counterintuitive, but a recent study has found that eating more beans could dramatically reduce flatulence. Cow flatulence, that is. Researchers at Loma Linda University have released a study that suggests substituting plant-sourced food for animal-sourced food, specifically beef, could dramatically decrease the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Cow farts and burps, while admittedly a pretty silly subject, are actually quite a serious environmental scourge. Considering that a cow can produce up to 500 liters of methane gas per day (about as much as a small car) and as of 2016 there were 93.5 million cows in the US, we’re looking at a lot of gas.

Loma Linda’s study came to the conclusion that food substitutions such as “beans for beef”, could help the country meet “up to 74 percent of the reductions needed to reach the 2020 GHG [greenhouse gas emissions] target.” The report also states that beef is the single most GHG-intensive food industry, while legumes like beans produce about one-fortieth of the amount of greenhouse gasses as cattle.

While people could potentially take a look at the direction the planet is headed and pick up a carton of beans instead of ground sirloin tonight, it’s not incredibly likely. Considering that the number of cows raised for meat and dairy may not reduce any time soon, researchers at Aarhus University are working to make grass easier for cows to digest. Using DNA technology, the scientists to have created a “super grass” that is gentler on cows’ stomachs, meaning less gas buildup. While Torben Asp, a senior researcher at Aarhus University’s Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics told BBC News that cow burps produce more methane, and are therefore more detrimental to the environment than cow farts, there’s no denying that if we want to save the planet, we need to reduce the demand for beef.

Adopting a “beans for beef” mentality sounds like big ask to some, but with the earth’s fate at stake, it might really be worth it. Unfortunately for your roommates, the Loma Linda researchers do not have a solution for the amount of gas you’ll produce after eating so many more beans, though we can pretty confidently say it won’t hurt the environment.