Methane and carbon dioxide production from simulated anaerobic degradation of cattle carcasses

Qi Yuan, Samuel E. Saunders, Shannon L. Bartelt-Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Approximately 2.2million cattle carcasses require disposal annually in the United States. Land burial is a convenient disposal method that has been widely used in animal production for disposal of both daily mortalities as well as during catastrophic mortality events. To date, greenhouse gas production after mortality burial has not been quantified, and this study represents the first attempt to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from land burial of animal carcasses. In this study, anaerobic decomposition of both homogenized and unhomogenized cattle carcass material was investigated using bench-scale reactors. Maximum yields of methane and carbon dioxide were 0.33 and 0.09m 3/kg dry material, respectively, a higher methane yield than that previously reported for municipal solid waste. Variability in methane production rates were observed over time and between reactors. Based on our laboratory data, annual methane emissions from burial of cattle mortalities in the United States could total 1.6Tg CO 2 equivalents. Although this represents less than 1% of total emissions produced by the agricultural sector in 2009, greenhouse gas emissions from animal carcass burial may be significant if disposal of swine and poultry carcasses is also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)939-943
Number of pages5
JournalWaste Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Anaerobic decomposition
  • Burial
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Cattle carcass
  • Greenhouse gas production
  • Methane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal


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