Degree of oxidation of organic carbon (Cox) is a fundamental property of the carbon cycle, reflecting the synthesis and decomposition of natural organic matter. Cox is also related to ecosystem oxidative ratio (OR), the molar ratio of O2 to CO2 fluxes associated with net ecosystem exchange (NEE). Here we compare two methods for measuring Cox and OR: (1) %C, %H, %N, and %O elemental analysis, and (2) heat of combustion (ΔHc) measured by means of bomb calorimetry coupled with %C elemental analysis (hereafter referred to as calorimetry). Compared with %C, %N, %H, and %O elemental analysis, calorimetry generates Cox and OR data more rapidly and cheaply. However, calorimetric measurements yield less accurate Cox and OR data. We additionally report Cox and OR data for a pair of biomass standards and a suite of biomass samples. The OR values we measured in these samples were less variable than OR data reported in the literature (generated by simultaneous measurement of ecosystem O2 and CO2 gas mixing ratios). Our biomass OR values had a mean of 1.03 and range of 0.99–1.06. These estimates are lower than the OR value of 1.10 that is often used to partition uptake of fossil fuel CO2 between the ocean and the terrestrial biosphere.