From international treaties and agreements to high-tech searches for new green power sources, it seems to take huge, global efforts to put the brakes on climate change. But then there are the tinkerers. Cows burps are full of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide? Well what if we find something to calm the cows’ stomachs and make them burp less vile stuff?
These are the simple research questions that agricultural scientists from Australia and Denmark have asked. They are tinkering with cows’ diets in a quest to cut greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective and painless way.
Seaweed & Oregano in Cows’ Diets
From Australia this week, researchers report that a type of red seaweed harvested from off the coast of Queensland can reduce methane in cow burps by up to 99%. Though their cow experiments were done with stomach biome samples in a lab, they have tried feeding actual sheep a diet containing 2% red seaweed. The sheep produced 50-70% less methane. I’ll be on the lookout for investment opportunities in red seaweed farms.
A story earlier this year on NPR reported on other additives to cow diets. These included chemical additive called 3NOP identified at Penn State to be effective at reducing cow burps by 30%, as well as natural solutions like alfalfa and oregano.
A Danish study is investigating whether Greek oregano could reduce methane by 25%. One thing I don’t get is their concern about “finding an inexpensive way to produce the oregano.” The way that stuff spreads in my garden, I’d think all you’d need to do is scatter some seed and let the cows graze on it. But I’m sure they know better than I do how Greek oregano grows in Denmark and whether cows would voluntarily nibble on it — assuming they are pastured at all and not factory-farmed cows.
Of course, another way to reduce the impact of the animal agriculture is to eat less meat. I’ve written up several hearty recipes on this blog for delicious Meatless Monday meals. If you missed it, I also explained how I learned to use a little kombu seaweed when cooking my beans to reduce the human body’s own methane emissions.