Seaweed Could be the Key to Reducing Methane Emissions From Cattle

By Tom Pritchard on at

Carbon dioxide is often the key focus when it comes to carbon emissions, but methane is a serious problem as well. The gas is far more potent than CO2, and a lot of it is produced by the cattle we farm and turn into steak. Now, though, seaweed could be coming to the rescue.

According to a new study, feeding seaweed to cows can reduce the amount of methane they produce. While most seaweed species managed averaged a 20 per cent reduction rate, one variety in particular is especially potent. Asparagopsis taxiformis, which grows in the waters surrounding Australia, was found to reduce methane emissions in cattle by a whopping 99 per cent.

It's thanks to a compound called bromoform, which inhibits the production of methane when it reacts with vitamin B12. The other upside is that cows don't need to eat a lot of it to experience the positive effects, meaning it would actually be feasible to add it to cow diets. Observations have also shown that the cows eating the seaweed are generally healthier than ones who don't.

Although only small amounts are needed, there are an awful lot of cows in the world. The Conversation estimates that around 300,000 tonnes would be needed each year just to feed all the diary cattle in Australia. When you consider the rest of the cows in the world, that number ends up in the millions. So if feeding the cows this type of seaweed is going to be a success, some fairly intense farming is going to be needed.

Obviously the only way to get rid of all the emissions is to stop farming cows altogether, but then we wouldn't have things like steak, leather, or cheese. At least now we do know a way of cutting down methane emissions, without having to sacrifice our burgers. [The Conversation via Slashgear]