Dutch company DSM has made a breakthrough in reducing the amount of methane released by burping cows. And, no, it’s not etiquette lessons. We know that gassy livestock are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, but DSM has been looking at the microbes responsible for cows’ methane production and have developed a food additive that can reduce gassiness by up to 60 percent.
Livestock gases – burping and, well, you know – are responsible for around 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. agricultural industry, according to the EPA. Microorganisms live in cattle’s digestive systems and help them to break down fibrous plant material. Methane is produced by the microorganisms as a by-product of this process, and as a greenhouse gas it is about 25 percent more potent than carbon dioxide.
DSM has developed a powdered food additive that has delivered reductions of up to 60 percent of normal methane levels under trial conditions. According to program director Petra Simic, the challenge now is to test the product to ensure it has no unintended side effects. Not only is the health of the cows of primary importance, but the milk and meat produced by cows fed the supplement must not taste any different nor contain chemicals of concern for human consumption.
Dr. Simic acknowledges there is still a way to go before the product is ready for market release, but she stresses her team’s commitment to finding a solution to one of the major causes of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.