Researchers Are Closing in on a Way to Reduce Methane Emissions from Cows

By Mike Pomranz |
FWX ECO COWS

© H. Mark Weidman Photography / Alamy

I know it’s early in the week, but we have to have a serious conversation… about cow burps.

As we’ve all heard, the massive amount of beef humans consume is bad for the environment in many different ways. One reason is that cattle contribute to greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The biggest culprit to that contribution is methane, a byproduct of cow digestion that the animals release into the atmosphere via breathing and eructation – aka burps. It’s one of the many reasons you want to avoid kissing a cow on the lips.

However, despite these issues, steakhouses aren’t going anywhere in the short-term, so scientists have been working on cutting the amount of methane that cows release – kind of like a cow breath mint that saves the planet. One compound that’s shown promise is called 3-nitrooxypropanol, or 3NOP for short. According to Modern Farmer, when added to a cow’s feed, it can cut methane emissions by 30 percent.

Related: Want Your Own Wagyu Cow? Move To This Tiny Japanese Town

Of course, scientists need to also make sure that adding 3NOP to a cow’s feed has no adverse side effects to the cows, humans or the environment.

But the good news is a new study continues to add to the growing evidence that, indeed, 3NOP may be a safe and effective way to reduce methane. “At the very low effective concentrations recently applied in vivo (dairy and beef cattle), 3-NOP appears to inhibit only methanogens and thus to be attractive for development as a feed supplement,” researchers wrote.

It’s probably still a long way from wide commercial use, but it could prove to be a helpful solution in the near future. At the very least, if it eventually does gain approval, maybe those poor stinky cows will be invited to more parties.

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