Scientists Working on ‘Eco-Cows’ to Make Beef More Environmentally-Friendly

By Mike Pomranz |

© H. Mark Weidman Photography / Alamy

No matter how much your love of steak blinds you, it’s hard to deny that the humanity’s carnivorous lifestyle creates an environmental impact.  According to the Daily Mail, about five percent of all carbon dioxide produced in the UK can be attributed to cattle and livestock – not to even mention more environmentally-troublesome gasses like methane that cows emit.

To help combat these issues, scientists at England’s Rothamsted Research, the government’s agricultural research institute, are working on creating more environmentally friendly cattle – or “eco-cows.”  “Cattle and other ruminants are an important source of nutritious food, but they generate a lot of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide,” Michael Lee, a professor of sustainable livestock systems, told the Sunday Times.  “Our aim is to cut them by 30%-50%.”

The “eco” side of these “eco-cows” has little to do with the cows themselves.  The study involves three herds of 30 cows, each of which will receive different diets to see how it affects their gas production.  For example, one heard is getting a selection of grasses researchers believe cows can digest more easily which in turn will lead to lower methane production.  Another heard is being given plants that are high in protein.

“It is inefficient to grow cows using grains that humans could eat; but keeping them on grassland where crops cannot grow creates a valuable source of food,” said Professor Crawford.

Trying to reduce cow emissions through dietary changes seems like a logical approach as anyone with a sensitive stomach can attest to.  Who wants to hang around with a gassy cow anyway?

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