Explore the science behind methane emission levels in beef production


(Reuters) – Scientists have worked for years to reduce methane emissions from cattle burps by changing what cattle eat, or through research into vaccines, genetic modification of cattle and even masks and bags back mounted on the front to trap the vapors.

What is the problem?

Methane, the second most abundant greenhouse gas from human activities after carbon dioxide, accounts for 20% of global emissions, according to the Global Methane Initiative.

Livestock emissions are from feed production and processing (45%), burping and gas (39%), manure storage and processing (10%), and processing and transportation animal products (the rest), according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (FAO).

Despite this, the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of milk fell by almost 11 percent from 2005 to 2015, as farmers improved animal health and feed quality and better managed herds. , which resulted in more milk per cow, according to the FAO.

Why are cattle gaseous?

Ruminants – cattle, sheep, bison, goats, deer, and camels – have a stomach compartment called a rumen in which microbes produce methane as a byproduct of digesting fibrous plant material. Some food additives claim to prevent these microbes from producing methane.

Who manufactures methane reducing food additives?

  • Agolin SA – The food additive Agolin Ruminant from the Swiss company contains oil extracts from coriander seeds, cloves and wild carrots. He claims that the displacement of the microbial population in the rumen leads to greater milk production. Trials in Europe and the United States have confirmed methane reductions of 10 percent per animal.
  • DSM – The Dutch nutrition and health company has developed a product called Bovaer after 10 years of development. It is a molecule synthesized from two natural compounds. Tests have shown that it can consistently reduce enteric (gut-bound) methane by 30 percent or more than 70 percent under specific conditions.
  • Mootral – The Swiss company has developed a food supplement based on garlic and citrus extracts to reduce enteric emissions. It claims to inhibit the activity of archaea, a type of microorganism, and reduce methane emissions by up to 38%.
  • Restaurant Brands International – The owner of Burger King restaurants develops his own diet from lemongrass. Acquiring commercial-scale quantities from the plant is its biggest supply chain problem, said Matt Banton, Restaurant Brands’ head of global innovation and sustainability. Research continues in 2021 in the United States, Ireland, Brazil, Mexico and Austria. Burger King said preliminary research has shown that adding citronella to livestock feed reduces methane emissions by 33% in the last three to four months of the animal’s life.
  • Alltech Inc. – The American company produces Yea-Sacc, a commercially available yeast culture. It improves feed efficiency and is certified to reduce the intensity of methane emissions from livestock, said Vice President Matthew Smith.
  • Syngenta – The seeds and chemicals company developed Enogen corn in the early 2000s to make biofuel production more efficient. Syngenta is evaluating the potential benefits of Enogen in reducing methane emissions from livestock, spokesperson Jason Sparks said.
  • Cargill Inc. – The company is developing a methane reduction product for sale to farmers “in the near future,” spokesman Daniel Sullivan said.

Are there any alternatives?

Raising select cattle for those with complex microbes that have low methane production might be a more permanent solution than adjusting feed.

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