A seaweed growing off the coast of Australia may be our secret to reducing the harmful methane emissions from cows by 99%! But why should we care? It turns out that methane is 34 times worse for the ozone layer than what’s coming out of our tailpipes, but here’s some good news! 1
Methane is one of the main contributors to our planet’s warming, and more of it definitely isn’t a good thing. 2
Yet every cow on this planet releases an average of 30 to 50 gallons of this gas into the atmosphere every day. 3 But they can’t help it! Their bodies naturally produce methane as a byproduct of breaking down the cellulose from the grass they graze on. Unfortunately, with the increase in cow populations from our meat and dairy operations, the amount of methane they produce has become a serious problem for the health of our planet.
So, what do we do about it if we want to have our cows and eat them too? Change what they have available for food! From eucalyptus to oregano researchers have been trying to find a way to lower the methane numbers. And so far, the seaweed appears to be the methane minimizing winner by a long shot!
What sparked the idea of feeding cows seaweed?
This idea came in the purest form: to help the cows. Reducing methane wasn’t the initial goal, although it’s a great result. No, the main goal of the farmers was to help cows be healthier. Seaweed gave them the minerals they need, naturally. But in due time, they noticed the changes that this addition made.
In our first featured video, we meet two farmers located in Canada’s Prince Edward Island who have seen. first hand, the benefits of adding seaweed to their cow’s food. The National from CBS News lets us in on this fascinating story!
Now, let’s meet the great, and absolutely beautiful, Asparagopsis!
If you watched until the end of the previous video, you would have heard all about how researchers tested seaweed from around the world and eventually, came across this beauty. Because of certain chemicals that it produces, Asparagopsis is able to reduce the amount of methane the cow’s stomach produces during digestion.
Currently, this seaweed is under testing at UC Davis Beef Barn and Scripps Research Institute to see the long term impacts of this seaweed on the cow’s health and how to mass-produce it sustainably! One of our favorite channels, Seeker, shows us what they’re up to.
Bringing Two Worlds Together
Time and time again, we’ve seen that the answers to our biggest problems can often be found if we look a little closer at the natural world. And sometimes, that takes bringing two seemingly different worlds together.
The likelihood of a cow swimming out into the ocean on their own accord to munch on some Asparagopsis is slim. It’s simply not their turf (although, apparently, cows are pretty great swimmers). And yet, one of the organisms growing there may hold the key to balancing out our planet. How strange and awesome is that?
“Lots of ingenuity gets you through times with no money better than money gets you through times of no ingenuity.” — Terry Pratchett
How did that connection form? Could it be just a fluke coincidence? What else is out there waiting for us to put two and two together?
The potential is endless.
Check out this circle of articles to see a few examples of what we’ve already stumbled across!
If you’d like to read more about how seaweed is reducing methane production in animals and why it’s important, this detailed report from BMC and this page of information from Western Australia’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
Stay open to new possibilities!
” No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein
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- UNFCCC. “Why Methane Matters.” UNFCCC, 7 Aug. 2014, unfccc.int/news/new-methane-signs-underline-urgency-to-reverse-emissions. Accessed 2 July 2019. ↩
- Environmental Defense Fund. “The Climate Impacts of Methane Emissions.” Environmental Defense Fund, Apr. 2012, www.edf.org/climate-impacts-methane-emissions. Accessed 2 July 2019. ↩
- May, Kate Torgovnick. “Methane Isn’t Just Cow Farts; It’s Also Cow Burps (and Other Weird Facts You Didn’t Know about This Potent Greenhouse Gas).” Ideas.ted.com, Ideas.ted.com, 27 Sept. 2018, ideas.ted.com/methane-isnt-just-cow-farts-its-also-cow-burps-and-other-weird-facts-you-didnt-know-about-this-potent-greenhouse-gas/. Accessed 2 July 2019. ↩
- CBC News: TheNational. “How Feeding Cows Seaweed Could Cut Methane Emissions | The Fix.” YouTube, CBC News: The National, 16 Nov. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILxrABpMOwk&feature=youtu.be. Accessed 2 July 2019. ↩
- Seeker. “How Seaweed Could Slow Down Climate Change.” YouTube, Seeker, 14 Apr. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOGZVYSSFRA. Accessed 2 July 2019. ↩