There’s big business in cow burps

Cows are notorious methane emitters, and an entire industry wants to make their belches less destructive.


May 4, 2020

Despite what your inner 6th-grader may tell you, cow burps and farts are no laughing matter.

Cows are professional methane factories, thanks to their grassy diets. Their gassy emissions are one of the greatest agricultural contributors to climate change. 

Cud for thought: If cows were a country, Bovinia would be the world’s 6th-largest emitter.

That’s why the climate-solutions industry extends all the way down to the burps burbling out of Bessie’s mouth.

The companies want cows to go carbon-Mootral

As much as we’d like to take credit for that pun, we have to tip our cowboy hats to the branding experts. Mootral is the name of a Swiss biotech company focused on squelching the power of the bovine belch. 

The New York Times reported that it’s one of several firms that are tinkering with cows’ digestive chemistry. They’re taking aim at a cow’s diet. 

Allicin, a compound in garlic that’s released when a clove is cut or crushed, targets methane-producing enzymes in a cow’s digestive system. The companies are fortifying feed with allicin, seaweed, and citrus compounds to find the perfect formula for reducing methane emissions.

One challenge: balancin’ the allicin. Add too much, and you might get a glass of refreshing garlic milk.

Don’t close the fridge door just yet

Mootral’s first tests on dairy cows on a real farm reduced methane emissions by 38%.

And as they say: If you can’t beat the burps, catch ‘em. A UK-based startup called Zelp (that’s Zero Emissions Livestock Project, natch) makes a sort of wearable harness that captures the burps and traps them in a methane-absorbing filter.

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