Could Seaweed Help Save Us From Climate Catastrophe?
Huffington Post 12/21/2020
The global livestock sector accounts for 14.5% of man-made greenhouse gases, more than all of the world’s automobiles, the United Nations has reported. Of that, nearly 40% is methane gas produced by digestion in cattle. The rumen, the first of four parts of a cow’s stomach, contains bacteria that ferment the high-fiber grass, hay and grains they eat. During this process, a combination of gases forms methane, which the animals emit mostly by burping and exhaling, but also in their flatulence and manure.
Perhaps the most promising solution for reducing bovines’ release of this powerful planet-warming gas? Feeding cows seaweed.
The red seaweed species formally known as Asparagopsis taxiformis is a “complete game changer,” according to Ermias Kebreab, associate dean for global engagement in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis. In July, preliminary results from the latest study that Kebreab co-authored on the algae found that it reduces intestinal methane production in beef steers by more than 80% when added to their feed. Other research found reductions of up to 98%, without adverse effects on the cows’ weight or the quality of beef produced.
Red seaweed’s powerful ability to slash methane emissions from cattle has garnered extensive attention, prompting scientists across the globe to work on ways to scale up its production.