Gassy Cows Warm The Planet. Scientists Think They Know How To Squelch Those Belches

Read the full story from NPR.

Cattle pass a lot of gas, and the methane from their flatulence and especially, their belches, is an expanding burden on the planet. The greenhouse gas has a warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

Livestock account for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, with over half of that coming from cattle, according to a 2013 report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. Given that, some environmentalists might choose to eschew milk and beef, but scientists think they’ve figured out a way for us to one day have our cattle and eat them, too — gas-free.

The key is breeding less-gassy cattle, and scientists now know it’s possible because of a study that won the Public Library of Science Genetics Award on Thursday. The study, originally published in the journal PLoS Genetics last year, showed that a cow’s genetics determine which microbes populate its gut — and some of those microbes produce the methane that eventually makes its way into the atmosphere.

Author: Laura B.

I'm the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center's Sustainability Information Curator, which is a fancy way of saying embedded librarian. I'm also Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. When not writing for Environmental News Bits, I'm an avid reader. Visit Laura's Reads to see what I'm currently reading.

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