How to Green Your Cows’ Gas

  • Published on May 7th, 2009

Reductions of cow-produced methane could play a big role in mitigating climate change.A recent study by Canadian researchers published in the Journal of Animal Science indicate that by fine-tuning the balance of starch, sugar, cellulose, ash, fat and other elements of cattle feed, methane production by the cows can be reduced by as much as 25 percent. If such a move could be implemented on a broad scale, it could be an immensely important piece of the emission reduction puzzle. Cattle farming accounts for as much as 18 percent of the total greenhouse gases emitted worldwide, according to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization.


Cows emit about three to four ounces of methane for every pound of beef produced. Methane is 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, so finding a way to reduce those noxious emissions is crucial. The study used a complicated set of equations that modeled many different diets to find the most methane-efficient version to give to cattle.

Stephen Moore, a professor of agricultural, food and nutritional science at the University of Alberta was an author on the new study. “By identifying factors such as diet or genetics that can reduce emissions, we hope to give beef farmers a way to lessen the environmental footprint of their cattle production, and methane reductions in the order of 25 per cent are certainly achievable,” he said in a press release.

The United States has about 100 million cows, all flatulently contributing to global warming. This kind of research, aimed at relatively easy fixes that could have enormous effects when used widely, are just the kind of thing needed to try and ward off disastrous results of global climate change.

Cow image courtesy of kwerfeldein on via a Creative Commons license.

About the Author

Dave is a science writer focusing on science, health and the environment. You can find other examples of his work at Follow him on Twitter @davelevitan.
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  • Brent

    You are completely full of it if you think Cows are destroying our planet. You are totally delusional to think that based on a minuscule slice of "data" that the temperature of the planet is changing because of a naturally occurring substance or that people can do anything to alter a planet-wide change. The temperature of this planet increased after the last ice age because of what? Cows? Fossil fuels? Leave the planet alone and it will do just fine without you. It has taken care of itself for how long now?