Do cows eat seaweed? On a Ben & Jerry’s dairy farm, yes. The popular ice cream maker is putting their cattle on a special diet to reduce emissions of methane.
It’s no secret that animal agriculture and dairy farming are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The livestock sector is responsible for 14.5 percent of all GHG emissions; and, 40 percent of all methane emissions – a greenhouse gas that's 80 times more potent that CO2 – are specifically attributed to cows and other livestock.
Ben and Jerry’s, of course, relies on dairy to make their famous ice cream products, but acknowledges that their milk consumption comes at a cost to the environment; nearly 50 percent of the company’s carbon footprint comes from the dairy they purchase from farms.
They’ve launched an initiative – dubbed Project Mootopia – to tackle their climate impacts from their legions of dairy cows, including slashing “enteric” emissions from their bovine friends, reports EcoWatch.
That’s where the seaweed comes in. Every belch and fart from a dairy cow (of which there are, admittedly, many) releases methane into the atmosphere. Like all ruminants, cows have a four-chambered stomach. The largest chamber – the rumen – contains microbes that break down food, producing as much as 50 quarts of gas an hour in the process, most of which is released by belching.
To reduce that belching, Ben & Jerry’s is working with a company that produces a seaweed supplement, Brominata, made from dehydrated red seaweed grown in tanks. Studies show that adding just 3 ounces of seaweed to a cow’s diet can reduce methane emissions by a whopping 82 percent. Cows also lose energy when they belch, so these supplements are a win for farmers too, who will need less feed to nourish their animals.
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