Burp-Catching Mask for Cows to Slow Climate Change

A single industrially farmed cow produces roughly as much pollution as six average European cars; there are around 1.4 billion cattle in the world. By one estimate, cows emit more climate pollution globally than the entire economies of Japan or Germany.

Humans are having to wear masks thanks to 'you know what' but what about methane producing bovines? Enter Zelp: a UK-based company, which has developed a potential solution in the form of a burp-catching face mask for cows, designed to reduce methane emissions from cattle by 60 percent.


Zelp was founded by brothers Francisco and Patricio Norris, whose family run a livestock farming business in Argentina. “We were aware that in every country, methane is one of the biggest contributions to global warming and we found that methane mitigation tools in agriculture are under-researched,” says Francisco. “There isn’t a lot of innovation occurring within the field.”


Generally, solutions to the livestock industry’s methane problem have come in the form of feed additives, which inhibit the production of the gas in the cattle’s stomachs by altering their digestive process. Instead of changing the animals’ microbiology, Zelp allows animals to digest normal foods without this interference. Perhaps a mix of mask and food stuffs would be the perfect solution?


The mask fits comfortably on a cow’s head with a zip-tie-like mechanism allowing it to be adjusted to various cattle’s head sizes depending on the breed. It is applied to cattle after they are weaned, usually at 6-8 months of age, and sits next to the nostrils, allowing the tool to capture methane from their breathing, belches and burps. “Around 95 per cent of the cattle’s methane emissions come from their nostrils and mouths,” Norris explains. “The technology detects, captures and oxidises methane when it is exhaled by the animals.”


At the tip of the mask, a sensor detects when the cow exhales and the percentage of methane that is expelled. When methane levels get too high, the mask channels the gas towards an oxidation mechanism inside, which contains a catalyst that converts methane into CO2 and water, and expels it from the device. “It reduces methane’s global warming potential to less than 1.5 per cent of its original value,” Norris explains.


Zelp has conducted behavioural trials and observations with institutions in the UK and Argentina, including the Royal Veterinary College, which have indicated that the wearable has no impact on the animal’s behaviour and feeding.


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN predicts that beef and dairy consumption is going to rise by approximately 70 per cent in the next 30 years, and the team behind Zelp believe that the solution to ensuring climate action is implemented in time to meet global climate change goals lies in a collaborative approach. They hope their product will complement the development of alternative meat during this vital period – by capturing and transforming methane, one burp at a time.

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