Meat production accounts for a staggering 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions globally. Though land use, feed production, and transport account for a portion of these, the animals themselves actually emit a fair amount of them just by existing.
Take cows, for example. They have a complex digestive system that splits their stomach into four compartments. One of these compartments, the rumen, actively ferments the cow’s food as they chew. In the fermentation process, millions of stomach bacteria convert food into methane gas that is eventually released to the environment in burps and farts (on average, cows burp once a minute!). In this process, the average cow gives off 30 to 50 gallons of methane a day, and considering there are around 1.5 billion of them on farms today, these emissions can add up fast. Methane gas traps even more heat on the earth’s surface than carbon dioxide, making it an important part of the climate change puzzle.
Cows need supplements, too.
Mootral, dubbed the Tesla for cows, has emerged as a quick fix to this gassiness. Developed by biotech company Zaluvida, Mootral is essentially a dietary supplement that can be fed to cows to reduce the amount of methane they produce during digestion. A blend of A blend of garlic powder and citrus extracts, it’s a natural solution that’s 10 years in the making.
“Mootral complements the current diet of the animal, so it’s just a small addition on a farm,” explains Trista Van Tine, Zaluvida’s global marketing director. “But it’s able to reduce their methane emissions by 30 percent.”
Considering human activity has more than doubled the amount of methane present in the atmosphere and farmers will need to produce 70 percent more food to keep up with demand by 2050, this reduction is a promising step forward. Right now, Zaluvida is still rolling out the product on a handful of farms in the United States and Europe, but they hope to expand their reach and eventually comprise a whole new category of meat.
“Through these pilot relationships, we’re trying to demonstrate to the broader community what is possible by integrating such a simple solution into farm management practices,” says Van Tine. “The resulting milk and beef is now the product that we’re presenting as a new standard in sustainable food: Climate Smart.”
By labeling milk and beef that comes from cows that took Mootral as “Climate Smart,” she’s speaking to consumers who want to reduce their environmental impact but aren’t ready to give up animal products altogether.
A brighter future for farmers.
And conscious consumers aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this new wave of meat. Van Tine emphasizes the fact that farmers can raise healthier, more productive cows for less money when they use the supplement.
“It is recognized in the animal health community that when cows produce all that methane, it actually takes a lot of energy,” she says. “So when Mootral is introduced, a lot of energy is saved that can be used elsewhere for the health of the animal.” In theory, this means that cattle farmers will produce more meat that they can then sell at a higher price.
After all, many shoppers are willing to pay a premium for environmentally responsible food, as evidenced by the organic movement. “We conducted consumer research this year and found that 77 percent of Californians are concerned about climate change, and 79 percent already buy organically labeled or locally sourced food. 51 percent of them only buy that,” Van Tine says. Though we still have a ways to go until Climate Smart meat fills grocery aisles across the country, she predicts a far-reaching future for Mootral.
“We have big plans for this product, and we want to get it to as many people as possible. The more people who are using it, the more impact we can have in reducing climate change.”
Speaking of innovations that are making waves in the agriculture industry, here’s everything you need to know about regenerative farming.
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