Methane emissions from ruminants account for 5.8%. Breeding for low methane would simply be an add-on to existing programmes. Cattle and other ruminants are significant producers of the greenhouse gas methane—contributing 37 percent of the methane emissions resulting from human activity. So in an attempt to address this issue (or perhaps just to make consumers think BK is addressing this issue), Burger King decided to look at the methane emissions in the cattle industry, since ruminant cows get such a bad rap for emitting the potent greenhouse gas methane, which contributes to the greenhouse effect and global heating. “You can probably reduce methane by about 20-25% by altering diet,” he says. Animals vary in their output of methane, and some at least of this variation is attributable to genetic differences. In the wild or sanctuaries, cows can live for more than 20 years.). The ban is controversial because ionophores are not used in human medicine and act in different ways from therapeutic antibiotics. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “The Essential List”. Organic farmers keep livestock longer instead of replacing old … Cattle on carbohydrate -rich diets with high intake will produce less methane as a percentage of dietary gross energy. Read about our approach to external linking. (For context, in the beef industry, cows are typically killed at around 18 months of age; in the dairy industry, once mother cows can no longer get pregnant and their milk supply goes down, they are typically killed for low-grade beef at around 5 years of age. Adding seaweed to a cow’s diet has also been shown to beat the methane-producing bugs. For one thing, the cows are only being fed lemongrass during the last 3 to 4 months of their lives, before being sent to the slaughterhouse — before that point, the farmers are responsible for their cows producing the same amount of methane and emissions as any other factory-farmed cow. Farming livestock – cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens – contributes around 6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) to the atmosphere each year. In the report, the fast food chain notes the FAO statistic that livestock is responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; of those emissions, beef production accounts for 41 percent, and dairy production accounts for 20 percent. Janssen and his colleagues do know from previous work using drugs that suppressing the methanogens yields the promised reduction. Eileen Wall, head of research at Scotland’s Rural College, explains that this offers scope for selective breeding for animals that produce less methane. Less methane will be produced in carbohydrate-rich diets due to the fact that propionate production will remove H2 away from methane production (propionate is a hydrogen sink). Elizabeth Latham, a former researcher at Texas A&M University and co-founder of Bezoar Laboratories, has been developing a probiotic to tackle methane from cattle and claims it can reduce emissions by 50%. “We don’t get any signals that we’re going to inhibit the ability of animals to turn grass into meat or milk,” he says. “While their noses are in the feeding trough a gadget inside it can sample their breath,” says Janssen. Cattle and other livestock are responsible for a seventh of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, while transport accounts for roughly a fifth (Credit: Getty Images). One slightly wackier approach to be proposed is to fit cows with burp-collecting backpacks, while students at the Royal College of Art in London have designed a device that could be attached to a cow’s nose ring to convert the exhaled methane into the less potent, but longer-lasting carbon dioxide. The company’s work on cows dates to 2010, when a group of researchers participated in a European Union research effort to explore ways to reduce methane from cattle. When analyzing the beef industry, it would be irresponsible to ignore the issues besides methane that accompany it — for example, the industry comes with major concerns, such as animal welfare, air pollution, water pollution, and risks to slaughterhouse workers. In a new sustainability report (and accompanying country music video starring the Walmart yodeling kid), Burger King claims that by adding lemongrass to cow feed, emissions can go down by an average of 33 percent. The average ruminant produces 250-500 litres of methane a day. “There are about 12 or 15 species in the subset of archaea we’ve tried to target,” says Peter Janssen, principal investigator of the methane mitigation programme at AgResearch, who has identified various methane-producing microbes in the rumen of sheep and cows. The study — which the BK team commissioned themselves — suggests that methane emissions from cows’ digestive process went down by up to an average of 33 percent per day while they were fed lemongrass. A more realistic alternative, however, are feed additives such as ionophores, which are already used in some parts of the world to boost weight gain in animals and could also be used to inhibit the methane-producing archaea.

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