In the Lab: Belching Cows for a Greener Tomorrow

By now we’ve all heard that the methane in sheep and cow, er, emissions is a significant contributor to global climate change, but researchers at the Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala recently received a $590,000 grant to study things at the other end of the spectrum. According to project leader Jan Bertilsson, 95 percent of the methane cows release escapes through their mouths — via belching.

Bertilsson and other researchers believe that the levels of methane vary depending on what the animals eat, so 20 lucky Swedish cows will be fitted with collars that measure the methane in the air around them and fed a variety of diets. And lest you think this is a purely Scandinadivan theory, check out what the Japanese are doing.

A research team at Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary medicine in Hokkaido recently found that feeding cattle an amino acid called cysteine significantly cut the rate of methane emitted in their belches. The Japanese team claims that feeding cows this chemical does nothing to harm milk quality; they’ve even applied for patents in the U.S. and elsewhere for their findings. Yet another sign that environmental researchers are leaving no stone unturned in the fight against climate change.