Environmentalists rejoiced at news last week that feeding seaweed to livestock could reduce their methane production by a whopping 70%. Cattle in particular are the some of the biggest offenders when it comes to cumulative gases that can affect our atmosphere.
A study in 2014 called ‘In vitro evaluation of feeding North Atlantic stormtoss seaweeds on ruminal digestion’ made most of the headway on the theory that seaweed can reduce cattle and sheeps methane production when ingested. This was tested out successfully in Australia last year when a team discovered that up to 70% less methane was produced under their lab conditions across a 72-day period, when seaweed makes up just 2% of total diet. The news was spread by ABC news, and the world began to listen.
Methane has a strong ability to trap radiation within the Earth’s atmosphere, making it potentially more dangerous for global warming than CO2. Methane is released in the flatulence (or let’s call a spade a spade: the burpin’ and fartin’) of our cattle and sheep.
Seaweed has even been on sale in Ireland for the past few years, with the company ‘Pedigreecattle.ie’ selling seaweed for dietary reasons. The site describes its Donegal-sourced seaweed as Ascophyllum nodosum, which is different from the exact seaweed quoted in the Australian and North American reports: Asparagopsis taxiformis. The seaweed on sale from this Irish website has however been tested for reducing methane, and it does seem to have an effect similar to Asparagopsis taxiformis. You can read a study on that here.
To be successful, bromoform needs to be produced upon eating the seaweed-infused feed. This compound manages to reduce methane production during the digestive process. Whether or not the world currently has enough seaweed farms to inject all ruminant feeds with seaweed up to levels of 2% is unclear, but in a world where climate change is at the fore of our minds, it could be worth a try.