Raising livestock is a gassy business. In fact, a third of methane generated by human activity comes from livestock, beef cattle contributing a substantial amount of that total via belching.
While the solution to cutting methane emissions from livestock ought to include consumers eating less beef, researchers are also searching for ways to reduce emissions at the animal level. According to a report on NPR’s The Salt, one possible solution comes in the form of an herb most cooks have in their kitchen—oregano.
“Oregano has essential oils with a mild antimicrobial called carvacrol, which can kill some of the bacteria in the cow’s rumen that produce methane,” explains Danish researcher Kai Grevsen.
Grevsen and the team of researchers at Aarhus University hope an oregano feed made of Greek oregano, which is higher in the belch-inhibiting oils than other forms of oregano, could reduce methane emissions by up to 25 percent. The finding is particularly important to organic farmers, who won’t or can’t turn to chemical remedies—such as 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP) or anti-methane vaccines, to cut methane emissions.
Plus, that 25 percent reduction is good for more than just the environment.
“A cow loses a lot of energy in releasing all this methane,” explains Grevsen. “By blocking the bacteria, the energy that doesn’t get lost can be used by the cow to produce more milk.”
[H/T NPR’s The Salt]