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Can Seaweed Make Beef More Environmentally Friendly?

Seaweed is changing the food game; this time, for cows.

Cows on a meadow
Cows are responsible for almost 10% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions

Source: Christina Maiia [5]


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Scientists have long warned just how your diet can make or break the planet; and if saving the planet is your top concern, then the first thing to do is to ghost beef for good.


However, for most people, it is easier said than done. Perhaps the recent discovery of how feeding seaweed to cows can potentially cut their methane emissions by 82% is not only a pivotal moment in science, but also a sense of relief to many [1].


The real beef with beef

Beef has long been vilified by environmentalists worldwide, and it’s not without merit. Research has shown that if the average American cut just a quarter pound of beef a week from their diet, it would be the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road for a year [2].


Unlike pigs or chickens, cows have the unique ability to digest complex plants and they release an enormous amount of methane as a result. As a matter of fact, cows are responsible for almost 10% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions [3].


Though shorter-lived than carbon dioxide, methane is more than 30 times as effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere [1].

 
 

Seeking help from seaweed

Blue ocean and waves
A type of seaweed called Asparagopsis taxiformis can partially counteract these emissions from cows

Source: Kellie Churchman [6]


A type of seaweed called Asparagopsis taxiformis can partially counteract these emissions from cows, scientists have found.


“We now have sound evidence that seaweed in cattle diet is effective at reducing greenhouse gases and that the efficacy does not diminish over time,” said Ermias Kebreab, director of the World Food Center and an agricultural scientist at University of California, Davis.


Two years ago, Kebreab conducted research with Breanna Roque and found that the seaweed supplements reduced methane in dairy cows without affecting the milk output. The latest research, this time on beef cattle, similarly found no difference in the taste of the meat from seaweed-consuming animals [1].


Seaweed can absorb and store large quantities of carbon dioxide [4]. Merely the presence of seaweed farms protects the seafloor by preventing deep sea trawling. In addition, seaweed farms can also create safe and healthy nursery grounds for young fish and crustaceans.


The next challenge will be finding ranchers enough supply of Asparagopsis taxiformis.


“There is more work to be done, but we are very encouraged by these results,” Roque said. “We now have a clear answer to the question of whether seaweed supplements can sustainably reduce livestock methane emissions and its long-term effectiveness.” [1]

 
 

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Image(s):

[6] https://www.pexels.com/photo/landscape-photograph-of-body-of-water-1001682/

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