Cow burps and farts are serious environmental business, as strange as it sounds. The backbone of our dairy and beef industries come with serious costs to nature. This takes form not only in the land that they require to graze and live, but also in term of the methane they add to the atmosphere. In 2016, the California legislature introduced the Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Act, which was designed to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030, and methane levels by 40%. This included cow farmers, whose animals contribute via flatulence, burps, and manure. Cattle-derived accounts for around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the long-term, we may want to scale back our dependence on cows. In the short term, a probiotic called Mootral tries to cut things down at the source.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are a type of bacteria that exist within the body, in many areas including the mouth, stomach, and colon. This may sound a bit unnerving at first, but is a natural part of the body and how it functions. In fact, human cells in the body are outnumbered by microorganisms at a 10 to 1 ratio.1 All these microorganisms, including types of probiotics in the body together, are our microbiome, a sort of mini-ecosystem in our body. No microbiome is the same, even with identical twins.
We mentioned before how a microbiome is similar to an ecosystem like any forest or lake near your home. This starts as a blank slate when we are in the womb. After birth, it changes when we come into contact with various microbes. In particular, our diets play a role. Much scientific study has shown that the gut microbiome plays an important role in how we digest our food and process nutrients.
This is the role of probiotic supplements. They bring balance back to the body’s ecosystem by reintroducing good bacteria. Studies have shown that this can help deal with common digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome. This is only scratching the surface of the potential of probiotics. Other possible effects include improved immunity, allergies, and even improvements in mood. 3 In some cases, certain probiotics are a good match for certain groups, like expecting mothers. After all, if microbes are in all parts of the body, it stands to reason that introducing the best bacteria could stand to improve a number of different systems.
Is Mootral The Solution?
Mootral, a new natural feed supplement from Zaluvida, makes a pretty hefty promise: to instantly reduce cow methane emissions by at least 30%. While this may seem like a tall order considering the sheer volume of methane out there, Zaluvida does have some credentials in this area, being a biotech company that tackles health challenges ranging from antibiotic resistance to livestock emissions.
Mootral is a powdery supplement with two main ingredients, garlic and proprietary citrus extracts. This powder is compressed into pellets and added to the feed streams of cattle. Combined, these two ingredients were discovered to improve cows’ ability to digest without emitting excess methane in the process. While cow farts are blamed for methane, it’s actually the burps that are the biggest issue, so that is what Mootral targets. However, Mootral is a bit more than just a burp curber for cows.
Instead, it reduces the amount of methane present in burps. It does this by emulating any probiotic supplement that you would take yourself. This means discouraging the growth of the bad bacteria that produce methane, and promoting good bacteria that aids digestion. Trista Van Tine, global marketing director for Mootral, calls it “is a solution that acknowledges the reality of where we are today.” “We want to help farmers make more money, and we want to help the environment.” It doesn’t take much of the supplement to deliver its promised effects: only 10 to 17 grams per cow per day.
This could potentially do a lot for the environment and the cattle industry. Zaluvida estimates that if 40% of the world’s 1.5 billion cows are fed the supplement, the resulting emissions reductions would be equivalent to removing 200 million cars from the road. However, with 30% of the world’s land being used for cattle raising, not counting feed production, Mootral may be one small part of a larger method needed to help with methane in the atmosphere. At least the cows will be eating a little easier, in theory.