If you know anything about climate change, you know that our meat-loving ways greatly contribute to it—thanks to farting and burping cows. Methane, which is a greenhouse gas, is devastating to the environment because it absorbs heat. In the United States, methane gas produced by farm animals constitutes 22 percent of methane emissions.
According to the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, which recently issued a report on the topic, farmers must help reduce non-carbon dioxide emissions by one gigaton per year in order to meet the goal set at the UN climate meeting held in Paris this year. At the meeting, participants came to the conclusion that keeping temperatures from rising no more than two degrees by 2030 is essential.
That means a lot fewer cow farts are in order. Farmers have begun to focus on controlling the gas emitted by the 1.3 to 1.5 billion cows alive today.
One innovative solution is coming out of Argentina. Some Argentine cattle farmers have outfitted their cows with backpacks that act as containers—for cow farts. The backpacks catch and contain almost 300 liters of methane per cow per day. That's a lot of cow gas—enough to power a refrigerator for an entire day, according to INTA Informa.
Other ag companies have been trying alternative methods of capturing cow gas before it gets into the atmosphere—or stopping it in the first place. Danone, the dairy and nutrition company, is feeding its cows Omega-3 fatty acids—which reduced cow gas by 30 percent, the company said. Unfortunately for Danone, however, the fatty acids also reduced milk production, so that dietary change may not be a long-term solution.
Similarly, Cargille is trying to figure out to keep cow gas from seeping into the atmosphere. According to Bloomberg, that company is capturing methane in cow manure by keeping it in domed lagoons.
It's still far too early to point out all of the ways in which cattle farmers will attempt to curtail their impact on the environment, but don't freak out too much if you drive by some cows walking around with flatulence-filled backpacks.