Different Food, Less Emissions

A research project at Stonyfield Farms is looking at the food cows intake and methane emissions. The farm found that by changing the food a cow eats, emissions were reduced by 18 percent. Not only did it reduce emissions, but changing a diet to grasslike foods like alfalfa and flax over corn and soy, but it also improved the cows’ health and quality of their milk.
According to the New York Times…

[…]with worldwide production of milk and beef expected to double in the next 30 years, the United Nations has called livestock one of the most serious near-term threats to the global climate. In a 2006 report that looked at the environmental impact of cows worldwide, including forest-clearing activity to create pasture land, it estimated that cows might be more dangerous to Earth’s atmosphere than trucks and cars combined.
In the United States, where average milk production per cow has more than quadrupled since the 1950s, fewer cows are needed per gallon of milk, so the total emissions of heat-trapping gas for the American dairy industry are relatively low per gallon compared with those in less industrialized countries.
A reason farmers like corn and soy is that those crops are a plentiful, cheap source of energy and protein — which may lead some to resist replacing them. But Ms. Laurain said flax cost less than soy, although grain prices can fluctuate. The flax used in the new feed is grown in Canada, is often heated to release the oil in its seed and yield the maximum benefit for the cow. For now, however, that process is expensive because there is no plant for it in the United States, and the flax is shipped to Europe for heating.
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