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Additive in Animal Feed Reduces Methane Emissions

By Lisa Pickoff-White

December 8 - Farm animals produce about 14 percent of the world's methane, a greenhouse gas. British scientists have recently found that including a food additive in animal feed can reduce the methane output of cows by up to 70 percent. The additive is based on fumaric acid, a naturally occurring chemical needed for animal and vegetable tissue respiration.

The digestive system of ruminant animals, such as cattle, sheep, buffalo, goats, and camels, produces large amounts of methane. One cow can emit around 600 litres of methane a day. U.S. cattle account for 19 percent of global methane emissions related to human activities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Livestock operations also produce significant amounts of ammonia, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide.

The National Research Council report Air Emissions From Animal Feeding Operations: Current Knowledge, Future Needs recommends that EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture create a joint council to coordinate and oversee research to estimate emissions from livestock production and develop mitigation strategies.

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