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Seaweed supplements reduce livestock methane emissions

Seaweed supplements can reduce livestock methane emissions without affecting meat quality, according to a new study published by PLOS. The researchers found that feeding red algae to beef cattle lowered methane emissions by more than 50 percent. 

Sheep and cattle produce methane as a byproduct of digestion, which makes livestock farming a major source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

A team led by Breanna Roque at the University of California set out to investigate whether red seaweed supplements could potentially reduce methane emissions produced by beef cattle.

The study was focused on 21 Angus-Hereford beef bullocks, who were fed their usual diet of hay, grains, and corn. The diets were supplemented with either zero, low, or high concentrations of red seaweed. 

The experts periodically measured the levels of methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide released by the young bulls for 21 weeks. The study revealed that the supplements reduced methane emissions by between 45 percent and 68 percent. 

The greatest reductions were associated with a high seaweed-supplemented, low-forage diet. This diet was found to reduce methane production by as much as 80 percent.

Testing showed that the seaweed supplements had no effect on the quality or flavor of the meat. In addition, the bulls sustained normal growth rates while consuming less food. This indicates that red seaweed supplemented diets could help farmers improve efficiency, reduce costs, and reduce methane emissions simultaneously, explained the researchers.

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

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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