Sanitizing cow farts before they happen could slow climate change

Steaks are good, yes. So are burgers on the grill and a roast in the oven. Cows, though, aren't so great for the environment, an issue that must be addressed as the world becomes hotter and climate change becomes more rapid. It takes a lot of water to raise a cow, but that's arguably not humanity's biggest concern at the moment. It is farts...cow farts, to be specific. A cow's fart has a lot of methane, and methane is a big contributor toward a warmer planet.

Cow farts are laden with methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere, causing a warmer planet. Last year, a study surfaced that claimed feeding dairy cows a particular supplement reduced their methane emission by 30-percent, something that was observed over the course of 12 weeks using Penn State's dairy barns.

The supplement is called 3NOP, which stands for 3-nitrooxypropanol, a methane inhibitor. The cows didn't produce any less milk or have any changes to the amount of food they ate, but did gain more weight than cows who didn't receive 3NOP. Why's the discovery such a big deal? According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the methane emitted by cows and other livestock could be responsible for up to a quarter of the methane emissions produced in the U.S.

A newly published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details how 3NOP works — by targeting an enzyme called methyl-coenzyme M reductase, which is located in cows' rumens that ultimately cause the production of methane. The study says that, at least at this point, there's no signs that 3NOP inhibits anything but methanogens, and it doesn't have any negative effects on the cows. The inhibitor could potentially be used in other livestock with methane-producing rumen as well.