We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Should Cows Be Eating More Seaweed?

Margaret Lipman
Published Feb 08, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

It’s a well-known fact that cow burps are a problem. Annually, the digestive system of each cow on the planet releases around 220 lbs (100 kg) of enteric methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. With a global population of 1.5 billion cows, their methane emissions are roughly equivalent to the emissions of 650 million cars.

Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of a cow’s methane comes from burps (just 5% comes out the other end). The microbes in a cow’s first stomach, the rumen, turn carbon and hydrogen from fermenting plants into methane. Interestingly, diet has a significant impact on the amount of methane a cow produces. For example, corn is much easier to digest than grass and results in significantly less methane being emitted.

Yet there may be a relatively simple solution to these powerful belches. In the past decade, numerous studies have found that sprinkling red algae from the genus Asparagopsis into cattle feed can reduce the amount of methane in their belches by as much as 90%. This is due to an organic compound in the seaweed known as bromoform that prevents carbon and hydrogen from becoming methane.

Research suggests that only a tiny fraction of a cow's total feed intake (as little as 0.2% in one recent study) would need to consist of seaweed. And besides reducing methane-filled burps, bromoform is associated with increased glucose, which may promote more efficient growth or better milk production.

Yet growing Asparagopsis on a scale that is viable for commercial use is another matter, though companies like Sea Forest, Blue Ocean Barns, and CH4 Global are making headway. However, in land-based tanks, large-scale seaweed cultivation has its own environmental impacts, including potentially high energy usage and nutrient runoff. On the other hand, there are many benefits associated with seaweed growth in the ocean, as this can help sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce ocean acidification.

The cattle burp conundrum:

  • If the seaweed solution were to be widely adopted, it could have another unintended consequence. Many people have reduced their consumption of beef and dairy due to the negative environmental impacts of cattle farming. However, if cows stopped emitting as much methane due to a change in their diet, people might decide to start consuming more cattle products again, potentially negating any overall benefits.

  • Besides seaweed containing bromoform, other cattle feed additives have been proposed, including the chemical 3-NOP, which may reduce methane emissions by up to 40%.

  • Cows have historically eaten seaweed as part of their diet in coastal areas ranging from Greece to Iceland to Canada. Generally speaking, bovines are not picky eaters.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
Discussion Comments
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.