The cows grazing peacefully in the vicinity of New Zealand’s farming science research institute AgResearch look much like any other. They plod slowly around the pastures, heads bowed as they tear up mouthfuls of grass and let out soft, low moos.
But some of these animals are not like the cattle you might find on other farms. Away from view, inside the hard-working stomachs of these cows, an experiment that could potentially change the planet is taking place.
They have been given a vaccine against certain gut microbes that are responsible for producing methane as the animals digest their food. Methane is one of the most egregious of greenhouse gases, roughly 25 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
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AgResearch’s aim is to develop this vaccine, along with other anti-methane methods, in an effort to allow us to continue eating meat and dairy products while lessening the impact the livestock industry has on the environment. Beef without blame, you might say; and cheese with a clear conscience.