Could a new animal feed reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Could a new animal feed reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Greenhouse gases are major contributors to the effects of global climate change, particularly the kind that emanate from animals, namely methane. However, there’s a new variety of feed that claims to reduce these emissions, and the U.S. Federal Drug Agency is giving a Canadian-based company the go-ahead to produce more of it so farmers – and the earth – can take advantage.

The FDA has given a Canadian-based company – Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. – the licensing it needs to develop an animal feed that’s both GMO-free and low in carbon. A byproduct of an oilseed and native to Ethiopia, carinata has a variety of cultivation-related advantages, including being resistant to the effects of drought and oppressive heat. As a result, it can grow and germinate even through prolonged dry spells, which Canada can see at times especially during the hot summer months.

Carinata seed highly carbon friendly
However, cattle farmers have found the carinata seed to serve as a more-than-suitable alternative to traditional foodstuffs for feeding their livestock, with the added benefit of being “green-friendly.” According to scientists, nearly 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions derive from livestock, primarily methane, based on estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, that may change with the carinata seed, which experts say creates a lower carbon footprint because of the way in which animals’ digestion system processes the protein byproduct.

Steve Fabijanski, president and CEO of Agrisoma, says the carinata seed has boundless potential.

“This decision places Agrisoma at the forefront of creating a planet-friendly animal feed alternative that helps reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production, poultry, aquaculture and dairy markets,” Fabijanski explained. “As the world population grows, there is an increasing demand to improve sustainability and security of our food. The FDA approval of Carinata protein provides our food industry with a new and sustainable animal feed option.”

Far and away, cattle – such as cows, yak and buffalo – are the primary contributors to greenhouse gas emissions among farm animals, according to the UN’s FAO. Roughly 65 percent of livestock emissions come from the cattle used to produce milk and beef. Following cattle are pigs, buffaloes and chicken.

Nearly 44 percent of greenhouse gases from livestock is methane, according to the UN’s analysis. The remainder is a combination of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

Plant life taking in more carbon dioxide
Though carbon dioxide is considered a greenhouse gas, its properties make life possible, particularly among plants and other forms of vegetation. According to a recent study published in the scientific journal Nature, increased carbon dioxide emissions have resulted in plants globally utilizing 30 percent more than during the 20th century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.

NOAA scientist Stephen Montza says that a trace gas, called carbonyl sulfide, serves as a quasi-barometer of sorts, indicating how much carbon dioxide plants are “breathing in” as they grow and develop.

NOAA researchers say the Nature study is believed to be the first that provides a quantitative estimate regarding how much more carbon dioxide plant life is absorbing in this century relative to last. The results could help further define the effects of climate change and what can be done to mitigate its effects.