Is Oregano the Answer to Methane Gas Pollution?

cow buttPhoto: sarae

When the world learned several years ago that cows were responsible for 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year, the jokes on the Internet, in the media and globally exploded with energetic frenzy. Every suppressed child-like spirit embodied in adults passed the fart jokes at whim. There was a huge problem with the “fart frenzy”, if you will. Each cow emits 200 to 400 quarts of methane gas per day, but not from that end. They belch the methane.

As the burps break down from any “cud chewer” (sheep, goats, camels, water buffalo and cows), they forms carbon dioxide. Our atmosphere’s ozone layer and our water absorb this carbon dioxide, which makes it heat up. Next minute you know, ice caps begin to melt and polar bears become homeless. It is estimated that 90% of methane emmited into the environment is by “cud chewers”.

This is because we have over one billion of these guys stomping around the earth at any given time. Of course, methane can also come from termites, rice paddies (because of the bacteria that loves to live there), swamps and marshes, landfills, mining and oil drilling. But, the media doesn’t like to share with the public about these offenders because of the political and economical retribution of such an exposure. Really, what is more funny than a mass collection of lame fart jokes, right?

Because methane gas is 20 times more toxic than straight carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, scientists have been frantic to find a solution to this smelly mess. Telling people to not eat meat is not practical. So vaccines, antibiotics and a wide array of dietary supplements were experimented with. They came up empty-handed.

cowPhoto: foxypar4

The magic “cure” is oregano. Oregano not only makes Italian food taste grand, but it eliminates up to 40% of methane expelled from the cows. Belching is not only bad for the environment, but it’s bad for the bottom line. In other words, the energy used to belch is energy lost making milk. Farmers can profit from this possible methane gas pollution solution.

In the future, we could all notice a slight hint of oregano in our milk. But, for now, scientists will need to identify the component in oregano that reduces belching in cows and other “cud chewers”. They plan to synthesize this compound to make a cheaper product, as giving true oregano wouldn’t be so cost effective. What is a whopping savings is that when this supplement finally hits the market in a few years is that 2.2 million tons of methane just in the U.S will be alleviated.

Antibiotics are living large and proud for cow farmers in developed countries like the U.S. But, those in third world countries simply don’t have the economics or resources to reduce methane emissions through antibiotics. (Personally, I would rather eat meat with oregano in it than antibiotics!) As the population of “cud chewers” increases and prospers, methane pollution will be an ever growing issue we can’t ignore. That’s the straight bull.