Innovation

Fart-Collecting Backpacks For Cows Look Silly, But They May Have A Serious Impact

by Kate Ryan

August 26, 2016
Image via INTA Informa

Cow farts. Saying those words out loud will inspire anyone to laugh, but in reality, they’re a serious contributor to global warming and a threat to our safety. Like any fart, cow farts release the greenhouse gas methane into the air, trapping heat and wreaking havoc on the environment. Thanks to the insatiable American appetite for burgers, steaks, and cheese, methane gas from farm animals—aka cow farts—comprises 22 percent of overall methane emissions in the US.

Recently, the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research released a report on this issue, urging farmers to drastically reduce emissions if we hope to meet the climate goals set by the UN earlier this year. With 1.3 to 1.5 billion cows living on this planet today, it’s going to take some serious ingenuity to reduce those malodorous emissions.

As it turns out, Argentines might have found a solution to save us all. According to Munchies, a few Argentinian farmers have strapped high-tech backpacks to their cows that effectively trap passing gas throughout the day. They have impressive holding power, too. One backpack can collect as many as 300 liters of methane per cow per day.

Image via INTA Informa

But where do all the farts go once they’re collected? One of the project’s lead technicians, Ricardo Bualo, says you can collect and convert the gases into renewable biofuels. To put things into perspective, 300 liters of cow gas can provide enough energy to run a refrigerator for one day, INTA Informa reports.

There’s also the preventive method, which involves reducing a cow’s flatulence in the first place. Apparently, dairy company Danone introduced Omega-3 fatty acids into its cows’ diets and saw a 30 percent reduction in cow farts. On the downside, the fatty acids seemed to hinder milk production as well, disqualifying the approach as a practical solution.

The best solution for cutting back greenhouse gas emissions is almost too obvious: we need to consume fewer animal products. And if you can’t live without tasting a juicy burger every now and then, check out these plant-based patties that reportedly taste just as good as the real thing—without the climate-destroying side effects. 

Images via INTA Informa

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Fart-Collecting Backpacks For Cows Look Silly, But They May Have A Serious Impact