Cattle pass a lot of gas, and the methane from their flatulence and especially, their belches, is an expanding burden on the planet. The greenhouse gas has a warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide.
Livestock account for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, with over half of that coming from cattle, according to a 2013 report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. Given that, some environmentalists might choose to eschew milk and beef, but scientists think they've figured out a way for us to one day have our cattle and eat them, too — gas-free.
The key is breeding less-gassy cattle, and scientists now know it's possible because of a study that won the Public Library of Science Genetics Award on Thursday. The study, originally published in the journal PLoS Genetics last year, showed that a cow's genetics determine which microbes populate its gut — and some of those microbes produce the methane that eventually makes its way into the atmosphere.