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New Natural Nutritional Supplement Could Be Key to ‘Climate-Friendly’ Beef

Image credit: Mootral

The realities of climate change and shifting consumer preferences for responsible, sustainable products have sparked a paradigm shift in the food industry, one that is leading food companies and farmers alike to rethink the way food is produced and manufactured. The relationship between global warming and beef production in particular has long been a hot button issue for the industry. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the global livestock industry is responsible for 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) caused by humans, making it the third-largest contributor of GHGs, after energy and industry.

Cows play a prominent role in this drama as the largest contributors of methane emissions, with the world’s 1.5 billion cows each producing two to three tons of CO2e annually. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), enteric (microbial) fermentation, which naturally occurs during ruminant digestion, accounts for 25 percent of annual methane emissions in the US, with an additional 10 percent being attributed to manure management.

Considerable research has been conducted to find ways to reduce emissions from beef and dairy operations, with the main focus falling on nutritional strategies such as increasing the percentage of legumes in forage mixtures, avowing the use of low-quality, mature pasture crops for grazing; breeding better pasture species to improve nutritional quality and planting birdsfoot trefoil — a legume that produces condensed tannins, which can reduce emissions and disease risk — amongst others.

Zaluvida Corporate AG believes, however, that it may have a better solution. The Swiss life sciences company has developed a nutritional feed supplement, Mootral, that it claims can instantly reduce methane emissions from livestock by at least 30 percent. The potentially disruptive technology was announced late last week at the Future Energy Forum at the World Expo in Kazakhstan.

The result of over a decade of research, Mootral uses natural ingredients such as organosulphurous compounds from garlic and natural plant flavonoids, including citric extracts, in lieu of synthetic products in feed, to improve rumen fermentation. The supplement works by suppressing the methanogenic bacteria present in the rumen, while leaving bacteria that aids in digestion intact. Zaluvida claims that a widespread adoption of Mootral could help prevent a total of 1.3 gigatons CO2e from being released into the atmosphere — the equivalent of 500 million cars being taken off the road.

Additionally, the supplement’s natural plant flavonoids are known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which the company believes could help reduce reliance on antibiotics.

Speaking at the Future Energy Forum, Michael Mathres, President of the Mootral division at Zaluvida, said: “While there is much talking about reducing greenhouse gases, we see today the opportunity for immediate action. Giving Mootral to 1.8 million Kazakh cows would neutralize the emissions of all cars currently on the country’s streets. Kazakhstan can be a forerunner in this field [if] appropriate action is taken now — and other countries should follow.”

Click to enlarge.

Zaluvida collaborated with Neem Biotech to test and create the product. Early product ‘in vivo’ trials performed by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University in the UK, in which no changes were made to the animals’ feed, saw methane reductions of 20–27 percent. Consumption of feed did, however, increase.

The product is now entering the pilot phase in developed markets, during which Zaluvida will focus on further refining and developing the approach for roll out in emerging economies.

The company has also appointed Ogilvy Change, a marketing communications company specializing win behavior science and sustainability, to collaborate on the launch of “climate-friendly” beef in Europe and North America. Through a series of cognitive and behavioral research endeavors, the agency will surface the less conscious factors influencing consumers’ sustainability behaviors, designing interventions and communications to successfully bring Mootral to market.

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