The world’s biggest seaweed “factory” will soon start delivering tasty snacks to cows in Sweden. Can you think why?
Are the cows bored with all that grass? Have they asked for something different? Do we think that giving them seaweed will make their milk taste better?
Well, no, none of these. It’s all to do with finding solutions to global warming. Those seaweed snacks for cattle could be a real game-changer. That’s why they’ve built the factory in Sweden. And why several other projects are under way to change (a little) what cows eat.
If cows were a country…
Because did you know that if cows were a country, they’d be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world – behind China and just behind the United States? That’s right, the billion cows in the world give off huge amounts of gas that creates global warming. In fact, the world’s cows create more than twice as much greenhouse gas as all the planes in the world.
Do you which gas is the problem here? With cows, it’s a gas called methane. There’s less of it around than there is of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the main greenhouse gas (produced by engines, for example). But methane is very good at warming up planet Earth. And a lot of it comes from cows’ mouths. Also from their bottoms.
When a cow eats grass, it goes through four stomachs, breaking the grass down to get energy. The process also gives off gas, which comes out as burps, and also as farts. Cows burp and fart a lot. Really, a lot.
So where does the seaweed come in? Scientists have found that if you add a little bit of a particular kind of seaweed to a cow’s dinner, she will create a lot less gas in her stomachs. That’s great news for the planet.
In Sweden, the new factory will test how efficiently they can produce lots of the seaweed they need. And the company’s scientists will be able to do tests on really large numbers of cows, all across the country, to see how the change in diet works and what other effects it has.
The seaweed they’re using is a particular favourite of people in Hawaii, the American islands in the Pacific Ocean. There, people add it to meals to give them a bit of pep. So we say to the Swedish cows, “bon appetit!”