If it was April Fools Day one would think this was a joke, but a White House climate change initiative is searching for a 'cow of the future' whose greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by anti-methane pills, burp scanners and gas backpacks.
Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas with a global warming effect that is twenty times greater than carbon dioxide and cows emit a lot of it. A typical cow emits 250-300 litres of methane a day. The 88 million cattle in the US produce more of it than landfill sites, natural gas leaks or fracking. However, contrary to a common misconception, 97 per cent of the methane gas is released by the front end through burps, not through emissions from the back end.
Supplements such as basil can cut methane production in cows. In Argentina, scientists have created backpacks that collect gas via tubes plugged into cows' stomachs. That sounds as if it would raise animal welfare issues to me.