By Kevin Bryan
Climate change is becoming an increasingly pressing issue, and governments throughout the world are starting to take notice. One of the largest sources of this problem is animal agriculture and its resulting environmental footprint. Animal agriculture puts a heavy strain on our Earth’s landmass, and is only growing. Beef consumption on its own creates 1,984 pounds of CO2, according to a recent study. However, Dr. Zhengxia Dou, a Professor of Agricultural Systems sees a possible solution.
Dr. Dou thinks that while animal agriculture is a contributor to greenhouse gas emission, animals are actually “natural bio-processors” that eat food waste and plant residue that otherwise would be brought to the landfill. These cows eat this excess waste, which then can positively contribute to the food system through producing meat and milk.
Her project called “The Amazing Cow” is a study of utilizing IUUB (indigestible, unpalatable, or unsellable biomass) in animal agriculture to see how it can positively affect our societal food sector. IUUB is a large range of food items, from old school lunches, expired bread products, and old market sales. One clever method was even taking the sour mash that results from the production of beer as a source of feed. The cows then can eat these food products without consequence, while simultaneously contributing to a food cycle that has less waste.
In this project, Dr. Dou is also working with Sustainable Alternative Feed Enterprises (SAFE) in order to make sure that the IUUB they are providing these cows is viable and healthy. The lab that works with SAFE analyzes the food, testing for “mycotoxins, heavy metals, pesticides, microbial contaminants, and nutrition parameters”. To make sure that an optimal amount of food is produced from the IUUB brought over, Dou’s team has been developing new ways to keep these perishable foodstuffs from becoming toxic to the livestock.
Our world has limited resources, and getting as many of these resources to the people that need it is becoming more and more crucial. However, with progressions like “The Amazing Cow” project, our world continues to take small steps towards a world of sustainability.