This article was originally reported by PRI's Living on Earth. For more, listen to the audio above.
It's a fact of life: Sheep burp. "Such burps might be funny if it weren't for the damage they do to the atmosphere," Amanda Martinez reports for PRI's Living on Earth. The sheep emissions contain methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Scientists from Newcastle University in the U.K. have found that coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, cloves and cumin could help counteract the emissions. The researchers mixed the spices into a solution designed to mimic the mixture of fluids and microorganisms within a sheep's gut. The spices acted like an antibiotic, killing the bacteria that created the methane. "Coriander and turmeric were most effective," Martinez reports, "cutting methane release by 40 and 30 percent, respectively."
Every year, ruminant animals like cattle, sheep, buffalo and goats emit about 80 million metric tons of methane, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That is about 28 percent of global methane emissions from human-related activities.
The real target for methane reductions isn't just sheep. Cows may be the biggest livestock contributors to climate change. The world has nearly 1 billion sheep, each of which produces some 20 liters of methane daily. Each of the world's 1.3 billion cows, on the other hand, emit about 500 liters of the gas every day. In the U.S. alone, the EPA estimates that cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year.
The spices could reduce the greenhouse gasses emitted by livestock by some 18 percent, according to researchers. Martinez reports, "Whether cows or sheep will favor the flavor of curry seasonings, however, remains to be seen."
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."