Eat A Kangaroo, Save The Planet

by Bradford Plumer | July 14, 2010

Here's one idea for reducing methane emissions down in Australia—get people to eat kangaroos instead of cows:

Both animals are herbivores, and both eat grass that is fermented before entering their main stomachs. But while cattle belch enormous amounts of methane to digest the food, kangaroos release virtually none—they burp only harmless acids that can be turned into vinegar.

Some context: Australia emits more greenhouse gases per capita than any country on Earth (and nearly 2 percent of the world's total). Most of that is due to the country's heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants, but a large slice—about 11 percent—comes from, well, livestock burps. In next-door New Zealand, burps account for one-third of all emissions.

That explains why the beef industry is now spending $24 million on research into methods to reduce burping: "adjusting diet, managing manure, recalibrating stomach organisms and selectively breeding animals that burp less." Yet at least one study has suggested that persuading people to switch to kangaroo burgers might be the simplest of all solutions. (Though it wouldn't be that easy—even if most farmers regard kangaroos as pests, they're still a national icon and hunting is restricted under various laws.) Looking outside of Australia, some of the low-methane substitutes for cows include springbok in South Africa, red deer in the UK, and bison in the United States. Well, granted, there's also vegetarianism, but that's another post entirely…

Update: In comments, various people are bringing up another key consideration: Kangaroo burgers don't seem to taste very good.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-vine/76278/eat-kangaroo-save-the-planet