How Oregano Can Help Save the Planet

Culinary Herb Reduces Cow Belches and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
May 24, 2022

oregano, a culinary herb that can help reduce methane emissionsCan a simple herb help fight global warming? The aromatic herb oregano, a staple in most modern kitchens, commonly meets our taste buds mixed with tomato sauce as a topping on pizza. This versatile plant’s virtues, however, extend beyond the kitchen into human and animal medicine. In 400 B.C., the Greek physician Hippocrates used oregano as an antiseptic and an aid to digestion.

Flash forward to today where oregano has emerged as a promising digestive aid for cattle. If you think this is not a major issue, consider the numbers. According to a UN report, livestock worldwide release 80 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. In the United States each year, 100 million cattle release 5.5 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere — a significant 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions.

It is important to understand that methane, or CH4, is a greenhouse gas 23 times more efficient at trapping heat than the more common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2). To compare them, the amount of methane must be multiplied by 23 times to give an equivalent amount of the CO2 heat trapping capacity. Consequently the 5.5 million metric tonnes of methane emitted by U.S. cattle equal nearly 127 million metric tonnes of CO2.

Livestock worldwide release 80 million metric tonnes of methane into the atmosphere.

Contrary to what you may imagine, most of the methane cattle generate during digestion is exhaled or belched rather than released through flatulence. An average cow in North America releases (100 kg) 220 lbs. of methane every year or about 2,300 kg (5,070 lbs.) of equivalent carbon dioxide. This is about half of the yearly CO2 emissions of the average car.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Cattle vs. Automobiles


The ratio of heat trapping greeenhouse gases in methane vs. carbon dioxide 1:23Heat Trapping Greenhouse Gasses Produced by Cattle and Automobiles

There is an additional problem with methane, which makes controlling agricultural emissions even more critical. Methane is a major source of ozone (O3), a powerful greenhouse gas and a toxic air pollutant causing billions of dollars of crop damage and thousands of human deaths from respiratory diseases. A cut to methane production will significantly reduce both global warming and air pollution.


Using Oregano to Reduce Farm Animal Methane Emissions


Greek oregano

Greek oregano

With so much at stake, agricultural researchers have focused efforts on methane reduction through experimental cattle feeds. Scientists have tried such dietary additives as garlic, cinnamon, and antibiotics—all of which decreased methane production to some degree. Then in 2010, a research team led by Dr. Alexander Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, achieved promising results. By adding a pound of oregano to the cow’s daily feed, Dr. Hristov’s team found that methane emissions decreased by 40 percent. As an extra, the oregano increased milk production by approximately 4 percent. In a second trial, oregano cut methane emissions by 27 percent, and milk output increased by 4 percent.


Oregano’s Powerful Benefits


Oregano added to feed can reduce methane emissions in dairy cows such as these.Assuming farms in the U.S. and Canada could reduce their six million metric tonnes of cattle-produced methane by 33 percent, it would be equivalent to removing 47 million metric tonnes of CO2 per year— the CO2 output from approximately 10 million passenger cars. With decreased methane comes the added bonus of less ozone air pollution and improved air quality.

So the next time you bite into a slice of pizza, think about the benefits of the humble herb, oregano. The delicious seasoning on your pizza may lead to happier cows, cleaner air and a cooler world.


More articles:
Grow a Climate Change Resilient GardenGrow a Climate Change Resilient Garden

Home on the Bison RanchHome on the Bison Ranch

Native Plants Bring Valuable Benefits to FarmsNative Plants Bring Valuable Benefits to Farms

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS