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A Drug for Cows Could Curb Methane Emissions from Meat and Dairy

(Bloomberg) —

The methane emitted by burping cows, sheep, goats and other livestock does more short-term damage to the climate than the world’s passenger vehicles, by some estimates. A Boston-based startup says its new vaccine could take a big bite out of their emissions

Ag-biotech company ArkeaBio says its drug targets methane-producing microorganisms that live in animals’ saliva and digestive tracks. As of now, it’s still in early stages and will be at least 2.5 years before it could be on the market. 

But if successful, the drug would be a step towards tackling one of the world’s most intractable climate challenges: curbing methane emissions from agriculture. The industry is the biggest source of human-generated methane, ahead of fossil fuels and waste, according to International Energy Agency.

“The tools to make a really good run at this haven’t existed until the cost of sequencing and the cost of biotechnology came down substantially over the last five to 10 years,” said Colin South, chief executive officer of ArkeaBio. The company is seeing “better-than-expected results” in cattle trials currently underway, he added.

To reduce animal methane emissions, researchers and startups have been experimenting with different feed additives including seaweed and biochar. Others have developed cattle masks that capture the potent greenhouse gas. 

A Bloomberg investigation last year found that, while many of the world’s biggest buyers of dairy and beef have declared an interest in encouraging their suppliers to use methane-curbing feed additives, few followed through at any sort of magnitude.

A vaccine could be distributed through existing agricultural supply channels, South said, noting that beef and dairy cattle already receive a wide array of drugs to prevent respiratory diseases, bovine diarrhea and other ailments. 

“The opportunity to create something that fits in with normal farm practices, which is a vaccine and one which has no likelihood of impact in the quality of milk or meat, means that we’ve really got a huge addressable audience,” he said. 

Read more: Companies Aren’t Using Quick Fix to Reduce Methane Emissions

ArkeaBio recently completed a $26.5 million Series A venture financing led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, with new investment from the Centre for Climate Action Joint Venture Ltd., a public-private partnership owned by the New Zealand government and major agribusiness companies.

To contact the author of this story:
Aaron Clark in Tokyo at

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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