Oregano may seem like an unlikely ingredient in the fight against climate change. But this modest herb could make cows’ methane-heavy belches — a big contributor to the warming of our planet — a little less potent.
Oregano’s essential oil contains carvacrol, an antimicrobial that kills off some of the methane-producing bacteria in the cow’s rumen. Danish researchers who are investigating oregano’s methane-suppressing abilities hope that it could reduce cows’ methane emissions by a quarter. Nearly 15 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to livestock, and 65 percent of that total comes from raising beef and dairy cattle.
NPR points out that oregano oil isn’t the only solution to cutting down cows’ ballooning emissions. Scientists have explored unpronounceable alternatives like 3-nitrooxypopanal, a methane-inhibiting chemical. But those may not be compatible with organic guidelines, and many of the people who care about cows’ methane emissions are the same ones who buy organic milk.
We could just eat less dairy and beef. But while some Americans are starting to shift away from meat, that change may not happen soon enough. It might behoove us to get our cows chewing oregano cud, since that could be one small solution we could implement fast.