Project Mootopia: Ben & Jerry’s Cows on Low Methane Diet

Ben & Jerry’s is Putting their Cows on a Low Methane Emissions Diet called Project Mootopia
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ben & Jerry’s is Putting their Cows on a Low Methane Emissions Diet called Project Mootopia. Image T20.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ben & Jerry’s is Putting their Cows on a Low Methane Emissions Diet called Project Mootopia

Iconic ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s just announced a new initiative that aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their dairy cows. Dubbed “Project Mootopia,” this effort will focus on tweaking the diet of cows on Ben & Jerry’s farms to cut down on cow burps – yes, cow burps! – which releases methane into the atmosphere.

Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The digestive system of cows actually produces large quantities of methane as part of their normal digestion process. So, reducing methane emissions from agriculture is an important way to curb global warming.

Ben & Jerry’s Project Mootopia plans to work with agricultural experts to mix in elements like lemongrass, linseed, and fennel seed into cow feed at their farms. These supplements have been shown to reduce cow methane emissions by up to 30% when added to their diet. Ben & Jerry’s owns 15 farms in the US and Netherlands that supply milk and cream for their ice cream, so changes on these farms could make a meaningful dent in emissions.

The Project Mootopia goal is for Ben & Jerry’s farms to emit 50% less greenhouse gases compared to average commercial dairy farms by 2024. Given that the global ice cream market is over $74 billion, and dairy farming accounts for 4% of human-caused methane emissions in the US, this is no small feat.

Ben & Jerry’s quirky, progressive brand image has long been tied to social causes and environmental stewardship. So it’s fitting that they have dubbed their methane-fighting efforts “Project Mootopia” – a clever play on their famous Chunky Monkey flavor. This project represents a continuation of initiatives like their Caring Dairy program focused on sustainable practices.

While some may think global warming should be tackled with sweeping regulations, innovations like Ben & Jerry’s anti-methane diet demonstrate the power of private companies taking the initiative. Major brands have the scale and resources to pilot new approaches and lead by example.

See also: Reducing Methane in Manure with Red Sea Plume Algae.

Given that agriculture accounts for 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions, specifically methane, fervor is growing around low-emission farming. Enteric fermentation (aka cow burps) from dairy and beef is responsible for 27% of methane emissions from US farming. Ben & Jerry’s efforts could inspire other milk suppliers or beef producers to follow their lead.

Methane reduction is especially critical as scientists warn that we must cut emissions almost in half this decade to avoid catastrophic climate disruptions. Ben & Jerry’s Project Mootopia may be starting small with a tweak to their cows’ diet, but the impact could be significant if more food producers, farmers, and agribusinesses implemented similar methane-focused measures.

While buying feed additives may increase costs, the investment could pay off for Ben & Jerry’s brand, given their customers’ awareness of sustainability issues. It can enhance their reputation and highlight their integrity around environmental commitments. Other brands would be smart to pay attention.

Ben & Jerry’s plans to share findings and best practices from Project Mootopia to support wider adoption across the dairy sector. For a much-loved brand to take such tangible action aligned with its identity sends a powerful message about private sector responsibility and leadership on climate change.

Here’s hoping Project Mootopia achieves its methane-cutting goals and inspires other food companies to follow suit. When it comes to global warming, we need all hands – and cows – on deck! Kudos to Ben & Jerry’s for taking steps to reduce agriculture’s climate impact. Their muddy boots are made for walking down a greener path that other companies would be wise to traverse.

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