Morrisons hopes to reduce the “burps and flatulence” of cows with a seaweed-based “climate-friendly” cattle feed.
The Big 4 grocer will be the first supermarket to test the alternative feed, with early findings suggesting it reduces methane emissions.
The retailer has announced that it will be funding a PhD project at Queen’s University, Belfast over a three-year trial.
It is testing the nutritional content, effect on meat and milk quality, methane reduction and animal health of native UK coastal seaweed throughout the process.
The findings have not been published yet, but Morrisons claims the early results are “promising.”
Reports this year revealed that cows belched 82 per cent less methane following a small level of imported red seaweed distributed in their feed.
However, the grocer hopes to work with native seaweed, which displays a higher rate of success in results and lacks the ozone-destructive compound bromoform which is found in red seaweed.
According to current data, UK agriculture accounts for 10 per cent of all nationwide greenhouse gas emissions, with beef farming contributing 45 per cent of emissions but only five per cent of products.
An estimated 50 per cent of the emissions can reportedly be traced back to cattle.
“As British farming’s biggest customer, we’re very mindful of our role in supporting and inspiring the farmers we work with to help them achieve goals in sustainable farming,” Morrisons head of agriculture Sophie Throup said.
“By supporting this PhD studentship and wider research we are trialling this natural approach to reducing the environmental emissions caused by burps and flatulence from cows, as well as improving the quality of beef products.”
Queen’s University professor of animal science and microbiology Sharon Huws added: “This is a truly innovative partnership between a retailer and researchers.
“The involvement of Morrisons means that effective methane reduction can be rolled out to Morrisons farmers’ herds of beef cows, and the seaweed needed can be sourced through its relationship with fisheries.”