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University of California researchers are feeding seaweed to dairy cows in an attempt to make cattle more climate-friendly.

UC Davis is studying whether adding small amounts of seaweed to cattle feed can help reduce their emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s released when cattle burp, pass gas or make manure.

In a study this past spring, researchers found methane emissions were reduced by more than 30 percent in a dozen Holstein cows that ate the ocean algae, which was mixed into their feed and sweetened with molasses to disguise the salty taste, reports the Sacramento Bee.

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“I was extremely surprised when I saw the results,” said Ermias Kebreab, the UC Davis animal scientist who led the study. “I wasn’t expecting it to be that dramatic with a small amount of seaweed.”

Kebreab says his team plans to conduct a six-month study of a seaweed-infused diet in beef cattle starting in October.

More studies will be needed to determine its safety and efficacy, and seaweed growers would have to ramp up production to make it an economical option for farmers.

Dairy farms and other livestock operations are major sources of methane, a heat-trapping gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Researchers worldwide have searched for ways to reduce cattle emissions with various food additives such as garlic, oregano, cinnamon and even curry — with mixed results.

If successful, adding seaweed to cattle feed could help California dairy farms comply with a state law requiring livestock operators to cut emissions by 40 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.

“If we can reduce methane on the dairy farm through manipulation of the diet, then it’s a win for consumers because it reduces the carbon footprint, and it’s for dairy farmers because it increases their feed efficiency,” said Michael Hutjens, an animal scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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Meanwhile, a new bill in California would give kids just two drink options to choose from at a restaurant: milk or water.

Senate Bill 1192 would make those two options the default drink for kids meal in an effort to help reduce obesity.

CBS Sacramento reports that the bill passed the state assembly and is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. If he signs it, California would be the first state in the nation to have such a law restricting sugary drinks.

But California lawmakers could make that sugary fix harder to get as a new effort to impact the eating habits of children gains momentum at the state Capitol.

“Cancer is fought in the halls of government, not just in the halls of the hospital,” said Stephanie Winn with the American Cancer Society.

Her group is one of many supporting the bill that would force restaurants to automatically serve water or milk with kids meals instead of juice or soda. She argues children’s meals shouldn’t come with a side order of diseases.

“Some of these kids are drinking up to three sodas a day. This is setting them up for tremendous cancer risks down the road. Because now we know that 20 percent of all cancers are tied to being overweight,” she said.

An excerpt from the bill reads:

SB 1192, as amended, Monning. Children’s meals.

Existing law, the California Retail Food Code, establishes uniform health and sanitation standards for, and provides for regulation by the State Department of Public Health of, retail food facilities, as defined, and requires local enforcement agencies to enforce these provisions. Under existing law, a person who violates any provision of the code is guilty of a misdemeanor with each offense punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $1,000, or by imprisonment in a county jail for a term not exceeding 6 months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

This bill would require a restaurant, as defined, that sells a children’s meal that includes a beverage, to make the default beverage water, sparkling water, or flavored water, as specified, or unflavored milk or a nondairy milk alternative, as specified. The bill would not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a customer’s ability to purchase, an alternative beverage if the purchaser requests one.

The bill would make a violation of its provisions an infraction, but would make the first violation subject to a notice of violation. Under the bill, the 2nd and 3rd violations would be punishable by fines of not more than $250 and $500, respectively. By imposing additional duties on local enforcement agencies and by creating a new crime, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.

The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that with regard to certain mandates no reimbursement is required by this act for a specified reason.

With regard to any other mandates, this bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs so mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.

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James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 31st, 2018

 

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