A FEED additive based on seaweed is making waves in Australia, where it is reducing the methane emissions from beef cattle by over 80%.

The plant behind the lower emission beef is Asparagopsis, a red seaweed that naturally prevents the formation of methane by inhibiting a specific enzyme in the gut of livestock during digestion.

The company behind the breakthrough is FutureFeed, which grew out of joint research and development work by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Meat and Livestock Australia, and James Cook University.

In typical Australian style, the company promoted its work via a steak barbecue held during the country's National Science Week, where CEO Dr Regan Crooks said: “It’s incredible to see the transition of a solution from science to a commercial reality and I think that’s something worth celebrating this National Science Week. These steaks represent the launch of the technology for the feedlot market and we are anticipating many more steaks on plates in Australia and around the world that are certified by FutureFeed."

Dr Crooks stressed that Asparagopsis leaves zero traces in meat: “Our guests will be able to vouch that the steaks don’t have a Surf ‘n’ Turf flavour, just the taste of the high-quality beef that Australia is known for around the world.

“As part of this trial, we reaffirmed what we have seen to date and that’s that there are no traces of the seaweed in the meat or edible offal from cattle that have been fed Asparagopsis.”

FutureFeed has also highlighted that, by reducing methane emissions, the seaweed is preventing the loss of up to 12% of the calorific value of feed from the gut, offering farmers an overall increase in feed efficiency. It is now licensing seaweed farmers in Australia and around the world to grow and sell a 'rapidly expanding' supply of the seaweed.

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“Climate change is happening now and the IPCC reported that methane emissions in the atmosphere are at their highest levels in hundreds of thousands of years," noted Dr Crooks. "We expect this will lead to increasing pressure on our sector and it is timely that we are able to provide a solution that has now been proven, in a commercial setting, to significantly reduce methane.”

To show how the Asparagopsis-fed meat handles the heat, chef and fourth generation farmer Matt Moran hosted online cookery demonstrations. He said: “As a farmer, I understand the incredible advances the agricultural industry has made to become more sustainable and Asparagopsis is a natural solution to the methane emissions from cattle without losing the nourishment and employment opportunities the red meat industry provides.

“I cooked up a beautiful piece of sirloin last week over charcoal at home ahead of the cooking class and it was great to have the same great taste with the knowledge of lower methane emissions.”

FutureFeed chair Duncan Ferguson added: “Commercialising and scaling Asparagopsis production will not only create opportunities for cattle farmers, but it will enable an ecosystem of success amongst Aquafarmers, livestock producers, lotfeeders, transporters, processors, and exporters.

“This isn’t about just making a feed ingredient, it’s developing a whole new industry for Australia and communities all around the world and it’s unique in that it addresses a market need so there is already significant demand for the technology."