Farmers are adopting new technology in cow nutrition, genetics and precision agriculture to reduce methane emissions from cattle.

Cows are unique in that their complex ruminant digestive systems can break down plant materials, like grass, cornstalks and vegetable scraps, that are inedible to humans.

“It’s interesting when we talk about beef, because their impact is also their superpower,” says Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, professor of animal science at Colorado State University (CSU). “Their superpower is taking forages (grass, grains, etc.) that we can’t consume, because it’s very fibrous, and upscaling it to milk and meat.”

Cattle and other ruminant animals account for about 4% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

However, that’s a much smaller impact than from our transportation system, including cars, planes and more, which accounts for over 25.3% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Farmers want to do their part, and they are always innovating to help reduce ag’s environmental impact while taking on the challenge of providing safe, nutritious food to a growing world population.

For example, research has shown that steam-flaked corn (think Corn Flakes for cows) can reduce methane emissions compared to dry-rolled corn, another common feed ingredient, because of improved digestibility.

Feed additives also show promise. Canada recently approved a feed ingredient that reduces methane emissions from cattle.

In addition, several farmers in Canada, the U.S. and Europe have started raising “low-methane” dairy cows genetically bred to emit less methane.

Farmers are making progress in reducing the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

From 1990 to 2022, American farmers have increased milk production by 53% while lowering emissions per gallon of milk by 26%. Farmers have also increased beef production by 25% while lowering emissions per pound of beef by 17%.

“Innovations have absolutely reduced the greenhouse gas emissions from cattle (farming) and have increased (meat) production at the same time,” Stackhouse-Lawson says.

Farmers are listening to consumers, and they are continuously working to minimize their environmental impact, provide the best possible care for farm animals, and grow safe, nutritious food that’s accessible to all.

“Farmers are really focused on full sustainability and doing things right every time. We want everybody to feel more comfortable making those choices that they want for the foods they buy,” Stackhouse-Lawson says.

To learn more about how farmers work to ensure food quality, safety and farm animal care, visit