For more than a year now, humans around the world have been masking up to limit the spread of COVID. Now, masks may be deployed among another species to combat a very different global ill: cow burps.

The agricultural multinational Cargill is inaugurating a new kind of face mask designed to absorb cows' gaseous emissions. The idea might sound odd, but as French radio station RTL reports, the blue masks could help cut down as much as half the world's farming gas emissions. Contrary to popular belief, it is indeed the belching part of a cow's digestive output that is responsible for most of its noxious methane (yes, bovine farts get more laughs, but cause less damage to the environment).

All in all, the methane produced by cows — whichever way — is said to be responsible for 14% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

This led the British start-up Zelp to develop a muzzle-mask which relies on small ventilators, powered by solar batteries, able to absorb and filter the ruminants' burps. Fixed on the cows' nostrils, the masks allow them to keep grazing and drinking at leisure.

"Our research shows that these masks don't affect our milk production," Cargill France's director of technology additives Deplhine Melchior tells RTL.

Starting this summer, farmers will be able to start renting the masks deployed by Cargill, at 65 euros a piece, reusable for a year, with at least part of the cost covered by environmental subsidies. And if you hear extra moo-ing while driving past the pastures, it may just be the anti-maskers among the herd...?


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