Japanese researchers believe that they have found a way to neutralise the methane in the belches of the world’s 1.5 billion cows which is thought to account for five per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Cows produce astonishing quantities of methane gas as the bacteria in their stomachs breaks down plant fibres. Their near-constant cud-chewing allows a small quantity of the gas to escape with nearly every breath each animal takes.

A team at Obihiro University of Agriculture, led by Professor Junichi Takahashi, has found that a few simple addiitives, costing about $1 a day, could remove virtually all of the methane. The formula, which is a blend of nitrates and the amino acid, cysteine, was discovered by chance during the investigation of a cattle poisoning. According to Professor Takahashi, it acts as a powerful supressant of methane but has no effect on milk quality.