Blogs > HNN > SMILE

Jun 5, 2009 7:17 pm


Forlandia is the story of the Anti-Semite Henry Ford's Brazilian utopia. There he hoped to make money from harvesting rubber while perfecting his workers by prohibiting alcohol, encouraging them to eat oatmeal, canned peaches and whole wheat bread and engage in square dancing. Surprise. Surprise. The enterprise failed but not before improving the smell of some livestock:

One wonders whether Henry Ford was ever told about Messrs. Tolksdorf and Johansen—a German and a Scot who joined the Fordlandia effort early on. In 1929, they were sent upriver on Ford’s dime to collect ­better rubber seeds in the headwaters of the Tapajós. It seems that they headed out in a launch loaded down with ­whiskey and accompanied by a prostitute whom they had hired as their cook. At one trading post, a drunk Johansen bought ­“several bottles of perfume.” After no doubt using it on himself first, he “chased down cows, goats, sheep pigs and chickens,” writes Mr. Grandin. He doused the livestock with scent and intoned over each animal: “Mr. Ford has lots of money; you might as well smell good, too.”

I suspect that in a few decades some enterprising author will have a ball telling the story the current efforts to sweeten cow breath:

Since January, cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants like alfalfa and flaxseed — substances that, unlike corn or soy, mimic the spring grasses that the animals evolved long ago to eat. . . .

“They are healthier,” he said of his cows. “Their coats are shinier, and the breath is sweet.”

Sweetening cow breath is a matter of some urgency, climate scientists say. Cows have digestive bacteria in their stomachs that cause them to belch methane, the second-most-significant heat-trapping emission associated with global warming after carbon dioxide. Although it is far less common in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it has 20 times the heat-trapping ability.

Of course, belching is just one way that cows emit methane and there are thos who argue that the time has come to


comments powered by Disqus