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FDA approves drug to make cow manure less stinky

The goal is more environmentally friendly cattle poop, according to the company that makes the drug.
Cattle are enclosed on a farm in Modesto, California, on Oct. 24, 2018.
Cattle are enclosed on a farm in Modesto, California, on Oct. 24, 2018.Mario Tama / Getty Images

No bull, the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug on Tuesday that aims to make cattle manure just a little less aromatic.

The drug, called Experior, is designed to reduce the amount of ammonia released by cattle dung when the animals are in feedlots being fattened for slaughter.

"Today’s approval is the first time the agency has approved a drug that reduces gas emissions from an animal or its waste," the FDA said.

The goal is to make a little less of a stink, the FDA said. "Ammonia gas emissions are a concern because they have been implicated in atmospheric haze and noxious odors. High concentrations of ammonia can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat in both humans and animals," the agency said.

The product will likely be marketed as a benefit to the environment.

"Additionally, ammonia gases can contribute to a process called eutrophication, in which bodies of water become enriched with excess nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorous," the FDA added.

"This nutrient enrichment in the water causes algae blooms, which block sunlight to aquatic plants, and eventually results in the death of aquatic animals due to a lack of oxygen in the water. Therefore, reduction of ammonia gas reasonably may be expected to provide some benefit to the environment."

Elanco, the company that makes Experior, indicated the goal is to help farmers sell a product they can label environmentally friendly. So far, it's approved for use in beef cattle, including steers and heifers, in their last days before slaughter.

"Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in the environmental sustainability of their food," a spokesperson for Elanco told NBC News.

Tests showed the product was safe for the cattle and for people who eat any beef produced by treated cattle, the FDA said. It may make some beef products a little tougher, but not to a noticeable degree, an FDA summary of testing showed.