Fast food giant Burger King launched a new social media campaign Tuesday to announce their plans to reduce methane emissions from cattle used to produce beef for their Whoppers, a push that left many in production agriculture disappointed.
In a combination of a corporate press release and a catchy song, the company says adding lemongrass to a cow’s diet in the last four months of its life could reduce the animal’s methane emissions by up to 33% per day. Burger King has also made the plan open source, enabling other companies to use the strategy in their own production systems.
“If the whole industry, from farmers, meat suppliers, and other brands join us, we can increase scale and collectively help reduce methane emissions that affect climate change,” said Fernando Machado, global chief marketing officer for Restaurant Brands International, Burger King’s parent company.
Burger King also plans to sell a Reduced Methane Emissions Beef Whopper sandwich “made with beef sourced from cows that emit reduced methane” at select locations in Miami, New York, Austin, Portland and Los Angeles.
Many in ag circles criticized the rationale for Burger King’s announcement. The company cited an estimate from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization that said livestock is “responsible for approximately 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.” In a tweet, John Newton, the chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the number, according to analysis by Farm Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency, is actually closer to 3%.
In a statement, National Cattlemen's Beef Association CEO Colin Woodall criticized the effort as well as the lemongrass study, saying it was “so small and poorly conceived, it was dismissed by many leading (nongovernmental organizations) and beef industry experts.”
“America’s cattle producers are disappointed that Burger King has decided to follow a path that is misaligned with those who are already making real-world efforts to reduce beef’s environmental footprint, opting instead to score easy points with consumers by launching a misleading public relations campaign,” he added.
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