AMERICAN cattle producers have expressed disappointment in fast food giant Burger King for launching a ‘poorly conceived’ campaign around cattle methane emissions overnight for the benefit of its own brand marketing purposes.
The new campaign incorporates a television/social media video in which a boy playing a guitar sings about cow farts and burps releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and causing global warming.
The burger chain says it is now adding lemongrass to the diet of some of the cows it uses to create burgers in an effort to reduce methane gas.
In a statement outlining the new campaign on the website of its parent company Restaurant Brands International, Burger King says that adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to a cow’s daily feed reduces methane emissions during the fattening period by up to 33 percent.
cow farts & burps are no laughing matter. they release methane, contributing to climate change. that’s why we’re working to change our cows’ diet by adding lemongrass to reduce their emissions by approximately 33%. learn about our ongoing study: https://t.co/kPCXpjfbGL #CowsMenu pic.twitter.com/DnmF8gVVL0
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) July 14, 2020
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association expressed immediate disappointment in the move, saying Burger King has chosen a different path to the majority of the nation’s burger restaurants which are playing a vital role in helping to improve beef’s sustainability and reducing its environment footprint.
“Unfortunately, Burger King has chosen a different path, relying on kitschy imagery that misrepresents basic bovine biology – cattle emissions come from burps, not farts – and on the potential impact of a single ruminant nutrition study that was so small and poorly conceived, it was dismissed by many leading NGOs and beef industry experts,” NCBA CEO Colin Woodall said.
Burger King cited information several years old from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation stating that livestock is responsible for 14.5 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and beef production accounts for 41pc of those emissions.
In contrast Mr Woodall said the US Environmental Protection Agency attributes just two percent of greenhouse gas emissions to the American cattle industry.
Cattle farmers and ranchers remained committed to continuous improvement and producing beef more sustainably, he said.
“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.”
‘A lot to digest’
Prominent US-based air quality scientist Dr Frank Mitloehner also called out Burger King for the outdated claims in its new marketing campaign.
There’s a lot to *digest* in @BurgerKing’s new marketing video. We also produced a video on methane – one that’s rooted in science. It may not feature the yodeling kid, but it does explain why it’s time to rethink methane.
Please RT to spread the word! 1/https://t.co/2h8hNBsLCI
— Frank Mitloehner (@GHGGuru) July 14, 2020
In further comments tweeted overnight Dr Mitloehner said when an iconic brand such as Burger King commits to innovative methane reduction solutions, it’s a big deal and it should be applauded.
“But when they drop the ball on the significance of the solution and lose the context, it’s very disappointing,” he said.
“First, as I’ve already stated – making light of cow farts is not only scientifically incorrect, it’s demeaning to the people who work hard to create a better world through animal agriculture.
“Second, it’s risky to come out with such a bold claim (33% reduction through a lemongrass feed additive) without a peer-reviewed paper. If inaccurate, the backlash could be devastating. Here is Burger King’s full statement on the findings:
“FYI, my colleague @ErmiasKebreab conducted a lemongrass study, but his findings were inconclusive. However, a previous study from his lab found a large reduction (up to 60%) in methane using a seaweed additive. Here’s more on that: https://e-tarjome.com/storage/panel/fileuploads/2019-08-24/1566635509_E12806-e-tarjome.pdf…
“In my lab, we’ve seen a 10% methane reduction using essential oils.
“Third, reducing methane emissions is worthwhile and shows that yes, it is possible for animal agriculture to be more sustainable. It will buy us time fighting climate change. But fossil fuel CO2 is the largest GHG source by far. And that’s where the real focus should be.”
While the campaign has received largely positive coverage in US mainstream media overnight, with most articles reporting Burger King’s statement without challenge or question, the campaign has been the subject of a wide range of critical posts on social media.
Funny how the air out here in cattle country is never smoggy or hazardous…but by all means keep demonizing animal agriculture.
Get this load of crap off the internet pic.twitter.com/lYmAqUFK7R
— Dustin. (@HeartlandWX) July 14, 2020
Others have accused the chain of virtue signaling and trivialising serious issues for its own trend marketing campaign at the expense of an industry and hard working cattle producers it has long relied upon.