For over forty years, Burger King used a slogan – Have it your way. Who knew one day that the company would be joining the climate change discussion with the methane emissions- fighting ingredient of lemongrass? The corporation thinks that lemongrass fed to cows will decrease cow farts and burps. The science is iffy, though.
During a limited-time release in the cities of Austin, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, and Portland, Burger King will offer “reduced methane emissions beef.” Channeling its inner green guilt, a new motto appears during an educational video that addresses how cows and methane emissions affect the earth, a.k.a. global climate change. “Since we are part of the problem, we are working to be part of the solution.” Burger King is relying on a U.N. report that states, “Livestock is responsible for 14.5% of all human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” The corporation wants to do its part to pursue the 2016 Paris Agreement target on global warming.
Cows have a complex digestive system consisting of four stomachs, which enables them to eat and digest the food that we cannot – such as grass – through a process called enteric fermentation. As the cows digest their feed, they produce a lot of methane. This greenhouse gas is released every time the cows burp and fart the methane gas out. Methane is considered a high contributor to global warming, making it a key area for us to tackle in pursuit of the 2016 Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
So, Burger King is changing the diet of its cattle. It should help them digest food better, thus fewer gas emissions. They are adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily feed. BK claims a reduction of up to 33% on average of methane emissions during the period the diet was fed.
Teaming with top researchers from the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico and U.C. Davis, we’ve conducted several rounds of research developing and refining a new cattle menu. The results? Based on this initial research, we’ve discovered that feeding cows with relatively small amounts of lemongrass, during the three-to-four month ‘fattening’ stages of production, reduces their methane emissions by up to 33% on average. Adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily diet makes a significant difference.
Burger King hopes some yodeling children will be the sugar to make the lemongrass beef message go down easier. The lead yodeler is a boy who did a Walmart ad a couple of years ago. Burger King’s ad was produced several months ago before the coronavirus pandemic shut down studio productions, so this decision has been in the works for a while.
As you can imagine, cattle ranchers aren’t amused. In Colorado, for example, they talk about recent record heat and drought that have made life difficult. They say this is just a publicity stunt.
“This is the worst drought I’ve seen in my lifetime. We’ve never had to pull cattle off of grass in July before,” Sonnenberg said. “You can look around and the grass is brown. This is typically what it looks like in September, not in July.”
The land around Sterling is so dry, in fact, that the family has taken on some cattle from other ranchers who ran out of grass for their livestock.
“We’re trying to figure out exactly how longer to be able to stay out there before the grass dies,” said Josh Sonnenberg. “I don’t know if I can afford to buy hay because we don’t know what the cattle prices are going to do with the pandemic and everything else going on.”
“Burger King has come out with what I call a publicity stunt in which they hope to get more people to drive through their lot than any other fast food chains down the street by citing a study that says cows fart too much,” Jerry Sonnenberg said.
Sonnenberg says the ad uses a study that has not been peer-reviewed. He claims that only about 5% to 10% of the gases emitted from cattle is due to flatulence. He says switching to lemongrass (if it can be grown on his land) or algae would raise the price of beef. It might even push some ranchers in financial difficulty out of business. Josh Sonnenberg acknowledges that ranchers and farmers need to do a better job of educating the public on what they do and how feeding programs work so that misinformation isn’t taken as fact.
Real scientific evidence or just some virtue-signaling from a big corporation wanting to be one of the woke ones? Who knows? Maybe your next Whopper will have a Thai flavor to it.