Image credits: Mike Mozart
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News Article

Farmers Angered by Burger King Video

By Jan Hogewoning | Fri, 07/17/2020 - 14:09

Earlier this week, we reported that Burger King had launched a 'greener' burger made with beef from cows that consume lemongrass in their diet, and as a result release less methane. Burger King has now released a new video advertisement celebrating its progress in reducing methane gas release by cows. However, so far, the video has had mixed responses. The video stars a young boy in a cowboy suit singing about the need to reduce cow flatulence whilst surrounded by cows releasing little clouds. The video also shows a farmer, saying: “My cow does not fart, it must be me!” According to the BBC, farm leaders are calling the new ad “condescending and hypocritical.” Cattle farmer and influencer Michelle Miller, known online as ‘The Farmbabe’ calls the ad “disgusting, ludicrous”, continuing "they act like we're just a bunch of bumbling hicks and they're not appreciating what we do," At one point in the video, children wear gas-masks, something she describes as ‘fearmongering’. She is calling on Burger King to promote the research in a different way and to take down the video. She also says that farmers are trying to do their part to reduce emissions, and instead they are being used as the scapegoat for bigger problems. Burger King, she says, is hypocritical considering it is a company that actually depends on the selling of beef burgers.

Ermias Kebreab, a professor at UC Davis who was involved in the lemongrass research, agrees that the video is not a smart tactic. He states: “The research is sound, but the video that accompanied it is why a lot of people, especially in the farming community were not happy.” He goes on to lament the use of cliché connotations of farming that are used just to get clickbait. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a lobby group, has stated Burger King is trying to "score easy points with consumers by launching a misleading public relations campaign." The problem appears to be not just the image of farmers that is put forward, but also the fact that the science is not entirely accurate. Prof Frank Mitloehner of University of California Davis (UC Davis)'s Department of Animal Science, wrote on twitter on Thursday, that it is not the flatulence that is the problem. Instead, he says: “Nearly all enteric methane from cattle is from belching,” suggesting otherwise, he continues: “turns this serious climate topic into a joke." Another problem is that the research appears to be ongoing, with preliminary results showing an impact. Burger King, however, has already launched its ‘Methane Reducing’ Whopper. In response to some of the criticism online, Burger King has responded by stating that "the majority of conversation around this announcement has been overwhelmingly positive." It also says: “'The Campaign “Cows Menu” is not something that will solve the climate change problem in the short term, but it is a scalable finding that may allow change in the future.” Meanwhile, influencer Miller asked: “If you really care about the planet, why don't you focus on reducing food waste, why don't you focus on reducing plastics and how about all the cars at your drive throughs?" In the Youtube Mexico version of the video advertisement, the video currently has 1350 dislikes against 744 likes.

This is not the first time farmers have expressed their concern with being scapegoated for big complex problems. In November 2019, Irish journalist Margaret Donnely wrote in the Farming Independent, that “the farming sector is coming under attack from all angles on its environmental impact…while the consumer gets away scot-free it seems.” The concern is not just about the messaging, but also policy proposals by governments. In different parts of Europe, farm associations and farmers have been protesting proposed climate-rules over the use of certain types of fertilizers and proposed beef taxes during the last few months.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
France 24, BBC, Japan Times, Washington Post, Independent.ie, Youtube, Mexico Business News
Photo by:   Mike Mozart
Jan Hogewoning Jan Hogewoning Journalist and Industry Analyst