Burger King has been forced to pull a campaign that suggested cows farting were a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after it offended farmers and the US agricultural community and was called out for being factually incorrect.
Back in July the fast food chain released an all-dancing, all-yodelling TVC in the US market that came with the message the brand was serious about the impact cows’ (later to be hamburger patties) flatulence had on the environment.
The spot – which you can watch below – quoted data from the University Of California and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México that claimed by simply adding 100 grams of lemongrass to a cows’ daily diet you could reduce methane emissions from bovine flatulence by as much as a third.
Unfortunately for the fast food company, as many farmers and scientists quickly pointed out, both of those assertions proved problematic, to say the least.
The ad was initially called out by Professor Frank Mitloehner from the Department of Animal Science at the University of California.
Mitloehner tweeted: “IT’S. NOT. THE. COW. FARTS” and went on to explain, “Nearly all enteric methane from cattle is from belching. Suggesting otherwise turns this serious climate topic into a joke.”
The claims were then backed up by industry body Sustainable Agricultural Innovations And Food that said that less than 10 per cent of cattles’ methane emissions come from manure and flatulence, while the remaining 90 per cent came from cows burping.
The body also said that the claims around adding lemongrass to a cows’ diets were inconclusive and yet to be scientifically proven.
It added that emissions from agriculture represented less than 10 per cent of all of the US’ greenhouse emissions and only about 40 per cent of that again could be attributed to cows (be it their farts or their burps.)
Commenting on the Burger King ad, Michelle Miller, who represents pro-farming lobby group Farm Babe, said: “We in agriculture constantly feel attacked… it would be nice to have brands actually thank us and showcase the work we do. Lift us up, don’t tear us down. Without farmers, Burger King has no beef at all.”
Burger King has since agreed to stop airing the ad and has added Professor Mitloehner to an advisory panel to consult the brand on any future advertising involving beef production.
The Professor telling agriculture radio news show Agritalk: “They have asked me to cooperate with them in order to infuse science-based research on the one hand and get communication out – and check it before it reaches the masses”.
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