By Lizzeth Mendoza
University Cooperative Extension Modoc, Plumas, and Butte counties.
Did you see a twangy commercial by Burger King asking you to save the world from climate change by eating from their new Cows Menu. Here is our response.
Feeding lemongrass to cattle may reduce methane emissions...but where is the science? Burger King’s latest #CowsMenu campaign is missing the science on how feeding 100 grams of lemongrass to cattle can reduce methane emissions by 33%. This is an offly large number to throw out to the public without published research. So the big question is, did Burger King jump on the wagon too soon?
Striving for more sustainable practices by changing cows diets is not a bad thing. In fact livestock producers and researchers have been researching different ways for cows to produce less methane for years. Take for instance, Ermias Kabreab’s seaweed research at UC Davis. Within a five month study Kabreab found that cattle burped out as much as 84% less methane when fed seaweed in their diet.
If we are going to toss out facts and figures, we should also recognize the overall sustainability of managed livestock grazing. As stated by the California Air and Resource board, in California alone 8 percent of the state’s GHG emissions come from agriculture, with only half (4%) from all of livestock production. Livestock grazing of pasture and open fields also contribute a slew of environmental benefits to Californians. Grazing is known to reduce fire fuel loads that can contribute to catastrophic fires, plants and wildlife. Many threatened and special status species actually benefit from managed livestock grazing.
Figure 1. Emissions by economic sector. California Air & Resource Board.
Changing a cow's diet to be more sustainable isn’t the problem Burger King; we support ongoing research to do just that. The concern is we do not have access to your research and your lack of transparency makes us question if it is true. Your U.S study that was also led by Kabreab was inconclusive as stated by Kabreab on Twitter, but why wasn’t that stated in your campaign? We will eagerly wait for more information to become available regarding your research.
We are ecstatic to see that you have made the decision to collaborate with Frank Mitloehner, air quality specialist at UC Davis, and Ermias Kabreab to tackle climate change and reducing livestock GHG emissions after releasing your campaign.
Rethinking Methane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOPrF8oyDYw