Burger King Responds to Cow Fart Question

July 16, 2020

2 million views of the above video.

On the plus side, reinforcing awareness of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, and animal agriculture’s role.

The video is getting mixed reviews from all sides, including deniers who just don’t want to hear it. See below for more.

Burger King:

At Burger King, we’ve been working on finding scalable solutions to tackle the climate impact of the food we produce and deliver to guests around the world everyday. To do it right, we started with understanding the facts.

Livestock is responsible for 14.5% of all human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and beef production accounts for 41% of those emissions.

What contributes to beef production’s large footprint?

In our research and discussions with stakeholders globally, we’ve learned that the issues around climate and beef production are complex. There are actually several sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs) along the beef supply chain before it reaches your plate, so when it comes to reducing emissions from the beef supply chain, there are a lot of places where we could step in. 

We decided to start with tackling cows’ enteric fermentation and their methane emissions. 

What does this mean?

Cows have a complex digestive system consisting of four stomachs, which enables them to eat and digest 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.

From chamomile tea to baking soda, humans have used natural remedies to help with digestion-related challenges for centuries. So, what if the same natural remedies that help people take care of their stomach aches can help to reduce the impressive amounts of gases cows produce every single day? We teamed up with top level scientists in the US and Mexico to study different herbs, like chamomile, cosmos bipinnatus and lemongrass, in order to find a solution that could potentially benefit the environment and the millions of people that simply love meat. 

A new diet for cows that could help them digest better and release less methane.

As a result, we found that by adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily feed, we were able to see a reduction of up to 33% on average of methane emissions during the period the diet was fed (the last three-to-four months of the cow’s life in the case of our research). And the good news is that this reduction was powered by a natural plant that grows from Mexico to India.

MIT Technology Review:

In a wooden barn on the edge of campus at the University of California, Davis, cattle line up at their assigned feed slots to snatch mouthfuls of alfalfa hay.

This past spring, several of these Holstein dairy cows participated in a study to test a promising path to reducing methane emissions from livestock, a huge source of the greenhouse gases driving climate change. By adding a small amount of seaweed to the animals’ feed, researchers found, they could cut the cows’ methane production by nearly 60%.

Each year, livestock production pumps out greenhouse gases with the equivalent warming effect of more than 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide, roughly the same global impact as the transportation industry. Nearly 40% of that is produced during digestion: cattle, goats, and sheep belch and pass methane, a highly potent, albeit relatively short-lived, greenhouse gas.

If the reductions achieved in the UC Davis study could be applied across the worldwide livestock industry, it would eliminate nearly 2 gigatons of those emissions annually—about a quarter of United States’ total climate pollution each year.

Ermias Kebreab, an animal science professor at UC Davis who leads the work, is preparing to undertake a more ambitious study in the months ahead, evaluating whether smaller amounts of a more potent form of seaweed can cut methane emissions even further. Meanwhile, some businesses have begun to explore what could be the harder challenge: growing it on a massive scale.

“Very, very high reductions”

The problem is the digestive process of cattle and other ruminants, known as enteric fermentation. Microbes in their digestive tracts break down and extract energy from the carbohydrates in fibrous grasses. But the same process also generates hydrogen, which a separate set of microorganisms feed on, producing methane.

About 95% of the gas escapes through the mouth and nostrils, while the rest exits in the other direction.

Researchers have explored a number of potential paths to lowering livestock emissions, including selective breeding (some animals are less gaseous than others), vaccines, microbiome transfers, various dietary supplements, and more efficient feeds—all with varying results, says Dan Blaustein-Rejto, senior agriculture analyst with the Breakthrough Institute, a research center focusing on technological solutions to environmental problems.

But there’s growing momentum behind the seaweed approach, thanks to almost shockingly effective results in initial scientific studies. In 2014, Australian researchers found that low doses of a red algae known as Asparagopsis taxiformis virtually eliminated methane production in lab experiments. Field trials with live sheep cut emissions as much as 80%, while the UC Davis experiment, the first on live cattle, showed a 58% reduction on average when a related seaweed made up 1% of their diet.

4 Responses to “Burger King Responds to Cow Fart Question”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I don’t trust progressive-sounding commercials to reflect actual corporate virtue, but like Nike backing Kaepernick and NASCAR ditching Confederate flags, Burger King’s message to me is that we’re winning the Culture Wars, and that’s worth celebrating.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    Global Methane Emissions Reach a Record High

    Scientists expect emissions, driven by fossil fuels and agriculture, to continue rising rapidly.

    Methane, a colorless, odorless gas that is the main component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps the sun’s heat, warming the earth 86 times as much as the same mass of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

    👉 https://bit.ly/IPCC-CH4

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    Beef doesn’t have a big footprint.

    tl;dr:

    The natural carbon cycle is HUGE. It dwarfs human CO2 and methane contributions. Which is why it has taken 170 years for fossil fuel burning to raise atmospheric carbon levels.

    Cows eat grasses and feed and belch methane. It matter not – those grasses and feeds would have rotted anyway. And produced CO2 and methane. And every carbon molecule in those belches was a carbon molecule just previously scrubbed from the atmosphere. It matters not.

    All the earth’s animals, and plants, and microorganisms have been processing carbon via the carbon cycle for billions of years. By making carbohydrates, cellulose and CO2 and methane. It matter not.

    It takes EXTRANEOUS carbon – fossil fuels buried underground and NOT part of the carbon cycle to be reintroduced and slightly overwhelm the carbon cycle to cause global warming. That’s what matters.

    Not cows. Not plants. => fossil fuels.

  4. Gingerbaker Says:

    “Each year, livestock production pumps out greenhouse gases with the equivalent warming effect of more than 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide, roughly the same global impact as the transportation industry. ”

    What a crock of bull****!

    Here is global CO2 equivalents by sector:
    t98x9e

    And here:

    https://www.c2es.org/content/international-emissions/

    The entire agricultural sector is less than transportation globally, and cows are a small percentage of total agriculture.

    More hyperbole against beef.


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