Here’s how Burger King thinks it can cut cow emissions and still sell Whoppers

Here’s how Burger King thinks it can cut cow emissions and still sell Whoppers

14 Jul    Finance News

Burger King is adding lemongrass to rebalance the diet of some of the beef herd used for its Whoppers in order to limit the methane emissions that contribute to climate change.

The restaurant chain on Tuesday began selling its reduced methane emissions beef Whopper in select restaurants in Miami, New York, Austin, Portland and Los Angeles, while supplies last.

The fast-food chain, part of Restaurant Brands International Inc., QSR, +2.54% believes the addition of the herb can reduce each animal’s daily methane emissions by about 33%. Cows (and sheep) emit methane as a digestive by-product through flatulence and belching.

In fact, Burger King embraced these indelicate bodily functions in its social-media promotion, only the latest of a recent flurry of corporate actions, including from delivery giant Amazon AMZN, -0.64% and others to cash in on changing consumer behavior around climate change.

But there is science behind the marketing move. Burger King worked with the Autonomous University at the State of Mexico and at the University of California, Davis to test and develop its formula of adding 100 grams of lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily diets. Preliminary tests indicate the concoction help the cows release less methane as they digest their food. Beef industry groups in the past have pointed to scientific developments at the farm level in working toward reducing emissions even as climate groups continue to up the pressure on the agriculture sector.

Greenhouse-gas emissions, including methane, from the agriculture sector made up 9.9% of the U.S. total in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Of that amount, methane emissions from livestock were roughly a quarter of the emissions from the ag sector.

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Animal protein from beef and lamb is the most GHG-intensive food, with production-related emissions more than ten times those of poultry or fish and 30 times those of legumes, a recent report from McKinsey detailed. In fact, if the world’s cows were classified as a country in the emissions data, the impact of their GHG emissions (in the form of methane) would put cows ahead of every country except China.

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Rival McDonald’s MCD, +3.13% previously said it had changed how the beef in its Big Macs and Quarter Pounders was produced, which it estimated to prevent 150 million metric tons (165 million tons) of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2030.

And both Burger King and McDonald’s have already added meat alternatives to their menus, although that’s a much smaller portion of sandwich sales.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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