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Burger King’s new Whopper may be better for the environment

‘Breathe the farts of change’ (their words, not ours)

Burger King has been struggling to keep up with McDonald’s in sales.
The exterior of a Burger King restaurant. The fast-food chain recently announced the Whopper with Reduced Methane Emissions Beef. The burger comes from cattle who emit 33% less methane.
Associated Press

Burger King would like you to “breathe the farts of change.” (Yes, you read that right.)

The fast-food chain has been diversifying its flagship Whopper sandwich recently, removing artificial preservatives and offering a meatless “Impossible Whopper.” Its newest innovation: beef from decidedly less-gassy cows. This new Whopper’s official name is the Whopper with Reduced Methane Emissions Beef.

Burger King delivered the announcement Tuesday via a new commercial starring viral country music yodeler Mason Ramsey.

As it turns out, cows that are bred for their beef tend to burp and fart a lot. And those emissions have a major impact on climate change.

The Washington Post reported that cows produce excess methane as enzymes break down food in their digestive system. This methane gets released through burping and flatulence. And its environmental impact is significant: Cattle contributes 14.5% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, Business Insider reports, and methane warms the planet 86 times more than carbon dioxide over 10 to 20 years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the livestock industry is directly responsible for approximately a quarter of climate change in the industrial age. In other words, gassy cows (and our reliance on them) are very much part of the problem.

So, how did Burger King make its cattle burp and fart less? By teaming up with scientists at the Autonomous University at the State of Mexico and the University of California, Davis. These scientist developed a feed that adds 100 grams of lemongrass to a cow’s daily diet. According to the scientists, this lemongrass addition reduces a cow’s methane emissions by 33% in the last three to four months of life. (Cattle usually eat a feed made from corn and soy, which makes them especially gassy, The Takeout reported.)

Sara Place, chief sustainability officer for Elanco, an international animal health company, told the Washington Post that cattle methane emissions have dropped 30% since 1975, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization.

“I see these (feed supplement) innovations as essentially adding to that,” she said, explaining that previous innovations were economically motivated, and “Now that we have this focus on greenhouse gas emissions, it’s going to just accelerate that curve, if you will, in the interest of trying to reduce emissions further.”

Burger King rolled out these new Whoppers on Tuesday at five total locations in Austin, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Portland. The chain is likely expanding this pilot menu to Brazil, Mexico and some countries in Europe, the Washington Post reported.

While Burger King’s new innovation won’t solve methane emissions across the entire livestock industry, the company has made its lemongrass feed research and formula publicly available, and is reportedly speaking with suppliers around the world about expanding their test. So for now, they deserve to toot their own horn.