Photo: BurgerKing/Twitter

Burger King Is Adding Lemongrass to Cows’ Diets to Reduce Methane Emissions

Sustainability News Food + Drink
by Tim Wenger Jul 15, 2020

This week, Burger King announced it would change the diet of some of the cows it uses to include lemongrass, in a bid to cut the methane emissions of the animals by up to one-third. The move comes as the company attempts to respond to dietary trends, including less meat consumption, that stem from a desire to reduce environmental impact. Burger King and other fast-food chains have also added meat alternatives to their menus.

The fast-food chain worked with scientists from the Autonomous University at the State of Mexico and the University of California, Davis to develop a new diet for cows that would reduce methane emissions. The result is that adding 100 grams of lemongrass leaves to the animal’s diet could do the trick and reduce methane emissions by up to 33 percent.

The company has released a social media campaign to promote the effort, which falls somewhere between hilarious and ludicrous. While the addition of lemongrass to its cows’ diets is clearly a marketing ploy, the company does deserve kudos for at least addressing the issue. But it’s still on the consumer to demand better-sourced meat and to consider their own environmental impact when ordering off the menu at Burger King and elsewhere.

Along with the conversion of undeveloped land into grazing land, which harms biodiversity and sometimes removes forestry which acts as a carbon sink (the Amazon Rainforest, for example), methane is the other major environmental issue stemming from the mass production of beef.

Cows’ stomachs ferment food, which produces methane and is then released into the atmosphere through farts and burps. In addition to CO2, methane is a major contributor to rising temperatures as it acts as a “heat trap” in the atmosphere. Methane emissions made up a quarter of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector in 2018. The agricultural industry accounts for 9.9 percent of the United States’ total environmental footprint, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

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