Burger King has launched a new ‘low methane’ burger after finding that adding lemongrass to cows’ diets reduces their emissions by a third.
The fast food chain has worked with scientists at the Universities of California and UC Davis, and the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, on a trial that found that adding 100 grams of dried lemongrass leaves to the cows’ daily feed reduced methane emissions by 33 per cent on average, during the diet period.
The Reduced Methane Emissions Beef Whopper sandwich was launched yesterday (14 July) in select Burger King restaurants in the US, including New York and Los Angeles, as a limited range while supplies last.
It’s part of a new project by Burger King to address the environmental impact of beef, which has gained increasing attention along with the wider impact of diets on the planet.
Lemongrass is not the first natural additive to be fed to cows in a bid to reduce their methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and partly why livestock contributes 14.5 per cent of global CO2 equivalent emissions.
In Scotland, scientists have been researching the reduction in methane emissions by feeding seaweed to cows, while other projects are trialling charcoal and garlic as alternative feed additives.
Burger King has produced an educational YouTube video to explain the initiative, which it has named ‘#CowsMenu’, and has made its research open source and free to use, saying that it recognises its supply chain is just “a small piece of the overall puzzle”.
“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 statement read.
“This is just the beginning. We hope to expand our testing and extend the #CowsMenu initiative to more restaurants, more brands, and more countries to create more of a lasting global impact.”
“The Burger King brand has taken the right step to initiate mitigation of enteric fermentation methane emissions originating from the beef cattle industry showing the path to follow by other companies in the food sector,” said Octavio Castelan, professor at the Autonomous University at the State of Mexico, which helped conduct the study.
The move towards carbon labelling on food is a growing trend, and made headlines in 2018 after meat alternative Quorn claimed to become the first brand to offer carbon footprint information on packs. But it has drawn criticism from some who say that it shouldn't be left to consumer choice.
Speaking to Wicked Leeks in response to the Burger King news, director of the sustainable food alliance Eating Better, Simon Billing, said: "All efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are good. But they should be basic business practice not left to the consumer to make judgements. Easier wins would be blended burgers or less meat in their portfolio."