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Highlighting sustainability

Michelle Miller
Michelle Miller highlights the sustainability of agriculture while speaking to a Burger King film crew on her farm in northeast Iowa. Miller, known as the Farm Babe, invited Burger King executives to visit her farm after the fast food company ran a misleading ad campaign about the greenhouse gas emissions from beef production. PHOTO / ANDREW WHEELER

When you’re able to see and experience the sustainability of farming in Iowa, it becomes much easier to understand.

That’s what an executive team for Burger King learned last week during a visit with Michelle Miller, an Iowa farmer who is also known as the Farm Babe (www.thefarmbabe.com). The Iowa Farm Bureau participated in the tour and helped arrange for experts on the sustainability of beef production to join.

Miller, a Farm Bureau member from northeast Iowa, invited Burger King to her farm after the fast-food giant launched a misleading advertising campaign for its “Reduced Methane Emissions Beef Whopper” it is rolling out in a few test markets.

Telling a big whopper

The big burger chain claimed that consumers can enjoy the burger with less guilt because lemongrass was added to the animals’ rations. The added ingredient, it claims, trims a cow’s daily methane emissions by 33%.

The ad also featured a teenage yodeler and lots of jokes about cow farts, along with erroneous claims about beef production’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

Miller and others pointed out to Burger King that it has overlooked key facts on beef’s environmental impact and, on the lemongrass part, were using incomplete research. Instead of crediting U.S. beef producers for their steadily decreasing carbon footprint, Burger King set up animal agriculture as a villain in the climate change narrative.

An invitation accepted

After Miller reached out to them, Burger King’s executives accepted an invitation and set up last week’s visit to her farm.

Miller showed the Burger King crew, including Fernando Machado, chief marketing officer, how the crops on her northeast Iowa farm are grown using conservation practices like cover crops and no-till to protect soil and improve water quality.

She also explained how those crops are fed to cattle and how the manure is applied back to the land as a natural nutrient to fertilize the soil. It was hands-on demonstration.

The Burger King executives also heard from Dan Thomson, chair of Iowa State University’s Animal Sciences Department, as well as experts on animal nutrition and methane digesters. The ag experts gave the visitors a chance to learn about the sustainable beef production cycle and experience it firsthand.

Miller’s efforts caught the attention of many in agriculture concerned that campaigns, like Burger King’s, grossly mischaracterized the sustainability of agriculture and cattle production.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, tweeted: “Hope this is the first of many conversations with Burger King. Thank you @thefarmbabe for sharing your farm and agriculture’s sustainability story!”


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