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Controversial Burger King ad leads to sustainability conversation

Pictured: The Cows Menu ad from Burger King (Photo by Burger King)

The controversial Cows Menu campaign from Burger King this past summer angered and upset many farmers and beef producers in Iowa and around the country.

The Cows Menu campaign featured a video ad that blamed “cow farts” for far more than their very small share of methane emissions. After the release of the ad, Iowa farmer Michelle Miller reached out to Fernando Machado, Burger King’s Chief Marketing Officer. She says the company was receptive to farmers’ and ranchers’ compelling sustainability story.

“This Cows Menu ad came out this summer and when I first saw it, I was pretty upset by it,” Miller said. “Living on a cattle farm, sustainability is always in the forefront of our minds. Sustainability is what farmers do all-day every day, but oftentimes, I feel that a lot of farmers feel underappreciated and undervalued. It’s like we’re almost not like real people.”

Burger King responded to Miller’s message and sent a number of its staff members, including Machado, to Iowa to see conservation in action on the farm.

“We all know that there is a lot of trash talking that goes on in social media,” Machado said. “People can be very mean, especially if they have accounts that are anonymous. That’s not what Michelle did. Michelle was putting forward her point of view.”

When Machado and Burger King reps visited Iowa to learn more about farming practices, the Iowa Farm Bureau was able to get involved in the conversation, according to Iowa Farm Bureau Public Relations Manager Andrew Wheeler.

“This is an excellent case study of what can happen when there might be two differing views,” Wheeler said. “There might be a gap in understanding between two different groups. In this case agriculture and Burger King brand. By having Iowa Farm Bureau invited in, it allowed us the opportunity to find out what Fernando was hoping to learn from this trip, and what Michelle was hoping to show him when he visited the state. We found that sustainability was the name of the game and that was the focus of the tour. We wanted to show from beginning to end how farmers are committed to sustainability.”

Miller, Machado, and Wheeler all spoke during an informational seminar at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s virtual convention this week.