When Burger King released its #CowsMenu ad in mid July, many people were not having it. The amount of backlash they received was off the charts, and it had inspired me to reach out to their chief marketing officer, Fernando Machado, to explain why we found their campaign so offensive. Click here and here for previous summaries on how it all went down.
As a public speaker, advocating for agriculture is something I preach often. Do our voices matter? Can we make a difference? The story behind what happened with Burger King proves that yes, we can.
After tweeting Machado, BK’s PR people reached out to me to schedule a Zoom call with him. It went very well, and I explained how farmers put sustainability in the forefront of their mind every day. Caring for the planet, the land, and our animals is something we all strive for, but it probably hits home for a farmer the most. I then invited Machado to my Iowa farm to personally show him how much farmers care. I wanted him to see and learn about sustainability firsthand.
Much to my pleasant surprise, he took me up on it. He flew to Chicago from Miami with the creator of their original #CowsMenu ad, Gustavo Lauria, co-founder of the NYC based agency, “WeBelievers.” They rented a car, and I met them in the Madison, Wisconsin, area to show them a methane digester (with CEO Bob Powell of Brightmark) on a larger-scale dairy farm and what they do to mitigate their environmental footprint.
From here, we ventured to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin, for hotel stays and dinner before they drove out to our farm the following morning in Northeast Iowa. I gave them tours of the field, put them to work during cattle feeding time, showcased our sheep and cattle and invited many other experts to be a part of the discussion. Among them were Powell from Brightmark, Dr. Dan Thomson, who is professor of Animal Science at Iowa State, the Iowa Farm Bureau, ruminant nutrition expert Kim Bremmer of Ag Inspirations, and the Schwers family, who own and operate a larger-scale beef cattle farm that we toured. They also had Cody Turk as a cameraman to film it all, and they put out this new ad!
What are your thoughts, do you like the new ad? Personally, I love it! I wasn’t sure what to expect but it totally surpassed my expectations, and it’s nice to have a food corporation listen to and learn from us as farmers. I am so glad they took the time to try and make it right and spent time with us on our farm, where a lot of this was filmed.
Machado explained that he’d like to include me on future projects to ensure they do not offend the agriculture community again. Why would they, as a burger restaurant, want to upset cattle farmers? Sometimes when advocating for ag, we have to remember that people in big cities are generally very, very far removed from the farm and understanding where their food comes from. We should communicate; offer opportunity for dialogue. We won’t win every battle, but with patience and kindness we can surely make a difference and hindsight in advertising is sometimes 20/20.
Everyone learned a lot on the couple days together and I’m glad we were able to build on a new farm and restaurant chain relationship. What can be done better in the future? Perhaps focusing on transparency, logistics, and traceability could be efforts well spent? I could see this being the next big trend; knowing where your food comes from!
In due time. We shall see, but I commend BK on their efforts in trying to make it right, and I believe this is just the beginning for bigger and better projects to come. What a difference in the before and after! Sometimes, speaking up matters and we should never sell ourselves short for doing big things to celebrate and promote our industry.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.