The backlash from the agricultural community against Burger King’s #Cowsmenu ad campaign on social media was a swift and sharp one. The science, the terminology, the presentation, the irreverence — it was as if Burger King could do no right. This link explains how it went down and the immediate aftermath.
When I first saw the ad, I could barely finish it. I sent out a frustrated tweet including #boycottburgerking as a popular hashtag. I wasn’t the only one.
Much to my surprise, after tweeting Burger King Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Machado, I received an email invitation to have a Zoom call and it went very well. I invited him out to my farm, and he took me up on it!
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I wanted to make it a memorable and educational experience. I wanted to bring home the fact that farmers care greatly about the planet, that sustainability is always in the forefront of our minds, that and farmers work hard to do more with less, mitigate methane and reduce our carbon footprint, all day, every day. A noble goal, cause, and common ground we all care about.
To achieve that, I expanded my plan to include more than just our farm.
On August 12 and 13, we had our meetings on the farm. For the first day, I took them to White Gold dairy farm near Madison, Wisconsin. There, Machado got to experience a dairy that has an on-site methane digester, which holds 90,000 gallons of manure. The methane is trapped and turned into renewable natural gas that is actually sold back to the grid and used to power homes and business. Poop to power, who knew? It was a great example of how farmers reduce methane. (Hey Burger King, it’s more than just lemongrass!)
This is a photo of Bob Powell (left), CEO of Brightmark, who does the digesters. Also shown is Machado (right), the Burger King executive; Gustavo Lauria (second from left), co-founder of the WeBelievers ad agency, which did the #cowsmenu ad; and, of course, myself.
The following day, we met on our Iowa farm to show them around our beef, sheep, and row-crop farm.
Here I explained how we care for the water, soil, and animals. How we use science to maximize rate of gain and reduce our carbon footprint and how we eliminate runoff and manage nutrients and other farm inputs. My friend Kim Bremmer, who has a background in dairy science and ruminant nutrition, joined us.
Also on hand was Andrew Wheeler, who does Public Relations for the Iowa Farm Bureau and who helped coordinate guests and our last farm visit of the day. In true Iowa fashion on the back of the skid loader, we even had a virtual meeting with Dr. Dan Thomson, an animal science professor at Iowa State University.
The last farm tour was with Marty Schwers and his family near Luxemburg Iowa. This larger-scale cattle feedlot raises thousands of head of cattle per year. Schwers and others at his farm explained antibiotics and withdrawal times, how cattle are raised and sold, how feed is created, mixed, and distributed, and so much more.
Overall, the trip went very, very well. Who knew that something as simple as a tweet could have such an impact. It’s something I preach often in my public speaking engagements … that the power of social media is amazing and our voices as agriculturalists matter and can be heard.
Burger King isn’t the only company that has received backlash from the farming community for an offensive ad. But they are probably the only company I can think of that really took the time to listen and learn, and for that, I really commend them. Some people were skeptical of their motives, but I genuinely feel their intentions are good. That they care, they listened, they want to do right. A camera crew followed us around for both days, and Burger King will apparently be releasing videos to highlight the real story of agriculture.
Stay tuned! And keep your eyes peeled on my social media and BK’s channels as well for updates. It is so important to keep and open mind and have a dialogue. Who knows, you just might change a mind or two and have a significant impact. There has never been a more important time to come together, connect with and learn from our nation’s great farmers.
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.