Popular culinary site Epicurious took away all its beef recipes and promotions, a deliberate move to promote “sustainable” eating.
And? No one noticed.
Or so it would seem based on well-trafficked interest in the mostly non-red meat articles and recipes that replaced beef, the site said. Even its grilling season tips showcased cauliflower and mushrooms over steaks and hot dogs.
Now, Epicurious has officially announced, about a year after the quiet content removal, beef won’t appear in new recipes, articles, newsletters or in its Instagram feed. The site does sell advertising to meat-alternative companies.
“This isn’t a vendetta against cows or people who eat them. It’s a shift about sustainability; not anti-beef but pro-planet,” the editors wrote. Some content does focus on the middle ground between going completely vegan or vegetarian and shifting a diet toward less red meat, which can have long-run health benefits.
The site’s official announcement does time with a political beef over red meat.
A British tabloid, and then Fox News and some conservative politicians, advanced false claims that President Biden’s climate-change policy included a beef restriction that would essentially limit Americans to one hamburger a month.
The Biden administration has not included meat-eating habits in its proposals, which are now largely part of a giant infrastructure plan facing congressional scrutiny from both parties. Social media pounced on the falsehood, and Fox did eventually say on air that its report and graphics were in error. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke for the administration: No, Biden isn’t banning meat.
Microsoft founder and global philanthropist Bill Gates made headlines earlier this year when he suggested that “all rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef” as he promoted his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.
consumption in the U.S. is down from where it was 30 years ago, but it has been slowly creeping higher in the past few years, alongside other meat options, according to USDA data. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization projects that global meat consumption will rise by more than 1% this year. The fastest growth will occur in low- and middle-income countries, where incomes are steadily climbing.
Global emissions from food production are expected to rise 60% by 2050, in large part because of increased livestock production. Yet global trade in soy, often a protein alternative, has implications for climate change as well. That impact is mostly tied to deforestation, this study found.
“Of course, when it comes to the planet, eschewing beef is not a silver bullet. All ruminant animals (like sheep and goats) have significant environmental costs, and there are problems with chicken, seafood, soy and almost every other ingredient. In a food system so broken, almost no choice is perfect,” the Epicurious editors said.
The role of meat in diets as climate-change policy evolves is expected to intensify.
“I’ve often compared beef to the coal of the meat world,” Jennifer Jacquet, an associate professor of environmental studies at New York University, says in the newsletter Heated.
“We’re seeing the beef industry deploy the same strategies deployed by the coal industry, because the writing on the wall is clear: it’s going to be very hard to maintain both of those industries in their current state if we’re going to tackle the climate crisis effectively,” she said.
Some sustainability efforts focus on smaller-scale farming, while steps to reduce methane gas from livestock raised for beef and dairy has been the subject of several climate-change studies. Plus, food writers and scientists have alerted consumers to the chemical makeup of lab-grown meat alternatives
“Policymakers and environmental groups should support efforts to develop alternative protein sources and low-impact methods of livestock production,” says Dan Blaustein-Rejto, director of food and agriculture at the Breakthrough Institute, writing in MIT Technology Review. “Innovation in both of these areas will give us the best shot at quickly reducing agriculture’s environmental impact while still allowing people everywhere to eat what they want.”