Beef has been in the headlines lately, thanks to some incredibly bad reporting on Fox News making it sound like the Biden climate action plan would limit people's beef consumption to one burger a month. It's not planning to limit anyone's beef consumption. It never was.
However, a different entity is cutting out beef, which is surprising considering this entity is all about food. Epicurious, one of the world's most popular recipe sites, has announced that its new recipes, articles, newsletters, and social media posts will no longer include beef.
In a letter to readers, the site's senior editor and former digital director made it clear that the company doesn't have a personal vendetta against beef or people who eat it. They simply shared the statistics that almost 15% of greenhouse gases come from livestock and 61% of that comes from beef. (To be clear, it's not just the cows themselves, but the soybean and corn crops used to feed them that are also part of the problem.) For a company whose entire focus is food, this is a way they can make a difference in the fight against climate change.
"Our shift is solely about sustainability," they wrote, "about not giving airtime to one of the world's worst climate offenders. We think of this decision as not anti-beef but rather pro-planet."
This might be the most meaningful climate commitment I’ve ever seen from a business. It will help normalize and fac… https://t.co/4mNPWq7fMG— Emily Atkin (@Emily Atkin)1619485658.0
What's perhaps most interesting is that Epicurious actually started implementing this policy more than a year ago, in the fall of 2019—they just didn't announce it. They started sharing vegetarian recipes where they would normally share beef ones, even for holidays that traditionally see steak and burger cookouts. And they say readers have rallied around the recipes they've shared in place of recipes using beef, with traffic and engagement numbers showing that people are hungry for beef alternatives—even though consumers didn't even know that beef was out.
So why announce it now? Despite beef consumption being down from 30 years ago, it has started to climb in recent years (likely due in part to the popularization of the paleo and keto diets). Epicurious says the conversation about sustainable food choices needs to be louder, so they're making their voice heard.
As they wrote:
"Addressing climate change requires legislation, international cooperation, and buy-in from the corporate sector. Individual actions like choosing alt-meat—or mushrooms, or chickpeas—instead of the real thing can feel so small they're essentially pointless. But every time you abstain from beef at the grocery store or a restaurant, you send a signal—to the grocery store, yes, but also, and perhaps more influentially, to whomever you talk to about your decision. Our announcement today is simply us loudly (and proudly!) letting you, the home cook, know about a step we're taking. (Admittedly, we're also hoping the rest of American food media joins us too.)"
The Epicurious editors also created a Q & A page about their no-beef policy in anticipation of people's questions, curiosities, and concerns. For example, they clarify that they are not removing recipes containing beef, they just aren't adding any new ones. They offer information on grass-fed beef as well as the carbon footprint of dairy, chicken, pork, and other animal products. And they explain why they're focusing on individual food choices when it's policy and systems that need to change the most.
"It's true that truly tackling the precarious state of our environment will require policy," they wrote. "But policy isn't just at the state and national level. Rather, it's everywhere: at your local college, at your place of worship, at your place of work. Epicurious's ban on beef is policy too."
As they said, addressing the climate crisis is going to require action on various fronts, from governmental policy to corporate policy to personal policy. Each plays off the other, and making real change on each of those levels means doing what we can do. It doesn't have to be all or nothing, but we all need to do something. Good for Epicurious for doing something.
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