Digital food magazine Epicurious will no longer publish recipes featuring beef in what it says is an effort to help home cooks become more environmentally friendly.
The Condé Nast-owned publication announced the change in an article published Monday but revealed that it "actually pulled the plug on beef well over a year ago." Senior editor Maggie Hoffman and former digital director David Tamarkin explained that because of cattle's carbon footprint, cutting out — or even cutting down on — beef makes space for more climate-conscious recipes.
"We know that some people might assume that this decision signals some sort of vendetta against cows — or the people who eat them. But this decision was not made because we hate hamburgers (we don't!)," they wrote. "Instead, our shift is solely about sustainability, 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."
Today we announced that Epicurious is cutting out beef. It won’t appear in new Epi recipes, articles, newsletters, or on social. This isn’t a vendetta against cows or people who eat them. It’s a shift about sustainability; not anti-beef but pro-planet. https://t.co/yQ8PrtChtE— epicurious (@epicurious) April 26, 2021
Going forward, the magazine will not feature beef in new recipes, articles, newsletters or social media content, though its previously published beef content will remain online and in archive-based recipe galleries.
It actually enacted this policy in the fall of 2019 and has published beef recipes only a "small handful of times" since then, as explained in an FAQ. Focusing on vegetarian alternatives for summer cookouts, for example, it has offered creative takes on meatless meat and grilled vegetables instead. Hoffman and Tamarkin said that readers had "rallied around the recipes we published in beef's place."
"The traffic and engagement numbers on these stories don't lie," they wrote. "When given an alternative to beef, American cooks get hungry."
So why beef, and why now? The editors outlined a number of their considerations, which all point to fighting climate change.
The single step of cutting out beef constitutes a big leap toward becoming more environmentally friendly, they explained. Citing an expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, they said cattle contribute to climate change in multiple ways.
Those include the considerable quantity of corn and soybeans that is grown using pesticides and fertilizer to feed cattle; the amount of climate-polluting methane that cows release into the atmosphere; high rates of deforestation to make space for cows and the amount of water that is alternately needed to raise cattle and polluted as a result of runoff from their manure.
The editors noted that scaling back on beef is not in itself "a silver bullet," as most animals — and even dairy products — have their own environmental costs. But the cost of beef is especially high, they said.
Nearly 15% of greenhouse gas emissions globally come from livestock, with the vast majority of those traced back to beef specifically, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Cows are 20 times less efficient to raise than beans and roughly three times less efficient than poultry and pork.
Hoffman and Tamarkin said they decided to announce their decision now because beef consumption has risen in recent years, and they believe the "conversation about sustainable cooking clearly needs to be louder." They added that they hope the rest of American food media will join in.
While acknowledging that the fight against climate change must involve state and federal policy changes, the magazine described its editorial decision as a form of policy itself. Plus, the editors said, individual actions — such as buying chickpeas or alt-meat instead of beef at the grocery store — add up, and send a signal to individuals, industries and policymakers.
"Epi's agenda is the same as it has always been: to inspire home cooks to be better, smarter, and happier in the kitchen," they wrote. "The only change is that we now believe that part of getting better means cooking with the planet in mind. If we don't, we'll end up with no planet at all."
The announcement came as the relationship between cattle and climate change was already in the spotlight for an unrelated controversy.
After an article by the British tabloid The Daily Mail falsely claimed last week that President Joe Biden's climate proposals would enact limits on Americans' red meat consumption, numerous conservative lawmakers and commentators took to Twitter and Fox News to voice their opposition to the alleged policy proposal.
The false claims were amplified by figures including Donald Trump Jr., Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Idaho Gov. Brad Little and Fox News hosts including Jesse Watters and John Roberts, who later acknowledged on air that the channel's coverage had "incorrectly implied" Biden's climate plan would restrict red meat consumption.
Tom Vilsack, the Biden administration's secretary of agriculture, dismissed those claims during a virtual briefing on Monday, as Politico reported.
"There's no desire, no effort, no press release, no policy paper — none of that — that would support the notion that the Biden administration is going to suggest that people eat less meat," he said. "Or that USDA has some program designed to reduce meat consumption. It's simply not the case."
Biden has pledged to do more to combat climate change in other ways, including announcing at last week's climate summit that the U.S. will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half, based on 2005 levels, by 2030.