Ditching Beef for the Environment
One would normally expect food magazines to cover all types of cuisines to appeal to readers with varied dietary backgrounds. But leading digital food magazine Epicurious has taken a stand not to publish recipes featuring beef. The decision was taken on April 26, 2021, to make its readers more environment-friendly due to the environmental impacts of cattle production.
The publication, owned by leading mass media company Condé Nast, revealed that though the official decision was made on April 26, it had gradually reduced publishing beef recipes from more than a year ago. Senior editor Maggie Hoffman, and former digital director David Tamarkin, explained that removing beef or even cutting down on beef will make space for more climate-conscious recipes. Furthermore, they clarified that this was not an anti-beef move. Rather, it was a pro-planet decision. As a result, the magazine will not publish beef in its new recipes, newsletters, articles, and social media content. However, its previously published beef content will still be available online, though it will not be featured on the homepage.
Epicurious has unofficially enacted this policy since the fall of 2019, and since then, the publication has published beef recipes “only a small handful of times.” Instead, it focused on vegetarian alternatives and offered creative takes on meatless meat and grilled vegetables for summer cookouts. Hoffman and Tamarkin have said that the new recipes were a hit with the readers, pointing to the increase in traffic and engagement on these recipes. So why was this decision taken, and why now? The editors listed several reasons, and they all revolved around combating climate change.
Citing an expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the editors explained that the single step of cutting out beef contributed towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. They also went on to explain the numerous environmental effects of cattle production. For example, a considerable amount of pesticides and fertilizers are used to cultivate corn and soybean to feed cattle, and cattle are also a major source of methane released into the atmosphere, courtesy of their ruminant digestive process. The high rates of deforestation to provide land for cattle to graze, the amount of water required to raise cattle, and the resulting water pollution due to the runoff from their manure, were also mentioned as contributing factors to the environmental effects caused by cattle. The editors noted that cutting down on beef was not a “silver bullet” as most animals and even dairy products come with their own environmental costs. But they explained that beef has a particularly high environmental impact.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has stated that nearly 15% of the global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock, with beef making up a vast majority of it. Hoffman and Tamarkin said that the timing of their decision came as beef consumption has risen in recent years and that more conversation needs to be happening about sustainable cooking. They hope that the rest of the American food media will join in.