Opinion: Yes, climate activists want to reduce your beef consumption


Opinion by Henry Olsen, Columnist, The Washington Post

April 28, 2021


President Biden isn’t a “Hamburglar,” no matter what you might have heard. That doesn’t mean that red meat isn’t on climate activists’ menu.


Cutting consumption of beef and other red meat is a top priority of any serious climate change program. That’s because cows and other ruminant animals, such as sheep and goats, produce methane gas from their burps and flatulence. Methane is a particularly harmful greenhouse gas; on an ounce-for-ounce basis, it has a warming potential that is far greater than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. Agriculture accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. emissions, and cattle alone account for 62 percent of that total. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to meet emission reduction targets unless nations tackle the problem emanating from cows.


That’s why Epicurious, a foodie recipe website, announced Monday that it would no longer publish new recipes that include beef, saying that it would “not [give] airtime to one of the world’s worst climate offenders.” A quick question for the magazine’s editors: Will they provide the same treatment for milk, cheese, butter and cream, much of which also comes from cows and hence contribute to global warming? Seeing how eliminating recipes containing those ingredients would do away with a great deal of the website’s dessert section, perhaps virtue signaling has its limits.


Climate activists, however, surely won’t stop at ostentatious faddism. A World Resources Institute working paper recommends dramatic shifts in diet away from beef and toward plant-based foods such as beans. The New York Times’s Ezra Klein recently called for dramatic investment in developing “meatless meat” — beeflike products developed from plants. These arguments merely echo the scientific consensus that cutting beef consumption and returning grazing lands to unused pasture are required to meet climate change goals.


The beef industry can make some changes on the margin to forestall this drive...


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