Food Site Epicurious Takes Beef Off the Menu to Save the Planet
Epicurious has given up beef.
The popular online recipe website announced on Monday that it would no longer publish beef recipes, feature beef in articles and newsletters or post beef pictures on its homepage and Instagram feed. Epicurious based this decision on environmental reasons.
"For any person — or publication — wanting to envision a more sustainable way to cook, cutting out beef is a worthwhile first step," Senior Editor Maggie Hoffman and Former Digital Director David Tamarkin wrote in the announcement.
The website cited UN figures showing that livestock produce nearly 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and that cows are responsible for about 65 percent of those emissions. Further, cows are 20 times less efficient to raise than beans and three times less efficient to raise than other animals such as chicken or pigs, the website noted.
"It might not feel like much, but cutting out just a single ingredient — beef — can have an outsize impact on making a person's cooking more environmentally friendly," Hoffman and Tamarkin wrote.
In the announcement, Hoffman and Tamarkin revealed that the decision to phase out beef was not new. In fact, Epicurious started moving in this direction in fall 2019, the site stated in a question-and-answer post about the policy. Since that time, Epicurious has published few beef recipes. It has also emphasized vegetarian alternatives, recommending grilled cauliflower and mushrooms instead of steaks and hot dogs for the previous Fourth of July.
"The traffic and engagement numbers on these stories don't lie: When given an alternative to beef, American cooks get hungry," Hoffman and Tamarkin wrote.
The website will not delete its pre-2019 beef recipes, and Hoffman and Tamarkin assured readers that Epicurious did not have a "vendetta" against beef or beef eaters.
Still, the announcement did prompt some backlash from commenters on social media, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post. However, the Times noted that major chefs didn't react negatively, and many users also praised the decision.
"This is a trend toward considering meat an obsolete food," Nutrition Coalition Executive Director Nina Teicholz told The New York Times. "Epicurious is just one website, but it's the constant repetition."
The decision also received a mixed reaction from food and animal welfare activists. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called it a terrific first step, but also thought the site should move away from meat and dairy altogether.
Others thought it a mistake to single out beef.
"An eat-less-meat message is less controversial and ultimately more productive," Lewis Bollard, a farm animal welfare program officer at Open Philanthropy Project, told The Washington Post. "Because the problem is not the existence of beef but the level of meat consumption."
In their announcement, Hoffman and Tamarkin acknowledged that other animals such as goats and sheep also impacted the environment, and that there were environmental drawbacks to many parts of the current food system. Further, they maintained that individual actions were not enough to end the climate crisis, and that political and corporate changes were required as well. However, they argued that abstaining from beef could still send an important message.
"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."