YAHOO NEWS! 06/22/21
By Mike Bebernes

What’s happening

Not too long ago, a number of Republican lawmakers and conservative media figures railed against President Biden over the claim that he was going to greatly restrict the amount of beef Americans are allowed to eat.

There is no truth to the allegation. Biden has put forward an aggressive plan to combat climate change, but his proposals don’t include any measures aimed at regulating how much meat people consume. The claim, which first appeared in an article in the British tabloid the Daily Mail in April, quickly gained traction among conservatives despite its inaccuracy.

Biden may not be targeting beef, but environmentalists have argued for years that the emissions created by cattle farming need to be reduced if the world is going to meet its goals for preventing the worst impacts of rising global temperatures. Livestock farming is estimated to be responsible for as much as 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with beef production as the biggest contributor. “If cattle and dairy cows were a country, they would have more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire [European Union],” former Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in 2019.

Why there’s debate

Environmental groups have argued that the Biden administration must be willing to take direct action to reduce beef consumption in the U.S. if it is serious about meeting its climate goals. While even the most strident advocates on the left agree that limits or an outright ban on beef would be a mistake — if it were even legally and politically possible — they have identified a number of ways the president could change the incentives that have made beef such a popular choice for Americans.

Those proposals range from modest changes like adjustments to national dietary guidelines to more substantial moves like ending federal subsidies for cattle farming in the U.S. and instead using those funds to boost development of plant-based or synthetic meats. Supporters of these ideas say curbing beef consumption would also make Americans healthier and decrease the risk that new deadly viruses might develop among animals in factory farms.

Conservatives have portrayed any efforts to decrease beef consumption as un-American and a violation of personal freedoms. Other skeptics question whether the public would be willing to cut back on beef even if the government tipped the scales toward other alternatives. Some Democrats also have doubts. Key members of Biden’s administration, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and climate envoy John Kerry, have made the case that focusing on the production side of farming by investing in new technologies and agricultural strategies to make livestock farming more sustainable is a better strategy than trying to change deeply embedded eating habits on the consumer side.


There’s no way to address climate change without cutting beef-related emissions

“If Biden is serious about staving off climate disaster, our meat system is not something he can afford to ignore.” — Sigal Samuel, Vox

Americans have shown they’re not going to give up beef on their own

“So far, the notion of pending climate doom just hasn’t been enough to motivate most Americans to simply cut their 24 ounces of beef per week down to a burger every other week.” — Scott Reid, New York Daily News

The benefits of cutting back on beef go beyond just climate change

“The USDA can play its part in helping America get substantially closer to our climate goals. That shift will also bring with it the benefits of reducing the pathogen-producing risks that come with factory farms as well as avoiding the cancer risks that come with meat — all good things for Americans’ health.” — Michael Shank, The Hill

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