Why Epicurious stopped publishing 'unsustainable' beef recipes

May 4, 2021
Cows in field
Photo by Jonas Koel on Unsplash
By Eko Diena in 

Last week, a post on the food website Epicurious announced that the site would no longer be publishing any new recipes or articles including beef, and that it would also not be mentioned in their newsletters, on their homepage or in social media posts.

Epicurious isn't some niche culinary site, it's among the most visited food websites in the world with average traffic of about 5 million unique visitors per month. A lot of those visitors are not vegetarian or vegan and aren't about to make a leap into being so, and Epicurious itself is clear about the fact that it isn't anti-meat, so this seems an interesting choice to make.

Maybe the most interesting part of this story is actually that although the site only announced the move publicly last week, they actually made the change more than a year ago, and nobody really noticed. Since autumn 2019 they have published only a handful of recipes including beef, and there has been no outcry, no mass exodus of visitors, nothing.

While it might be easy to be cynical and believe that this is purely a marketing decision, that they have worked out that the amount of eco-conscious, and possibly vegetarian, visitors that they will gain will be far more than the amount of people who will stop visiting because they won't find new beef recipes there, the fact that they did it a while ago and didn't draw attention to it implies that maybe it actually runs much deeper than that.

The simple fact is that beef is much more resource intensive to farm than just about any other source of protein. Of the 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that are attributed to animal farming worldwide, about 61 percent come from beef. If you are going to eat meat then chicken or pork use about one third the amount of resources to raise per kilo that beef does, and if you don't feel the need to eat meat then beans are about 20 times less resource intensive to produce.

Epicurious isn't removing any old beef recipes from their site, they just aren't publishing any new ones, and in their own words the shift has nothing to do with a 'vendetta against cows - or the people who eat them' and the change is "solely about sustainability, about not giving airtime to one of the world’s worst climate offenders. [They] think of this decision as not anti-beef but rather pro-planet."

Other meats, seafood, processed chicken, soy, and most other monoculture farmed crops all have their own problems. Some studies say that raising sheep actually has a higher amount of resource usage and higher amount of methane emission (from belching and farting) than cows do, but globally we eat a lot less of it, so the impact is smaller. Our food system is broken and there are no perfect choices out there, but beef is definitely among the worst.

So, cutting out beef from your diet, or in this case from your food website, is a big step towards eating more sustainably. Judging by the numbers that they have been getting to stories about meat substitutes and recipes that replace beef with something else, it's not a step that is going to do them any, or any eaters, any harm.

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