Friday by Noon summarizes what the most important voices in food, beverage and agriculture had to say this week:

  • Beef was center-of-the-plate for discussions of environmental concerns and divisive American politics.
  • Our review of consumer reactions on social media tracked a similar uptick in beef conversations, many referencing Epicurious’ decision to stop publishing beef recipes. Check our chart below.

“Not all beef is equal and that there are options for more sustainable beef, including regenerative farming methods and pasture-raised cattle. There are small-scale producers who need consumers’ support.”

Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank (Washington Post)

Banishing Beef

Epicurious put a “steak” in the ground when it decided to no longer publish recipes, articles and social media posts that reference beef. While the transition began over a year ago, the Condé Nast food media brand publicly discussed the policy this week in an effort to draw more attention to “cooking with the planet in mind.”

  • Epicurious explained: “Our shift is solely about sustainability, about not giving airtime to one of the world’s worst climate offenders. We think of this decision as not anti-beef but rather pro-planet.”
  • Vegan philosopher Peter Singer tweeted, “Fantastic to see that Epicurious has dropped beef recipes! I hope chicken will be next.”
  • The Hill pointed out that Epicurious also believes dairy products are harmful to the environment, but stopped short of banning dairy recipes.
  • UC Davis professor Frank Mitloehner tweeted a link, recommending Epicurious watch the What I’ve Learned video on why eating less meat won’t save the planet.
  • Big Fat Surprise author Nina Teicholz scolded the move on Twitter: “Vilifying a highly nutritious food in a nation suffering from nutritional deficiencies that cause disease + developmental problems in children is not responsible.”
  • Compassion in World Farming CEO Phil Lymbery worried a move away from beef only shifts more consumption toward chicken and fish.
  • Finally, farm blogger Lorraine Lewandrowski did not mince words in response: “You are elitist fools who know nothing beyond Manhattan. Even a good chunk of your clean watershed is supplied through livestock farms. You have long dumped your garbage every day of the week in our beautiful farm communities upstate.”

A Beef With Biden’s Policy

A cocktail of misinformation and political divisiveness boosted the topic of beef production and its environmental impact to the top of influential conversations. Last week’s climate summit, where President Biden pledged to make a 50% cut in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, skimped on details, leaving much to interpretation.

  • On April 22, UK-based tabloid The Daily Mail seized the opportunity and brashly published an article suggesting Biden’s plan “could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH.”
  • The article leaned on hypothetical scenarios unrelated to Biden’s climate plans published a year ago by University of Michigan researcher Martin Heller, which found that decreasing red meat consumption could reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Biden critics, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Twitter) and former Trump White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow (Fox Business), used The Daily Mail’s article as ammunition against the president’s climate policy. Fox has since taken back the comments (The Week).
  • Vox classified the exchanges as “how efforts to curb the climate crisis and our reliance on meat are becoming just the latest flashpoints in our all-consuming culture wars.”
  • PBS report NewsHour interviewed the befuddled study author Heller: “It’s a long ways from our intention with the study. We certainly were not aiming to look at policy recommendations with this particular study.”
  • In a video conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told members of the North American Agricultural Journalists: “There is no effort designed to limit people’s intake of beef coming out of President Biden’s White House or coming out of the USDA.” (The Daily Scoop)

Charting the Chatter

The surge in discussions around beef from influential voices prompted us to investigate whether these issues resonate with consumers. Broader social media conversations about beef jumped in the past week, but several key differences stood out between those and the influential voices we track.

  • The Epicurious announcement accounted for nearly all of the boost in consumer social media activity, with political grandstanding falling by the wayside.
  • Recent attention paled in comparison to the commotion that Bill Gates stirred during the week of February 19 by suggesting that alternative proteins will need to be part of a solution to climate change.
  • By comparison, the most popular Gates-focused article earned more than 82,000 shares for Daily Wire, while The Blaze’s coverage of Epicurious only garnered 18,800 social media shares.
Beef discussion volume over time

Worth Reading.

Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.

Future of Bread

In a Bloomberg feature, Bioceres Crop Solutions Corp. CEO Federico Trucco explained that genetically modified wheat will need to become more widely accepted: “It’s going to get to a point when it becomes exponential and all of a sudden we need to change things yesterday. And I feel that’s coming up fairly soon. We’re not talking beyond five years.”

One Good Liner

When you think of Coca-Cola’s secrets, you automatically go to the highly guarded original formula, not can liners. However, Food Processing reported that Xiaorong You (aka Shannon You), a former Coke engineer, was convicted of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft when she attempted to start a company in her native China using Coca-Cola’s proprietary alternative to bisphenol-A (BPA).

Open Allergy

After President Biden signed the FASTER Act, Food Safety News shared that sesame has officially been listed as a major allergen. With this new legislation, sesame becomes the 9th food to be listed as an allergen in 17 years. Labeling of the new allergen will need to be in place by January 1, 2023.

… But the Jus?

Chicago Tribune reported that the italian beef, a classic Chicago sandwich, received a vegan makeover. Regional chain Buona Beef partnered with Upton’s Naturals to offer a seitan version called the Buona Italian Beefless Sandwich. The restaurant chain cited accommodating vegetarian and vegan family members as driving the new items. Like it dipped? There’s beefless au jus made with … vegetable broth and olive oil. Bill Swerski’s Superfans could not be reached for comment — Todd was having another heart attack.