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Behavior Change
Epicurious Chops Beef to ‘Encourage More Sustainable Cooking’

The web's most award-winning food site is encouraging home cooks to expand their culinary repertoires and embrace less resource-intensive menu options.

Last week, Epicurious — the most award-winning food site on the web; and a wildly popular resource for home cooks with thousands of daily kitchen tips, cooking videos and recipes —announced that its content would no longer include beef. In fact, the site had stopped featuring beef over a year ago and no one seemed to notice.

As Epicurious’ Maggie Hoffman and David Tamarkin explained, climate and sustainability concerns drove behind the decision — and the reception from readers had reinforced it:

“We know that home cooks want to do better. We know because we actually pulled the plug on beef well over a year ago, and our readers have rallied around the recipes we published in beef’s place. For every burger recipe we didn’t publish, we put a vegetarian recipe into the world instead. And last summer, when America’s annual grilling holiday rolled around, we set our fires on cauliflower and mushrooms, not steaks and hot dogs.

“The traffic and engagement numbers on these stories don’t lie: When given an alternative to beef, American cooks get hungry.”

Influencing sustainable consumer behaviors ... how's that going?

Read the latest Sociocultural Trend Tracker research from our Brands for Good collaboratory and The Harris Poll — which examines consumer progress in adopting more sustainable behaviors, as well as brand trust scores during this unprecedented confluence of societal crises.

Epicurious’ decision is just the latest in a long list of indicators of a consumer paradigm shift around the food we produce and eat: With Gen Z the most climate-conscious (and soon to be the largest) market segment, more and more consumers have grown wise to the fact that, thanks to a range of factors — including land clearance for pastures, animal-feed production and the methane produced by cows and sheep — meat and dairy production accounts for around 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“This decision was not made because we hate hamburgers (we don’t!),” Hoffman and Tamarkin insist. “Instead, 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.”

So, going without meat could have a big impact on averting a climate crisis — and more discerning diners are demanding healthier options and more information. Just Salad’s carbon-labeled menu items, Panera’s Cool Food Meals and Chipotle’s Foodprint app were all recently developed both to cultivate and meet growing consumer demand to understand the impact of their food choices.

And that demand has caused some of the US’ biggest fast-food chains — including McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr and White Castle — to jump on board with plant-based burgers in an effort to appeal to the growing segment of diners interested in vegetarian options.

The trend reaches far beyond the US: According to recent global consumer research from GlobeScan, as many as 40 percent of consumers across the world say they would choose a plant-based meat substitute if price and taste remain the same — and this held true in 7 of the heaviest meat-consuming countries: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.

While Epicurious admits that beef is not the only culprit when it comes to the ag industry’s gigantic carbon footprint (“In a food system so broken, almost no choice is perfect”), encouraging home cooks to chop it from their menus is a great first step in helping them to explore and embrace less resource-intensive food options — at scale, it could have “an outsize impact on making a person’s cooking more environmentally friendly.”

The Epicurious team cites slowly rising beef consumption in the US as its reason for publicizing its decision to eliminate beef.

“The conversation about sustainable cooking clearly needs to be louder; this policy is our contribution to that conversation.”

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