Joe Biden Isn’t Coming for Your Steak to Meet Climate Targets

President Joe Biden isn’t taking hamburgers away from Americans as part of his efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who told journalists Monday that a spate of reports in conservative media linking Biden’s new climate goals to eating less meat simply aren’t true.

“There is no effort designed to limit people’s intake of beef,” Vilsack said during a virtual meeting Monday.

The uproar about government interference with the country’s meat-eating started last week after Biden pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2030, but provided few details on how to meet that goal. An article in the Daily Mail took advantage of the ambiguity and said Americans “could” have to cut 90% of the red meat out of their diets. The evidence: a University of Michigan study from a year ago that found such a diet by itself would reduce farm-related greenhouse gas emissions by half.

The Daily Mail story was quickly echoed by Fox News personalities. Larry Kudlow, an economic adviser to former President Donald Trump, said on Fox Business that Americans might have to swap out meat for grilled vegetables.

By the weekend, the claim was circulating on the social media accounts of prominent Republicans, including Representative Lauren Boebert, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Idaho Governor Brad Little and Donald Trump Jr., in some cases featuring Fox News graphics.

Vilsack said that while there are movements globally to reduce meat intake for health and environmental reasons, they are not being promoted by the government. Indeed, some critics have said Biden administration proposals will entrench the country in a system that emphasizes meat production.

The administration wants to reduce emissions in agriculture through incentive-based steps, like so-called carbon markets that pay farmers for adopting environmentally friendly practices. Agriculture generates about 10% of U.S. emissions.

Mike Stranz, vice president of advocacy for the National Farmers Union, the second-largest U.S. general farm organization, called the claims circulating about a Biden plan to cut red-meat consumption “wild speculation.”

Vilsack, addressing an annual gathering of journalists, didn’t utter the phrase “fake news,” but in a roundabout way said claims by Kudlow and others were just that.

“Sometimes in the political world, games get played,” he said. “Issues get injected into the conversation knowing full well that there’s no factual basis for the issue, but also knowing that someone is going to pick it up and ask about it and, all of a sudden, it becomes an issue.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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