News Update

Opinion: Biden isn't going to take away your burgers

There’s a bizarre rumor going around in right-wing circles — and being spread by Fox News and Republican members of Congress — that President Biden is scheming to come into your kitchen and pry the cold, dead beef out of your hands. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado claimed that Democrats “want to limit us to about four pounds [of beef] a year,” a falsity echoed on Fox by host Jesse Watters, who said, “That adds up to a burger a month. That’s it.”
Jill FilipovicJill Filipovic
Except it’s not.
The Biden administration is not limiting Americans’ red-meat consumption — not now, not by 2030, and not in any proposal written anywhere. This claim is entirely invented, pulled from a 2020 academic paper from the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems that examined the hypothetical impact of Americans reducing their beef consumption to four pounds per year (it goes without saying, Americans eat many times more than that — one estimate puts per capita consumption at more than 58 pounds per year).
Even the academic paper didn’t assume a scenario in which beef consumption is legally curtailed; it simply looked at what would happen if we radically cut down the amount of beef we eat.
Cue the right-wing meltdown anyway. The UK tabloid The Daily Mail ran the first story, ludicrously asserting that Biden’s climate plan could force Americans to eat as little as four pounds of beef a year. Fox again decided to dispense with the “news” part of its name, with several hosts simply repeating that false claim on-air, apparently with no fact-checking or confirmation. And then Republican politicians picked it up and ran with it, fueling a cycle of misinformation.
The three striking similarities between FDR and BidenThe three striking similarities between FDR and Biden
None of this happens by accident. American conservative politicians have proven themselves less and less interested in engaging on policy questions on the merits, perhaps because their positions are increasingly radical and unpopular. To distract from what they actually stand for, they latch onto a series of often make-believe culture war claims that have no bearing on leadership and legislation, from “cancel culture” to “wokeness” to, now, red meat.
If you dig deep enough into at least some of the claims meant to rile you up, you’ll find a kernel of real debate — not typically a policy dispute, but an outsized reaction to a genuine cultural shift.
Hot dogs and hamburgers are quintessentially American foods, ones we associate with celebrations and indulgence, and eating can be as much about emotion and culture as survival and nutrition. It’s no wonder that when people believe (even erroneously) that someone is attacking the way they eat, they react strongly. The beef industry is a significant employer and an influential political player, a fact it’s not afraid to remind critics of.
But it’s also true that Americans eat many times the amount of meat that is consumed by the average person in the world, which is bad for the planet and bad for our health. The New York Times noted the findings of a 2019 study: about 20% of Americans account for 41% of emissions related to food production, “because they consume a disproportionately large amount of beef and dairy.”
And Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future is blunt: “a strong body of scientific evidence links excess meat consumption, particularly of red and processed meat, with heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, and earlier death.”
It’s certainly the case that the millions of us who are concerned about climate change, sustainability, human health and the cruelty of factory farming are cutting down our meat consumption and telling others about the benefits of a more plant-heavy diet. Conservatives aren’t making up the fact that change is happening — Americans are actually eating less meat, food enthusiasts are using social media to promote “Meatless Mondays” and just this week the food site Epicurious announced that it won’t publish any new beef-based recipes.
What Biden did with his Trump inheritanceWhat Biden did with his Trump inheritance
And these changes to our eating habits are politically polarized: Democrats, and the Democratic voting base of women and people of color, are much more likely than Republicans, with a voting base of men and White people, to say they’ve made an effort to eat less meat in the past year, according to a survey in the Economist.
In other words, there’s more robust discourse around meat-eating, and Americans are shifting their individual choices. What there is not: Any effort to legislate how much beef we can legally eat.
Conservatives don’t seem to want to have these nuanced conversations, though, and instead turn them into malign distractions. Indeed, the Republican Party and right-wing media have so thoroughly devolved that they barely stand for anything — though they stand against plenty, and the primary thing they stand against is “the libs.”
Liberals are questioning how much red meat we should eat? Well, then red meat becomes a right-wing rallying cry.
If you want to understand why the country is so paralyzed by division, look no further than this moment. Liberals and Democrats didn’t actually do anything to limit anyone’s right to eat or enjoy red meat. Joe Biden didn’t propose a single policy to limit beef consumption. He simply recognized that climate change is real. Separately, but relatedly, scientists recognized that the American rate of beef consumption probably isn’t great for us or our planet’s future.
In a saner society, individual citizens would be looking at the scientific evidence in front of us and wondering if we should perhaps cut back on the burgers. Instead, there’s an entire media apparatus and political party lying pretty much all the time in order to froth up anger and reaction — and to cement some bizarre idea that gorging on red meat is foundational to being a Real American.
Conservative media and even members of the Republican Party have concluded that it benefits them to pretend that they’re being victimized. The reality is that no one is coming for anyone’s hamburgers. But bad-faith actors on Fox News and in the GOP are coming for the truth itself.
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top