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Report: Meat-Heavy Recipes Featured in US, UK outlets Contradict Climate Commitments

Press Release

September 6, 2023


Better Food Foundation

A media analysis by Better Food Foundation into major US and UK news outlets uncovers discrepancy between their public pledges to responsible climate reporting and an emphasis on animal-based recipes, the biggest contributor to environmental destruction

WASHINGTON DC—An innovative media analysis of eight mainstream US and UK news outlets revealed that despite public commitments to responsible and science-based climate reporting, the recipe sections of five of the eight outlets contained predominantly climate-intensive meat-based meals. The research, conducted by Better Food Foundation (BFF) with support from Sentient Media, revealed that outlets have largely neglected their unique opportunity as public influencers to model climate-friendly eating habits, much in the same way their collective reporting on climate issues fail to address the harms of industrial animal agriculture.

A webinar on September 8 at 11 am ET featuring Food Network champion chef and curator of Washington Post’s EcoKitchen newsletter Priyanka Naik, journalist and environmental advocate Bel Jacobs, BFF’s Laura Cascada, and Nicola Harris of Plant Based Treaty will highlight major takeaways and recommendations from the report. Sign up to attend at this link.

“Shifting toward a plant-centric diet is one of the most impactful ways people can reduce their environmental footprint,” BFF’s Senior Director of Campaigns Laura Lee Cascada said. “Reflecting this shift through their recipes will not only help mainstream media better align with their own stated climate reporting values, but also normalize climate-friendly eating to the public because of the enormous impact media has on popular culture and behavior.”

Three of the eight analyzed outlets, Yahoo News, The Washington Post, and The Guardian, featured meat in less than half of their recipes—with the latter two offering statements indicating their intent to curate climate-friendly food content—signaling that these outlets are at least noticing the enormous growing demand for plant-based content. Yet in the two years since recipe site Epicurious’ landmark decision to exclude beef from its recipes, articles, and newsletters—in a move it described as “not anti-beef but rather pro-planet”—most media has not followed suit. And even Epicurious’ execution has been faulty: less than two weeks after its 2021 announcement, the Condé Nast-owned food and cooking website published a lasagna recipe containing beef and continued publishing similar beef-containing recipes from its sister site Bon Appétit.

With an overabundance of animal-based recipes—including those containing the most emissions-intensive ingredients, lamb and beef—and an average of just 16.4 and 11.6 percent fully plant-based recipes in the US and UK, respectively, major news outlets continue to signal to the public their neglect of established proof indicating the environmental destruction caused by industrial animal agriculture. Leaving vegan meal recipes to niche outlets, where fewer members of the public will access them, proves to be a failure—though, not an irredeemable one—in providing responsible environmental resources for the public.

“Given that younger generations are increasingly savvy about the impacts of animal agriculture on the climate, media outlets’ climate commitments will come into question if their recipe sections don’t reflect these values by skewing plant-based. That’s why we are here to support these media companies through simple changes as part of a proven strategy known as DefaultVeg,” Cascada explained. “A DefaultVeg-inspired recipe section, for example, features climate-friendly plant-based meals as the default, while still giving readers the choice to add animal products to the recipe. Our recommendations will work for every media outlet of any size; simple behavioral nudges, including plant-based defaults, are enormously effective at guiding people toward more sustainable foods, without taking away anyone’s freedom of choice.”

To learn more about the report or to schedule an interview with Better Food Foundation, contact [email protected].

About Better Food Foundation

The Better Food Foundation (BFF) is an action tank that incubates novel strategies for diet change. BFF is both research-informed and action-driven, aims to accelerate the shifts to plant-centered eating that is already taking place in the world, and seeks to nudge people and institutions to adopt new norms where animal products are drastically reduced.

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