Will The Pandemic “Cure” America’s Addiction to Cheap Meat?

Photo: Paul Sancya, Associated Press via The New York Times

Eating meat is as American as apple pie, so baked into our culture and identity that President Trump declared meatpacking plants essential and ordered them to stay open. Even so, CNN reports that some plants are such virus hotspots they have had to close or slow production and as a result reduced pork slaughter capacity by 25% and beef slaughter capacity by 10%, according to UFCW. Some grocery chains such as Costco and Kroger are limiting the amount of meat consumers can buy, and prices are spiking too.  Meanwhile, plant-based meats are flying off the shelves.

Why This Matters:  Thanks to the virus, Americans may now be forced to learn how to eat less meat and why that might be good for them.  The horrors of the meatpacking and industrial agriculture systems are good reasons to slow meat consumption, in addition to the climate benefits.  But for most Americans, this would require changing a part of our national identity and that will take some convincing.  That’s why we need more public campaigns and media coverage of Americans enjoying meals of fish and how, as CNN explains, the “potential for reduced meat consumption as the result of shortages could have a silver lining for Americans’ health.”

Changing Minds

Clearly necessity, fear, and guilt over the dangers of meatpacking plants will change American behavior in the short run.  But systemic and cultural change will take time.  Still, perhaps one more Americans try them, they will like them.  They might have to get used to eating these products because the largest beef producer in the US said the impact of the novel coronavirus will be felt across the meat industry for months. The Verge reported that grocery stores are seeing sales skyrocketing of products like Beyond Meat and Tofurky  — they were up 264 percent during a nine-week period ending on May 2nd, according to The Wall Street Journal. By comparison, retail sales overall dropped 16.4 percent from March to April.

And then there are organizations like the Food for Climate League, a new nonprofit organization, founded by two health-conscious moms “to redefine sustainable eating and help businesses, nonprofits and governments promote food that’s good for both humans and the planet.”  The founders, Eve Turow-Paul and Sophie Egan explained in The Washington Post that they got “seed” funding from Google and are now working with leaders in the food industry from Unilever, Sodexo, and Future Food Institute to change the conversation about what is good American food.  Their goal is to promote sustainable food offerings and make them the choice of consumers who want to eat healthily and also do what they can to tackle the climate crisis.

Up Next

After 17 Years, Cicadas Are Back…On The Menu

After 17 Years, Cicadas Are Back…On The Menu

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Could the latest food trend be 17 years in the making? That’s right; we’re talking about the Brood X cicadas. Trillions of these odd-looking insects have been emerging from the ground across the eastern U.S. over the past few weeks, and experts say their return presents a perfect opportunity to indulge in some […]

Continue Reading 603 words
One Real News Thing: Online Recipe Bank Epicurious Has Phased Out Beef Recipes

One Real News Thing: Online Recipe Bank Epicurious Has Phased Out Beef Recipes

While the fake news about the Biden administration banning beef was making its way around the world, the popular recipe website, Epicurious, has been phasing out recipes for beef for a year and no one squawked until now. They revealed the decision in an article on Monday, saying “We know that some people might assume that […]

Continue Reading 157 words
Green Groups Urge Congress to Cut Food Waste In Half

Green Groups Urge Congress to Cut Food Waste In Half

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Food waste is a serious concern in the United States — every year, between 30 and 40% of all food in the country is unsold or uneaten. The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), ReFED, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), among […]

Continue Reading 461 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.