Hamburgers Have Been Conscripted Into the Fight Over the Green New Deal. The History of American Beef Shows WhyRoundup
tags: climate change, food history, Green New Deal, beef
Joshua Specht is the author of Red Meat Republic: A Hoof-to-Table History of How Beef Changed America, available now from Princeton University Press.
Hamburgers are the newest front in the culture wars. At the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Sen. Ted Cruz announced, “I support cows…I hope to see PETA supporting the Republican Party, now that the Democrats want to kill all the cows.” And Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump administration official and frequent Fox News guest, similarly announced that “they want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”
Their comments came in response to Democrats’ recently unveiled Green New Deal, which cites the agricultural sector as one of many industries that needs to adjust to limit climate change. Beef in particular has become a focus of that idea, due to its inclusion in a draft fact-sheet about the resolution, as well as local efforts to cut back on consumption and advocates’ efforts to highlight the impact of meat-eating on global carbon emissions.
Though perhaps extreme, the line of argument seen at CPAC is quite clever: it responds to criticism of meat production with a defense of meat consumption, about which people feel understandably sensitive. The argument starts from a kernel of truth — policies intended to mitigate the environmental impact of beef production would likely affect consumer prices — but it uses this observation to defend an increasingly unsustainable status quo. Interestingly, this approach draws directly from arguments that food processors pioneered in the late 19th century.
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