Over the weekend, Republican politicians and personalities claimed that President Joe Biden’s climate plan would require Americans to cut their red meat consumption by 90 percent, allowing only four pounds of red meat per year.
These claims came on the heels of Biden committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by the year 2030 at a climate summit on Thursday. It appears to have originated with an article in the British tabloid The Daily Mail that explores hypothetical ways in which Americans could reduce their emissions. In the headline—”How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH, cost $3.5K a year per person in taxes, force you to spend $55K on an electric car and ‘crush’ American jobs”—the word “could” is doing a lot of work. As the article notes, such proposals are not from a Biden plan, as the president “is yet to release any firm details on exactly how such a plan [to reduce greenhouse gas emissions] will affect the daily lives of ordinary Americans.”
The basis for the red meat claim comes not from any plan released or endorsed by Biden, but from a study by the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems published January 13, 2020. The paper calculated that if Americans reduced meat consumption by 50 percent with a 90 percent reduction of beef specifically, there would be a 51 percent decline in greenhouse gas emissions produced by meat production.
The study concluded: “These results further emphasize the importance of addressing agriculture, food systems and nutritional education when considering climate change interventions. Such dietary changes will require the concerted efforts of policymakers, the food industry and consumers.” Biden has indicated neither this is a path his administration will pursue nor that he would force Americans to cut back on how much meat they eat.
Correction, April 28: An earlier version of this fact check stated the study on meat consumption came from Michigan University; the school’s name is the University of Michigan.
If you have a claim you would like to see us fact check, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to suggest a correction to this piece or any other Dispatch article, please email email@example.com.