Over the weekend, a cadre of Republican critics raised the alarm that President Joe Biden would take hamburgers and steaks off the menu as part of his new plan to combat climate change.
“To meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat,” Larry Kudlow, a White House economic adviser to former president Donald Trump, said on Fox Business on Friday. “No burger on July 4. No steaks on the barbecue.”
But Biden’s plan doesn’t include any call to limit meat-eating. Instead, conservative ire was sparked by a Daily Mail article that baselessly speculated about measures that could accomplish Biden’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.
That led numerous Republican lawmakers to attack Biden’s plan with the false claim that it would strictly limit access to meat. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., told the president to “stay out of my kitchen” and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called him “The Hamburglar.”
Even Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in, declaring on Twitter that a decline in meat-eating was “not gonna happen in Texas!”
In fact, the White House has revealed few specifics yet of its climate plan. Neither Biden nor the White House have signaled that it will include changes to the American diet.
In his comments on Thursday, Biden focused on a plan to create new jobs by investing in “American infrastructure and American innovation” to build “a critical infrastructure to produce and deploy clean technology.” He never mentioned meat and only briefly mentioned farmers “deploying cutting-edge tools to make soil of our Heartland the next frontier in carbon innovation.”
Biden’s lack of specifics led the Daily Mail to write about what “what life could look like” under the plan, citing a University of Michigan study on the impact of limiting meat consumption – including an extreme scenario examining the impact of Americans eating just four pounds of red meat per person annually. Without evidence, the Daily Mail published a graphic implying a four-pound meat restriction would be “required” to meet Biden’s climate goals.
Fox News later aired a graphic titled “Up In Your Grill: Biden’s Climate Requirements” that listed bullet points including “cut 90% of red meat from diet” and “one burger per month,” citing the same study that has no link to the president’s plan. Abbott shared a screenshot of that graphic on social media.
One of the Michigan researchers behind the study told MassLive.com he has “no idea what Biden’s plan has to say about our diets.”
Republicans have maligned climate change plans before by claiming Democrats intend to attack meat eating. Conservatives in 2019 relentlessly blasted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) over a now-infamous quote from a memo that was misinterpreted as advocating to “fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes.” Former White House aide Sebastian Gorka said proponents of the Green New Deal wanted to “take away your hamburgers.”
Many other Republicans echoed that sentiment, but The Washington Post reported at the time that those politicians were misrepresenting the content of the Green New Deal, which did not call for a ban on meat or air travel.
Some Democrats, including Biden, have advocated for changes to the agriculture industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but no lawmakers have seriously proposed banning individual meat consumption. (Studies have shown that raising cattle for meat and dairy does produce significant amounts of greenhouse gasses.)
Despite the lack of ties between the Michigan study and Biden’s plan, Republican commentators continued blasting the idea.
“I’m pretty sure I ate 4 pounds of red meat yesterday,” Donald Trump Jr. said on Twitter, sharing the same Fox News graphic. “That’s going to be a hard NO from me.”
Some Democrats struck back at the Republicans by pointing out that their claims have no basis.
Others joined in with their own jokes – particularly mocking another part of Kudlow’s interview on Friday when he claimed the deal would force Americans to “throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts.”
“Excited to be watching the Oscars with an ice cold plant-based beer,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted on Sunday night. “Thanks Joe Biden.”