Cow burps contribute to human-caused climate change. Weird but true.
But this represents a dilemma for purveyors of beef and burgers who want to position themselves as a positive force in the fight against climate change, like Hopdaddy Burger Bar.
The Washington Post said that in trendy chain, which operates over seven states, customers can pay an extra $4 for a patty that claims to “save the planet, one bite at a time” by using farming practices that claim to reduce cattle’s carbon footprint.
“We want to change the narrative that eating meat is bad for the planet, or that eating plant-based is better,” said a manager at one Hopdoddy location.
They’re far from the only company trying to provide an all-beef alternative to the Impossible Burger option for climate-conscious customers. Tyson Foods, and others, have also thrown its hat into the ring with a climate smart beef program.
The problem? Experts told the Washington Post that no burger is climate friendly, even if their carbon footprint is slightly below traditional ranching methods. But the FDA also lacks real authority to do anything about misleading claims, making the labeling a wild west.
Why it matters:
The fact that the beef industry feels the need to make these claims indicates they’re already on the back foot (hoof?).
“You need to understand that offense wins and defense loses in public relations and in advocacy. If you are explaining, you’re losing. If you are answering accusations, you are losing. If you are having their debate and saying ‘I’m not that bad,’ they are controlling the narrative,” Jack Hubbard, executive director of the Center for the Environment and Welfare, told members of the meat and dairy industry at a conference.
This is a public relations gambit, make no mistake. And it’s one that’s founded in rising concerns over climate change among Americans: 34% believe eating less meat would help climate change, according to a 2023 Newsweek poll.
So the move is smart business. But is it being communicated in a way that’s honest and responsible?
In California, a proposed law might require more transparency to combat “greenwashing” claims. That might force companies to be more specific about what they mean when they say their product “fights climate change.” But it’s better to be honest and open by choice than by statute.
Work across your organization to ensure that your PR claims are backed by science, are clear and don’t overpromise. Maybe these burgers can’t save the world, but they can make one tiny step toward stabilizing our environment. And that’s better than nothing.
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