Epicurious causes a stir by ditching beef: what can we learn from it?

Last week, the major cooking and food website epicurious.com, of Condé Nast Digital, announced that they will no longer be sharing any recipes containing beef with their 8.5M followers and website visitors. The reason for this is concern for the environment and the role that the steadily increasing consumption of beef plays in global warming, water overuse, and ocean dead zones.

Epicurious has stated that this is not a new move, and they have not published any recipes containing beef in the last year and a half. According to the editor in chief, for every beef recipe that they would have published previously, they instead published a vegetarian recipe with vegetables and legumes in front and centre.

The website claims that the amount of traffic and engagement on their website and socials has not decreased due to this change, and that consumers are eager to try more veggie recipes. Epicurious have not made any comment on whether this is the same audience, or whether their audience has shifted to more veggie fans. However, it is a clear sign that removing red meat from the menu (at least intermittently) is not a dealbreaker for many.

Even though the shift did not influence engagement, their official announcement clearly has. Some of their followers applauded the move, and showed appreciation for the variety in recipes and ingredients, as well as their open stance on environmentally-minded consumption.

Predictably, the announcement also received some negative attention, notably from the North American Meat Institute, as well as many individual social media followers. Criticism has included that removing chicken recipes instead of beef would reduce suffering to a larger extent, that small-scale, local beef consumption can be sustainable, and that this is ‘woke virtue signalling’.

It is unclear as of yet whether this announcement will influence the amount of traffic and engagement on their website.

If the traffic on their website had not decreased since the “ban” on beef recipes, will the formal announcement bring any added value?

There are three scenarios which will likely follow this announcement:

  1. Epicurious attracts a new crowd of environmentally-minded followers who appreciate this statement, for example vegetarians
  2. Epicurious alienates part of their current audience, the hard ‘carnivores’
  3. Their current readers who are ambivalent or who do not have a strong opinion on this stance, for example flexitarians, remain equally engaged and as a result reduce their own consumption of beef.

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