Industrial beef is the most polluting, the most carbon-emitting, and the most resource-intensive form of protein. A 2018 studypublished in the journal Nature recommended that the average US citizen cut beef consumption by 75 percent if we want to keep the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. In the context of Covid-19, University of Minnesota biologist Rob Wallace has made the connection between global industrial livestock farming and the proliferation of superviruses.
Ricketts’s warning of riots if big government comes for our beef echoes the claim by former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka that the Green New Deal is a harbinger of authoritarian communism. “They want to take away your hamburgers,” he bellowed in a speech at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference. “This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.” Gorka made it explicit: To threaten the primacy of meat in the American diet is to threaten a pillar of what it means to be a free American.
Gorka’s ravings about government-mandated burger confiscation sound like some nefarious plot by the same “postmodern cultural Marxists” decried by the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson. In 2018 he revealed on the wildly popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast that he was following an extreme form of the now trendy high-fat, high-protein paleolithic and ketogenic diets: just beef and water. Thanks to the “carnivore diet,” as he called it, Peterson said he’d lost 50 pounds, cured his 30-year gum disease, and seen his lifelong depression cease. “Meat, man—I’m telling you, meat,” reads an endorsement of the diet beneath an Instagram photo of him solemnly cutting through a steak.