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President Joe Biden, then a candidate for president, worked the grill during the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry on Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP/Neibergall) President Joe Biden, then a candidate for president, worked the grill during the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry on Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP/Neibergall)

President Joe Biden, then a candidate for president, worked the grill during the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry on Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP/Neibergall)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy April 29, 2021

Kevin McCarthy repeats Pants on Fire claim that Biden will ‘control’ how much meat Americans eat

If Your Time is short

  • President Joe Biden’s climate plans do not include restrictions on red meat consumption.

  • The false narrative about Biden restricting access to meat started with a Daily Mail article that linked Biden’s climate goals to an unrelated 2020 study. A study author told PolitiFact it “has nothing to do with Biden or his climate change plan.”

  • The claim was widely debunked before Rep. Kevin McCarthy repeated it.

President Joe Biden is not restricting access to red meat. But soon after Biden wrapped up his first address to Congress, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., repeated the Pants on Fire false claim that Biden’s climate plans would kick burgers and steaks off the menu.

"He wants control of your life. He’s going to control how much meat you can eat," McCarthy said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity. "Can you imagine that?"

Hannity, one of several Fox News and Fox Business Network personalities who had promoted the same false narrative days earlier, did not push back against McCarthy’s claim, even though a Fox News anchor recently acknowledged it is wrong.

A spokesperson for McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in short, the top House Republican was up in arms over a Biden plan that doesn’t actually exist.

The false claims about Biden coming after America’s hamburgers started with a Daily Mail article that wrongly linked his climate goals to an unrelated 2020 study from the University of Michigan, which examined the impact various dietary changes would have on U.S. carbon emissions.

After Biden pledged to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, the Daily Mail ran its article, which made projections as to what policies could potentially make Biden’s goal a reality.

At one point, the article speculated that "Americans may have to cut their red meat consumption by a whopping 90%," citing the Michigan study. But the study has no link to Biden’s plans.

"The study was published in January 2020, when Trump was still president, so it had nothing to do with Biden or his climate change plan," said Tulane University professor Diego Rose, one of the study’s three co-authors. "It's all just sensational goo from ‘Fox & Friends.’"

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"The study shows that if we eat less meat, especially beef, we could substantially reduce our dietary carbon footprint. But that change in behavior is a choice that individuals will make."

In a separate statement, co-authors Martin Heller and Gregory Keoleian of the University of Michigan explained that one hypothetical scenario the study considered was a 90% reduction in beef combined with a 50% reduction in other meats. They found that such a change would reduce "diet-related greenhouse gas emissions associated with agricultural production" by 50%.

"But this is not a specific recommended policy for achieving a 50% reduction in U.S. carbon emissions," Heller and Keoleian said. 

They added: "President Biden’s climate plan does not directly refer to diet shift as a carbon reduction strategy, so the linkage to our study is baseless."

Biden’s climate plans do not include restrictions on red meat consumption, a White House official confirmed to PolitiFact.

Biden never mentioned red meat when he announced his plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030, a move that would double the U.S.’s commitment under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. He talked mostly about investing in U.S infrastructure by modernizing the grid and shifting toward electric vehicles, among other things. 

McCarthy’s claim that Biden is "going to control how much meat you can eat" came days after the notion was widely debunked by fact-checkers and news outlets

It also came after Fox News — which created a graphic about Biden limiting meat — acknowledged in an on-air correction that the "graphic and the script incorrectly implied that it was part of Biden’s plan for dealing with climate change. That is not the case."

Our ruling

McCarthy said Biden is "going to control how much meat you can eat."

Biden’s climate plans do not include restrictions on red meat consumption. Claims that they do trace back to a Daily Mail article that wrongly linked Biden’s new U.S. emissions target to an unrelated 2020 study examining the impact of hypothetical dietary changes on emissions.

The claim had been widely debunked by the time McCarthy repeated it.

We rate his statement Pants on Fire!

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Kevin McCarthy repeats Pants on Fire claim that Biden will ‘control’ how much meat Americans eat

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