Sweetgreen promised to go carbon neutral. Now it’s serving steak.

Sweetgreen promised to go carbon neutral. Now it’s serving steak.

Sweetgreen, the fast-casual chain known for healthful salads and bowls, on Tuesday introduced steak to its menu for the first time.

Customers can now order caramelized, garlic-flavored steak in several new dishes and as an addition to the lineup of existing entrees. Beef - whose production is notoriously climate-damaging - seemed to be an unlikely addition to what the company touts as its “plant-forward, Earth friendly” food.

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Sweetgreen co-founder and chief concept officer Nicolas Jammet said that the company is looking to expand its appeal from lunch into dinnertime and that it had taken the step carefully. The company sought out “trusted suppliers” for the beef, according to a news release, which is grass-fed and pasture-raised.

“By supporting farming practices that are gentle on both the animal and the land, Sweetgreen remains steadfast in its ethos while connecting more people to high-quality, nutrient-dense food,” it said.

The company, which started out with a small location in Georgetown and has grown over nearly 20 years to 225 locations, had tested the new protein in the Boston area. The chain was previously an outlier; competitors such as Panera, Chipotle and Shake Shack all serve beef.

On social media, the move was applauded by many fans. Some, though, found it surprising. “Explain how this contributes to your Carbon Neutrality goals?” one commenter asked on Instagram. “For a company that touts sustainability, steak seems like a misstep,” another wrote.

Sweetgreen has publicly committed to becoming carbon-neutral - meaning carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere resulting from a company’s activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed - by 2027. Beef is considered an environmental enemy No. 1: Its carbon footprint is more than 10 times that of chicken and 200 times that of potatoes.

Some companies have launched efforts to make cattle farming less harmful to the environment, promoting farming methods that create fewer emissions and changing livestock diets. Still, experts say there is only so much you can do. “There is no such thing as a climate-friendly hamburger,” Scott Faber, who heads government affairs at the watchdog Environmental Working Group, told The Washington Post this year.

Sweetgreen has long made environmental sustainability one of its core principles. “We believe that climate change is the defining challenge of our generation, posing a real and systemic threat to the health of people and the planet,” it said in announcing the 2027 carbon neutrality goal. “As restaurant leaders in an industry that drives 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is our responsibility to use our platform and resources to confront this crisis head on.

Some companies, including Amazon and BP, have scaled back bold climate goals.

Sweetgreen has taken other steps, including introducing a limited-time item that incorporates farmed kelp - which has won praise for helping to capture carbon in seawater and for helping diversify the portfolios of lobstermen who have been hit by declining harvests.

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