Cooking, Sustainability merit badges to become Eagle-required

Updated Nov. 1: Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about these changes.

Updated Dec. 18: Here are the new requirements for Cooking MB.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, this badge will get a silver border.

Moms and dads, prepare the needle and thread!

Sustainability and Cooking merit badges will join the list of Eagle-required merit badges over the next 14 months, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board announced today.

Sustainability, a new merit badge, will join Environmental Science as an Eagle Scout option after its debut at the 2013 jamboree.

Cooking, meanwhile, will become Eagle-required as of Jan. 1, 2014.

The total number of merit badges required for the Eagle Scout Award will remain at 21. In other words, instead of 12 Eagle-required badges and 9 elective badges, a Scout must earn 13 Eagle-required and 8 elective badges.

Why the change? The goal is to “reflect a better balance of the needs of youth and our nation today and in the future,” according to the BSA’s resolution. Personally, I like it. Keeping up with the ever-changing world means questioning the way things have always been done.

Sustainability becomes more important as our population increases while resources decrease. And a boy who reaches Eagle without skills in cooking and healthy eating habits hasn’t become fully “Prepared. For Life.” in my opinion. I think the BSA’s board got it right on here.

What do you think?

For the list of Eagle-required merit badges as it looks now — and as it will look in 2014 — follow the jump. 

Current list of Eagle-required merit badges

Earn a total of 21 merit badges, including the following:

  • First Aid
  • Citizenship in the Community
  • Citizenship in the Nation
  • Citizenship in the World
  • Communication
  • Personal Fitness
  • Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
  • Environmental Science
  • Personal Management
  • Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
  • Camping
  • Family Life

List of Eagle-required merit badges, effective Jan. 1, 2014

Earn a total of 21 merit badges, including the following:

  • First Aid
  • Citizenship in the Community
  • Citizenship in the Nation
  • Citizenship in the World
  • Communication
  • Personal Fitness
  • Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving
  • Environmental Science OR Sustainability
  • Personal Management
  • Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling
  • Camping
  • Family Life
  • Cooking

Lake Tahoe photo: Some rights reserved by CaDeltaFoto

257 thoughts on “Cooking, Sustainability merit badges to become Eagle-required

  1. Cooking was required for Eagle prior to the “Improved Scouting Program” of 1972. It was the last one I completed.

    • I was aware of that and truthfully speaking never knew why it became an elective MB because if there is one thing youth today need to learn is how to cook and eat healthy which ultimately is the overall goal of the MB. Yeah it focuses on meal planning/prep for campouts but the skills required to appropriately plan and prepare a meal are the same in both environments.

  2. Sounds good to me, most of our scouts take the Cooking MB anyways.
    It will be interesting to see how Sustainability MB is written up, but I like it!

  3. Makes sense to me, especially since there are already so many cooking/meal planning requirements to get to first class. This adds some much needed continuity and encourages the older boys to continue to build these important skills.

  4. I hope the Sustainability merit badge includes a healthy dose of economics in it. Nothing is better a allocating scarce resources that the Law of Supply and Demand. When a resource becomes more scare, it’s price goes up, which signals the marketplace to conserve the resource in order to save money. The Law of Supply and Demand is far more powerful than the sometimes-detached concept of Sustainability.

    • Supply and Demand is far more powerful than Sustainability in our economy, however it is simply untrue that it is the best way to allocate scarce resources equitably. In many places where resources are scarce, notably food, people can’t afford to them because of high costs of transportation, low wages, labor exploitation, or other prohibitive forces resulting from purely supply and demand economics, despite high supply and low cost in the products’ country of origin. Sustainability is important because it looks at consumption through not just a cold, macro-economic lens, but also through its impact on the environment and its impact on consumers and local economies.

  5. No problem with the Cooking MB but interested in the Sustainability one. I am curious as to why you left the total MB count at 21 instead of raising it by 1.
    I think the boys need to learn how to cook…and by cook, I don’t mean hot dogs and mac n cheese! But to actually follow a recipe and make a meal following the food groups.

    • I agree with raising the total count. Eagle merit badges show that the scout has the necessary skills to ” Be Prepared” but the other suplimental badges round out the scout. They are just as important.

  6. I like the cooking requirement; that’s something our boys really need to learn. I’m not so convinced about the sustainability merit badge, however. We’ll have to see what the requirements end up like, but it doesn’t seem necessary to me.

  7. They NEED to make manners an Eagle requirement!!!! I have gone to some dinner where there was a lot of Eagles and other scout who had the WORST table manner I have seen!!!

    • Isn’t that part of being courteous? Maybe their leaders should be installing those qualities if their parents are failing at doing so – just a thought.

    • Yes, have a “Hostess” MB like I did back in Girl Scouts. I am serious, as I go over table manners, how to set a table, and how to talk to a guest at your table, in preparation for summer camp each year.

  8. I like elevating Cooking. Every young man should have a good understanding of the tenants and principles that are learned by completing that merit badge. Personally I would have preferred to see Disability Awareness as a required over Sustainability. The BSA has always done a fantastic job encouraging conservation, but it seems that National is flirting with environmentalism and there is a big difference between the two. Environmental Science should remain a stand alone requirement and not watered down by adding a second option.

  9. Environmental Science Should not be an option. It is such an important area of study and global concern, both sustainability and Environmental Science should be required. Also, Environmental Science is one of the badges that get the scouts to go to the Nature center, where they discover a love for the other studies there; this could potentially hurt all the other study areas in Nature.

  10. What’s the roll out plan? Will scouts that are Star or Life before the change takes effect be subject to the new MB requirement?

    • according to the current GTA (Guide to Advancement) and the Boy Scout requirements book. Ranks and merits if started before the official start date can continue to use the old requirements or switch over to the new requirements. but you can not mix and match requirements from two different versions. If you have earned Eagle but are life or below you will probably have to go to the new requirements but if your currently working on your eagle rank or havent started will mean the new requirements for the MB. Anyway most Scouts for cooking MB even with it being an elective is one of the more popular ones.

      the sustainability MB should not become an option to choose between it and E-Science MB.

  11. It’s about time they added Cooking MB back! It is a shame that an Eagle Scout could potentially go into the rest of his life not knowing how to fend for himself in almost any kitchen. I parlayed what I learned in Cooking MB into a career for awhile ….

    • While I like the idea that Cooking MB is a required merit badge. I disagree that it needs to be a require merit badge in order for all Eagle Scouts to be able to fend for themselves in the kitchen. Both my sons are excellent cooks and both attribute it to what they learned in scouts. One son left as a Tenderfoot and the other is an Eagle. In my troop every scout who has been with us more than a year can cook.

      • The same argument can be made against any required or optional merit badge. “Why have a beekeeping MB? We live in the styx and our boys already know how to keep bees!” “Why Family Life? My scout has a family and he’s alive!” “Why swimming? We belong to the pool!”
        That some scouts already have a skill doesn’t have any impact on whether it is a skill that all scouts should have.

      • making cooking mandatory is at least in my opinion a very good idea but one thing that I do know is that the cooking requirements as per the advancement requirements for various reasons doesn’t allow the scout to truly learn cooking and because were all about just barely meeting a standard this hopefully will raise the standard and require the book to actually learn the skill!!!!!!!

        ohh going along that idea of “why this one is required?” and “why that one isnt?” is in someway applicable to every single MB there. I recently asked a Scout this question…………..”Is it important to know how to perform first aid? Why or why not?” and……….he told me that it isn’t necessary because we have 911!!!!!!!! then I asked him……….”What if we were in the middle of nowhere without cell reception or the ability to get help quickly just like Scouts do (well at least thats what they should but………reality is that its not true for many units! very sad BTW!!!!!) and then he replied…………”yep its definitely a skill every scout needs to have?

  12. It’s about time, I could never understand, camping is a required MB, & you have to cook on a camp out so why was cooking not a required MB too.

  13. I wish the BSA had a Dutch Oven Merit Badge like Royal Rangers. My son just cooked 4 meals on last week-end’s campout. The 11 year old surprised himself and the troop. The boys need to know how to cook, not just to feed themselves but also for their future family. I would rather eat at a church Men’s Breakfast than one where the women cook. But in my old troop, we always had a dutch oven going on every camp out, even on one hike!

      • Kenneth R Calfo Sr.





        If we forget that we are a nation under God. Then we will be a nation gone under!

        I love my country but I fear my Gov.

        • uhhh……… this some trying to spam because I really don’t see how this has anything to do with Scouting unless we are going to start including politics in our program! Did I miss something????????

        • Well, scouting is political. That’s reality. And we are historically a religious organization. Scouting Heritage badge, lol???? I don’t have a problem with his comments but it doesn’t fit with the original post.

  14. I learned to cook on BSA camping trips, and it’s a skill that I have been grateful for ever since. I’m told that others appreciate that I cook well, too!

  15. I am more interested in what will happen to scouts which are already life and working to eagle do they need as of jan 1 an extra eagle required merit badge.

  16. Pingback: 2012 District Award of Merit Nominations – Scouting the Fox!

  17. I doubt this will change as it has been the case for several years.

    From the 2011 Guide to Advancement – Section Changes to Requirements

    Advancement requirements change from time to time. For Boy Scouting and Varsity Scouting, check the latest annual edition of Boy Scout Requirements, No. 34765. Changes usually appear first in a revised handbook, and then become effective the next January1 and are published in the requirements book.
    Unless otherwise stated there, or in the member handbook, the following options are allowed.
    • If members have already started on a rank, Eagle Palm, or Venturing award when a revision is introduced, they may switch to the new requirements or continue with the old ones until it is completed.
    • If members have not already started on a rank, they may use the new requirements; or, if work begins before the end of the current year, they may use the old requirements to complete the badge.

    The Guide to Advancement may be found at:

    • sewing would be a good idea but i know for me since I always a a “significant tremor” in my hands would have prevented me from earning eagle no matter how hard I tried.

      last time I tried sewing……….more holes ended up in my fingers than in my uniform shirt!!!!!!!!!!!

      • This is where it would be one of the either/or badges….or need to be one that could be completed with ‘help’ – like a lot of the badges can be rearranged if their is a legitimate handicap preventing them from being completed.

  18. Addition of Cooking, fine. However, Environmental Science and Sustainability are not equals. Sustainability is a play to the current Green movement. If a Scout follows and understands the Outdoor Code, sustainability isn’t an issue. That topic is covered in other MBs, it doesn’t need to be a required one of its own. Might as well make a Global Warming MB while you’re at it.

  19. Cooking is great! Sustainability should be good if it is done well. My scouts could use a lesson in sustainability, they think it is reasonable for them to plan a driving trip to Alaska, from Ohio, for a camp-out. NOT SUSTAINABLE!!

    • This is where you have a chance to let them learn this for themselves. Don’t just tell them its not possible. Let them plan the trip and see if they can get the plans approved by the adults. In doing so you get to leverage two of Scouting’s unique strengths – 1) youth leadership AND 2) that this is a safe place to fail. If they have to plan it (this includes logistics, budget, etc. – ALL of the trip) them you are showing them that you trust them to come up with a plan, and will mentor them as needed (but don’t do it for them!). One of two things will happen – they will figure out a plan (even if its not how other activities have been planned and/or done) that DOES make it possible and you can approve – OR, they will see that the logistics are further stretch than they can reach. From there they will drop the idea, or keep looking for other ways to get to Alaska. And the adults didn’t just say no, or stand around saying ‘see – its not possible’, but instead supported their leadership the entire way. If they don’t get to Alaska – they learned a lot from trying, and adults supported them 100% along the journey. If they they succeed -they get a great leadership experience and the group goes to Alaska for a once in a lifetime experience. Pretty great odds in my book!!

  20. Ok, here’s what I’d like to know… they are planning to update the Cooking MB in the next couple of months. So, if a scout earns the Cooking MB pre-update and is less than Life rank (and therefore, not technically started on Eagle) before the change goes into effect, does the Cooking MB, earned before the merit badge requirements change, count?
    Since National is changing the requirements for Cooking, then adding it as a required badge, it would be reasonable to assume they are making it harder or at least adding something that they feel is an important skill. Will the old (current) version of Cooking MB count? Should it?

    • I would assume they are making Cooking MB much easier so that it can be completed easily in four or five hours at summer camp. Which would be a shame. I suspect the new requirements will be more like the old cooking skill award from the 1970′s.

      • if they making cooking easier that will be a sad day. cooking technically speaking skill wise isn’t super complicated its just that our youth think about cooking only to the point of stuff you can cook in the microwave.

    • once you’ve earned the badge, you’ve earned the badge. changes in requirements don’t matter. in fact, if you’ve started work on the badge prior to a change in requirements, you can continue to use the old requirements.

    • Cooking MB if started before the official start date can be done with the old or the new requirements but they cant be mixed together by picking and choosing requirements according to what the Scout or the MBC want. This is as per policy stated in the 2012 GTA. and unless they change the GTA before then that policy will hold true but then again they may make changes to the GTA and that might bug some leaders/Scouts.

      BTW……..GTA=Guide to Advancement and with the current version being the 2012 edition..

  21. I think cooking is a fantastic merit badge. However, I have served as the Outdoor Skills director for my camp for two years, and counselling for cooking is a nightmare. It’s a great merit badge and skill for individuals, but very hard to facilitate in a summer camp environment. I can’t even begin to anticipate how this change might affect the numbers we get. I’m glad it will become Eagle required, but it will be very hard to manage for camp counselors.

    • Then maybe you shouldn’t offer it. Too many camps make the same judgement you just made (too hard for camp staff, not enough time in one week) but offer the badges anyway and rubber-stamp boys who haven’t learned or done anything. There are plenty of badges you can do in a week.

    • When I took Cooking MB it was a two week badge, you couldn’t sign up to take it at camp unless you were there for a two week session because it was too difficult to complete in one week.

    • Who said you were required to finish every MB you work on in a week at camp? Thats not realistic theres too many different requirements in cooking to only do it in a week at camp!

      Plus last time I checked………Scout Camp was NOT just there for Scouts to earn MB’s but what that is what parents expect. Take back your organization and if a parent doesn’t like that they didnt finish a MB at camp thats not mine or a leaders problem it was because of the kid.

      MB’s at camp pose problems for two reasons:

      1) the MBC’s aka Staff don’t usually have a lot of expertise in the subject


      2) Camp isn’t long enough to appropriately finish the MB

      I always tell people that I can guess at the length of time a MB will take but there are many factors outside of my control that prevent the Scout from fnishing that MB. CAMP is NOT a MB mill

      personally in earning my Eagle there are several MB’s that I started that I never finished or took forever to do so……

      A) rile shooting: lecture and classroom work done but never could get the shooting portion right but thats because I wasn’t focused enough to do whatever it takes to earn it plus my hands shake really bad and if you ever shot with shaky hands you’ll know how hard it is to do so.

      B) Shotgun: same issue as rifle

      C) Archery: Same issue as rifle

      D) Rowing: This one took me three years to earn because I just couldn’t get the coordination down quick enough to actually do it in a normal length of time.

      E) Climbing: 2 years because first year got the classroom/book work done but got rained out and then the following year I got rained out again!!!!!!! stupid weather

      but the point im making is…………… advancement should only occur at the rate the Scout wants and is able to meet the requirements.. Ohh remember ADVANCEMENT is only 1 of 8 different METHODS of SCOUTING! so………personally while Im proud if a Scout advances or makes Eagle I don’t really care if he doesnt because thats his choice and his choice alone.

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