USDA Backs Off Meatless Mondays After Livestock Producers Cry Foul


Written by Mat McDermott

There’s a bigger lesson here than just the absurdity of the situation. But first, the news itself.

The US Department of Agriculture had been promoting the Meatless Monday campaign in an interoffice newsletter, saying, “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the Meatless Monday initiative.” (New York Times)

The newsletter went on to explain the environmental impact of raising animals for meat:

The production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well), has a large environmental impact. According to the UN, animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources. It takes 7000 kg of grain to make 1000 kg of beef.

For those that don’t know, Meatless Mondays is exactly as it sounds, an initiative aimed at cafeterias, restaurants and schools, as well as individuals, encouraging vegetarian meals one day a week.

But apparently, even suggesting that one day a week without meat is one too many for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, as well as Rep. Steve King (R-IA). The former called the USDA recommendation, “a slap in the face of the people who every day are working to make sure we have food on the table.”

Reacting to the outrage, the USDA retracted their support, simply saying “USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday.”

The outrage from the NCBA is to be expected, however misplaced, in that there’s nothing in the USDA dietary suggestion that isn’t accurate from an environmental perspective. Reducing your meat consumption does indeed reduce your environmental impact. Doing so one day a week is a worthy starting point in starting to eat a more environmentally friendly, as well as healthier, diet. A fully meat-free diet is even better, but one day without is better than nothing.

On a broader level though the statement from the NCBA is even more tiresome. In it’s myopic focus solely on the intimated potential impact of people not eating beef one day a week on beef producers, it misses entirely the bigger picture, giving an entirely un-nuanced perspective on the impact of beef production.

It’s unfortunately something that every single trade association I’ve encountered does—green product associations too—unquestioningly zealously promoting their business group, seldom if ever admitting that there could ever be anything wrong (environmentally, socially, medically, what have you) with their product or production method.

Some may argue that this is all to be expected and is even perhaps a good thing, with the truth of the situation resulting from the interplay of opposing debate points. But I’m not so sure.

Rather than working from starting points of confrontation, contradiction and defensiveness—an adversarial approach—why not instead work from a common starting point that recognizes that all the stakeholders in the discussion are part of a larger community (overlapping interdependent communities, actually) in which no position is an absolute, entirely good or bad, incapable of improvement, or without socio-environmental impact.

In this case, that would require livestock producers and their representatives acknowledge that their product has significant environmental impacts, and that from this perspective (as well as a health perspective) eating meat every day is not a good thing. Which is the very moderate, reasonable starting position of the Meatless Monday movement. At no time does this position even suggest that livestock producers cease to exist. It merely and meekly requires an acceptance that the optimal level of meat consumption is different from the maximal level.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


Related Stories:

Save the Planet: Eat Less Meat

Americans Now Eat Less Meat — But the Rest of the World Wants More

Celebrate Animal Freedom Day Worldwide


Photo: publicenergy/flickr

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Scott haakon
Scott haakon2 years ago

The problems of the USDA are the same problem with our election process. The big donors are corporations and about 50000 very wealthy people. Those are the people your legislators are beholden to.

Marcia Shiel
M s2 years ago

the usda is a bunch of bozos thet bow down before big agriculture /ranchers and big oil It's all about money NOT human health or welfare Stupid egotistical americans continue to believe the usda cares about them and can't be bothered to educate themselves on what is really going on Then when they get cancer or some other horrible disease they will be shocked.Wake up it's from all the poison in your meat and processed food you shovel into your mouth

antonia maestre
antonia maestre2 years ago

"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us “universe” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
-A. Einstein

Maria S.
Maria S.2 years ago

Here's an even bigger aspect to ponder, why the U.S.D.A. at all? Do we really need the perverted food pyramid? Countless, pointless steakholders grubbing for more of other people's pie? Cornhuskers grabbing fuel subsidies? Those wanting to grow the raw materials for hemp thongs vying for a seat at the table? Sugar guys beating corn syrup gals? I mean, where does this insanity end ... bankruptcy court, and punch line on Weekend Update?
– C. dog growing mold to infect D.C.'s alphabet soup

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle3 years ago

Ah, the livestock producers! Mustn't make them unhappy. Better to stuff more antibiotic-filled hamburger into your kids, rather than fill them with healthy beans, nuts, veggies (broccoli is high in calcium) fruits, and free-range chicken eggs! The USDA is supposed to look out for citizen's health, not producers' profits.

ann paveletz
.3 years ago

USDA cannot not even do their job. Remember they are responsible for the oversight of commercial breeders and back yard breeders and farm animals.
Their job is exactly that do their job'...just read the May 10, 2010 OIG report on the USDA and you think they have no back bone when it comes to meatless Monday's about dog's eye bluging, dogs eaten alive by ticks, dogs faces covered with ticks and animals with skin and bone showing and they do not write up this report. Cut me a break I would fire them all. They are the voices for the helpless not the voice for the breeders greed. Get a Job or do Your Job. They are a disgrace' Ann

Marie Therese Hanulak

Bloody Cowards! But the rest of us do not need the live stocks producer's permission to adopt meatless monday.

Cathy P.
Cathy P.3 years ago

Even one day of mercy is too much for these evil people.

Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

Once again, Steve "The Shining" King is at the forefront of an effort that would actually be not only beneficial to people, but would reduce the numbers (currently estimated to be in the billions) of animals miserably raised and slaughtered for their flesh. I'm convinced now that even if animals talk and beg us for mercy, we'd still cut their throats, hang them up to bleed out and slice and dice them into parts which arrive in neat, unrecognizable packages in our grocery chains meat counters; Oh! Our lust for flesh will never end!

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton3 years ago

I think that everyone who eats meat should see what happens in the Slaughterhouse!!

Then make a choice.