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USDA going ‘Meatless Monday’? (Maybe not)



Editor's note: Shortly after a news release from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was sent out and this article was posted, the link to the USDA “Greening Headquarters Update” newsletter was disconnected. Shortly thereafter, USDA said the statement had been posted without “proper clearance.”



USDA’s July 23 issue of its “Greening Headquarters Update” urged the agency’s employees to participate in the “Meatless Monday” campaign, saying meat and dairy production have a large environmental impact. The head of the National Cattlemen’s Association (NCBA) said the concept calls into question USDA’s commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers.


According to the newsletter, USDA is currently considering food service contracts for the agency’s cafeterias. The new contract, which should be awarded later this year, calls for USDA cafeterias to become “models for healthy eating” and “sustainable” operations, and encourages the use of food and beverage items that are fresh and locally grown.


According to the newsletter article:

“One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the “Meatless Monday” initiative http://www.meatlessmonday.com/. This international effort, as the name implies, encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays. Meatless Monday is an initiative of The Monday Campaign Inc. in association with the John Hopkins School of Public Health. 

“How will going meatless one day of the week help the environment? The production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well), has a large environmental impact. According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources. It takes 7,000 kg of grain to make 1,000 kg of beef. In addition, beef production requires a lot of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides. In addition there are many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat. While a vegetarian diet could have a beneficial impact on a person’s health and the environment, many people are not ready to make that commitment. Because Meatless Monday involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results. 

“Did you notice that our cafeterias have tasty meatless options? So you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!”


“This is truly an awakening statement by USDA, which strongly indicates that USDA does not understand the efforts being made in rural America to produce food and fiber for a growing global population in a very sustainable way,” said NCBA president J.D. Alexander. “USDA was created to provide a platform to promote and sustain rural America in order to feed the world. This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet.”


USDA goes one step further in its quest to reduce meat consumption, according to Alexander, by specifically calling out beef and dairy production as harmful to the environment. Additionally, the USDA cites health concerns related to the consumption of meat. These concerns are not at all based in fact, according to Alexander, but simply spout statistics and rhetoric generated by anti-animal agriculture organizations. The fact is the consumption of beef is not only healthy, but the carbon footprint of the production of beef has dramatically decreased as a result of innovative environmental stewardship implemented by America’s farm and ranch families throughout the country.


“Today’s cattlemen are significantly more environmentally sustainable then they were 30 years ago. A study by Washington State University found that today’s farmers and ranchers raise 13% more beef from 13%t fewer cattle. When compared with beef production in 1977, each pound of beef produced today produces 18% less carbon emissions; takes 30% less land; and requires 14% less water,” said Alexander. “When it comes to health, beef has an amazing story to tell. Beef is a naturally nutrient-rich food, helping you get more nutrition from the calories you take in.”


Alexander said NCBA will not remain silent as USDA turns its back on cattlemen and consumers.