25 July 2012

USDA recommends Meatless Mondays but quickly backpedals

In a recent internal USDA Greening Headquarters Update, the agency took the opportunity to inform readers about green initiatives taking place in its cafeteria. To the “many USDA employees” and “thousands of tourists and visitors” who dine at the agency’s cafeteria each month, the newsletter recommended they help Mother Earth by participating in Meatless Mondays.

You read that right. And here’s the proof (full newsletter available by emailing me):

“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.”

The authors of the newsletter then go on to rave about the “tasty meatless options” available in the USDA cafeterias and remind readers, “So you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!”


Oooh not so fast.

Seems like the American Farm Bureau, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and others didn’t take too kindly to USDA’s progressive stance, accusing the agency of turning its back on the meat and dairy industries. Once called out by these very powerful (too powerful) groups, the USDA quickly removed the newsletter from its site and backpedalled, saying the statement was posted “without proper clearance.”


According to a fact sheet listed on the USDA website:

“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) works to support the American agricultural economy to strengthen rural communities; to protect and conserve our natural resources; and to provide a safe, sufficient, and nutritious food supply for the American people.”

Keeping that in mind, it’s not a stretch to think that the USDA could (and should!) support Meatless Mondays. Following a plant-based diet, even on a very part-time basis, helps increase vegetable intake (to strengthen rural communities), is good for the earth (to protect and conserve our natural resources) and can drastically improve one’s health (to provide a safe, sufficient, and nutritious food supply for the American people).

It's quite telling that the Ag industry is so worried about Meatless Mondays. In all actuality, vegetarians and vegans, while growing, still make up such a small segment of our society. These organizations obviously know the harm they are causing to our planet and to the health of consumers... and they must realize that one day, the atrocities that take place on farms around the country will no longer be tolerated.

Daelyn Fortney | Facebook |@daelyn | email
Greenville, SC Daelyn is the co-founder and managing director of This Dish Is Veg. She handles the daily operations of the site including advertising, story idea generation, and website promotion as well as managing the volunteer contributors. Along with her work at TDIV, Daelyn is an editor for a gift-giving website and mother of three daughters.

Photo credit: USDA