July 23, 2024

Meatless Monday? Not so Much.

The “Meatless Monday” campaign is an initiative launched in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that encourages consumers to prepare meatless meals one day a week. You may have seen its mention on food websites. Sounds good, right? The USDA thought so too. For a few days last week.

Rare SteakThe campaign was started after studies showed going meatless one day a week may reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  A statement on the Meatless Monday website states that “the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide.” Water usage for meat production is also huge, including an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water used to produce a single pound of beef.

On Monday, July 23, 2012, the USDA’s internal “Greening Headquarters Update” stated that “one simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.”  Well. That simple statement unleashed a backlash from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. J.D. Alexander, president of that organization, said the support of Meatless Monday undermines the government’s commitment to ranchers. Alexander said, “These concerns are not at all based in fact, but simply spout statistics and rhetoric generated by anti-animal agriculture organizations.”

By Wednesday, July 25, 2012, this statement appeared in the USDA Twitter page: “USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. Statement found on USDA website was posted w/o proper clearance. It has been removed.”

Republican lawmakers were also outraged by the USDA’s stance. Rep. Steve King and Sen. Chuck Grassley, both from Iowa, and Sen. John Thune of Kansas all tweeted about the issue, lambasting the USDA for endorsing the Meatless Monday campaign.

The campaign was based on rationing during World Wars I and II, encouraging consumers to conserve food and energy to support soldiers and the war effort. Herbert Hoover and Woodrow Wilson started these movements to support U.S. troops and populations in Europe where food production was disrupted by the war. Meatless Monday is increasing in popularity worldwide.


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