If you’re plugged into the health world at all, or apparently if you work for the USDA, then you’ve likely heard the term ‘Meatless Monday‘ floating around at one point or another. The term, or movement, rather, is an initiative on behalf of the nonprofit organization Monday Campaign Inc., and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, to encourage people to embrace the idea of a meat-free diet on Mondays for health and environmental reasons, among others.
According to the website, “Going meatless once a week, may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”
Initially, the USDA was all in favor of meat-free Mondays and even promoted the idea in a recent interoffice newsletter saying: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the Meatless Mondays initiative,” citing the reasons of health and environmental impact as encouragement to join the cause.
But after this seemingly minor announcement was met with some resistance from both a member of Congress and U.S. livestock producers, the announcement was quickly retracted. A follow-up statement issued by the USDA refuted that “[The] USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday,” and that the prior announcement was posted “without proper clearance.”
So exactly who was so upset at the idea of a day without meat? Among the handful of opponents was Republican representative of Iowa, Steve King, who the NYTimes quoted as tweeting, “USDA HQ meatless Mondays!! At the Dept. of Agriculture? Heresy! I’m not grazing there. I will have the double rib-eye Mondays instead.” And perhaps more obviously, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) which issued a statement on Wednesday saying “The USDA’s recent announcement that the agency embraces the “Meatless Monday” concept calls into question USDA’s commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers.”
J.D. Alexander, NCBA President, closed the statement saying the “NCBA will not remain silent as USDA turns its back on cattlemen and consumers.”
While Peggy Neu, president of the Monday Campaigns, was not contacted regarding any of these promoted or retracted statements, in her view, an endorsement by the USDA would be an important one. “The USDA is right in the middle of dietary recommendations, so from our perspective it would be a terrific thing if they signed on,” she said. “Or, I guess I should say, ‘would have been.’ ”
From our perspective, it all seems a bit political and ridiculous, especially considering that promoting meat-free eating one day a week doesn’t send the message that America is anti-meat. It was merely a step in the direction of health on behalf of the USDA, but clearly some meat loving American’s didn’t see it that way.