The Two-Way
2:06 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

After Uproar, USDA Walks Back 'Meatless Monday' Support

It was likely something that the United States Department of Agricultural didn't put much thought into. In an internal newsletter detailing agency's "greening" efforts, there's information about new lightbulbs and locally bought fruits and vegetables.

But on page three of five, there's also a passage that encourages forgoing meat on Mondays.

"One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the 'Meatless Monday' initiative," the newsletter reads. "This international effort, as the name implies, encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays... 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."

The newsletter was published Monday and by Wednesday evening the meat industry and Republican lawmakers were in an uproar.

The agency's embrace of Meatless Monday calls into question its commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) President J.D. Alexander said in a statement.

Alexander said that the claims that a reduction in meat consumption helps the environment or has health benefits are "are not at all based in fact."

"USDA was created to provide a platform to promote and sustain rural America in order to feed the world," Alexander said. "This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet."

The Hill reports that Republican lawmakers followed suit.

"I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt a meatless Monday," Sen. Chuck Grassley, from Iowa, tweeted.

Rep. Steve King, also from Iowa, tweeted: "USDA HQ meatless Mondays!!! At the Dept. Of Agriculture? Heresy! I'm not grazing there. I will have double rib-eye Mondays instead."

The New York Times reports that by the end of the day, USDA walked way from "Meatless Monday."

Its press team tweeted:

"USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. Statement found on USDA website was posted w/o proper clearance. It has been removed // @FarmBureau"

The Meatless Monday people said they were disappointed with the USDA. They say that going meatless once a week "helps achieve two key recommendations in the USDA Dietary Guidelines — reducing saturated fat intake and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.