The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an agency notorious for its unabashed promotion of animal agribusiness and animal-based foods. As noted by the Associated Press: “The USDA often promotes the beef industry by encouraging Americans to eat meat.”
This week, however, the USDA got caught in the line of fire from, of all groups, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA). Why? Because it (the USDA) touted the benefits of meat-free foods.
That’s right. In a USDA newsletter, “Greening Headquarters Update” sent to staff on July 23, the agency offered some tips for more sustainable eating that including participating in Meatless Mondays.
Specifically, the USDA newsletter states:
“One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative. 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.”
The newsletter then asks readers: “Did you notice that our cafeterias have tasty meatless options?” (Read the full USDA newsletter)
This caught the attention — and ire — of the NCBA, prompting the USDA to quickly respond by not only removing the pro-vegetarian information from its website but also backtracking on its sustainability message by stating that it “does not endorse Meatless Monday” and the newsletter was sent “without proper clearance.”
Despite all of its flaws, the USDA was heading in the right direction with its Meatless Monday message. Unfortunately, animal agribusiness flexed its muscles to push its own interests forward and the results demonstrate who’s really pulling the strings.
photo credit: Meatless Monday