|Retracting a Plug for Meatless Mondays|
"The message seemed innocuous enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” read a United States Department of Agriculture interoffice newsletter published on its Web site this week, “is to participate in the ‘ Meatless Monday’ initiative.”
Thousands of corporate cafeterias, restaurants and schools have embraced the idea of skipping meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options, an initiative of the nonprofit Monday Campaign Inc. and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
But by Tuesday afternoon, amid outraged Twitter messages by livestock producers and at least one member of Congress, the agency’s “Greening Headquarters Update” had been removed. “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. The newsletter, which covered topics like the installation of energy-efficient lights on the Ag Promenade and recycling goals, “was posted without proper clearance,” the statement said.
Among those who objected to the Agriculture Department’s apparent plug for vegetables was Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, who tweeted: “USDA HQ meatless Mondays!! At the Dept. of Agriculture? Heresy! I’m not grazing there. I will have the double rib-eye Mondays instead.”
A spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which drew the offending passage to the U.S.D.A.’s attention on Tuesday afternoon, called it “a slap in the face of the people who every day are working to make sure we have food on the table to say ‘Don’t eat their product once a week.’ ”
In arguing the environmental rationale for eating less meat, the retracted newsletter went further even than the Meatless Mondays campaign, which typically focuses on health.
“How will going meatless one day of the week help the environment?” it asked. “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.”
The cattlemen’s group disputed any benefit to eating less meat, saying that meat is nutrient-rich and that beef production has become more environmentally efficient in recent decades. Peggy Neu, the president of the Monday Campaigns, said she had not been consulted about the renegade endorsement of the campaign or the department’s subsequent repudiation of it.
“The U.S.D.A. is right in the middle of dietary recommendations, so from our perspective it would be a terrific thing if they signed on,” Ms. Neu said. “Or, I guess I should say, ‘would have been.’ ”
Copies of newsletter, no longer accessible at its original home on the USDA site, are floating around the Web. One of them is here. "
The USDA collapses to the meat industry.