Meatless Monday Uproar: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Not Amused

A "Meatless Monday" link in a USDA newsletter is causing major strife with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Turns out beef producers aren't big fans of the Meatless Monday movement. (Photo: Peter Dean/Getty Images)

Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

Somebody over at the USDA riled up the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in a hurry today. The agency’s internal employee newsletter Greening Headquarters Update nudged readers to consider participating in the cafeteria’s Meatless Monday as a way to lighten their environmental footprint, and quickly got an earful from the cattlemen's group.

“The USDA stated ‘one simple way to reduce our environmental impact while dining at our cafeteria is to participate in the "Meatless Monday" initiative,’ which [NCBA president J.D.] Alexander said is an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption,” says the release. “This is truly an awakening statement by USDA, which strongly indicates that USDA does not understand the efforts being made in rural America to produce food and fiber for a growing global population in a very sustainable way.”

The public lashing worked. Within an hour, the USDA removed the newsletter, and prompted press secretary Courtney Rowe to issue the following official statement, which was to be attributed to an unnamed USDA spokesperson: “USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. The statement found on the USDA website was posted without proper clearance and it has been removed.”

MORE: Our Full Gallery of Meatless Mondays

But don’t expect the kerfuffle to vanish anytime soon. The AgWired blog is calling it government sponsored animal activism:

“Just deleting the document from the link does not address this issue at all, since this is an internal newsletter that was sent to USDA employees. That makes this more than a “rumor.” While the Secretary may have been unaware of this gaffe and it may not be “official” USDA policy, the message has been sent to USDA employees that meat is bad for the environment. Not only does this have to be pulled, action should be taken against whoever wrote it and an immediate retraction should be made in a new “Greening Update,” they write.

While ranchers may lament movements like Meatless Monday, plenty of schools, restaurants and cafeterias have joined in, making it a popular option. But according to the New York Times, by Tuesday afternoon, Twitter was ablaze with the news:

"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."

That seems kind of extreme to us, but then again, we dig our veggies and the farmers who grow them.  Check out our full Meatless Mondays gallery here.

Why are meat producers so afraid of Meatless Mondays? Do you go meat-free once a week?

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