What is Meatless Monday?

Here's what you need to know about the international campaign to forgo meat once a week.

The weekly initiative to cut out meat every Monday was launched in 2003 by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Monday Campaigns. Meatless Monday has become a weekly habit for conscientious eaters around the globe, with many restaurants offering vegetarian menus, bloggers publishing meatless recipes, and universities, cities, and schools participating.

Who participates in Meatless Monday?

In 2012, Los Angeles became the first United States city to formally endorse a citywide observance of Meatless Monday, and the cafeterias of more than 100 public and private K–12 schools are now meatless the first day of each week.

The Meatless Monday movement has gone global too. While called different things in each country (from Green Monday in Taiwan to Meat Free Monday in South Africa), more than 34 nations feature some version of the program.

Why Meatless Monday?

Participants go meatless on Monday for both health and environmental reasons. Medical research has shown that lowering meat consumption may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity and even lengthen one's life. Environmentally, the meat industry accounts for nearly one-fifth of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, and livestock requires much more water to raise than fruits and vegetables.

A growing body of research linking meat-heavy diets with poor health and environmental effects has contributed to a drop year over year in the amount of meat Americans are eating. In the U.S., some credit the Meatless Monday campaign with spurring the drop in meat consumption to levels that haven't been seen since the 1950s.

What is the opposition to Meatless Monday?

The meat industry has not taken well to the increasing popularity of Meatless Monday and the overall decline in meat consumption. In 2012, after the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed Meatless Monday in a newsletter, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and a senator from Kansas publicly challenged the statement and forced the USDA to retract its endorsement.

“We are a beef-producing state and it is one of the items that improves our balance of trade as we export meat and beef around the world,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said. “And, yet, our own Department of Agriculture encourages people not to consume meat.”

Meatless Monday recipes:

Sweet potato and raw broccoli quinoa is just one of many Meatless Monday options. (Photo: Ian Knauer)

Meatless Mondays: Zucchini-Cheddar Pie

Meatless Mondays: Sprouted Lentils and Beans With Baby Greens

Meatless Mondays: Cherry Tomato Pie

Meatless Mondays: Pasta With Radish Greens

Meatless Mondays: Lettuce Soup

Meatless Mondays: Hakurei Turnip Frittata

Meatless Mondays: Dandelion Pesto

Meatless Mondays: Lentil and Tomato Salad

Meatless Mondays: Sweet Potato and Raw Broccoli Quinoa

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