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Meatless Monday flap: USDA gets into trouble with beef industry

July 27, 2012|By Rosie Mestel | Los Angeles Times
  • A veggie burger -- treason! A Department of Agriculture internal memo suggesting employees consider Meatless Mondays has outraged the beef industry.
A veggie burger -- treason! A Department of Agriculture internal memo suggesting… (Lyfe Kitchen )

Who would have thought that something as .. well, bland ... as encouraging employees to consider going meatless for one day a week  would blow up into a scandal -- with calls for people to be fired and accusations of “treasonous” behavior?

That’s just what happened after some person (pity him or her!) within theU.S. Department of Agriculturecheerfully suggested Meatless Monday in an internal memo to staff.

An excerpt from the memo:

"One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the 'Meatless Monday' initiative  … 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. …. Because Meatless Monday involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results. Did you notice that our cafeterias have tasty meatless options? So you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!”

Radical stuff!

Here is the outraged reaction by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., posted Wednesday. In it,  the organization’s president J.D. Alexander stated that Meatless Monday is “an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption” and that since the USDA’s mission is to promote U.S. farming, “this move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet.”

Texas agriculture commissioner Todd Staples steps up the rhetoric a bitby calling for the USDA to “Fire The Ones Responsible” for these “appalling endorsements” and “treasonous comments.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken down the memo, but you can still view the whole thing here.

The USDA has since said it was all a mistake, according to the Associated Press, and has  tweeted an explanation to the world:

 “USDA MT @usdapress: USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. Statement on USDA site posted w/o proper clearance. It has been removed // @FarmBureau”

Here’s an item on the issue at the "Food Politics" blog of NYU professor Marion Nestle.

"Food Politics in action!" she writes.

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