USDA supporting vegetarianism to save the environment? This was quite the mishap when the USDA announced support for a Meatless Mondays campaign. The announcement was sent out internally to staff about how employees can reduce their environmental impact while dining in the agency’s cafeteria.

The original post is:

With ag industries such as the National Cattlemen’s Association and Farm Bureau in an uproar it was quickly retracted with a twitter explanation stating it was posted without clearance.

feedlot cattleSo what exactly is a Meatless Monday?  Meatless Monday is a proposed campaign where individuals choose to not eat meat on Mondays for health and environmental benefits. Eating less red meat shows benefits in reducing saturated fat intake and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. Promoters believe that it is also a waste of fossil fuel, fertilizers, water and pesticides to raise the meat produced.

Unsurprisingly, agriculture industries are baffled by the idea, especially because the USDA has a supposed commitment to U.S. farmers. As American farmers work hard to ensure to meet food demand, quality, and safety of their products, a suggestion for eating less meat is a slap in the face.

Eating less meat will improve the environment?? That’s quite a stretch.  Thanks to modern farming techniques, America’s farmers and ranchers are producing more food on fewer acres. As our food demand hasn’t gone down, removing grazing land for cattle into land for more grain production would only displace the blame.  EPA regards the nitrous oxide emissions from a grazing animal are insignificant. Methane emissions from cows are only 0.9% of the grand total of greenhouse gases produced in our world.  According to the EPA agriculture in total is 14% while industries and transportation account for 39%.  It is true that raising beef, dairy, and chickens have an environmental impact but overall the impact is very small by comparison.

As Meatless Mondays is an outrageous campaign to be supported by the USDA, it doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t be conscious of their red meat consumption all days of the week. Having a large sirloin for lunch everyday isn’t beneficial to anyone’s health.

It is estimated that 27% of our food is wasted. With 96 billion pounds of edible “surplus” food thrown away in the U.S., This leads me to think there are plenty of other ways to benefit the environment than hurt American livestock producers.

Leah Wilkening
Illinois Corn summer intern


  1. What a short-sighted response from the agriculture community. With all the talk about “buy local” and sustainable farming, you cannot imagine anything but a glistening hunk of meat on your plate? One day a week SHOULD be set aside for teaching families and children how to make a meal from your garden or pantry that does not include meat. This type of reaction is exactly why the general public are so mistrusting about where their food comes from and want to know more information.

    Kudos to the USDA for supporting all forms of agriculture, not just the cult of Big Food and its taxpayer subsidized corn and meat cycle. Sad that they backed down on that decision. We should all make due with less meat and give the money we save to the local food pantry for those families who are lucky to eat meat once a month let alone weekly.

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