The USDA received criticism Wednesday after an employee newsletter was released touting participation in the "Meatless Monday" campaign as a way to reduce environmental impact.
The newsletter explained that, "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. In addition, beef production requires a lot of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides."
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association issued a statement condemning the USDA newsletter, calling the Meatless Monday campaign "an extremist campaign to ultimately end meat production."
Just a few minutes after the NCBA statement, USDA promptly removed the newsletter and issued a statement on Twitter:
"USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. Statement found on USDA website was posted w/o proper clearance. It has been removed // @FarmBureau"
NCBA President J.D. Alexander said the USDA support Meatless Monday indicated that the Department does not understand efforts by rural America to produce food sustainably.
"USDA was created to provide a platform to promote and sustain rural America in order to feed the world. This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet," Alexander said.
Not only did the NCBA denounce the statement, a handful of congressmen let their opinions be known.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., addressed the Senate Wednesday, speaking out against the Meatless Monday campaign. "We ought to look at the mission of what the Department of Agriculture is...to promote agriculture, to help those who every day go to work to produce food, fiber and fuel for this world. And yet our own Department of Agriculture is encouraging people not to eat meat," he said.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, tweeted: "USDA HQ meatless Mondays!!! At the Dept. Of Agriculture? Heresy! I'm not grazing there. I will have double rib-eye Mondays instead."
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also came out on Twitter with his opinion: "I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt a meatless Monday," he wrote.
Following the USDA's recant, NCBA's Alexander said he appreciated the efforts of USDA to remove the statement.
"USDA did right by scrapping this statement and acknowledging the important role of America's farm and ranch families in providing food for the world. USDA denouncing support of the Meatless Monday campaign is an important step in correcting misinformation about the safety and sustainability of U.S. beef production," he said.