On Monday, July 23rd, the USDA released its monthly Greening Headquarters Update to employees. In between updates on office sustainability initiatives, the newsletter encouraged readers to give Meatless Monday a try by sampling some of the options available in USDA cafeterias.
The suggestion that USDA employees go Meatless Monday to reduce environmental impact and the “many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat” drew swift and harsh commentary from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and related publications. Within hours of the NCBA’s statement, the USDA pulled the Greening Headquarters Update from their website and issued a retraction via Twitter.
We are naturally disappointed that the USDA does not wish to endorse Meatless Monday, particularly since cutting out meat once a week helps achieve two key recommendations in the USDA Dietary Guidelines. — reducing saturated fat intake and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Research has shown a range of health benefits of cutting back: diets high in red or processed meats are associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers, while diets rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancer and chronic disease. “Since the major sources of saturated fat in the American diet are meat and dairy products, cutting out meat one day a week is an easy way to help Americans reach both the USDA’s and the Surgeon General’s Healthy People 2020 goals for saturated fat reduction” notes Dr. Robert Lawrence, Director of the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
What’s more, Meatless Monday benefits other important segments of agriculture such as produce and grain farmers. With our growing health crisis and news of higher meat prices due to the summer drought, it’s a perfect time for people to join in and try delicious, healthy meatless meals once a week.
So, please do take the USDA’s (now retracted) advice and try the tasty meatless options in your cafeteria this week, “so you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!”