Oops! USDA "recommends" Meatless Mondays

Agriculture Department backtracks on "announcement" after complaints from NCBA.

July 30—For a short time last week, depending on one's point of view, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had either taken anunprecedented step toward embracing sustainability or taken leave of its senses. When an internal memo got posted to the USDA's website, it seemed as though the federal agency had thrown its support behind the Meatless Mondays campaign.

Within two hours of its posting, however, the memo was gone and the USDA was making apologies. USDA Press Secretary Courtney Rowe, quoting an unidentified USDA spokesperson, said, "USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. The statement found on the USDA website was posted without proper clearance and it has been removed."

The "statement" was part of the USDA Greening Headquarters Update, an internal e-newsletter. It began, "One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the 'Meatless Monday' initiative. This international effort, as the name implies, encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays." The newletter went on to list the reasons behind the initiative, closing with a note about the meatless options available at the USDA's dining room.

By mid-afternoon, the National Cattleman's Beef Association had issued a statement to news agencies excoriating the USDA, saying the recommendation calls into question USDA's commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers. "This is truly an awakening statement by USDA, which strongly indicates that USDA does not understand the efforts being made in rural America to produce food and fiber for a growing global population in a very sustainable way," said NCBA President J. D. Alexander.

USDA's Rowe responded via email to the NCBA, and later reached out to news agencies with the retraction.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources