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"Beltway Beef" serves as a sounding board for the U.S. beef industry for decisions being made in Washington, D.C., that directly impact the cattle business. Posts on "Beltway Beef" are produced by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association staff and invited guests.

What's Wrong with Meatless Monday?

Feb 17, 2012

 

By Daren Williams, NCBA Communications

A recent commenter on this blog asked why farmers and ranchers were opposed to Meatless Monday. I guess I thought the answer was obvious given the very name of this anti-meat marketing effort aimed at getting people to eschew meat in favor of plant foods. But since she asked, allow me to elaborate…

Meatless Monday, the latest attack on meat eaters, may seem less salacious than a PETA protestor proselytizing on a street corner in a lettuce bikini or less threatening than the high-paid lawyers and lobbyists at HSUS working the back halls of state capitol buildings to force feed their animal equal rights agenda down our throats. But make no mistake: Meatless Monday is a sinister plot to drive farmers and ranchers out of business by convincing Americans that meat is bad for your health and bad for the planet.

By asking Americans to stop eating meat on Monday this insidious effort drives the extreme vegan agenda forward with a reasonable sounding request. "Just one day a week," is their message, "and you are doing your part to save the planet and improve your own health." No need to work up a sweat at the gym, go for a run or walk around the block. No need to conserve water usage in your own home (the average American household uses 400+ gallons of water per day) or reduce, reuse and recycle the 670,000 tons of trash we produce every day in the United States (84% of which could be recycled, including food scraps, paper, cardboard, cans, and bottles). All you have to do is give up your hamburger or steak one day a week.

They’re not asking us to stop wearing leather or give up our cheeseburger forever. Just don’t eat meat one day a week. No big deal, right? So what’s wrong with Meatless Monday?

For starters, the entire premise, that meat is bad for our health and bad for the environment, is just plain wrong. Contrary to what the clever marketers behind Meatless Monday (founded by Sid Lerner, the former Madison Avenue advertising exec who came up with the "Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin" ads) want you to believe; today’s beef is both good for you and environmentally sustainable. That’s not my opinion, that’s according to peer reviewed science published in respected scientific journals within the past two months!

According to a study published in the January 2012 edition of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating between 4.0 and 5.4 oz. of lean beef daily as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet can help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 10 percent. The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study concluded that "beef can play a role in a cholesterol-lowering diet, despite commonly held beliefs."

Lean beef also provides more than 10 percent of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10 percent of our daily calories (based on the average 2,000 calorie per day diet). That makes beef a nutrient rich food (high in nutrients, low in calories). Other nutrient rich foods include eggs, dairy products and vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

So what about the claim that eating less meat would be good for the environment? Not surprisingly, this relatively new attack on animal agriculture is being propagated by the same old cast of characters behind those lettuce bikinis and synthetic fiber suits. Even the United Nations, which once claimed that global livestock production creates more greenhouse gasses than transportation, has recanted that statement. And never once, by the way, did they ever say that applied to American agriculture.

The fact is American farmers and ranchers do a better job of raising animals for food using fewer natural resources than any other country in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we raise 20 percent of the world’s beef with 7 percent of the world’s cattle. That means we raise more beef with less land, water, and fuel than any other country. And we’re getting better every year.

According to a recent study published in the December 2011 Journal of Animal Science, the environmental footprint of beef has shrunk 16 percent since 1977. By allowing every farmer and rancher to manage their resources to the best of their ability we are using 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water and 9 percent less fuel to raise beef than we did just 35 years ago. As our population grows and land available to raise food shrinks, we must keep finding ways to use fewer resources like land and water to produce food. That’s what American farmers and ranchers do.

Does raising animals to produce food have an environmental impact? Absolutely. So does growing fruits and vegetables. Raising and growing ALL food requires land, water, and fuel. The question we should be asking is whether the food we are producing is worth it.

Making Twinkies requires land, water and fuel. Twinkies are made in factories, individually wrapped in cellophane, packed in boxes and shipped around the country to grocery stores where they are purchased and consumed by willing consumers who want to enjoy a tasty treat from time to time. Do Twinkies provide ANY nutritional value in our diet?

For the record, I don’t have a beef with Twinkies. But if we are going to tell people what NOT to eat, what would be more responsible, Meatless Monday or Twinkieless Tuesday? Which would truly improve our health and the health of the planet?

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