Senators in the Western Caucus today decried a new U.S. Department of Agriculture effort to discourage employees from eating meat.
On Monday, the USDA sent out a “Greening Headquarters Update” newsletter to employees, in which the USDA’s Office of Operations encourages employees to participate in “Meatless Mondays” while dining in USDA’s cafeterias.
“How will going meatless one day of the week help the environment? 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 newsletter states. “In addition there are many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat. While a vegetarian diet could have a beneficial impact on a person’s health and the environment, many people are not ready to make that commitment. Because Meatless Monday involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results.”
“Did you notice that our cafeterias have tasty meatless options? So you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!” it adds.
“Never in my life would I have expected the USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.). “USDA should be promoting agriculture and our nation’s producers – instead of discouraging people from eating meat. American farmers and ranchers deserve a Department of Agriculture that will pursue supportive policies, rather than seek their further harm.”
He and Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) fired off a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack questioning whether the USDA believes the discouragement of meat consumption in their facilities reflects the values of the department and if those values support America’s farmers and ranchers.
“This is yet another example of how out of touch this Administration is with rural America and the family farmers and ranchers who produce our food and fiber,” Barrasso said. “With friends like this, livestock producers don’t need enemies. We need a USDA that puts the priorities of American ag producers first over the agenda of extreme environmentalists at the United Nations.”
The letter to Vilsack was signed by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).
“While we appreciate the action taken to remove the newsletter from the Department website, our concern is not merely based on the USDA’s discouragement of meat consumption, but also in the manner in which this practice was encouraged,” the senators write. “Rather than cite the USDA’s own research on the contributions made by livestock producers, or cite the known health benefits of beef as part of a healthy diet, the USDA newsletter in question cites the United Nations as an authority on U.S. agriculture among other claims.”