The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has "called into question" the USDA's commitment to U.S. cattle ranchers and farmers after the agency reportedly announced that it "embraces" the Meatless Monday campaign now observed by millions across the country.
Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative developed with Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. The goal, according to the campaign's website, is to help individuals "start each week with healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free alternatives. Our goal is to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet."
Calling Meatless Mondays an "animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption," National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President J.D. Alexander said in a statement that the USDA's support of the Meatless Monday campaign, "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."
The USDA, which had said the Meatless Monday campaign is "one simple way to reduce our environmental impact while dining at our cafeteria," retracted its initial position almost immediately after the backlash from the NCBA, saying that the statement was made "without the proper clearance." A spokesperson for the USDA told the Boston Globe the department does not endorse the “Meatless Monday” initiative.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association made headlines back in 1996 when it was one of the plaintiffs that sued Oprah Winfrey and 'mad cowboy' Howard Lyman for anti-beef comments made during an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show when the risks of mad cow disease were discussed.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger