Editor's note: USDA has withdrawn the document alluded to by NCBA in its release below, claiming that the item had not undergone proper approval. The Meatless Monday endorsement was part of a "Greening Headquarters Update" provided to USDA employees that was dated July 23. 

Following a whirlwind of afternoon activity on social media generated by an internal USDA newsletter advocating support for Meatless Monday, USDA disavowed on Wednesday afternoon, claiming that the item had not undergone proper approval. It was part of a "Greening Headquarters Update" provided to USDA employees.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President J.D. Alexander earlier in the day had criticized USDA’s Meatless Monday stance, saying it called into question USDA’s commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers. In the internal USDA newsletter dated July 23, USDA said: “one simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeteria is to participate in the Meatless Monday initiative,” a program that Alexander characterizes as an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption.

Courtney Rowe, press secretary, USDA Office of Communications, attributed the following message to an unnamed USDA spokesperson: “USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. The statement found on the USDA website was posted without proper clearance and it has been removed.”

The item on Meatless Monday was part of a “Greening Headquarters Update” that provided information on efforts within USDA in waste minimization and recycling, energy, food service and green buildings.  

Earlier on Wednesday, Alexander, a farmer-feeder from Pilger, NE, said in an NCBA release that "USDA's recent announcement that the agency embraces the Meatless Monday concept calls into question USDA’s commitment to U.S. farmers and ranchers. USDA stated 'one simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeteria is to participate in the Meatless Monday initiative,'" which Alexander said is an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption.

“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,” Alexander said. “USDA was created to provide a platform to promote and sustain rural America in order to feed the world. This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet.”

Alexander criticized the USDA position for specifically calling out beef and dairy production as harmful to the environment, while citing health concerns related to the consumption of meat. These concerns are not at all based in fact, according to Alexander, but simply spout statistics and rhetoric generated by anti-animal agriculture organizations. The fact, he adds, is that the consumption of beef is not only healthy, but the carbon footprint of the production of beef has dramatically decreased as a result of innovative environmental stewardship implemented by America’s farm and ranch families throughout the country.

“Today’s cattlemen are significantly more environmentally sustainable then they were 30 years ago. A study by Washington State University found that today’s farmers and ranchers raise 13% more beef from 13% fewer cattle. When compared with beef production in 1977, each pound of beef produced today produces 18% less carbon emissions; takes 30% less land; and requires 14% less water,” said Alexander. “When it comes to health, beef has an amazing story to tell. Beef is a naturally nutrient-rich food, helping you get more nutrition from the calories you take in.”

Later in the day, after USDA had withdrawn support for Meatless Monday claiming that the its publication had been unauthorized, NCBA released this statement:

NCBA Statement Regarding USDA’s Correction Concerning The Meatless Monday Movement

Subsequent to a news release by NCBA condemning a statement by USDA supporting the “Meatless Monday” campaign, USDA publicly stated it does not support the extremist “Meatless Monday” campaign and stated that the statement was posted on its website without the “proper clearance.” NCBA President J.D. Alexander issued the following statement regarding this most recent USDA action.

“We appreciate USDA’s swift action in pulling this disparaging statement off its website. USDA publicly stated today that it does not support this campaign. We appreciate USDA making this right. The agency is important to all cattlemen and women, especially as we face unprecedented challenges, including drought and animal rights extremist groups spreading fiction to consumers who need to know the importance of beef in a healthy diet.

“USDA did right by scrapping this statement and acknowledging the important role of America’s farm and ranch families in providing food for the world. USDA denouncing support of the Meatless Monday campaign is an important step in correcting misinformation about the safety and sustainability of U.S. beef production. 

Read more about this issue at the BEEF magazine Web site.