U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called the leader of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to assure livestock producers the federal agency will not be promoting something called “Meatless Mondays.”
Colin Woodall of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says the episode started Wednesday.
“It definitely caught us by surprise,” Woodall says. “What we found out is there was an internal employee newsletter that was actually posted publicly on the USDA website that did talk about ‘Meatless Mondays’ and promoted it. Unfortunately, ‘Meatless Monday’ is an activist campaign against cattle producers and all livestock producers, so we were pretty shocked to see the one department that’s out there supposedly representing us actually being against us.”
The USDA newsletter suggested employees could avoid eating meat on Mondays as “one simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias.”
Nebraska’s cattle industry is worth $5-billion dollars a year to the state’s economy. The Husker State ranked first in the nation last year in commercial red meat production, with more than seven-billion pounds produced.
“Thankfully, the secretary stepped up, provided a lot of leadership and shut down that at entire proposal,” Woodall says, “so we’re very thankful that this ended up in a good light.” But that “shut down” didn’t happened before the proposal stirred up a tempest on Twitter.
Woodall, who is the vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says Vilsack told the group the “Meatless Mondays” blurb in an employee newsletter was posted by one person, without proper clearance.
“Secretary Vilsack called our president, J.D. Alexander, and talked to him about the situation. He made it very clear that that was posted without the proper approvals, which we were very thankful to hear that,” Woodall says. “But again, because of his leadership in stepping in, he was able to pull that down and really kind of reestablish the faith we have in USDA being kind of a partner and protector of agriculture.”
Woodall says his organization has been vigilant in checking the backgrounds of people appointed to key positions within the U-S-D-A, to ensure no one with an agenda against eating meat is in a position to “come after” livestock producers.
“Things like ‘Meatless Mondays’, the Humane Society of the United States — a lot of these extremist activist groups that are against livestock producers and cattle producers are becoming more mainstream and viewed as being mainstream,” Woodall says. “And when you have a population that’s more and more and further, further removed from where their food comes from, it’s easy for them to get a hold of folks and give them bad information and convince them otherwise, so that’s why we have to stay vigilant and know where these proposals are popping up and do everything we can do to shut it down.”
Nebraska U.S. Senator Mike Johanns says there’s one appropriate way to celebrate Vilsack’s decision to denounce the idea.
“I would love to invite the Secretary of Agriculture to join me on Monday, someday, and we’ll go out and enjoy a good steak together,” Johanns says. “I think that would be good for both of us.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted: “Shame on U-S-D-A” and vowed to eat more meat on Mondays to “compensate for stupid U-S-D-A recommendations.”
Iowa Congressman Steve King called “Meatless Mondays” in the U-S-D-A cafeterias “Heresy!” King also vowed he would eat a “double rib-eye” on Mondays.