USDA discourages its employees from eating beef
Encourages vegetarian diet; says beef and dairy production and consumption hurts environment and human health
by Senate Western Caucus media release
July 27, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC— Today (Thursday, July 26), Senate Western Caucus Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Members wrote U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to discourage employees from eating meat.
On July 23, 2012, 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. The newsletter goes on to criticize meat consumption by citing the United Nations and claiming that the "production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well) has a large environmental impact" and also "wastes resources."
In their letter, the Senators point out the newsletter raises serious concerns about USDA priorities. They specifically question 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.
"Never in my life would I have expected the USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers. 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."
- U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senate Western Caucus Subcommittee on Agriculture Chairman
"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. 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."
- U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Western Caucus Chairman
In addition to Barrasso and Moran, the letter is signed by Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Mike Lee (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and John Thune (R-SD).
Full Text of the letter to Secretary Vilsack:
July 26, 2012
The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
As members of the Senate Western Caucus, we are writing to seek clarification on the initiatives promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On July 23rd, the USDA’s Headquarters Sustainable Operations office released a newsletter titled Greening Headquarters Update, in which USDA employees were discouraged from eating meat in USDA cafeterias as a part of the larger "Meatless Mondays" movement. The newsletter encourages employees to "help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal." This newsletter raises serious concerns about USDA priorities. This type of thinking by the Department would be cause for concern under any circumstance, but undermining U.S. livestock producers during a period of extreme drought in much of the U.S. is particularly troubling.
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. 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. On page three, the newsletter states, "According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources." The newsletter then questions beef production and consumption by stating "beef production requires a lot of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides. In addition there are many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat." This hardly sounds like a USDA that supports U.S. farmers and ranchers, but rather an anti-agriculture environmental group pushing their ideological agenda.
With half the continental United States experiencing severe drought conditions, here we see the USDA making claims that are damaging to the very industry hit hardest by the lack of rain. Therefore, we respectfully request that you clarify whether the USDA believes the discouragement of meat consumption in your facilities reflects the values of the Department and if those values display the proper support for farmers and ranchers during this difficult time.
On behalf of livestock and agricultural producers in our states, we look forward to your response.