Farm Beat

Farm Beat: Meatless Monday hubbub erupts

jholland@modbee.comOctober 18, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textJohn Holland
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Agriculture, Turlock; local news editor on Sundays
    Bio: John Holland has been a reporter at The Bee for 12 years. He has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously worked at the Union Democrat in Sonora and the Visalia Times-Delta.
    Recent stories written by John
    Email: jholland@modbee.com

A food fight of sorts has broken out between people who pitch meat and people who want to eat less of it.

Meatless Monday, an international campaign that urges consumers to cut down on animal products, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Organizers said the idea is spreading to restaurants, school cafeterias and other places as people realize the risk to the environment and human health from producing and consuming meat.

“If we do it one plate at a time, one meal, one day, we are ratcheting down the impact on our environment,” said Ed Reyes, a city councilman in Los Angeles, on the Meatless Monday website.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance isn’t buying it. This meat industry group just released a survey claiming that many of the Meatless Monday participants have dropped out.

“The Meatless Monday campaign tries to promote a reduction in meat, milk and egg consumption as trendy, but clearly it hasn’t taken off as strongly as they’d hoped,” alliance President and CEO Kay Johnson Smith said in a news release.

The alliance also claims that Meatless Monday has led to food waste, as people rejected meat-free meals, and to concern among parents about proper nutrition for their families.

I am not going to get too deep into the claims from either side. You can see for yourself at http://www.meatlessmonday.com and www.animalagalliance.org (the former even tells you how to cook “breakfast radishes,” for the truly devoted vegetarian).

This debate is of interest around here, for two reasons: We produce a lot of poultry, beef and other livestock products in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, the source of tens of thousands of jobs. And we have a growing concern about our own diets, which should also include a lot of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

If a Monday without meat helps you balance your diet over a week, go for it. If you feel that every dinner needs some kind of meat, you can at least make sure that half your plate is fruits or vegetables.

That half-plate message is part of the dietary guidelines adopted by the USDA a few years back. The other half is split between grains, preferably whole, and meat and other protein, preferably lean.

It’s a handy way for parents and kids to talk about good eating, since the plates are right in front of them. You can learn more at www.choosemyplate.gov.

Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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