Adams said, “A recent poll found over 50 percent of Americans are aware of this campaign, up from 30 percent six months ago. More concerning is that 27 percent in that poll said the campaign has influenced their decision to eat less meat one day a week.”
“The campaign has been around for a number of years but in last year and half has picked up more steam because marketers have been promoting it more and bringing in new and different arguments to support their case,” Johnson said. “However, there is a lot of misinformation being provided to the public because the organization behind the campaign is animal-rights oriented and would like to see meatless meals seven days a week, not just Mondays.”
Johnson adds that the campaign has a two-pronged approach. At first it was just eliminating meat for so-called health reasons with animal rights agenda behind it, but now it’s being tied to environmental issues to further attack the animal ag industry. Unfortunately this, too, is based on a lot of false information, she said.
“In secondary and elementary schools it’s more of a program to add alternatives to meat, though some alternatives include macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese, so it’s different than meat, but not necessarily animal-free,” she explained. “The concern is mainly the agenda that is behind the campaign more than the concern that alternatives are being offered on the menu.”
The Animal Agriculture Alliance has been coordinating efforts to gather resources for people concerned with this campaign. “We are concerned that more school districts are promoting it to kids; kids are potentially not making right decisions regarding their protein needs,” Johnson told Adams. “They may be choosing alternatives that doesn’t mean they are necessarily healthier. If some districts opt out of offer any sort of animal protein and this may be only meal some kids get during the day that includes protein, so there are a lot of concerns.”
If a school district appears to be promoting a meatless day, that sends a signal that they are in favor or promoting it as being good, and misinformation can form around it. “From a nutritional standpoint there is nothing that supports the elimination of meat and poultry products from the diet,” Johnson stated. “Meat/animal protein is the one area that the consumers are not overeating.” Unfortunately, if schools promote this to students, students may buy in and they don’t understand the nutritional consequences if they are not including protein in the diet.
“We need farmers and ranchers to celebrate that animal protein is an important part of diet and provide information to their local schools and universities about the need for protein in the diet and making informed choices, not just buying into it because it sounds good or popular and trendy,” Johnson suggested. “I encourage all stakeholders and the public to download this information because there is need to correct the information that is being put out there.”
How you can get informed
On the Animal Agriculture Alliance Web site under Current Issues there is a Meatless Mondays tab with many resources for agricultural partners that they can download on why meat is important, meat and nutrition resource guides, talking points about Meatless Mondays they can share with school systems, and other information they can provide locally to their schools and universities. There is also information on agricultural production including animal care and the environment. These materials are all downloadable and free.