Mark Bittman, The New York Times’ vegetarian-in-chief and a reputed ex-farm boy, kicked over another of his sun-baked cow patties when he attacked the USDA for reversing its Meatless Monday half-stance.
For those few who weren’t paying attention, USDA published a newsletter for its employees suggesting they reduce their environmental impact by participating in ‘Meatless Mondays,’ a vegetarian-driven program that’s been gaining some traction among a few urban foodies. Out here in what those coastal-types call flyover or cow country, the idea didn’t go over so well.
The newsletter noted that the “production of meat (especially beef) plays a role in climate change, wastes water, and requires disproportionate amounts of fertilizers, pesticides and fossil fuels.”
There also was a suggestion that eating too much beef might make you sick.
Now isn’t that enough for any self respecting cattleman to man the ramparts? All of those points are tenuous at best - except for the eating too much part. Eating too much of anything might make you sick. Eating too much of everything is probably the major cause of our ‘growing’ national weight problem.
Of course, when folks at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association caught wind of the story they reacted much like city folk do when they move out into the countryside and buy a house next to a feedyard. They wrinkled up their noses and wondered where the hell that stench was coming from.
J.D. Alexander, NCBA’s Daniel Boone-style president, picked up his trusty rifle and did a ready-aim-fire thing when he sent this little bullet across the federal bow: “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. 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.”
The USDA quickly backed down. Recanted. Removed the offending item from their files.
An embittered Bittman doubled down, writing about “an amusing footnote in the annals of food progress, and further evidence of government cowardice.”
Hopping up and down a bit more – I won’t say he was hopping mad because I didn’t actually see him dance around his desk – he wrote, “The Department of Agriculture, however, has multiple missions. One is ‘to keep America’s farmers and ranchers in business.’ Sadly, although the statement doesn’t say which farmers and ranchers, in practice this has meant those who produce commodity crops: wheat, rice, cotton, corn and soybeans, and the animals and junk food whose production relies on the last two. The second is ‘to end hunger and improve health in the United States.’ Last week, the U.S.D.A. betrayed its mission to improve health, acting in a cowardly fashion. For that it should be taken to task.”