Beef Industry Having a Cow over Potential USDA Recommendations

Beef industry, beef, USDA, National Cattlemens Beef Association, my plate, food pyramid, big government, Leon Kaye, lobbying
The USDA may soon recommend eating less red meat in a roundabout way

Americans’ consumption of beef has been declining at a steady rate since the 1970s, but the beef industry is still a powerful lobbying force in this country. So watch for an onslaught of propaganda if a U.S. Department of Agriculture panel makes new recommendations for dietary guidelines in the near future. In a move that will bring screams of nanny state-ism, socialism and “Blame Obama,” the Associated Press has reported this advisory panel is close to recommending a diet that is both higher in plant foods and reduces its overall environmental impact.

Clearly that suggestion is a shot at the beef industry, which at a global scale has a massive effect on land use and carbon emissions. True, the industry is making a nudge towards becoming more sustainable, but big beef’s impact on water, land and air is hard to ignore. Plus considering Americans’ generation-long struggle with obesity, a diet heavy on produce, whole grains, nuts and other plant-based products is not a bad idea. So that “My Plate” icon, which replaced that disastrous “food pyramid” suggesting we heap on the carbohydrates at meal times, could soon have less room for meat.

Naturally, the beef industry is not having it.

Take this statement from a doctor’s statement issued from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:

“Despite a large body of strong and consistent evidence supporting lean beef’s role in healthy diets, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee appears to be out of touch with today’s lean meat supply in the retail counter and the 30+ years of nutrition advice showcasing benefits of lean beef. I am deeply disappointed that the Committee missed this opportunity to positively influence the American diet by blatantly disregarding sound science and removing lean beef from a healthful dietary pattern.”

Of course, the U.S. beef industry has long been a beneficiary of government largess with its long history of receiving federal subsidies. Most of that largess is going to four large conglomerates while smaller independent ranchers are going bankrupt. So while the beef industry cries foul (which by the way, Americans have turned to more fowl in recent years, one reason why red meat consumption is falling), it has long been a fan of “big government” . . . unless that same government suggests eating a little less of that subsidized meat, which would be a good idea for most of us in the long run.

So watch for the political fireworks to continue later this year when the USDA makes its quinquennial dietary recommendations. This same National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which only exists because of the federal funds received that keeps it afloat, still carries plenty of clout on Capitol Hill. A USDA recommendation to suggest “Meatless Mondays” was torpedoed a few years back, with the suggestion that the government agency only exists to protect the meat industry, not make suggestions for the health of U.S. citizens. One cannot blame any industry for making public relations campaigns and political chess moves to protect its business. But when this is done on the public dime, the bellyaching at the very least is certainly head scratching.

Based in California, Leon Kaye has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. He shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com.

Image credit: FoodSafety.gov

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

2 responses

  1. The only sustainable agriculture practice without extra energy inputs is beef cattle production. Beef Cattle in a properly managed range Environment
    sequester carbon, build soil and produce more protein and energy on less inputs than any other farming enterprise! Red Meat is also the only food that can totally sustain life, you can live on meat without anything else. The Government has declared war on animal agriculture at the expense of the American People. Read Good Carbs Bad Carbs by Gary Taubes.

    1. Humans cannot live on red meat alone. We need vitamin C. Animal agricultural is the number one contributor to climate change and environmental degradation. Since we no longer need to eat animals to live we should try to stop eating them. If we can live happy and healthy without harming others, why wouldn’t we?

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