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February 16, 2012

What's Wrong with Meatless Monday?

By Daren Williams, NCBA Communications

A recent commenter on this blog asked why farmers and ranchers were opposed to Meatless Monday. I guess I thought the answer was obvious given the very name of this anti-meat marketing effort aimed at getting people to eschew meat in favor of plant foods. But since she asked, allow me to elaborate…

Meatless Monday, the latest attack on meat eaters, may seem less salacious than a PETA protestor proselytizing on a street corner in a lettuce bikini or less threatening than the high-paid lawyers and lobbyists at HSUS working the back halls of state capitol buildings to force feed their animal equal rights agenda down our throats. But make no mistake: Meatless Monday is a sinister plot to drive farmers and ranchers out of business by convincing Americans that meat is bad for your health and bad for the planet.

By asking Americans to stop eating meat on Monday this insidious effort drives the extreme vegan agenda forward with a reasonable sounding request. “Just one day a week,” is their message, “and you are doing your part to save the planet and improve your own health.” No need to work up a sweat at the gym, go for a run or walk around the block. No need to conserve water usage in your own home (the average American household uses 400+ gallons of water per day) or reduce, reuse and recycle the 670,000 tons of trash we produce every day in the United States (84% of which could be recycled, including food scraps, paper, cardboard, cans, and bottles). All you have to do is give up your hamburger or steak one day a week.

They’re not asking us to stop wearing leather or give up our cheeseburger forever. Just don’t eat meat one day a week. No big deal, right? So what’s wrong with Meatless Monday?

For starters, the entire premise, that meat is bad for our health and bad for the environment, is just plain wrong. Contrary to what the clever marketers behind Meatless Monday (founded by Sid Lerner, the former Madison Avenue advertising exec who came up with the “Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” ads) want you to believe; today’s beef is both good for you and environmentally sustainable. That’s not my opinion, that’s according to peer reviewed science published in respected scientific journals within the past two months!

According to a study published in the January 2012 edition of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating between 4.0 and 5.4 oz. of lean beef daily as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet can help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 10 percent. The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study concluded that "beef can play a role in a cholesterol-lowering diet, despite commonly held beliefs."

Lean beef also provides more than 10 percent of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10 percent of our daily calories (based on the average 2,000 calorie per day diet). That makes beef a nutrient rich food (high in nutrients, low in calories). Other nutrient rich foods include eggs, dairy products and vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

So what about the claim that eating less meat would be good for the environment? Not surprisingly, this relatively new attack on animal agriculture is being propagated by the same old cast of characters behind those lettuce bikinis and synthetic fiber suits. Even the United Nations, which once claimed that global livestock production creates more greenhouse gasses than transportation, has recanted that statement. And never once, by the way, did they ever say that applied to American agriculture.

The fact is American farmers and ranchers do a better job of raising animals for food using fewer natural resources than any other country in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we raise 20 percent of the world’s beef with 7 percent of the world’s cattle. That means we raise more beef with less land, water, and fuel than any other country. And we’re getting better every year.
According to a recent study published in the December 2011 Journal of Animal Science, the environmental footprint of beef has shrunk 16 percent since 1977. By allowing every farmer and rancher to manage their resources to the best of their ability we are using 33 percent less land, 12 percent less water and 9 percent less fuel to raise beef than we did just 35 years ago. As our population grows and land available to raise food shrinks, we must keep finding ways to use fewer resources like land and water to produce food. That’s what American farmers and ranchers do.

Does raising animals to produce food have an environmental impact? Absolutely. So does growing fruits and vegetables. Raising and growing ALL food requires land, water, and fuel. The question we should be asking is whether the food we are producing is worth it.

Making Twinkies requires land, water and fuel. Twinkies are made in factories, individually wrapped in cellophane, packed in boxes and shipped around the country to grocery stores where they are purchased and consumed by willing consumers who want to enjoy a tasty treat from time to time. Do Twinkies provide ANY nutritional value in our diet?

For the record, I don’t have a beef with Twinkies. But if we are going to tell people what NOT to eat, what would be more responsible, Meatless Monday or Twinkieless Tuesday? Which would truly improve our health and the health of the planet?


  1. In an earlier comment YOU made, you said beef was good for you in "proper" amounts. There's nothing wrong with cutting meat out ONE day a week. According to my math, that leaves six days for meat. Am I missing something? The black helicopter mentaility that this is only a start of a bad thing is a little funny and over the top. Don't ya say?

  2. Anonymous18:58

    Brad- You have to look past the surface. That's what the article was trying to tell you. You have to look at who is behind the campaign and review their stated goals. The goals are to end meat consumption. Pretty clear. You have to walk before you run and Meatless Monday is the walk.

    1. Anonymous12:27

      Wow! I had no idea that Meatless Monday's goal was to end all meat consumption! Where did you find that information?

    2. Anonymous18:30

      Hey Brad, I'm Vegan and I would have to admit that the ultimate goal of this campaign would be to end all meat consumption. Meat is bad for your health and destroying the environment and is slavery to the for some strange reason...the meat industry doesn't want to admit that...I can't figure it out...sarcasm intended.

  3. The original Meatless Monday premise was based on a scientific paper to some extent - only problem was that the paper compared going Meatless one day per week to buying all locally-grown food. No context for all our other activities and dietary choices. The truly sad fact is that even if every one of the 313 million people in the USA went meatless every single Monday for an entire year it would cut national carbon emissions by only 0.44%. It's not a movement that can have a significant impact on climate change. More discussion here:

  4. Brad, you are right. I did say beef was good for you in proper amounts. While the Dietary Guidelines recommend 5.5 oz from the Protein Foods Group daily for the average 2,000 calorie diet, which includes, 3.7 oz daily of Meat/Poultry/Eggs, adults are consuming just 1.7 oz of beef a day. In other words, Americans are already eating beef in proper amount, well within Dietary Guidelines recommendations, so there is no reason to cut back even once a week.

    I fully support the right of American to choose to go meatless any day of the week they want to. Every American has that right. I eat meat every day, exercise, maintain an healthy weight and support the right of every American who chooses to do the same.

  5. I had no idea that most Americans ate meat every day. Where did that assumption come from? Yes - I see that you've averaged it out that way. It still doesn't mean that most of us eat that way. I guess the older generation who grew up with - and still cherish - meat and potato type meals.

    Even those of us younger generation who raise pasture fed beef don't eat meat or beef every day. And our adult children are eating less meat.

    I guess I do not see the point in designating a specific meat-free day. Cynically, we could designate the general meal for every day. Meatless Monday - Cheese & Egg Tuesday - Poultry Wednesday - Peanut Butter Thursday - Fish Fridays - Salad Saturday - etc.

    Just my thoughts as I read the article.

    1. Janet, interesting perspective. I certainly agree that there is no point in designating a specific meat-free day, unless you are trying to convince people that meat is bad, which is publicly-stated goal of Mealtess Monday.

      I grew up eating meat every day and am quite certain I have eaten meat in at least one meal every day of my life. I cannot think of a single day when I have not. I guess that makes me part of the "older generation" (something I am starting to come to terms with!).

      The numbers I cited are an average based on USDA statistics. Clearly, not everybody eats 1.7 oz. of beef every day. That's about 12 oz. per week, so maybe a 6 oz. steak one day, a 3 oz. burger another, and 3 oz. of steak on a salad a third. Or, it could be a 12 oz. ribeye once a week!

      My point is that we are not overconsuming meat protein, period. Beef, pork or poultry. So Meatless Monday is a fruitless effort.

    2. Where was that goal of Meatless Monday publicly stated, Daren? You know, the goal you claim of "convincing people that meat is bad." Could you please provide a link or source to support your assertion? Otherwise, throwing around unsubstantiated claims does a huge disservice to your credibility.

    3. Janet, the MM goal is publicly stated on the Meatless Monday website: "Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel." Am I the only person that reads that as "convincing people that meat is bad"? Seriously?!

    4. Could you possibly view the glass as half full rather than half empty? Rather than think of the goal of Meatless Mondays as convincing people that meat is bad, try to think of it as helping people to preserve their health and that of the planet. Reducing one's consumption of animals and their secretions DOES help prevent certain diseases. Reducing one's consumption of animals and their secretions DOES help to conserve the earth and its precious resources. How are these bad things? Seriously?! Please, talk to your doctor about meat. Take a look at this video to see what I mean:

      "Eating meat may cause embarrassment when you try to explain to your kids why some pets are family members but other pets are gruesomely slaughtered and served as food. Since more than a third of all raw materials and fossil fuels consumed in the United States are used in meat production, eating meat may erase your environmentalism. Producing a single hamburger patty takes enough fuel to drive twenty miles and destroys five times its weight in topsoil. Don't forget that eating meat means killing living creatures solely for our pleasure, which usually makes good-hearted normal people a little uncomfortable. We're just saying is all."

    5. Janet, thanks for revealing your true agenda. I just wish Meatless Monday would do the same.

    6. Yes, now I've revealed my "true agenda"? Oh, woe is me! (What a tired and meaningless expression--"true agenda.") As if having a true agenda in and of itself is a bad thing. (Can't you people think outside the box? Seriously?!) Everyone has an agenda, for example, mine today is to grocery shop for delicious and highly nutritious plant-based ingredients with which to make lasagne--yes it can be done quite deliciously without animal products. And, my overriding, truest of true agendas is to stop the suffering of the world's weakest, disenfranchised members.

      Now, how about revealing your "true agenda"? Or wait, let me guess. Would that be status quo license to torture and slaughter billions of animals any old way you choose, as long as it's accepted as "standard industry practice," which, of course means just about any old way? Many people are figuring out that if a farming practice is established as “accepted,” “common,” “customary,” or “normal”--no matter how inhumane or cruel--anticruelty protections are overridden. Big Ag reveals its "true agenda" whenever it takes issue with something so innocuous and harmless as encouraging people to reduce their consumption of animal flesh to 6 days a week instead of 7 for purposes of improving health of the body and of our planet. The very thought of losing one day's profit, even for the betterment of humanity, has farmers all in a rage. Unreal!

  6. This is a carefully written piece with facts. However, it's the omission of other, more relevant facts that is significant. Are farmers raising more environmentally friendly cattle for beef? Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact that raising plants for human food is FAR better for the environment than raising plants to be fed to beef for food. The truth is, if the average American were to choose between driving a Hummer v. a hybrid or going vegetarian, you'd be doing the earth a bigger favor going with the Hummer and eating a plant-based diet. Don't believe me? Google the phrase "is eating meat worse than driving an SUV". Any site that isn't paid for by this meat industry will tell you the truth.

    On to health... Does lean beef pose less of a cholesterol risk that fatty beef? Of course. But again, a fully plant-based diet poses almost no cholesterol risk whatsoever when compared to meats. Never mind the fact that eating red meat is one of the leading causes of colon cancer. (again, Google "red meat and colon cancer" for several studies)

    I do agree that a small amount of meat production can be a good thing, if done ethically. Trouble is, this blog and the lobbyists behind it aren't interested in promoting a small amount of meat consumption. They want meat on your plate every day of the week. And that is a bad thing for the environment, the animals, and the people eating the meat.

    1. Justin, thank you for acknowledging that my post was supported with facts. I think we need to look beyond a Google search to get the facts. Simply Googling the phrase "is eating meat worse than driving an SUV" is obviously going to lead to agenda-driven anti-meat activist sites, like Meatless Monday. This tired old comparison is trotted out by activist organizations like the Environmental Working Group to try to sensationalize the issue in a way that makes people feel guilty about eating meat.

      Dr. Jude Capper at Washington State University investigated this claim. Here is what she found:

      "Let’s do the math based on the EPA numbers. The EWG report focuses on the impact of red meat and dairy, so if we remove poultry and horses from the EPA’s 3.1 percent figure, we get a total red meat and dairy impact of 3.05 percent. Divide that by 7, and the impact of one meatless day per week is equal to 0.44 percent of the U.S. carbon footprint – and that’s assuming that the U.S. population of 311 million people all adopt this lifestyle change.

      0.44 percent is minuscule. It’s a tiny fraction of the impact that we could make on the national carbon footprint. But if we put it in consumer-friendly numbers, it’s like taking 5.7 million cars off the road each year, or planting 4.5 billion trees. Sounds far more compelling now doesn’t it? But how does that compare to the impact of powering the MacBook upon which I’m currently writing this post, the drive off-campus for lunch or all the other environmentally damaging actions I’ll execute before the day is out?

      We have at best a tenuous grasp on the immediate or long-term environmental consequences of the majority of our actions. Forget demonizing specific foods, or suggesting that one single action can save the planet. We need to understand and quantify how all our choices have consequences – and act accordingly."

      For more information, you can read her white paper, The Myth of Meatless Monday, here...

    2. As for your claim that "eating red meat is one of the leading causes of colon cancer" I challenge you to provide a peer-reviewed, published study that supports your claim. It does not exist. No single food has ever been found to cause cancer. What studies do show is possible correlations between certain foods and increased cancer risk. Possible correlations, not causation. Big difference in the scientific world.

      Cancer is a serious issue that impact many people, including my mother, who is a cancer survivor. If I believed eating red meat caused colon cancer why would I eat red meat every day? Seems rather silly, doesn't it?

      Throwing around unsubstantiated claims that eating red meat causes cancer does a huge disservice to the researchers working on these studies as well as those who have suffered from cancer.

    3. Please read "The China Study," by T. Colin Campbell, and you will have lots of evidence that animal protein (not just red meat) can cause cancer. It shows that a diet of more than 5% animal protein turns on cancer, and that those people whose diet is less than 5% animal protein generally do not get cancer. For a more entertaining version, the movie "Forks Over Knives" on Netflix has the same info, and not as much technical talk.

    4. See "China Study Debunked" at

  7. As a supporter of the NCBA and the MBA program, founded by the author of this post Darren Williams, I love this article. My school chose to have meatless Mondays, and I was thoroughly disappointed. Like most hair-brained ideas, it has since been disregarded, I don't really know of any of my peers who jumped on the bandwagon. It just doesn't make sense. I actually did a paper about this whole deal, and I found that one of the managers at our school quoted incorrect facts about the beef industry, which I found extremely amusing. Something published that wasn't true, about meatless Monday? Get out. Also, after peeking around on the meatless Monday site, I found that many of their "resources" further prove that this is all just smoke and mirrors. For instance, many of their claims say that red meat, such as beef, increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, when I followed the link to their "source", it clearly states that there is no real way to tell if this is true, because you can't isolate the effects of beef. There are studies out there that show beef can actually help decrease the risk of diabetes. I think people need to actually know facts before they speak, or try to incite a movement. I am ashamed of meatless Mondays, and I support MEATINGFUL Mondays. Add that to your calendar! Thanks for all you at the NCBA and MBA do, keep it up!
    -A very concerned college student and beef industry advocate

    (Follow me on twitter @the_beef_queen, and check out my blog

    1. Kelly, thanks for your post. One recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health claimedd that eating red meat may increase your risk of Type-2 diabetes by 19 percent. What the study failed to report is that being overweight increases your risk of Type-2 diabetes by 200% and being obese increases it 600%! It's not the beef. Its overall lifestyle. I eat beef everyday, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and, as a result, at 47 years old am in the best shape of my life.

    2. Kelly Davis17:49

      It was nice to meet you and Dan at the NCBA in Nashville this year. Keep it up, because we all appreciate your efforts!

    3. Apparently not EVERYBODY does, Kelly, based on the comments here :)

    4. Anonymous10:00

      you guys sound sooo paranoid...The trouble with calling Meatless Mondays a “sinister plot” is that this sort of rhetoric sounds deluded and paranoid. Think about it: in your world, if you eat meat six days out of seven you are helping to drive “the extreme vegan agenda forward.” Come on—what person who doesn’t do PR for the meat industry would honestly believe this?

    5. Actually, I never said that choosing not to eat meat one day a week or seven days a week was driving the extreme vegan agenda forward. The point I made was that the Meatless Monday campaign is driving the extreme agenda forward with a reasonable sounding request. Maybe sinister was a bad word choice. Deceptive would have been more to my point.

  8. Anonymous13:29

    As a person who raises beef and eats beef, I still don't see the problem with a meatless day of the week. Instead of supporting your ranchers, you're supporting your lettuce farms, carrot farms, bean farms, poultry farms, etc... etc... What's so bad about that? Are you really saying that you'd rather the money be in your pocket instead of sharing it? Sounds selfish to me.

    1. I AGREE TOO! Perhaps I have just not been clear. I don't see any problem with going completely meatless. Every American has that choice now. I am PRO PROTEIN CHOICE! Meatless Monday is about taking away choice from school kids.

      Anon, I spend my food dollars supporting all farmers and ranchers. I am an equal opportunity consumer.

    2. ha ha, I like that, "pro-protein choice." We have a guy in our veg potluck group who calls himself a "pro-vegan meat eater." Meaning he's not one of those people who hates vegetarians and vegans just because he eats meat.

    3. Kathleen, one of my dearest cousins is a vegetarian. Has been since 1970-something, Must have been one of the very first. At least the first I ever heard of. I promise I do not hate her or any other vegetarian.

    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    5. This comment was removed because I found it offensive and just a little bit scary.

    6. Anonymous13:31

      "and just a little bit scary" LOL..I'll admit Daren--you're growing on me....that was good...wish I saw the comment though...

  9. Anonymous22:02

    Daren where are you getting these "dietary guidelines" from ? I'm "pro protein" too, but there are plenty of non-meat sources. You say "you're worried" about the school kids?? hahaha...yeah--thats what you're worried about I'm sure......

    1. Anon, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans come from the US Department of Agriculture. You can find more information at I'm sorry you question my concern for what we are teaching schoolkids. As a parent raised in public schools and a taxpayer who helps pay for those schools, I think this is a legitimate concern.

    2. Anonymous11:20

      Daren--- the USDA is essentially mandated to promote meat and dairy. That whole "food pyramid" was their concoction as well as and was so ridiculous it has finally been amended. The ADA ( American Dietary Association) made up of nutritionists has long sanctioned a vegan/vegetarian diet meets all nutrition needs. I would encourage you to watch Forks Over Knives about the enormous benefits of a plant based diet. That said--I'm not saying everybody should do that, but the American diet clearly needs to be examined. Please be fair. Thanks.

    3. Anon, ADA does not advocate a vegan/vegetarian diet. I encourage you to double-check that statement. I have seen Forks Over Knives and am well aware of the vegetarian agenda promoted by T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn. I encourage you to watch "China Study Debunked" at

    4. Anonymous19:55

      hi Daren-
      The ADA DOES say a plant based diet meets all nutrition needs:

      LOL@ "the vegetarian agenda" The fact that you could watch that movie and not acknowledge the validity and realize there is something clearly long with a meat and dairy based diet tells me you will defend your industry regardless of any facts presented. Good luck.

    5. Anon, The ADA saying that a plant based diet meats all nutrition needs does not mean they advocate a plant-based diet. I never said a plant-based diet didn't meet all nutrition needs. I would never try to tell a vegetarian they are defensive of the plant industry. Why does my pro meat choice make me defensive?

  10. Anonymous22:19

    Hi Daren,

    As a "communicator" for big beef, you have shared your opinion and your view of the facts about Meatless Mondays and you don't like the concept. I appreciate the chance to read your see where you're coming from, what your concerns are, why MM is so offensive to you and our cattlemen and women. You see it as the beginning of something worse and, Daren, you're absolutely right. The consumption of beef is dropping and will continue to drop.

    That's because of the huge movement afoot in our country toward understanding the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet. The evidence is out, it's going mainstream and it is going to go viral, no matter how much resistance from Big Meat.

    If I had a family to support, I would jump ship and head over to the plant camp!

  11. Anon, I apologize if my post came off as anti-plant. I am not anti-plant. I eat plants every day. I am a big fan of plant foods. I come from a long line of wheat growers. I love whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. I would never tell you not to enjoy them all you want. I would never start Plantless Monday. Why? Because I believe ALL foods fit in a healthy diet, including meat. Most registered dietitians (the experts on diet and health) agree.

  12. I am a little surprised by the vitriolic reaction from some of the anonymous comments on this blog. Let me very clear. I am not anti plant foods. I do not believe any statement in my post could be interpreted as anti plant food. Every American has the freedom to choose a plant based diet any day of the week they want and I support your choice if that is what you want to do. What I do not and cannot comprehend is why anyone would want to force that choice on me. Meatless Monday attempts to force the anti-meat agenda on people by making statements about the impact of meat on our health and the enviroment that are not supported by science. That's what is wrong with Meatless Monday and that is the point in my blog. Please do not try to insuate that I am anti-plant. I am not. I am PRO PROTEIN CHOICE!

    1. Anonymous11:25

      But it IS supported by science--heart disease is still the # 1 killer in America and a big contributor to that is the high cholesterol and high trans fat diets we eat. The sole contributor? absolutely not, but clearly there is a connection. There's a bigger issue here too---our government provides enormous subsidies to the meat and dairy industries to make it "cheap". Why aren't they subsidizing more fruit and vegetable producers? the system needs fixin.

    2. Anon, do you mean sat fat or trans fat? Beef is not a source of trans fats at any significant level and there is a difference between ruminant trans fats (rTFA) and industrial trans fats (iTFA). iTFAs (hydrogenized fats like those found in margarine and snack foods) are the concern, not rTFAs. If you mean sat fat, you might be interested to know that half the fat in beef is heart healthy monunsaturated (same fat in olive oil). One-third of the remaining fat is stearic acid, a sat fat found to have a neutral effect on blood cholesterol.

    3. Anonymous-

      Please show me where you are getting your information. I am curious because you are wrong. Your statement, "...our government provides enormous subsidies to the to make it cheap," is absoulutely false. In fact, the beef industry receives 0 subsidies to make beef cheap or to even produce beef. The only sizeable subsidies if you want to call it that, is on conservation. We do receive support (a partnership) from the government to implement practices that reduce our carbon footprint. I will be more than happy to show you were to find accurate information if you are interested in the facts.

      Mike Deering

    4. Anonymous10:10

      Mike Deering--correct me if I'm wrong , but The farm bill, up for renewal in 2012, includes an agricultural subsidy portion worth up to $30 billion, $5 billion of which is what you might call handouts, direct payments to farmers...thats not a subsidy?....what about the cheap corn and soy that is fed to cows...the government doesn't subsidize that?

    5. Anonymous10:21

      Anonymous - the fact that you just used the words 'cheap' and 'corn' in the same sentence shows that you don't have too much of a grip on agricultural commodities and/or cattle feedlot inputs.

    6. Anonymous11:32

      Mike Deering asked me about my subsidy comment and I posted facts about $$$ for farm subsidies---if my facts are wrong let me know..thanks...

  13. Anon, this is a very serious issue to me personally. Both of my grandfathers died of heart disease. At age 30 I weighed 270 and had high LDL/triglycerides. I now eat beef every day, along with my favorite fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products, and at 47 years old I am in better heart health that when I was 30. At my last checkup my doctor told me to keep eating beef! His recommendation is supported by the latest science on beef and heart health, published in the January 2012 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. According to the clinical trial (the gold standard of studies on diet and health), BEEF, when included in a low sat fat heat healthy diet, actually helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and improve heart health. I am living proof.

    Subsidies are a separate subject and not my area of expertise. I do know that farm subsidies were started to ensure we could be food self sufficient in this country. Many of our fruits and vegetables are imported due to a variety of reasons, including the fact that we don't have a lot of areas that have the right growing season, soil type and water necessary to grow them. Did you know Mexico is now growing a lot of our organic produce and it is taking a huge environmental toll on the areas where they are grown? Check out this article from the New York Times.

  14. Anonymous05:24

    No matter how you 'slice' it - meat is still a dead animal. I'd like to see truth in advertising/labelling - "Dead Pig: Pork Loin", Dead Cow: "Sirloin Steak", etc. on packages of dead animals. Perhaps with an accompanying photo of the grisly slaughtering of the animal as well, much in the way that cigarette packs show diseased lungs. It seems to me that the jury is no longer out on the consumption of dead animals (stop prettying it up with fanciful "mouth watering" language; call it what it is. Don't be a "Meathead" - Go Vegan!

    1. Anon, you are right. Meat comes from animals. And yes, they are slaughtered before we eat them. Grisly? Perhaps. I've been in a slaughterhouse and seen it up close. Is it grisly? A little. But it is done as humanely as possible. First, the animal is rendered unconscious with a swift blow to the head from a bolt gun. From that point on they feel no pain. This process has been studied and verified by animal scientists and animal behavior specialists like Temple Grandin (see HBO's "Temple"). Is it pretty? No. Is it done as humanely as humanly possible? Yes. No mouth-watering language here. It is what it is.

    2. Anonymous12:12

      Practice must replace theory in this instance. Undercover videos show this is just not always true. Massive slaughterhouses process so many animals per hour that many have to be stunned several times and animals do get through the process not fully stunned and go to the next step conscious or regain consciouness prior to death. Slaughter aside, the lives of factory farmed animals are no picnic. The fact that agri-business in several states have moved to make undercover investigations into farming practices illegal to tape, produce, possess and distribute shows just how much they want the public ignorant. The meat industry needs to wake up and realize a growing percentage of the American public is insisting on knowing what they are eating and how it gets from farm to table.
      I know many people that are making a switch to meat that is truly free range, 100% grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free. They insist on seeing where and how their food is raised. They are buying from small farms and are willing to pay more, sometimes much more. They refuse to eat ammonia washed pink slime or herbivores that are fed their own kind and kept in such filthly conditions that require massive amounts of antibiotics.
      Others have made the choice to be vegetarian or vegan. They have come to see animals as other living beings not commodies. They have just as much right to share their viewpoint and 'agenda' as those in the meat industry. I know for myself I refuse to eat anything that lived and died in a place that resembles Mordor. I don't own or operate an industry nor belong to an 'agenda' having group in any part, I don't have lobbyists working for me. I have my hard earned dollars and I'm going to speak with them to bring much needed change. We are a growing number and I hope you listen to us.
      ~ Amy

    3. Amy, thanks for sharing your concerns. Clearly I'm not going to agree with you on every point but I do agree that every animals raised for food deserves to be treated with respect. That is the goal of everyone I know who raises animals for food. We are not perfect but that is the goal. We are and will cocntinue to listen to your concerns.

  15. Voice of Reason09:12

    I agree -- I want truth in advertising, too -- along with labeling the dead animals, I'd like to see labels for pesticide content and genetic modification.

    Daren, I think you are taking veganism a bit too personally. Did you also see the advent of the automobile industry as a direct attack on horse breeders and carriage drivers? People are changing and evolving, and as more people realize that animals are sentient beings with bodies remarkably similar to ours, with faces, feelings and families, and that they have the desire (and the right) to live their lives in freedom as we do, you will see a further decline in "meat" consumption. It's just the law of supply and demand, nothing more. No one wants to see you lose your livelihood. People are realizing it is possible, and often preferable, to live well without consuming the bodies of animals. I used to love beef (aka, dead cow), and ate a lot of it. Now I prefer my cows live :-) I have lost weight and have better health and more energy. I love eating my plant-based diet, and would not go back to eating meat, even if it was created in a laboratory.

    This is the "extreme vegan agenda": less death of sentient beings, less toxic environment, empathy, compassion, world peace, better health. What is on your agenda?

  16. Voice of Reason, thanks for sharing your opinion. I fully support your right to it. Freedom of choice. That's my agenda.

    1. Voice of Reason14:58

      And I concur. But do the animals get a choice?

  17. Anonymous00:22

    My wife and I welcomed 2012 as omnivores. Just 2 weeks ago, we decided to adopt a whole plant diet. And a funny thing happened. We feel better than ever. Is it in our heads? Sure. But some things are clearly the result of the diet.
    What ‘s interesting to me, though, is the curiosity that our friends and relatives exhibited. We're upper middle class mid-westerners. You'd expect most of our acquaintances to look at us like we're bat $hit crazy for giving up meat, dairy, oils and refined/processed foods. What happened? Even when we tried to be quiet about our choices, 4 of our friends have jumped on board. Full on, totally in. among the 6 of us, that's 2 democrats, 2 republicans and some probable independents. I think the whole plant (I don't say vegan) lifestyle is far more appealing than the meat & dairy industries realize. And if the lifestyle itself is appealing (rather than extreme or bizarre, as some would have you believe) then I think the speeding locomotive of healthcare costs coming down the track will knock meat and dairy consumption back 100 years before my son has children of his own.
    Keep swinging. Big tobacco held the attackers at bay for nearly 2 generations.

    1. Anon, I respect your choice and support your right to choose whatever diet works for you. Not sure why you feel compelled to throw in the "big tobacco" comment but I support your right to voice your opinion, too.

    2. Anonymous21:43

      Thanks for opening up this forum to public comment.
      I throw in 'Big Tobacco" because the meat and dairy industries have taken the same approach to defend themselves against extremely persuasive and sound evidence that people are better off without their products: Present a unified industry front and deny that their product is harmful; Blame the user of the product (all things in moderation); Inject misleading and confusing data and research into the public discussion of meat and dairy consumption; Fund lots of lobbying and PR to ensure their products are used in schools.

      The meat and dairy industry is fighting an extremely powerful insurgency. Every person who forswears meat becomes an voice against your products. Maybe only 1% or 2% of the U.S. is meat free right now. But every one of those people are bringing friends, family and children with them. They talk passionately about their choices when asked. You simple don't get that kind of passion from meat and dairy consumers.

      Regardless of your efforts, the meat and dairy industry will follow a significant long term downward trend. There will be no choice for us, as our health conditions push our country toward insolvency.

    3. Thanks for clarifying your position. Help me understand where you think the data I provided was misleading and/or confusing. Since it came from peer-reviewed scientific journals I'd be happy to provide full details.

    4. Anonymous23:19

      Right on, anon! Big change is happening. We have groups cropping up in our town sharing the good news. I, too, have friends jumping on board right and left. It's like -- what took us so long? Our bookstore put up a huge display of vegan cookbooks right as you walk into the store!

      Factory farms/farmers/lobbyists are already feeling the squeeze (started as a little pinch), ergo, cattlemen whining about meatless mondays. No longer am I trusting my government or the factory farmers to tell me what is good for me to eat -- I know instinctively now that I am awake, and food has never tasted better!

  18. I eat meat, more pork and fowl than beef, but that is a personal choice. I also participate and strongly support the Meatless Monday movement. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see those two statements as in conflict with one another. My goals in practicing Meatless Mondays are many, including some already discussed here, but one in particular has not.

    By institutionalizing the practice of eating non meat meals one day a week, I have broadened my food experiences to include plants and grains that I had not before. You know what? Many of these vegetable and grain based meals have been wonderfully delicious and satisfying. For me, the broader exposure to new foods has been rewarding. Are the meals healthier? I'm not sure, but I know that once a week, they are not less healthy. Do I do a service to the planet by going meatless once per week? Again, I'm not sure because I'm sure both camps in this argument can find experts to back their position on the topic.

    Honestly, for me, and I suspect the vast majority of others, the choice to go meatless one day a week is not part of a sinister campaign to blot out the meat industry. Nor is it a gateway diet to radical veganism. It is simply a personal choice, supported by many different individual reasons. We are not sheep, being lead blindly to a conclusion that "meat is bad".

    Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

    By the way, to those of you that you need to exist anywhere on the continuum of omnivore, carnivore, flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan or raw food(Ian), good for you! Welcome to the land of free choice.

    1. Reluctant Foodie -- I absolutely support free choice. I prefer asparagus over broccoli, whole grain wheat over white rice and beef over poultry. Food choices are a wonderful thing. We are blessed in this country to have so many!

      I don't believe you or anyone else who chooses to go meatless once a week are part of a sinister plot. I do believe that is the goal of the people who started Meatless Monday, for the reasons I outlined in my blog.

  19. Anonymous10:14

    Hang in there against all the negativity Daren. The truth is only about 2% of our population is made up of the hardcore anti-meat activists who are willing to thrash around the internet trying to discredit those involved with livestock; the remaining people are simply a group who is on average three generations off the farm with zero agricultural experience. They cannot be blamed for being confused by internet chatter and falling into the 'meat is bad' mindset because they have no way of confirming or discrediting what they hear. Fortunately, cattlemen and women across the country are getting better at showing the public exactly what we do and how we do it, and many people who gave up meat based on an internet trend are incorporating it back into their diets based on real encounters with real farmers and ranchers. Yes, each and every day there are people who see a video or read a blog and quickly jump on the vegetarian bandwagon, but I guarantee that each of those days there are also people who return to a diet including animal proteins.

    Over the past six years my family has been working on telling our story by joining community markets to sell our corn-fed beef and interact directly with the non-farm public. Some people refuse to hear us, but most very rapidly engage in conversation when they hear our side of the animal agriculture story. Unlike that 2% fringe, they are willing to listen and consider what we say in order to decide if beef should be on their dinner plate. Regular tours of our farm and feedlot have helped sway them away from the mainstream thought process and back towards reality better than any Chinese health study or youtube video ever could. I can say with certainty that there are quite a few ex-veggies out there dining on some darn nice Ribeyes tonight.

    As a proud cattleman who believes in the necessity and the integrity of the American beef industry, I thank you Daren for sticking up for us through the hostility represented above. My family is with you 100%.

    1. Anonymous11:42

      do the tours of the feedlots include visits of the cows standing in their own excrement? mmmmmmm beef :)

    2. Anonymous21:50

      "do the tours of the feedlots include visits of the cows standing in their own excrement?"

      You bet. Like I said, people actually come here and see everything unedited through their own eyes and make their own decisions based on their experience. No, the cattle do not each have their own personal restroom (and they would not use it if such a thing were provided). Yes, that steer is going to poop wherever it is and whenever it feels like it, regardless of if you are watching or not. Modesty is not their strong point. Yes, it is probably going to step in the pile shortly after it hits the ground. And yes, manure does stink, believe it or not.

      Visitors also get to see how we clean the pens to keep the animals comfortable and stress free, and how we apply the nutrient rich manure to our fields in accordance with a manure management plan to maintain soil fertility without overloading it. I have yet to meet someone who is offended by the process once they have seen it. And I guarantee you we are not the only cattle operation in the US who utilize such practices. Nearly all of them do.

      Finally, being grossed out by beef because a steer was in manure is like being grossed out by root and tuber crops because they grew in soil that, in some settings, was fertilized with manure. Mmmmmmmm carrots?

    3. Anonymous21:55

      "and many people who gave up meat based on an internet trend are incorporating it back into their diets based on real encounters with real farmers and ranchers.".
      If you're basing this on personal encounters, I'd add that conversions to a meat and dairy free diet don't require a visit to a farm or ranch - only an encounter with a meat and dairy free consumer - a much 'lower threshold' of conversion.

      "Unlike that 2% fringe, " I think you'll be surprised how quickly that number increases dramatically - and by free choice.

    4. Anonymous23:22

      I will come and tour your slaughterhouse if I can make a surprise visit with my video camera and have access to the entire operation. Sign me up! If you're going to "get ready" for me, I don't need your dog and pony show.

  20. Feedlot tours include every aspect of the feedlot, including how manure is captured, treated and reapplied to land as organic fertilizer to grow crops to feed to cattle.

  21. Joel Kerr15:51

    What an outdated and ill informed piece of trash this is. I grew up on a farm; many generations of my family were hard working farmers. They respected their animals and treated them well; it was an unfortunate time for my granparents when they killed an animal for food or sent others off to the slaughterhouse. Were they wrong? Not necessarily; it would have been much harder to get all the nutrients you needed many years ago. It's not anymore. The outdated and bargaric practice of killing animals for food slowly becoming part of our past as many great alternatives become available. Humans only consume about 2% of all the available edible foods on this planet. That seems like a pretty narrow choice to me. My diet used to consist of meat as the centerpiece of every meal; then a funny thing happened. I got an education. I started realizing that the way I was brought up wasn't the only way...history, custom, tradition, etc... that was no reason to keep doing something that is morally objectionable. The only reason it's not morally objectionable by more people is because they grew up with it. Explain the situation to any 8 year old and they would likely tell you we shouldn't be doing it. I also completely disagree (and the science backs me up) that humans need meat every day, or even at all. Are you really going to tell us that a burger is better for you than a bell pepper stuffed with quinoa, onions and other veggies? Do you seriously believe that??? Even 95% of people who eat meat would say it's BETTER to eat more veggies and less meat, but most would just say they prefer meat. I can respect that choice. What I don't respect, is denying the facts and making ridiculous ascertions that we NEED meat, or that it is somehow not harmful to our bodies and our planet, and that the choice to NOT kill is somehow morally equal. Here is a thought experiment for you Daren... This is not a trick or a game, just a real way to look at morality. If you were driving on the road and a dog ran out in front of you, would you swerve or slow down (assuming you would not swerve into another car or endanger your own health)? I know the answer, it's "Yes". Now, that very answer shows that there is SOME value to an animal life; that in SOME way, by making the choice to let the dog live it is a better choice than killing it. Since we have established that it is better to let an animal live, then let's apply that rule to your kitchen table. The choice to swerve is put in front of you three times a day. You can eat meat and kill the animal, or you can easily avoid the animal and eat a plant based meal that is just as tasty and MORE healthy; so there is no harm to you to "swerve your car" and let the animal live. Why is it different in one situation than the other. I'll tell you... there is usually one answer. It is because you set aside your moral viewpoint that killing is bad because your stomach and/or taste buds desire a certain food. I call it selfishness. With you, there is a second answer... it's because your pockets are being lined by the meat industry to post things like this rubbish and lie to everyone, hoping to save some of their industry that will eventually be in serious decline (at least in the developed world). Now THAT is an agenda! PLEASE! You're not fooling anyone.

    1. Anonymous23:26

      Right on, Joel. You extreme vegan you!

  22. Thanks to for linking to my blog post and inviting so many reasonable and balanced viewpoints to the discussion. If there was any doubt remaining about the premise of my post, that Meatless Monday promotes an "extreme vegan agenda," I think you have removed that doubt.

    1. Anonymous20:54

      Yes, dialogue from vegans is always part of an extreme agenda, whereas the National Cattleman's Beef Association just wants you to eat beef because they care ever so much about your health, not because that's how they make their money.

  23. Anonymous07:45

    I actually think this conversation does have reasonable and balanced viewpoints and thank you to daren for hosting. I do however hate words like "extreme" or phrases like "on the fringes" those are terms that were used to criticize people against slavery, people for womens rights, people for gay rights, etc Heck--10 years ago i heard that term used to describe people who recycled

  24. Thanks, anon. I think you make a fair point about my use of the word "extreme." I have been recylcing for at least 15 years so I guess I am an extreme recycler!

    As with all words, context is important. When I refer to the "extreme vegan agenda" in the context of Meatless Monday I am talking about people who insist on force-feeding their personal food choice preferences down the throats of everyone else. To me, this is going to "going to great or exaggerated lengths" (Merriam-Webster definition of EXTREME 1 b:).

    But your point is well-taken. My goal was to initiate a reasonable conversation about Meatless Monday while expressing my personal opinion. Expressing an opinion natrually involves "choosing sides." I have many close personal friends and family members who choose to abstain from eating meat for a variety of reasons. I have never attacked their integrity or judged them based on their choice and none of them have attacked me personally or made judgments about me based on my choice to eat meat, as some commenters on this blog have. That, to me, is extreme behavior.

  25. Daren, your last post inspired me to dedicate my most recent blog post to you. Enjoy!

  26. Reluctant, thanks for sharing your vegetarian Shepherd's Pie recipe and for the shout out to cattlemen! I love that your blog offers Meatless Monday recipes without passing judgment on meat eaters and that you also write about "beer and food in general." Now that is common ground we can build on!

  27. Anonymous22:10

    I wonder if anyone commenting on the 'barbaric' nature of slaughter for human consumption has ever seen an animal die of natural causes... predators, sickness, or a bolt gun? Line me up for a bolt to the head!

  28. Bolt guns don't kill them, then just sometimes knock them senseless so they can be bled.

    No one here is right, and no one here is wrong. People who sell meat are going to want more people to eat it so they can make more money, and people who don't eat it want more people to not eat it and follow their belief system. Both have good truths, both have horrible flaws. Both are prejudiced, and both think they are right in what they do.

    Really people. Believe what you want to believe, make your own choices, do your own reading, see what speaks to you, regardless of what the Big Ag lobbyists and the vegan hippies tell you. Have your own mind, and do what you want. If you want to be veg, be veg, if you want to eat 12 oz steaks everyday, then do that.

    Life is short, food is good. So just enjoy it.

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