The USDA and Meatless Monday

Yesterday, while the Verizon towers were down in Siskiyou County, a newsletter from within the USDA, Greening Headquarters Update, was released and had a suggestion to implement the Meatless Monday Initiative within the agency. There was a quick uprising among many in the agricultural community, within the social media world. By 1:07 in the afternoon, the USDA retracted the statement in the newsletter as released in The New York Times. Now, most folks would think “Excellent, we accomplished our objective,” and move on. However, this is not the case with some, as I continue to see several rant on and now I understand several industry organizations are considering a ‘unified response’ to the matter…yes…after it has been retracted and the USDA’s position clarified.

To those who are still ‘worked up’ over this, I respectfully ask you to stop for a minute and take a deep breath. Allow the emotions to settle down and let’s take an objective look at what further actions, if any should be taken.

First, I am a beef producer and admittedly was not a big fan of the Meatless Monday Initiative. However, after taking some time to look at things objectively, I completely support the idea of encouraging folks to eat more fruits and vegetables, most do not eat enough. We should all be supportive of people eating better balanced meals that include all the food groups.

Second, let’s take a look in the mirror. What does it look like to our customers when agriculture is constantly ‘on the fight,’ ‘whining,’ and complaining on a daily basis? Folks, certainly we face challenges, but think about all we have to be thankful for. We should spend some more time showing gratitude for positives.

Third, I agree with a dear and respected friend who said, “I just don’t think people in Ag stop to think for a minute how bad they look every time I see the hunk of meat Monday’s, etc. it’s just as adversarial to me as the anti-meat campaigns.” We should be celebrating that people are now posting and sharing recipes of all kinds through a plethora of blogs and social media platforms. What could be better than more people taking the time to return to the kitchen and actual start cooking again? Think about it. If they start cooking vegetable dishes, they will most certainly expand to include meat. This is a positive, not a negative, in my humble opinion.

Fourth, to those considering continuing to beat the proverbial ‘dead horse,’ I offer the following suggestion. Be gracious to the USDA for retracting the statement and clarify their position. Recognize that the USDA does not just represent the 2% of the country that produces food, but also 100% of the customers. Politely share the current information that refutes the UN study and close with a smile and a thank you.

In my humble opinion, this continued negativity, does not promote healthy relationships with customers and will only serve to hinder the efforts of the USFRA and other organizations that are working so diligently and sincerely to encourage dialogue. Celebrate. Be thankful. Be Happy. Stay positive.

** After receiving a number of messages from those in the ‘Hunk of Meat Monday’ crowd, I want to be clear about a couple of things. First, I support your endeavor and believe it has been very successful and informative. Second, hindsight is always 20/20, consider this….what if  ‘Hunk of Meat Monday’ had been ‘Satisfying Steak Saturday,’ or ‘Fabulous Meat Friday.’ Rather than coming across to some as being ‘combative’ or ‘un-supportive’ of the idea of eating more fruits and vegetables, it may have been even more successful, promoting higher quality protein later in the week. What if ‘Hunk of Meat’ Monday had been first and ‘Meatless Monday’ had been launched after? Would we have considered that to be combative? Finally, while the premise behind ‘Meatless Monday’ in regards to health and the environment is ‘off base,’ in my humble opinion, the objective of getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables and think balance in diets is one that I do support. Please, realize that I am not trying to promote any single way of doing things…merely offering suggestions to think about and perhaps help shape a more positive effort on another issue in the future. Keep up the great work!

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  1. July 26, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    Jeff, that’s for your sensible and to the point response. I’m with you on this 100%. You said so well what I was thinking. The reactionary response yesterday was not conducive to building strong customer relationships at all. It only made us look like the finger-pointing, whining kid on the playground. Instead of reacting to issues like this we must strive to be more open-minded and less tribal in our thinking. Thanks for this.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:34 AM

      Thank you Jesse, appreciate the comments. I think the initial response was essentially well timed and appropriate. However, as Kelly points out in her comment, once the retraction was made, the continuing barrage was unnecessary, in my opinion. Certainly, there are a multitude of ways to accomplish different objectives, but once the objective is achieved, taking the ‘high road’ can often yield additional benefits.

  2. July 26, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Thank you for sharing, Jeff. You hit the nail on the head for me, at least. All too often, people try to paint an issue in black or white when really there are about a million shades of gray in between. This USDA and Meatless Monday uproar is no different; not only is there the matter of how many different people are or aren’t to blame, but there’s also the matter that they retracted the statement and are willing to work with ag to maintain the proper relationships. We can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, as my friend Melissa said this morning in a private conversation.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:34 AM

      Thank you Kelly :-)

  3. July 26, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    Jeff, This is a great piece. I initially jumped on the anger bandwagon as well. I agree with you that we have to support the view of others to in turn gain their support. I love meat of all kinds weather it be pork, chicken or beef. I also love eating fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn etc. Thank you for you blog and reminding me to think before I speak.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:36 AM

      Thank you Ted. Diversity in what we consume is very important….so is balance. Appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.

  4. ted8910
    July 26, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    Thank your for this piece Jeff. I initially jumped on the anger bandwagon without thoroughly thinking it through. I love meat of all kinds, pork, chicken and beef. I also love eating fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and sweetcorn. Thank you for reminding me to think before I speak. I believe the USDA has a tough job in doing what it right for everyone and they do a great job providing that service.

  5. Robin Rastani
    July 26, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Nicely state, Jeff! Thank you for taking the time to share your insight with us.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:36 AM

      Thank you Robin :-)

  6. July 26, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    If you hit the nail too much after it has been sunk you leave an indention in the wood.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:37 AM

      Then it’s time for the putty and sandpaper to bring back a nice a finish.

  7. July 26, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Jeff, this was a really well-written post. Thank you for keeping a level head and stepping outside the box to see the whole picture. I always enjoy your blog, and I particularly enjoyed reading today!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:39 AM

      Thank you Brooke. Just trying to look at situations differently than we as an industry have in the past. The ideas may be off base, but if they help folks think about and try different approaches in the future, perhaps we can have more favorable results.

  8. July 26, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    Jeff,
    Don’t disagree on this specific point and would be willing to “let it be”, but Vilsack has shown his contempt for and absolute failure to either support or even understand AGRICULTURE so many times I have lost count. It is not just beef producers he has let down – we are also or have been chicken producers and hog farmers and row croppers. HE FIGHTS US ALL AT EVERY TURN. He should resign immediately. The entire culture he has created at USDA is a failure for AG – All of us!

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:44 AM

      While I can understand some of your frustration, I also know of many folks who are pleased with the Secretaries efforts. Obviously, the positions change with each new administration. Our challenge as an industry is to try and find paths that lead to conversations and understanding, that will result in a positive outcome for all of agriculture, not favor one facet over another. I appreciate your taking the time to comment and look forward to more in the future.

  9. July 26, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    very well said and I agree. Thanks for reminding us all.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:44 AM

      Thank you Diane.

  10. July 26, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    Hey Jeff: A very reasoned approach. Well said.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:45 AM

      Thank you very much Mark. Will we be seeing each other in NM? Look forward to an opportunity to catch up. It has been too long :-)

  11. July 30, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Thank you so much for your reasoned thoughts on this. I hope everyone advocating either “meaty” or “meatless” days reads this and remembers that a balanced diet as well as a balanced tone is best for everyone. The science supports a variety of healthy diets but above all we all need to be eating more veggies.

    • commonsenseagriculture
      July 31, 2012 at 6:46 AM

      Well said Anastasia…thank you :-)

  12. Tonia
    August 14, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    I’m a little late reading this, but I so often agree with what you say — it IS common sense, and that is what we have very little of in this country. We need to educate the public about what it means to be a farmer/rancher. So many people in this country are so separated from where their food comes from and they “react” to often inaccurate statements/news items. As my dad always said, why would I want to kill off the customer? (We grow pears in central WA) Thank you for such clear and informative writing.

  1. July 31, 2012 at 4:01 AM

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