by: Joe Parker, Jr.

By now most of you have heard of Meatless Mondays, an anti-meat campaign that aims to "reduce meat consumption by 15 percent in order to produce personal health and the health of our planet." The campaign has been around for a few years, but has just recently received a lot of media attention after someone at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent out a newsletter supporting it.

As a beef producer myself, I have a serious problem with this, both with the campaign and the fact that USDA supported it.

First off, the Meatless Monday campaign uses scare tactics disguised as scientific information to win people over. As a taxpaying beef producer, I don't appreciate the U.S. government propagating campaigns designed to put me out of business, especially when those campaigns aren't based on facts. Speaking of facts, let's look at those. The campaign says that foregoing meat is healthier. That is flat wrong. Science has repeatedly shown that eliminating high-quality animal protein, such as lean beef, from the diet can have a serious impact on public health. What's even more alarming is the campaign's goal to eliminate animal protein from school lunches. Kids, more than anyone, need high-quality protein to grow. Research shows that the iron, zinc and B vitamins found in beef play an essential role in brain development and a healthy immune system, as well as fueling a healthy, active lifestyle.

The campaign also says that eating meat, specifically beef, is harmful to the environment. Again, wrong.

I would argue that Texas ranchers are the most dedicated group of environmentalists because they work day in and day out to provide healthy food, but also take care of the environment. You can look at all the money spent to improve the efficiency of beef production and understand how committed ranchers are to protecting all of our natural resources. Compared to 1977, today's beef is more environmentally sustainable than ever. Each pound of beef raised today uses 30 percent less land, 20 percent less feed, 14 percent less water and 9 percent less fossil fuels.

According to the U .S . Environmental Protection Agency, raising livestock accounts for less than three percent of our country's greenhouse gas emissions. What's more is that U .S. ranchers produce 20 percent of the world's beef with seven percent of the world's cattle, making the U.S. beef industry environmentally sustainable.

What if the HSUSs, PETAs and Meatless Mondays of the world got what they asked for and we are forced to live in a world without meat? Seeing that less than 1/3 of all U.S. land is suitable for crop production, I don't know if we could survive and if we did, we'd be starving.

USDA did retract their newsletter after it was brought to their attention, but a lot of damage was already done, the least of which was a loss of trust from an already skeptical beef industry.

Let's be clear. I don't have a problem with someone who chooses to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle because that's just it, it's a choice and I respect that choice. But I do have a problem with campaigns designed to affect someone's choice by sending out false information. And I do take issue with an administration who gives activists an unfiltered (and free) soundboard to blare their propaganda.

What the administration should support is the truth -- that you can enjoy beef any day of the week (even Mondays) and feel good about that choice knowing that you are supporting an industry that cares about your health and the planet.

Joe Parker Jr. is a third generation rancher from Clay County. Texas. He is president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA). He is also chairman of the board and president of the First National Bank of Byers.

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