Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Meatouts and the Aftermath

I am a frequent and vivid dreamer. I'm able to write paragraphs, sometimes pages, of detail recounting what happened, how I felt, what peoples' intentions were in those images that flicker across my retinas as I sleep. Usually, I find this cool and entertaining. But sometimes, I can't shake apart what I dreamed and what I actually read in the paper or heard from a friend.

This was the problem with Meatless Mondays.

For weeks, I thought that I had simply dreamed about cities, nationwide, opting out of meat for entire days at a time. I thought I had dreamed about some Great American Meatout that couldn't possibly exist.

Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe it wasn't a dream at all, that maybe it was something I'd heard on the radio driving to work. Maybe it could exist.

Well, sooner or later, I began seeing news articles confirming that this custom had, in fact, begun. In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, improve public safety, and encourage healthy choices, Michigan has recently encouraged its citizens to give up meat for one day. Schools in Baltimore have recently begun serving only vegetarian lunches on Mondays. And so on and so on.

This, however, is not without backlash from the meat industry. Buyer, beware: there are lobbyists out there who are invested in influencing the USDA Food Pyramid. Your Food Pyramid, as the USDA calls it ( Even if you do not actively follow these daily guidelines, watch out for the American Meat Institute, the National Pork Board, the Farm Bureau, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

They're pretty pissed.

The prospect of losing sales has them fighting hard against these meat reductions. You may start to see subtle (or not-so-subtle) meat propaganda floating around, and "new scientific evidence" suggesting that humans require more meat, and that meat is a healthier, environmentally safer choice than other foods.

The USDA revises the Food Pyramid every five years. The latest revision? It's due to come out sometime this year. And there's been a lot of talk about what changes should be made to "your" Food Pyramid.

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