The North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) sent a letter this week to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio urging him to reverse his March 11 decision to implement ‘Meatless Mondays’ in more than 1,800 New York City public schools.
Mayor de Blasio, schools chancellor Richard Carranza and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams announced that all New York City public schools will have “Meatless Mondays” beginning in the 2019/2020 school year. The program was piloted in 15 Brooklyn schools last year in collaboration with Adams, who has championed plant-based diets. Through evaluation of participation metrics and student feedback, it was decided to officially launch the program citywide.
“Cutting back on meat a little will improve New Yorkers' health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said de Blasio. “We're expanding Meatless Mondays to all public schools to keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come.”
While the announcement brought praise from animal rights groups like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), as well as environmental groups, the Meat Institute called the move “misguided and disappointing.”
In the letter to the mayor, Meat Institute president and chief executive officer Julie Anna Potts expressed concern over the nutritional consequences the decision will have on New York City students, the misguided fear over meat’s impact on the environment and the troubling denial of choice for families that prefer to include meat in their children’s diets.
“The science is indisputable: meat is exceptionally nutrient-dense, with essential vitamins and minerals, and it is a source of complete proteins that cannot be matched by plant-based diets,” Potts wrote in the letter.
She continued, “Extensive research has shown the benefits of meat for both body and brain, especially for children, and it can contribute to critical dietary factors like satiety and weight management.”
Potts also took the city to task for citing environmental concerns as a reason for the decision.
“Justifying the Meatless Monday policy by citing environmental concerns is also misplaced. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all of agriculture contributes 9% of America’s greenhouse gasses (GHGs), while livestock production accounts for 4.2% of GHGs,” she wrote. “Ironically, the announcement comes out the same day the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) published a new report attributing only 3.3% of GHGs to cattle production. In contrast, that ARS report attributes 56% of GHGs to transportation and energy production, prompting the conclusion the city’s education system should focus on improving its utilization in those sectors.”
Potts said that while the Meat Institute appreciates that some parents and their children may choose not to include meat and poultry in their diets, “those who choose to consume meat and poultry because it is a known and trusted source of affordable, wholesome, and delicious nutrition should not be denied that option based on bureaucratic fiat.”