Before the movement to reduce eating meat for health, environmental and animal welfare reasons, the U.S. government introduced “Meatless Monday” to help feed our troops and allies during World War I and II.
Meatless Monday History Highlights
1917: The U.S. Food Administration (USFA) launched a campaign to encourage Americans to conserve food during World War I which became known by the slogan “Food Will Win the War.” One element of the program was “Meatless Monday.” To help get people on board, the USFA distributed posters, educational materials, recipes, and conducted cooking demonstrations. The result was a voluntary 15% reduction of domestic food consumption.
1942: The Food Rationing Program was instituted during World War II. Families received a “War Ration Book.” Each stamp authorized a purchase of rationed goods in the quantity and at the time designated. “Red Stamp” rationing covered all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some exceptions, cheese. “Meatless Monday” returned as one means of reducing meat consumption.
2003: A former ad executive and health advocate named Sid Lerner reintroduced “Meatless Monday” as a public health awareness campaign. The initiative was backed by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future and other institutions.
2005: A nonprofit public health initiative, The Monday Campaigns, was founded in association with Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, and Syracuse University.
2009: The “Meatless Monday” movement gained momentum and spread across the world as individuals and families were joined by countries, cities, celebrities, schools, restaurants, and food service companies.
Meatless Monday Benefits
According to some health professionals, reducing red and processed meat intake may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity along with its related complications.
Growing, processing, transporting, and distributing food of all kinds uses land, water, energy, and fuel and generates waste. Meat, especially beef, has a significant carbon footprint and is not a particularly efficient way to nourish people. Eating less meat benefits the environment and people.
- Land – about ¾ of the agricultural land in the world does not feed people. It is used to produce food to feed livestock or as pasture and grazing land. Beef generally take 3 to 5 times as much land to produce the same amount of protein from pork, chicken, milk, or eggs.
- Water – meat requires a huge amount water to produce 1 pound of meat: 1,847 gallons for beef, 717 for pork, and 518 for chicken.
- Global Warming – cows produce a large amount of methane which causes about 23 times as much global warming per molecule as carbon dioxide. Clearing forests for more land to graze livestock or grow food for them destroys trees which sequester carbon, thus contributing to global warming.
- Pollution – nitrogen fertilizers and manure from livestock can wash into waterways and pollute rivers and oceans.
Some people chose not to eat meat. For others, humanely raised meat and other animal products are of concern. If people eat less meat, fewer animals are killed for food and possibly fewer live in poor conditions.
Meatless Monday Initiative and Website
Meatless Monday (MM), a The Mondays Campaign program, is an international initiative that encourages people to start the week on a healthy note and reduce their carbon footprint by not eating meat on Mondays.
The MM website contains articles, downloadable toolkits and posters, recipes, a list of committed celebrities, and a FAQ page. Users can take a pledge to go Meatless Monday. The global page includes links to websites for other countries that have joined the campaign.
I could not locate a specific description of what constitutes meat on the website. Posters show cows, pigs, and chickens, so I guess it’s up to us to choose our own definition.
More Fruits and Veggies Monday
“Meatless Monday” may seem negative to some, so perhaps we should focus less on eating less meat and more on eating more fruits and vegetables. This seems to be the approach taken by several of the Meatless Monday international organizations: Green Monday (Croatia), Veggie Monday (Japan), Monday Vegetarian (France) to name a few. “More Fruits and Veggies Monday” isn’t exactly a catchy phrase, but I like the positive mindset.
“Meatless Monday” began as a means to help fight World War I and II and has morphed into a way to fight for the health and well-being of all people and the planet.
- Environmental Impact of Eating Meat
- Vat Meat, Cultured Meat, In Vitro Meat – Would You Eat It?
- Wheatless Wednesday — Whole Wheat Wednesday
- Center for Investigative Reporting – The hidden costs of hamburgers
- Cornell University Library – Meatless Monday, Wheatless Wednesdays: Home Economists in World War I
- Earth Policy Institute – Peak Meat: U.S. Meat Consumption Falling (link inactive as of November 2016)
- Meatless Monday
- NPR the salt – A Nation of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up
- The Monday Campaigns
- Union of Concerned Scientists – Solutions for Deforestation-Free Meat
- U-S-History.com – World War II Rationing
- Water Footprint – Product Water Footprints
- Wikipedia – Meatless Monday
- Wikipedia – Rationing
- Wikipedia – U.S. Food Administration (USFA)