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Taking a farmer’s view of Meatless Monday

By Staff | Mar 9, 2018

Talk about timing. An email with the subject line “Better Than Beef?” arrived in my inbox on February 22, the same day I was slated to speak during the public comment period of the Iowa Board of Regents’ meeting in Ames and address the University of Iowa’s Meatless Monday campaign.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading as I perused the e-mail from the activist group One Green Planet.

“Although the goal of raising animals for meat and dairy may be to produce food for people, we are wasting an enormous amount of grain feeding animals instead of people. If everyone in the U.S. left meat and dairy off the menu for a year, we could redirect enough grain to feed 1.4 billion people! Why are we feeding grain to cows when we could effectively solve world hunger?”

Outrageous, but not unusual, based on what I know of the relentless misinformation campaigns promoted by various anti-animal agriculture activist groups. I was even more frustrated and disheartened, however, to discover how many similarities there were between this email and the article “University of Iowa Holds First Meatless Monday at Dining Halls” that was printed in the Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa’s student newspaper, on Feb. 6.

The University of Iowa Student Government (UISG) and Office of Sustainability have come together to create Meatless Monday as part of the theme semester “Climate for Change.” According to the Daily Iowan article, the University of Iowa held its first Meatless Monday at university dining halls on Feb. 5. The idea for the campaign, which tries to provide meat-free options for students every first Monday of the month, originated from Abigail Simon and Sarah Henry, both UISG senators on the Sustainability Committee.

Simon believes meat is detrimental to the Earth.

“Raising livestock for meat consumption creates many negative impacts on our environment,” said Simon, who was quoted in the article.

The article also cited the nonprofit group Meatless Monday, which claims livestock is responsible for 15 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions.

The onslaught didn’t stop there.

“Plant-based diets are nutritionally sufficient and may also reduce the risk for many chronic illnesses,” Simon said. “We aren’t encouraging students to become vegetarians or vegans but rather encourage them to make more sustainable food decisions when eating.”

Now I’m all for choice and am grateful that Iowans, including students at our state universities, have options in their food choices. I’m also glad that Iowa farmers produce a wide range of food, from fresh fruits and vegetables to beef and pork to organic food, to provide these options.

Unfortunately, no farmers, ag groups or nutrition experts were quoted in the Daily Iowan’s article. There appeared to be no effort to provide a more balanced view of Meatless Monday. That’s why I spoke to the Board of Regents and was pleased that two of my ag friends also stepped up to the plate.

My message? Remember E.S.P.: eco-friendly, sustainable protein.

Contrary to the article, animal agriculture is eco-friendly. Only 2.8 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from animal agriculture, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I also pointed out that America’s livestock farmers are producing more food with fewer resources. (Just Google “University of Arkansas study” and “environmental impact of pig farming” for details.)

Animal agriculture is also sustainable (the “S” in E.S.P.), not only environmentally, but economically. I cited a recent Iowa State University (ISU) study where Dr. Dermot Hayes, a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences at ISU, noted that livestock growth effectively offsets, and even reverses, economic decline in rural counties. On the flip side, rural counties that do not benefit from livestock growth experience an annual loss of $17 million in county income.

Finally, I highlighted the P in E.S.P.-protein. Beef, for example, one of nature’s multi-vitamins. Beef’s “Big 10” reflects the 10 vital nutrients this protein powerhouse supplies, including iron.

After I addressed the Board of Regents, I was approached by Dr. Linda Snetselaar, RD, PhD, an associate provost of outreach and engagement for the Office of Outreach and Engagement at the University of Iowa. Dr. Snetselaar, who is also a professor of public health, told me that heme iron (which is especially important to young, active adults and the elderly) only comes from meat protein. It can’t be acquired by eating spinach, legumes and other plants.

Dr. Snetselaar also acknowledged that the University of Iowa needs to do more to help students learn the importance of looking at all sides of issues like Meatless Monday. I told her I appreciate her willingness to reach out and offered myself as a resource for food and farming topics.

In a world where people are drowning in misinformation and starving for facts, sharing the farmer’s perspective on issues like Meatless Monday is essential. I’ll keep speaking up for ag, and I encourage you to make your voice heard, too.

Darcy Dougherty-Maulsby (a.k.a) Yetter-girl grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and is proud to call Calhoun County home.

Contact her at yettergirl@yahoo.com m her online at www.darcymaulsby.com.

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