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Where's The Beef, USDA?

logo.gif USDA has always been a strong supporter of livestock producers, helping to boost meat demand through its programs and initiatives. However, our long-standing relationship with this government entity is certainly not evident in its latest project to develop new, healthy recipes for school lunch programs. And why is that? Well, it's because the USDA left out two very important food groups for growing kids in their program: meat and dairy! What's the deal, USDA?

Here's how the USDA describes the contest: In association with USDA, the Let's Move! program is challenging school nutrition professionals, chefs, students, parents and interested community members to create tasty, healthy, exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country. Participants will form teams, develop, document and prepare at least one healthy recipe in one of three categories (whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, or dry beans and peas). Their creations will be served in the school’s cafeteria, and rated by students. Fifteen semi-finalist teams will have their recipes evaluated by a judging panel during at-school events, with the top three teams competing in a national cook-off to determine the grand prize winner. Semi-finalists’ recipes will also be posted for online voting by the public to determine a Popular Choice Winner. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs.

This contest, along with the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) recommendation to move to a plant-based diet, is sending the wrong message to consumers, says Kristina Butts, director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), in a recent interview.

“First off, DGAC's recommendation for a plant-based diet causes consumers to wrongly assume that they are eating too much meat. We are not eating too much meat,” Butts says.>

Food blogger Melanie Warner criticizes the beef industry for having concerns about this contest. Read her dissenting opinion about cattle producers here.

What do you think about this contest? Have you let USDA know your views? Where's the beef anyway, USDA?