USDA Guidelines Not Climate Friendly

Growing up most of us learned about the USDA Food Guide Pyramid or the MyPlate diagram and have not thought to not question if they really represent the best way to eat, not only for ourselves but also for the planet. In “USDA doesn’t care if our diets are climate friendly – but Americans do” by John D. Sutter argues that thmyplate_blueese diagrams are not something we should be basing our eating choices off of the pyramid. Although the pyramid does not actually control the food we eat, Sutter says that they have “a vast and perhaps immeasurable influence”. This month the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it would not consider important factors such as sustainability and climate change, even though it reviews the guidelines and will issue new recommendations later this year. In a blog post, the USDA secretary and the Human Services Secretary wrote that “issues of the environment and sustainability are critically important and they are addressed in a number of initiatives within the administration… We do not believe that the (2015 Dietary Guidelines) are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conservation about sustainability.” Sutter utterly disagrees with this statement. He believes that our diets affect resource consumption, which in turn contributes to climate change and these are important concerns that should be included in the federal government’s dietary guidelines. Sutter believes that the solutions are simple—eat fewer animal products, especially beef because it leaves a deeper carbon footprint than other meats. For Sutter, moderation is key. Kari Hamerschlag, a senior program manager at Friends of the Earth U.S. said, “It is disappointing to seScreen Shot 2015-10-25 at 4.44.46 PMe that the meat industry influence in Congress and over the administration is trumping science and public opinion in the development of the dietary guidelines.” In Food Inc. the connection between the government and the meat industry was discussed. Many government employees were once employees in the meat industry, so they were extremely biased. Although this is very frustrating, America seems to be moving forward. Public pressure to include sustainability in the guidelines may influence policy moving forward—hopefully influencing 2020 recommendations. People are also on average eating less meat. Meat consumption has declined 12% from 2007 to 2012. Food guidelines are constantly changing and not for the right reasons a lot of the time. Many times food guidelines are to benefit the food industries, not the health of the population. In Down to Earth, Steinberg talked about the “Salad Capital of the World”. Railroad tracks were quickly being made, which made it possible for crops to be sent across America. Fruits and vegetables grew in California and because of the railroad, the growers went on to become the richest farmers in the nation. Fruits and vegetables were marketed as the healthy choice and soon everyone wanted the fruits and vegetables. After fruits and vegetables, pork was rising in popularity. After pork, beef dominated. Beef was being produced at impressive speeds due to factory farms. Beef became the “healthy” choice. The meat industry and the FDA has continued to push meat as an important aspect to our dietary needs, but if we want to stop the increase of CO2 into our atmosphere, that can no longer be the case. As a country we need to focus on the science, as opposed to the meat industry’s influence.


CNN: USDA doesn’t care if our diets are climate friendly — but Americans do

MyPlate Diagram

Steinberg- Down to Earth and Food Inc. were also referenced


4 thoughts on “USDA Guidelines Not Climate Friendly

  1. earthhist Post author

    Good article! It’s interesting how the general public would want to know if their diets are environmentally friendly, but big corporations still push meat as being an essential part of our diet. This makes me question whether or not the FDA has the health of the public in mind, or if they make guidelines for their own profit. I also didn’t know that beef has the highest carbon footprint compared to other meats.

  2. awshue

    This was a good blog post. I am upset to learn that the generally progressive administration has not attempted to adjust the food pyramid for the better to help the climate. I was also shocked to learn that beef consumption has actually declined, I would think Americans are less willing to give up eating meat.

  3. zak gentile

    I remember learning about the ecological food print in high school and I was surprised even then about the vast amount of factors that increase our footprint. I don’t agree with Sutter. I think that you can reduce you footprint in many simple ways other than reducing meat intake. Buying a more fuel efficient car, driving less, taking shorter showers, etc.

  4. Matt Sargent

    It’s upsetting knowing that so many corrupt and biased former employees of the meat industry now work for the government and make it so hard to make advances. That was also a great connection to class and what we learned in Food Inc. Did you find that Sutter has a lot of support in his beliefs? Is a change to our food pyramid really likely?


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