Meatless Monday inflates participation

Oct 25, 2013

A new report suggests there is little meat to the popularity claims of the Meatless Monday campaign.

On the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Meatless Monday campaign, the Alliance for Animal Agriculture (AAA) released a rather damning report. According to their private review over the years, the Meatless Monday campaign has been inflating the number of participants, sometimes more than double reality.

AAA is a 503(c) 3 nonprofit organization with a stated goal of “helping consumers better understand the role animal agriculture plays in providing a safe, abundant food supply to a hungry world.” It has been tracking the Meatless Monday campaign since it began.

The group found that many participants listed in the campaign on the Meatless Monday website often had long since dropped out or had never participated at all. The results the AAA highlighted are as follows:

• 56 individual k-12 schools were listed as participating. Of those, 64.2 percent never participated or no longer participate;

• 155 colleges/universities were listed as participants, but more than 43.2 percent no longer or never participated in the program;

• Out of the 28 school districts listed as participating, over 57 percent no longer do;

• Among the 180 restaurants and 56 “food service clients” counted as participating, over 35 and 47 percent, respectively, no longer participate in the program.

“These results are truly astounding,” said Alliance President and CEO Kay Johnson Smith. “When we started the project, we didn’t expect nearly as many organizations to not actually be participating in the program. The Meatless Monday campaign tries to promote a reduction in meat, milk and egg consumption as trendy, but clearly it hasn’t taken off as strongly as they’d hoped.”

AAA said a number of the groups—particularly schools—that had participated in the campaign stopped because of student (or customer) and parent complaints. In schools it was reported that participation resulted in a lot of food waste.

“We made a conscious decision to end the program after participating for a little under two years,” said April Young, a registered dietician with the Granite County School District in Utah. She told AAA that the school already had regular vegetarian options for students and that dietary needs “should be handled individually—not as part of a large-scale program.”

A Meatless Monday representative responded to WLJ regarding the discrepancy via email saying participants are displayed publicly via the website only after the individual groups reach out to them. The representative said also, “While we focus on supporting these groups to achieve their own goals and invite them to stay in touch, we don’t monitor their ongoing participation.”

Entertainingly, the Humane Society of the U.S.— which frequently issues press releases hailing various groups’ participation in the Meatless Monday campaign—has heralded a number of participants who do not show up on the official list. Descriptions in these releases suggest that “increasing meat-free options on Mondays” equates to participation in the movement.

More options are always good, but according to the purpose of the campaign, Monday is supposed to be meatless, not more-meatfree. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor