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Where's the beef? On the senator's desk

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

In response to a "suggestion" issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, the offices of United States Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa recently celebrated "Meat Monday" with barbeque beef brisket, ribs and sausage from Hill Country Barbecue restaurant.

Just so you know, Hill Country Barbecue is located inside the Washington, DC beltway. The restaurant replicates the distinctive, dry-rub style of "the legendary meat-markets-turned-barbecue-joints of Central Texas.

According to the website, all barbecue is cooked fresh daily on premise in the custom meat-smoking room. "All meats are smoked low and slow over Texas post oak and are served on butcher paper, counter-style by the pound as is traditional in Central Texas."

Cornyn and Grassley's "pig-out" was prompted because the USDA, which oversees the nation's ranchers and farmers, recently encouraged its employees to boycott meat on Mondays.

In a press release dated July 25, the powerful National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) called into question the Obama Administration's commitment to farmers and ranchers in the United States.

Concurring, Cornyn said, "In some of the toughest times they've seen in recent memory, Texas cattle ranchers and farmers deserve an administration who works with them, not one who undermines them with boneheaded decisions from bureaucrats in Washington."

"This is a reminder to USDA that it's supposed to advocate for American agriculture, not against it," Grassley added.

Predictably, an uproar ensued with regard the agriculture department's perceived slap to the face of the nation's meat producers. Attempting to back-pedal the ill-conceived plan, a department spokesman noted that a statement on the USDA website encouraging its employees not to eat meat on Mondays was made without "proper clearance."

Last week's posting came from an internal newsletter offered suggestions as to how USDA employees could reduce environmental impact while filling their plates at the department's cafeteria. The suggestion was included in an internal newsletter, which cited United Nations data that contends animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change.

According to NCBA President JD Alexander, the USDA stated that it does not support this plan.

Apparently health concerns related to the consumption of meat are not "based in fact, but simply spout statistics and rhetoric generated by anti-animal agriculture organizations," Alexander wrote.

USDA spokeswoman Cortney Rowe reiterated that the department does not endorse the "Meatless Monday" initiative, which is part of a global public health campaign. In fact, the agency removed the posting just hours after the NCBA denounced it in their now-famous news release.

"The USDA did right by scrapping this statement and acknowledging the important role of America's farm and ranch families in providing food for the world," Alexander said. "USDA denouncing support of the 'Meatless Monday' campaign is an important steep in correcting misinformation abut the safety and sustainability of US beef production.

Pictured: In response to the USDA's "Meatless Monday" beef brouhaha, Senators John Cornyn and Chuck Grassley treated their staff to a barbecue luncheon on Monday, July 30, from DC's famed restaurant Hill Country Barbecue.