HERALDED as a way to improve health and save the environment, the Meatless Monday campaign has been touted as reaching 29 countries, with hundreds of U.S. school systems, universities and restaurants participating. According to a recently released analysis by the Animal Agriculture Alliance, the campaign has “grossly misrepresented” U.S. enrollment in the program.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, the campaign was launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future (CLF), and branded as a public health awareness campaign.
“Meatless Monday addresses the prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption,” the project’s website explains, by asking consumers to forego eating meat one day each week.
The Alliance analyzed the campaign’s participation claims, however, and found that the movement was not nearly as widespread as advertised via the Meatless Monday website. After surveying every participant listed by the campaign, the Alliance found:
Of 56 K-12 schools listed as participating, more than 64% said they either no longer participated, or never participated in the first place;
Of 155 colleges and universities listed as participants, more than 43% no longer or never participated; and,
Of all school districts listed as participating, more than 57% no longer take part in the campaign.
Additionally, more than 35% of restaurants and 47% of food service providers listed as part of the campaign said they no longer participate in the program.
“These results are truly astounding. When we started the project, we didn’t expect nearly as many organizations to not actually be participating in the program,” said Alliance president and CEO Kay Johnson Smith. “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.”
Among the school nutrition and food service professionals surveyed by the alliance, several common concerns emerged: the campaign was widely unpopular among students, led to food waste, and elicited complaints from parents worried about proper nutrition.
Representatives of the Meatless Monday campaign and CLF did not return requests for comment or information on this story.