Meatless Mondays Drama

Protein guidelines vanish from Texas Agriculture website following Meatless Monday drama

Meal guidelines vanish from Texas Ag site after Meatless Monday drama

The Texas Department of Agriculture seems to have scrubbed the idea of meatless eating from its website. A nutritional fact sheet that was on the organization's site, which gave equal credence to beans as a source of protein, was taken down on or about September 14.

The mysterious disappearance of the fact sheet comes on the heels of a tinfoil-hat editorial written one week ago by ag commissioner Todd Staples, about the Meatless Monday campaign that is being adopted by more Texas schools. Staples called the Meatless Monday initiative "a carefully orchestrated campaign that seeks to eliminate meat from Americans' diets seven days a week — starting with Mondays."

The editorial was a response to his discovery that the Dripping Springs school district had instituted a Meatless Monday program at a few of its school cafeterias. John Crowley, who heads childhood nutrition services, defended the overture, saying that it was intended to encourage healthy and environmentally conscientious eating. "Are we having a war on meat in Dripping Springs? Definitely not," he said.

Staples' editorial was, in fact, a contradiction of advice offered on the organization's own "Square Meals" website. Square Meals is the Texas Department of Agriculture's school nutrition education and outreach program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.

One nutritional fact sheet, called "Rate Your Plate," makes — or should we say, made — the suggestion that beans could serve as a viable source of protein, right up there next to chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef and pork.

That fact sheet was still on the website on September 12; but it has now vanished

Bryan Black, director of communications for the organization, acknowledged that the guideline sheet had been removed.

"The document you are referring to offered advice that was neither complete nor scientifically based and does not reflect the position of the agency," he said.

According to federal guidelines for child nutrition, even if a meal is 100 percent plant-based, a child would still receive adequate protein. Are beans, which were considered a perfectly good source of protein in Texas one week ago, no longer viable?

Fortunately, St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic School in Dallas posted the fact sheet  on its "Virtual Cafeteria" page, in all its colorful glory. Unlike Staples, the good people of St. Bernard of Clairvaux Catholic School have not received at least $116,000 in contributions from beef producers and ranchers since 2010, and they are more impartial when it comes to matters of nutrition.

The now-verboten sheet recommends that children "fill up on veggies," whole grains and lean protein. "Build up with lean protein (meat & beans)," it reads. "Choose skinless chicken and turkey, fish, lean beef and pork or beans." And here's one of its six bullet points:

Substitute beans for meat once a week.

Sort of like what the Meatless Monday program recommends.

Texas Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples
Texas Department of Agriculture commissioner Todd Staples likes meat. Photo courtesy of Todd Staples
Healthy lunch plate
This image no longer appears on the Texas Dept. of Agriculture website. Photo courtesy of Rate Your Plate