Fresh & Local
Los Angeles’ Meatless Mondays
Column #61, Published Nov 16th, 2012
Three weeks ago, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution urging all residents to observe “meatless Mondays” from now on. The resolution ends by saying, “Be it resolved, that the Council of the City of Los Angeles hereby declares all Mondays as 'Meatless Mondays' in support of comprehensive sustainability efforts as well as to further encourage residents to eat a more varied plant-based diet to protect their health and protect animals.”
The resolution makes 15 points in support of ‘Meatless Mondays.’ Most of these points are lists of possible health and societal benefits, but there are also points expressing solidarity with other cities that have passed similar resolutions, as well as claimed improvements in animal welfare and the environment.
Councilwoman Jan Perry, who introduced the resolution, was quoted as saying, “While this is a symbolic gesture, it is asking people to think about the food choices they make. Eating less meat can reverse some of our nation's most common illnesses.”
I grow produce and berries, so you might think I would support this resolution. But you would be wrong. I agree that there are many people who would benefit from more fruits and vegetables in their diets. But there are good reasons for concern with this resolution. As Rick Moran wrote in American Thinker, “It doesn't have the force of law - yet. But wait a few years - they'll get there . . .”
Anyone who thinks this resolution is benign might want to consider some of the other actions taken by California and Los Angeles. In 2008, California passed, a bill to remove all trans fats from the state’s restaurants and retail baked goods. In 2010, the state prohibited fast food chains from giving out toys with their children’s meals if they contained over a specified amount of calories. And in 2011, South Los Angeles effectively banned any new fast-food outlets from opening by enacting tougher land use laws. Suddenly this does not seem so benign.
Jennifer Medina writing in the New York Times pointed out that a study released in 2009 by the RAND Corporation found that the ban on fast-food restaurants is unlikely to change the rate of obesity or diabetes in the area. The study argued that rather than focus on calories that come from fast food, policy makers should instead look at junk food snacks from gas stations and convenience stores.
Good point: Why exempt convenience stores?
“People get a lot more of their discretionary and unnecessary food from [a gas station or a convenience store] than from a fast-food restaurant,” said Roland Sturm, a senior economist at RAND and a co-author of the study. “A lot of this is driven by sound bites overlooking what is actually going to have an impact.”
Karin Klein wrote in the LA Times that, “Sodaless Saturdays make a lot more sense than Meatless Mondays. Sugar, especially in soft drinks, is heavily implicated in obesity. Unlike meat, it offers little satiety and no real nutrition. And think of what we could do for the environment if for one day each week, everyone drank water - preferably in refillable bottles - instead. Think of the cans, bottles and super-sized cups that wouldn't be tossed in the garbage.”
Ms. Klein went on to say, “It is not the City Council's job to promote vegetarianism, if that is one of the goals. There are many philosophies and traditions of healthful eating, including vegetarianism; it's not government's job to promote one over the other.”
I agree 100% with that.
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com