USDA Nutrition Guidelines and Federal Programs Prop Up Animal Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture receives federal funding with a main goal in mind: maintain and increase U.S. agricultural production and ensure the economic stability of the industry. The USDA fills many different roles and is self-serving: they implement nutritional guidance and prop up agriculture simultaneously. Because of this, consumers continue purchasing products from animal agriculture. In addition, the USDA continues to purchase or coordinate the flow of animal agriculture products to public institutions and federal programs. They also implement market strategies.
The USDA is the only entity to promote health, economics, marketing, and profit in animal agriculture, while using taxpayer dollars to fund these areas. It is common knowledge that if an organization establishes health and nutrition guidelines for the public, it should not assist with economic goals for certain food industries. However, when it comes to the USDA, bias is overlooked. The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) (est. 1994) declared two primary objectives: “Advance and promote dietary guidance for all Americans, and Conduct applied research and analyses in nutrition and consumer economics.”
The U.S. government has to keep “meat protein” and “dairy” in Nutritional Guidelines so they can continue to promote and facilitate contracts between animal agriculture and federal or state institutions such as public schools, the prison system, etc. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) states: “Our mission is to increase food security and reduce hunger by providing children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet and nutrition education in a way that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service helps maintain stability in commerce of agricultural products, promotion, and anything related to economic issues and the market.”
One famous example of the USDA’s relentless promotion of animal agriculture products was the industry’s “pork” campaign in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The National Pork Board program is sponsored by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. After advertising the slogan: “Pork. The Other White Meat,” “pork” sales increased substantially by 20% from 1987 to 1991. Consumers who prefer “healthy” options were the target audience for this ad campaign. The USDA and National Pork Board promoted “pork” as “lean.” With a massive amount of federal funding at their fingertips, the USDA is able to conduct marketing and consumer research to create the most effective ad campaigns.
The USDA uses the process of supplying food for people in need as an excuse to further their support of animal agriculture. They distribute or coordinate the distribution of these products via government assistance programs and implement subsidies. Public assistance is definitely vital and should be provided. However, to accomplish this goal, animal agriculture products do not need to be included and propped up by taxpayer dollars. One industry strategy is to join councils or agencies outside one’s organization or corporation; groups can use another council as a driving force behind their agendas. For instance, the USDA is a member of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and this is a positive measure in general. More specifically, the problem lies in the fact that a large part of the USDA’s objective focuses on profitability in animal agriculture. USIC is a separate federal agency that ensures those in need gain access to resources. Unfortunately, programs and nutrition guidelines which promote an animal product-heavy diet are provided for people in need, while those who have financial stability have the privilege to abstain from animal products and access a wide variety of other options.
During the Coronavirus crisis school children still need food programs even if schools are closed, and farmers have surplus. Federal funding is used to purchase this surplus and distribute it to schools because it conforms to their Nutritional Guidelines. This USDA press release explains this process: “USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage America’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans with HHS’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.” The Nutrition Guidelines state that “dairy” must be consumed daily.
The USDA’s website has numerous examples of how they set nutritional guidelines which include animal agriculture products. They impose these onto their federally funded (taxpayer) food assistance programs. One example of this process is the MyPlate nutritional requirements guideline which has since replaced the well-known food pyramid.
Their website also suggests ways in which people who receive food assistance can use these specific foods to shop and cook which exemplifies their marketing strategies.