Food Industry

Published on June 14th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


USDA Doesn’t Follow its Own Advice on Dietary Guidelines

Meat & dairy get dozens of times more subsidies than fruits and vegetables. Any wonder why American's don't eat right?

Meat and dairy get dozens of times more subsidies than fruits and vegetables. Any wonder why American’s don’t eat right? (click to enlarge)

Becky covered the USDA’s new system for conveying its updated dietary guidelines to the public nearly two weeks ago. The USDA has move from a food pyramid to a food plate.

The food plate clearly shows that we should be eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, and not too much meat and dairy.

However, as at least one insightful climate action and healthy living advocate has recognized, the USDA doesn’t follow its own advice.

“According to a report compiled by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, less than 1% of agriculture subsidies go to fruits and veggies, and 63% of subsidies go to meat and dairy. Grain subsidies total 20%; however, most of those grains go to feeding livestock, bringing the actual subsidies for meat and dairy much higher than 63%.” (emphasis mine)


Seriously, if the USDA thinks we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, why does it give dozens of times more subsidies to meat and dairy?

It certainly isn’t for environmental reasons, as we’ve detailed before that meat and dairy are much worse for the environment than fruits and vegetables. Livestock production results in tremendous water use, energy use, land use, and pollution, and it is one of the biggest contributors to global warming (if not the biggest). Eating vegetarian is even better environmentally than eating local due to all of this!

Climate Progress blogger Tyce Hermann has more on the climate impact:

With yearly anthropogenic CO2 emissions totaling 29 billion tons, the meat industry contributes about 11%. In considering other factors, the FAO says livestock contributes up to 18% of CO2 emissions (see figure below). And this does not account for the fact that livestock make makes up 35-40% of total methane emissions (20 times more potent than CO2) and 65% of total nitrous oxide emissions (300 times more potent than CO2).

Large portions of meat and dairy aren’t good for us for numerous reasons, but for now at least, you have to “fight” the system to eat in a good way. Good luck! And you know where to turn for help on that (hint, hint).

Related Stories on Eat Drink Better:

  1. Which is Better for the Environment, Local or Vegetarian?
  2. Environmental Impact of Eating Meat
  3. How to Go Vegetarian: 5 Key Steps (& Famous Vegetarian Celebrities)

Image via Climate Progress

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

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