Meat reduction has a place in history

Can you guess the topic of the first ever television broadcast from the White House?

Eating less meat.

You read that right. In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, Europeans were still hungry, if not downright starving. (You may recall that as a child, Audrey Hepburn lived in the Netherlands during the war, and never forgot what hunger was like. Later in life she became an advocate for UNICEF).

President Truman was joined in the broadcast by George C. Marshall (of Marshall Plan fame), Secretary of State Averill Harriman, and Clinton Anderson, the Secretary of Agriculture. Anderson explained that to help Europe, “we must conserve at home, both at our dinner table and in our farm feed lots.”  Marshall asked Americans to “tighten our belts, clean our plates, and push ourselves away from the table” as a way to assist our straitened allies. (Please recall that in England, food rationing lasted until 1954).

You can be sure there were other motives besides altruism in the call for Americans to eat less meat (the New York Times story dated October 5, 1947, also mentions price caps and the cost of living).

The article also provides a poignant glimpse into the prejudices of the times. Officials repeatedly refer to “the housewife” as the buyer of food (like nobody else, such as perhaps men, ever bought food), and one is quoted as saying, “It is time the American housewife learned how to cook the cheaper cuts.”  Outrageous, isn’t it?

Today hunger exists all over the globe. You have probably read that one out of six humans on the planet experiences “food insecurity” or outright hunger. That’s a billion people – actually more, now that today marks the arrival of the seven billionth.

What can you do? Some of the reasons for hunger remain the same as they were in 1947, and so do solutions. Topping the list: eat less meat, or none.

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