The Casa Rosada, Argentina’s Presidential Palace, has introduced Meatless Mondays for its staff of more than 500 which includes President Mauricio Macri. This means that meats of any kind will be absent from the palace menu and staff will only have plant-based options to choose from. This new regulation does not sit well with the beef producers who see it as a political move and a ploy on behalf of the administration to attract more votes.

A decline in meat consumption

The beef industry in Argentina has taken a hit in the last few years not only due to government regulations that include beef export quotas but because of a decline in the domestic consumption of meat.

The country has 5% of the global herd population and for several years had the distinction of being the biggest consumers of cattle. However, they lost that title in 2010 to Uruguay. While some have mourned the loss of this title, the government is working towards the further reduction of meat consumption in the country.

Curbing the obesity epidemic

The introduction of Meatless Mondays is an attempt to start a conversation about healthy eating in a country that has high obesity rates. Argentina still consumes more than twice the recommended daily consumption of beef. Girls have the third highest obesity rates in Latin America with boys taking the number one spot. A UN report identifies the Caribbean and Latin America as having the highest obesity rates.

Other countries have been leading the way in trying to reduce beef eating but there is a lot of opposition to proposed regulations. In Germany, an attempt to introduce veggie days was met with strong opposition and described as an ecological dictatorship.

The significance of Meatless Mondays

Argentine's palace staff is just the latest to join the healthy eating initiative sponsored by the Monday Campaigns Inc - a non-profit public health initiative associated with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities that dedicates the first day of every week to health.

Monday is chosen as a day for meat-free options for one because it is the start of the work week and a good day to make a fresh start from bad weekend habits. Going meat-free for at least one day a week encourages people to make healthier food choices. Meatless Mondays at the presidential palace in Argentina means that once a week, the cafeteria will only have vegan dishes available.

This is the practice in other government agencies in other parts of the world as a 'lead by example' exercise rather than a legal requirement. However, it is also a growing trend globally spearheaded by groups such as Animal Rights and vegetarian and environmental organisations.