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In a New York Times op-ed, Mark Bittman flagged this story from the Daily Livestock Report that notes the USDA is now projecting that U.S meat consumption will continue to drop, representing a 12 percent decrease from 2007. While American beef consumption has been dropping for some time, the story says chicken and even pork are now suffering a similar fate.

The Daily Livestock Report, a trade paper, pins the blame on rising feed prices (thank you, ethanol), growing exports — which reduce domestic supply — and, remarkably, “the fruition of 30-40 years of government policy.” The paper continues:

 If the federal government and its agencies decide to wage war on a product and continue that war for long enough, it will eventually have an impact. And the feds have indeed waged war on meat protein consumption for many years.

Bittman rightly considers this claim ludicrous. As he points out, the government is doing everything it can to boost meat consumption, from refusing to enforce laws that would make it harder for factory farms to operate at the scale they now do, to purchasing billions of dollars in “surplus” chicken to feed to schoolchildren. I would also add last year’s proposed ag-gag laws to his list, i.e., the government attempts to keep prying eyes away from the abuses that appear to be endemic to industrial agriculture (meanwhile, the bill that failed in Florida last spring was just re-introduced in December).