Since 2003, the Meatless Monday campaign has urged people to give up their omnivorous urges for a single day of the week in the name of public health. It has been largely embraced and spread around the world, even getting endorsements from Sir Paul McCartney and officials in the Philippines. In the U.S., thousands of corporate cafeterias and countless individuals have joined the movement.

So it wasn’t exactly revolutionary for the U.S.D.A. to mention its support and participation in Meatless Mondays in an interoffice newsletter published on its website this week. Going beyond the usual health reasons, the newsletter touted the negative effect raising beef has on the environment. “According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change,” the release read. “It also wastes resources. It takes 7,000 kg of grain to make 1,000 kg of beef.”

Revolutionary, no, but Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) called the statement “heresy.” A spokesman for the National Cattleman’s Beef Association called it a “slap in the face” and argued against any benefit to eating less meat.

After a flurry of angry tweets from livestock producers and Rep. King, the U.S.D.A. caved. It not only removed the message about Meatless Monday, it retracted it entirely, saying in a statement that the “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” and explaining that the newsletter “was posted without proper clearance.” The newsletter is no longer available on the U.S.D.A. site, but can be seen here.

Ironically, the original Meatless Monday was a government program. During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration launched Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays to encourage Americans to reduce consumption of wartime staples.

Main photo credit: Fotopedia