The guy who thought the Impossible Burger was great; the guy did a photo op with a summer straw (cowboy hat) on backwards; the guy who three weeks ago called ag the cornerstone of our state; the guy who appointed an animal right advocate to the veterinary board is now the same guy who picked up a cruelly sharp stick and poked every livestock producer in the state right in their collective eye.
If you have been on holiday on Mars or Venus, you missed the degree a week ago by the ever ag-compromised Colorado chief executive declaring March 20 to be “Meat Out Day.” Coloradans are supposed to give up meat for veggies on the third Saturday of March. If you are a practicing Catholic over 40 you already know about meatless Fridays, but at least you had fish. Vegans are calling it a meatless holiday. It’s not a holiday, really, since the banks and government offices will be closed anyway. Of course, maybe they could take Friday off in honor of Jared’s Folly.
The ire over this latest decree by Gov. Jared Polis was slow to build after the announcement last week, but this past weekend social media, barber shop conversations, ranch house kitchen talk, and truck stop banter, in the land where livestock husbandry is a major industry, exploded with a giant push back.
Before Sunday sundown we had pretty much declared Polis as the top beef (meat) salesman in the state, maybe the country. What he did with the thoughtless, yes dear, proclamation was mobilize the livestock producers to return his sharp stick poke. Ergo, meat producers declared the same day MeatIn Day. Some restaurants began promoting meaty specials for the day. Barbecues are being organized. Meat recipes are trading like vintage baseball cards. Window and bumper-stickers, T-shirts, and license plate frames are in production. Popular ag shopping venues, like Western Slope Farm and Ranch store, is selling a “support ranchers” T-shirt and donating part of the returns to the Beef Sticks for Backpacks program.
Facebook is a fertile ground for clever memes and good old-fashioned rants boiled over. Images of everything from brisket to steaks, pork chops to lamb chops, fried chicken to Irish stew lit up smart phones and computer screens. Twitter hashtags raged promoting protein in all forms.
Most of us changed our FaceBook profile images to include “Team Beef” logos or tags from the NCBA’s “Beef It’s What’s For Dinner” campaign. Mine is now me holding up a glass of ridiculously expensive scotch saying “Here’s to Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner.”
Terry Fankhauser, executive director and Janie VanWinkle, president of the statewide group were quick to react with statements condemning the Polis movement:
“On February 24, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis allegedly proclaimed March 20, 2021 a statewide ‘Meat Out Day’ to promote meatless diets to Coloradans and directly target Colorado’s livestock industry. Colorado Cattlemen’s Association is promoting a “Meat In” day in Colorado on March 20, 2021. On this day, CCA encourages Colorado to meet in a restaurant and order your favorite meat dish, meet your family and friends for a meal featuring meat!
“The goal of this day is to not only promote the benefits of meat consumption to Colorado, but to also patronize our local businesses, restaurants, etc. that have been deeply affected by the economic struggles of the pandemic. CCA is working with multiple groups to promote meat products through discounts, specials, and more! As we approach this day, we will be posting a full listing of businesses and restaurants to show your support to on this day.”
Whether Polis actually believes all the claptrap about beef harming the planet and raising the temperature is immaterial. He is still promoting one free economic subdivision at the expense of another. The proclamation includes these words, “To protect the environment by reducing our carbon footprint, preserving forests, grasslands, and wildlife habitats, and reduce pollution of waterways.” The governor also says that, “removing animal products from our diets reduces the risk of various ailments, including heart disease, high-blood pressure, stroke, various cancers, and diabetes.”
The science is not with him in either of these statements. If he is wrong for no other reason the cattle industry has improved the grasslands, developed water sources for wildlife and at this moment cattlemen on the Western Slope are harboring and feeding thousands of elk, often to the harm of their own livestock. Health risks? No. We know there is no empirical data that says a healthy person eating beef necessarily leads to the maladies listed above.
Over the past weekend one person asked me, “Well, so, he is promoting plant-based food, that’s agriculture isn’t it?” There are two thoughts to that to pursue here. One, in Western Colorado, more than half of the crop plants is grown to feed livestock, so take out livestock and you take out them. Two, a state governor has no business telling anybody what to eat or not eat. His life preferences are not mine. I will eat meat with or without his approval. In my mind, there is no question bringing down cattle ranching, especially, is a goal of our governor.
The governor’s press office tried to play down the proclamation as ceremonial and non-binding. They said the governor’s office receives dozens of requests for proclamations. In looking through the list, none of the others ask for people to avoid one of the state’s signature foods.
But it is just one day and we don’t have to follow his proclamation. No, we don’t. But we do have a duty to our neighbors and the economies of our communities to let him know that a large block of his constituents disapprove of his actions.
I started last night with beef on my nachos. Just doing my part.