On Mar. 20, cattle ranchers and meat lovers participated in an unofficial celebration, “Meat In Day”. The inception of this celebration was in response to a statewide proclamation by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to make last Saturday a “Meat Out Day” to promote a plant-based diet, as well as finding a way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. While the Governor’s decision met some praise, it also faced substantial backlash from the agricultural industry, specifically, the cattle industry.
“This nonsense about having a meat out day really hit all the farmers and ranchers hard because we need to sell beef in order to survive,” said Bob Bledsoe, a Colorado rancher. “And can you imagine what it would be like going through eastern Colorado without a little small town without the gas stations, without the grocery stores, convenience stores, first aid, ambulances, hospitals? Even if there’s no agriculture in eastern Colorado, anybody travels through here better not have a problem.”
Cattle ranching in Colorado accounts for 60 percent of the state’s agriculture sector, bringing in roughly $5 billion annually. Nearly $1 billion comes from fresh and frozen beef exports alone. Various rural communities around the state held events where all were welcome to partake in the celebration to oppose the governor’s proclamation. More than two dozen counties in the state declared Saturday “Meat In Day,” emphasizing that meat or plant-based diet should be a choice and not imposed.
Other states joined the crowd to support livestock producers and oppose the Gov. Polis’ decision. Gov. Gianforte proclaimed Saturday Montana Meat Day. The Governor released his statement Mar. 19 on Twitter, emphasizing that meat is produced more sustainably than ever, and livestock producers face a rising amount of hostility from individuals and organizations.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts declared Saturday ‘Meat on the Menu Day’, while Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds declared April as ‘Meat on the Table Month’ to support Iowa livestock producers.
Other cattle producers expressed their frustration on social media last Saturday, pointing out their love for the industry, as well as the economic importance of beef exports.
“Today is a frustrating and sad day for the American rancher and farmer…especially those in Colorado. The governor of Colorado declared Mar. 20 “MeatOut Day” as a way to promote a meatless diet,” wrote Eden of Houk Family Farms on Facebook.
“It frustrates me for many reasons, but the main one is that the ranching, farming and meat industry in Colorado is a large part of the state’s economy. Meat products are Colorado’s #1 export. Beef production has the highest export value on an annual basis. In 2020, fresh or chilled beef brought in $531 million in export value…more than ANY OTHER CATEGORY!”
Lauren Mosher, a beef producer and advocate from central Iowa, expressed her concern for Gov. Polis’ proclamation and what it means to her as a producer.
“[Colorado has] some of the largest feedlots in the country located in the state,” she wrote in an email. “Not only are these feedlots producing cattle that come from across the country, but the amount of revenue those bring into the economy is also tremendous.”
Mosher stressed the economic importance that agriculture has in the U.S. “The beef industry is a beautiful thing because we tie so many parts of production agriculture together to get one product to a consumer’s plate – but if you cut out one part (the beef industry, in this case), it disrupts more than just the local economy, but the state as well. Furthermore, it puts people out of jobs at harvesting facilities, truck drivers, and everyone else along the supply chain,” she said.
Mosher was happy to see governors of other states show appreciation for the livestock industry. She believes advocacy will play a huge role as farmers tell their story. The response to Gov. Polis’ proclamation and attempt to promote plant-based diets was significant, where communities came together to share their love for the industry.
“The reaction from the industry has been huge – and that’s exactly what we needed,” she wrote. “Had we sat back and watched this pass from afar, it could have had the potential to destroy the industry. If we aren’t careful, it could still happen. Advocacy is going to be key moving forward. Beef provides more than 10% of 10 essential nutrients and vitamins for less than 10% of your daily calorie intake – that’s a good bang for your calorie buck! Plus, it tastes great.”
“Support a farmer. Support a beef producer. Eat meat.”
Lauren is a junior studying Agricultural Communications at Iowa State University, and she is the owner of Mosher Media, a platform she uses to promote the beef industry and agriculture.