Meats vs. plant-based foods go head-to-head in Colorado on Saturday in a pair of dueling symbolic gestures after Gov. Jared Polis’s designation of the date as MeatOut Day sparked outrage and a competing Meat In Day declaration from beef boosters.
The controversy began at the end of February when Polis issued the formal government proclamation for March 20, noting that plant-based diets better protect the environment and that more people are cutting meat consumption as a way to lessen animal cruelty.
Colorado ranchers and other agricultural organizations responded by declaring the rival meat-centric day in opposition, with 26 counties signing on.
“Truly it was about supporting our ranching community,” El Paso County Commissioner Carrie Geitner said of her county’s participation. “It’s about more than just meat. A lot of these ranchers are really struggling for many reasons, drought being one of them, but also just a change in attitude toward ranching in the rural parts of Colorado, so they felt very attacked.”
Janie VanWinkle, Mesa County rancher and president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, said Meat In Day is an encouragement for people to gather in their backyards for a barbecue or go to a restaurant with their family.
“We’re asking folks to support their local producers, but also supporting just meat producers across the state by ‘meat in’ in their backyards, ‘meat in’ in their favorite restaurant and also to support their local food banks,” VanWinkle said.
MeatOut Day alternatively advocates for reducing meat from people’s daily diets. In the spirit of decreasing meat consumption, participating restaurants and local businesses alike will discount plant-based products and meals.
Additionally, Colorado-based hip-hop artist, D.J. Cavem partnered with Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary to provide any card-carrying member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association with a free plant-based menu item from any restaurant participating in MeatOut Day.
“March 20th is a day that we can all come together for the most beautiful reason — compassion for all beings on this planet we all share,” said Shartrina White, executive director of the sanctuary, in a news release. “It’s time to embrace ahimsa, the belief in nonviolence to all beings in thought, feeling and deed.”
MeatOut Day, a national event, was started in 1985 by the Farm Animal Rights Movement, with the goal of decreasing consumption of all animal products.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts even declared March 20 to be Meat on the Menu Day in that state, in response to Polis’ decision, calling it a “direct attack on our way of life.”
I have designated March 20th as “Meat on the Menu Day” to highlight the importance of meat in a good diet as well as to provide an opportunity to support our farmers and ranchers.
Please RETWEET to spread the news!https://t.co/kc2dqBtF56
— Gov. Pete Ricketts (@GovRicketts) March 5, 2021
VanWinkle said the cattle industry has taken a hit during the pandemic. As a conventional cow-calf producer, she only gets paid once a year. VanWinkle said that last November, the calves were sold for under break-even prices, which has not happened in a long time.
“That’s what pays the bills around here, so that’s not good,” VanWinkle said.
Taylor Szilagyi, director of policy communications for the Colorado Farm Bureau, said the governor’s proclamation didn’t feel supportive nor did it show any appreciation for Colorado’s agriculture industry.
The proclamation, however, did include the statement: “Colorado is the proud home to farmers and ranchers alike and we recognize the importance of agriculture in the state.”
“The agriculture industry, like everybody else, is facing a year of COVID,” Szilagyi said. “They are facing really low commodity prices, they are facing bills in the legislature that aren’t agriculture friendly. (The proclamation was) just another straw that brought the industry together.”
Jay Fetcher, a rancher from Steamboat Springs, said he’d rather see Polis promote a more positive message. Fetcher said the governor could have declared a pro-vegetarian day, rather than an anti-meat day.
“We’ve gotten enough anti stuff going on in the country that we don’t need another phrase using anti,” he said.
Geitner said she wants everyone to be able to make their own choices about what is healthy for them, whether it is consuming animal products or plant-based products. However, she said Polis’s proclamation wasn’t just about not eating meat.
“The proclamation that Gov. Polis signed itself was more than just the message to individuals, it was also the message that it sent to the industry,” Geitner said. “So that’s kind of the biggest concern, is just the lack of support in the No. 2 industry in Colorado.”
This content was originally published here.