MeatOut Day is Causing a Food Fight Between Governors. It’s Getting Ugly
There’s a food fight taking place between governors on the Colorado Nebraska line, and things are getting ugly. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is now in a fight with Colorado Governor Jared Polis over what goes between the sandwich buns this Saturday. First Polis launched a MeatOut Day in Colorado, set for this Saturday, March 20th, to encourage people to eat more plant-based foods for their health and the environment. That prompted Ricketts to encourage Nebraskans to eat more beef with a “Meat on the Menu Day” which is slated for the same day, to support that state’s cattle farmers.
“That is a direct attack on our way of life here in Nebraska,” Ricketts said while talking to reporters from a butchery shop in Omaha. Nebraska’s largest industry is agriculture (followed by insurance and financial services), which accounts for $80 billion or more than one-third of its economy.
The competing proclamations are meant to be largely ceremonial but have sparked a cultural clash at the Colorado-Nebraska state line. The disdain for MeatOut Day is driven by the meat industry that keeps the two states’ economies afloat. Gov. Polis is trying to move away from the heavy reliance on farming by diversifying the state's economy to high-tech, transportation equipment, chemical production, and mining, as well as tourism, and renewable clean energy, while Nebraska has been an agriculture-driven economy since the 1900s, and Omaha was until recently home to Conagra, the largest food manufacturer in the country.
MeatOut Day began in 1985 when the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM.org) launched a campaign to discourage meat consumption and reduce the world’s carbon footprint. The nonprofit’s “holiday” caught immediate traction and continues to stoke conversation, and more proclamations similar to Gov. Polis’ have been issued by local and national governments worldwide. Dallas, Texas has joined in proclaiming Saturday MeatOut day, with a proclamation from the Mayor's office.
The MeatOut movement urges people to “explore the benefits and flavors of a wholesome plant-based diet,” citing a list of health benefits from eating less meat and more plant-based foods such as lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure and other chronic conditions. The proclamation further explains how a plant-based or plant-leaning approach can benefit anyone who suffers from lifestyle-related conditions. Along with health benefits, the organization describes how reducing meat consumption will lower our food system's carbon footprint and help preserve wildlife, biodiversity, and the world's forests.
“Removing animal products from our diets reduces the risk of various ailments, including heart disease, cancers, and diabetes,” FARM states. “A plant-based diet helps protect the environment by reducing our carbon footprint, preserving forests, grasslands, and wildlife habitats. It also reduces the pollution of waterways. Since MeatOut was launched more than 35 million Americans have explored a plant-based diet and reduced their consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs. And major food manufactures and national franchises are marketing more vegan options in response to this growing demand.”
Nebraska’s governor is being joined by other politicians and organizations that have spoken out against MeatOut Day including the Cattlemen’s Association, which announced it would launch its own “Meat In” movement.
“If you were to get rid of beef in our country, you would be undermining our food security, an important part of a healthy diet,” Picketts told The Guardian. “And, also destroying an industry here in our state that’s very important.”
Polis’ proclamation was initially meant to establish a ceremonial holiday to celebrate leaning into more plant-based foods and diversifying our diet, the conflict continues to grow. Nebraska's farmers and some Colorado-based organizations plan to protest the holiday and promote Meat In, but Polis is not backing down. Amid the conflict, MeatOut Day will take place as proponents of a plant-based diet enjoy their lentil burgers with pride.