116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One highlight of my recent week off was grilling a rib-eye half as big as my head. It's a very big head.
Not long after the coals cooled came news that Gov. Kim Reynolds had declared April 'Meat on the Table” month in Iowa, seeking to promote meat producers and stick it to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who signed a MeatOut proclamation. MeatOut promotes the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Reynolds' proclamation blames 'ill-informed politicians and social media influencers” for searing, unfair criticism of real meat. But it could be that Polis knows his state, which has the nation's lowest obesity rate. Iowa is in comfy pants. Every month, plenty of meat is on the table.
Reynolds knows who she's working for, having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from livestock producers. Also known as gravy.
Just a month ago, it was 'liberal elites” trying push us toward synthetic meat. U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson lashed out at Bill Gates after the Microsoft mogul suggested rich nations should switch to lab meat in an effort to confront climate change. Livestock production contributes to emissions warming the planet.
'Billionaire liberal elitists like Bill Gates want Americans to eat 100% synthetic beef. Not going to happen. Sign my petition and tell the Democrats HANDS OFF OUR BEEF!” Hinson tweeted.
Vegan Democrats aren't really coming for our cows, but it did get the congresswoman yet another star turn in conservative media.
Iowa has a long history of taking offense to meaty criticism.
In 1996, state Sen. Berl Priebe, a cattleman from Algona, took on Oprah Winfrey after she disparaged beef during the Mad Cow scare.
In 2012, then-Gov. Terry Branstad sprang into action after media reports dubbed lean, finely textured beef products made by Beef Products Inc. in South Sioux City, Neb., as 'pink slime.” Eldon Roth, the company's founder has donated more than $350,000 to Branstad and Reynolds.
Also in 2012, the USDA promoted a 'meatless Monday” in its cafeterias, angering former U.S. Rep. Steve King. 'USDA HQ meatless Mondays!!! At the Dept. Of Agriculture? Heresy! I'm not grazing there. I will have double rib-eye Mondays instead,” King tweeted. The department dropped the idea.
With the exception of the pink slime saga, which led to plant closures and job losses, most of these and similar episodes are overreactions to fake threats, blown up for political effect.
Funny stuff, except when you realize the same politicians incensed by meat slights couldn't care less about the very real environmental effects of agriculture. If only dirty water, flooding runoff, fish kills and algae-choked lakes could stoke their outrage even half as much as a veggie patty.
We saw vividly during the pandemic the deadly defects in our meatpacking industry and the fragility of a food chain controlled by a handful of huge processors. Tyson managers in Waterloo placed bets on how many workers would get sick, but at least there was no meatless Monday.
They're doing farmers no favors. More and more, consumers are looking for environmentally responsible products. Fake meat already is a $12 billion industry. If we continue to produce real meat with no real regard for the environment or workers, it's the market that will opt for a MeatOut.
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