OPINION: So, we’re celebrating meat now?

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Hailey Stessman
OPINION EDITOR

The “Meat on the Menu Day” declared by Gov. Pete Ricketts is a moment where we should reflect on the governor’s priorities. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

As a way to encourage people to incorporate a more plant-based diet into their daily lives, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declared March 20 to be “MeatOUT Day”, a day designated for citizens to try and eliminate meat and animal by-products for the day. But once again, Gov. Pete Ricketts felt the need to interject himself into the conversation by establishing an unnecessary statewide event commemorating meat.

Yes, you heard that right: a day to celebrate meat.

On March 5, Gov. Ricketts tweeted, “While meat is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, there are radical anti-agriculture activists that are working to end meat production and our way of life here in Nebraska.”

So, due to Gov. Ricketts, March 20 in the state of Nebraska will be recognized 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”, as described in a follow-up tweet.

Let’s unpack this.

Firstly, the intentions of Gov. Polis surrounding “MeatOUT Day” are in response to the environmental concerns expressed repeatedly by experts and are an attempt to reduce the state’s carbon footprint on an individual level. According to researchers at the University of Oxford, “cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent.” While there are more important ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint, there is no harm, or difficulty, in opting out from eating meat and dairy products for twenty four hours.

Secondly, how can Gov. Ricketts dedicate a day to celebrate farmers and meat production when he can’t even support vaccinating undocumented individuals working at meatpacking plants? According to the Migration Policy Institute, 66% of Nebraska’s meatpacking plants are immigrants, and of that 66%, at least 14% are undocumented. The appreciation that Ricketts claims to express for the meat production industry fails to encompass the process from beginning to end, including the people who work to get meat on dinner tables.

Lastly, though beef production is the largest sector of Nebraska’s agriculture, does Ricketts’ not realize what Nebraska’s second largest contributor is to the agriculture industry? Nebraska has the fourth largest soybean production in the entire country, and according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, “livestock and poultry in Nebraska used the meal from more than 28 million bushels of Nebraska soybeans”. If Ricketts wants to express his sentiments to cattle ranchers, he needs to also extend his sentiments to the farmers who help feed the cattle and contribute to the industry of meatless alternatives.

The conception of this “Meat on the Menu Day” points to various issues underlying the perception and structure of Nebraska’s agricultural industry. It’s completely unnecessary and diverts attention from more important conflicts happening within the state such as the pandemic and the allocation of vaccines to the population. We should be celebrating those who are risking their lives to keep the state healthy and place our efforts on making sure essential workers, including educators and grocery store employees, are vaccinated. We shouldn’t be wasting our time to make sure you have a steak on the dinner table.

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