Iowans: say no to “Meat on the Table” month


On March 19, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation declaring April as “Meat on the Table Month,” encouraging Iowans to support Iowa meat producers by consuming more meat throughout the month. This was done largely in response to Governor Jared Polis of Colorado’s proclamation declaring March 20 as “Meat Out Day,” encouraging people to consume less meat and consider plant-based diets. This followed in the footsteps of Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, who declared the same day as “Meat on the Menu Day” in Nebraska.

Reynolds states in her proclamation, “Producers are under constant scrutiny from ill-informed politicians and social media influencers, who diminish the brand of everyday food, mislead consumers and disregard sound research supporting the quality and safety of animal agriculture.”

However, is it possible that the aforementioned “politicians and social media influencers” are correct in their judgement of the quality and safety of animal agriculture?

I have previously written about the detrimental effects of animal agriculture, particularly factory farming, on both a large scale and in regards to Iowa specifically, but the impacts of animal agriculture on Iowa’s ecosystem cannot be understated. Runoff from manure produced by Iowa’s 10,000 and counting factory farms has caused unsafe levels of nitrates in drinking water sources, causing over 300 cases of cancer annually, according to a study in Environmental Research. Air pollution from manure is another massive health concern. Residents living near factory farms report increased rates of asthma, causing the American Public Health Association to issue a nationwide precautionary moratorium on factory farming in 2019.

Even beyond the environmental impact, Iowa farms are notorious for their abuse and neglect of livestock. Last year, animal rights activist group Direct Action Everywhere entered an Oskaloosa pig farm co-owned by Iowa Sen. Ken Rozenboom, taking photos of severely neglected and ill pigs. Rozenboom helped pass an Ag-Gag law the prior year, which made it illegal for animal welfare activists and journalists to enter farms and slaughterhouses to document conditions.

Iowa’s largest pork producer, Iowa Select Farms, was also found to employ the mass-extermination method known as “ventilation shutdown” during the early months of the pandemic, which involves sealing off barn airways and inserting steam, causing heat and humidity to build. The death personally placed on the animals is anything but quick and painless.

Reynolds’ proclamation also makes mention of the supposed health benefits of meat and their use as a predominant food source:

“These products are packed with wholesome and nutritious protein and play a critical role in combating hunger and fighting food insecurity throughout Iowa, America and around the globe.”

However, once again, evidence suggests otherwise. Studies indicate that meat consumption is associated with a higher risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and overall mortality. Conversely, a study by Lap Tai Le and Joan Sabate indicates that vegetarian diets provide protection against such ailments, and vegan diets provide even more. While Reynolds’ proclamation draws attention to the protein content in meat, the protein in meat actually originates from plants, which livestock consume.

Foods like nuts, grains and beans are high in protein, and high-protein foods like seitan and tofu can supplement the experience of consuming meat with their familiar textures. Vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian is evidence of the power of a plant-based diet – named Germany’s strongest man and holding the world log lift record for the under 105kg category with a 165kg lift, he certainly gets all the protein he needs.

What about Reynolds’ argument about food insecurity? In reality, animal agriculture does very little to combat hunger. In fact, 33% of agricultural land worldwide is used to grow food for livestock, rather than to feeding people. The livestock produce disproportionately small amounts of food compared to the food they consume – a cow may have to consume an estimated seven pounds of grain in order to produce one pound of beef.

Animal agriculture is not a sustainable solution to food insecurity, and the U.N. has been endorsing a major shift towards plant-based diets in order to combat climate change and utilize resources in a sustainable way.

It is clear that Reynolds’ “Meat on the Table Month” is an appeal to a major Iowan industry spurred by a fear of an increasingly plant-based world. However, Iowans deserve clean water, unpolluted air and a governor who prioritizes their wellbeing over personal attacks.