March 20 declared Meat-In Day

photo by Molly Johnson | The Sherman brothers, Mike and Rich, trail the herd and keep track of the stragglers.

by Marissa Lorenz
On Tuesday, the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) heard and approved a request to support official celebration of a “Meat-In” Day on March 20, in order to promote beef and the beef and ag industries.

The request was brought forward by Kim Cameron, representing the Middle Park Cowbelles, a group organized by local cattlewomen in the mid-1950s in order to promote beef.

Cameron explained that the effort comes in response to Colorado Governor Jared Polis having recently declared the same date a statewide “MeatOut Day,” to advocate meatless diets to consumers.

“Removing animal products from our diets reduces the risk of various ailments, including heart disease, high-blood pressure, stroke, various cancers, and diabetes,” reads the Governor’s proclamation, “and a plant-based diet helps protect the environment by reducing our carbon footprint, preserving forests, grasslands, and wildlife habitats, and reduces pollution of waterways.”

However critics, such as the Colorado Farm Bureau, contend the move discounts the fact that agriculture and livestock are important economic drivers in Colorado. With the MeatOut proclamation, says local rancher Doug Bruchez, “Polis is disregarding rural America. (….) We don’t get a lot of opportunities to let our voices be heard. But this event has really struck a chord.”

Colorado’s ag industries contributed $41 billion to the Colorado economy and employed nearly 173,000 people in 2018, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA), which also reports 60% of the state’s $7.1 billion in agricultural cash receipts that year being credited to livestock.

Colorado remains the “third-largest producer of sheep and lambs in the US and has 2.7 million head of cattle,” reads the Colorado Livestock Association’s website. The state is a leader in ag science education and meat processing and packing technology. And it has pioneered efforts in the related fields of livestock health and land/water conservation.

The CDA also notes that “agritourism” brought in an additional $64 million in Colorado ag income in 2017 when 1,056 Colorado farms provided agritourism and recreational services, “to connect consumers with the heritage, natural resource, or culinary experience they value.”

Grand County is a historically agricultural county, with sheep and cattle ranching being the primary occupation even among the earliest homesteaders. In 2017, according to CDA ag census data, Grand County’s traditional, family-owned cattle and hay ranches made up a $14.4 million industry.

And in support of that industry, local businesses are hustling to organize “lots of happenings” for March 20.

The Kremmling Mercantile, owned by local ranchers Dave and Karen Hammer, will be serving free burgers, starting at 11:30 am. They plan to serve 400 to 500 burgers from locally-sourced beef.

Middle Park Meat is working on promotional ideas, according to rancher/owner Mitch Lockhart.

Area restaurants will be offering meat specials and promotions in support of the event.

The Grand Old West will be serving an array of meat dishes for lunch and dinner, including their Saturday night prime rib dinner. The 9&40 will offer beef and pork specials. The Dean West, which serves locally-sourced beef from Battle Creek Ranch near Parshall, will also offer special deals for the day. Debbie’s Drive-In in Granby, a family-owned restaurant whose owners have grown from restaurateurs to also become cattle ranchers with the purchase of a ranch on Corral Creek, is also planning to support the event.

“There was a time in my life where I was vegan for nearly 20 years, so I actually understand that perspective,” says Debbie Fitch,
co-owner of Debbie’s Drive-In and Fitch Ranch in Parshall, on why her restaurant will be participating in Meat-In Day. “I discovered I liked beef while attending a culinary course and now, look–I raise cattle and own a hamburger restaurant!

“What is important to me is that politicians do not try to influence our communities on a whim, disregarding how it may negatively impact any industry–this time, specifically targeting our animal agriculture industry in Colorado. I’d rather they stand up and give a nod to the thousands of ranchers and farmers who work hard, acknowledging the quality we produce as well as the Western Heritage for which we are known.”

Commissioner Merrit Linke added to Cameron’s listi of participants, stating that the Middle Park Stockgrowers Association had also discussed the Meat-In event and had committed funding support for restaurant and food establishments wishing to participate and for advertising. The local chapter of Farm Bureau is also pledging its support for the Meat-In Day.

Cameron explained that trucks and trailers were being recruited to help promote the Meat-In Day and that messages on banners in support of the agricultural industry were encouraged.

Commissioner Kristen Manguso motioned for a vote to support the official declaration. And just one hour later, Staff presented the unanimous board with a written resolution for signature, declaring March 20, 2021, and each year after as “Grand County Ranching, Livestock, and MEAT-IN DAY, in order to promote the importance of and to support the agricultural industry in the State of Colorado.”