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DENVER (KDVR) — Gov. Jared Polis’ plan to cut greenhouse gases through a statewide meat-free diet day may have backfired when it drew ire from the state’s meat producers and agriculture communities.

Polis announced a statewide “Meat Out Day” to be celebrated on March 20 where Coloradans are asked to abstain from all things meat.

In response, more than two dozen Colorado counties have declared a “Meat In Day,” particularly those with heavy concentrations of the state’s historic agricultural and ranching industries.

“I think its fine people don’t eat meat but I don’t enjoy a political figure telling us what to do,” Erin Karney, the Industry Advancement Director for Colorado Cattleman’s Association said. 

An organization in Erie, called Luvin Arms Sanctuary stated they want people to make their own choices about eating meat but are offering an incentive to those members of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association for Saturday. 

“Showing compassion on one day in support of the planet, people and animals isn’t about taking down an industry, it’s about building community,” said DJ CAVEM aka Chef Ietef, a Colorado based hip hop artist, chef and food justice advocate who is picking up the tab for those who take up the offer.

“After such a hard and intense year for so many, let’s stop yelling about scraps of food, drop the hate, pick up a plate and just enjoy a meal.” 

Shartrina White with Luvin Arms Sanctuary said they focus on bringing people together. They just wanted restaurants to feel supported after such a tough time during the pandemic. 

“It’s a time to come out and try out its a choice. We all make a choice to help these businesses that have been struggling,” White said.  

“Governor Polis is thrilled that his recent proclamation helped start a grassroots movement of support for cattlemen and the beef industry. Governor Polis is a strong supporter of Colorado jobs in the meat industry and was just in Greeley and Fort Morgan where the state partnered to provide the lifesaving vaccine to meat processing workers. Governor Polis is enthusiastic about how his proclamation is drawing needed attention and support for our ranchers and agriculture economy,” Shelby Wieman, Colorado Deputy Press Secretary stated.

Any card-carrying member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association who orders a plant-based menu item from any of the Colorado restaurants participating in the 36th annual MeatOut Day will have their meal paid for!

The governors of both Nebraska and Wyoming have declared meat celebrations for Saturday, as well.

The state brings in roughly $6.3 billion in cash receipts, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, two-thirds of which is livestock rather than crops. Every Colorado county raises beef, and agriculture is second only to oil and gas in Colorado’s economic impact.

Cattle farming, in particular, is lucrative but the state’s urbanization means urban employment simply outweighs agriculture. Crops and livestock production only account for 1% of the overall jobs.

That beef goes a long way, however.

Beef in particular and meat products in general are Colorado’s number one export. Combined with pork and animal hides, meat and meat products comprised 14% of Colorado’s total export value last year.

Each animal product in particular is high on the export value list.

Beef production is the highest single export value on an annual basis. Last year, fresh or chilled beef brought in $531 million in export value, more than any other category.

Meat and meat products were six of the state’s most valuable exports in 2020.