My name is Jim and I’ve tried an Impossible Whopper. Forgive me, grandfather, for I have sinned.
I suppose that means, at least in the eyes of some hyper-sensitive folks in Colorado’s beef industry, I’ll have to turn in my granddad’s old branding irons now retired to a corner of my home office. Maybe take down the horns removed decades ago from some family Hereford and mounted on a pine X-J branded board by my father to go along with log-faced dressers and beds, furniture he crafted for his young “cowboys.”
Am I still allowed to pull on the four or five pairs of boots that are my only “dress shoes,” an ongoing nod to the family ranching heritage and younger years spent branding calves, bucking bales, harvesting oats and corn, putting up silage, feeding and irrigating? Is it still OK to cinch up the ornate prison-silver buckle, a gift from my cattleman uncle some 50 years ago? Can I keep, at least until my granddaughter is dating, that unique tool atop my old roll-top desk, the one salvaged from the barn out on 21 Road when her mother was a teenager and designed to affix tight bands to the sensitive parts of young bull calves in order to re-direct their energies from mating to putting on pounds?
Importantly, must I give up one of my favorite delicacies, Rocky Mountain oysters? In this new either/or world, no more ribeyes, charred rare New York strips or prime rib, whether grass fed or chemically enhanced?
Those would be similarly illogical extensions of the misguided criticism Gov. Jared Polis has faced since sampling Burger King’s new meatless burger and noting its potential for positively impacting the substantial portion of our state’s agriculture industry that grows plants instead of meat. This “War on the Whopper” is the latest skirmish in the supposed “War on Rural Colorado” that erupted after those damned Democrats started painting the state’s political landscape blue, albeit with no small amount of help from Republican leaders out of step with evolving realities of Colorado politics.
Make no mistake about it, this is all about politics. If not, where’s the similar outrage over Chick-fil-A’s “Eat Mor Chikin” campaign, which unabashedly uses apparently sacred cows to promote that long-running anti-beef message? Or any whining about Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently enjoying the same fake burger?
Time and energy spent bashing Polis might be better spent trying to reverse trade policies which negatively impact U.S. agricultural exports. Tit-for-tat fights (especially with Mexico, the largest importer of Colorado ag products) prompted by spur of the moment whims of a president inexplicably still supported by many farmers and ranchers?
Agriculture, including the cattle business, has evolved since my granddad raised his mixed breed calves near Crested Butte, accompanying them to the old Denver stockyards to sell at the end of every summer. These days genetics are tracked on ranch computers. Smart cattlemen are in the market year-round selling everything but the moo. Feeds and animal health practices have improved. Even small operations avoid the middlemen, staying with their herds from conception through sales to the ultimate consumer.
Still, Americans ate 10 pounds less beef per capita last year than in 2000. That bitter weed called kale disgraces our annual family gathering on land where my grandfather and uncle pastured their herds and cows still graze. But with an ever-growing worldwide population, there’s no need for food production of any type to be the zero-sum game some beef producers imply. Colorado agriculture must continue to diversify, even provide the byproducts of sunflower seeds and potatoes in the Impossible Whopper, as eating habits and markets evolve. That’s all the governor (and Perdue) advocated between bites of meatless burgers.
That Impossible Whopper at the Montrose Burger King last Monday evening as we returned from our Labor Day weekend trip was a taste test prompted by controversy as manufactured as its filling. It was also pretty damn good. A blind tasting, ala the competition that long ago put California wines on the map against the French, might be an interesting experiment.
Perhaps at the next Colorado Cattlemen’s Association convention? Or, better yet, the State Fair, where all agriculture in our state, whether plant or animal based, is celebrated.
Jim Spehar hopes he’s not less a native Coloradan because he also enjoys pork, chicken and sometimes even lamb (but not kale). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.