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The right’s new bogeyman: that Biden will take America’s hamburgers away

·5 min read
<span>Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP</span>
Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP

First President Obama was coming for your guns. Didn’t happen. Then President Trump said the socialists were going to take away our energy. The lights are on after 100 days, although it got dicey in Texas for awhile (and no, wind turbines didn’t cause the ice storm).

But whoa, Nellie! We hear a Hamburglar will steal your right to beef before you can say “pass the ketchup”.

Since I don’t even own a BB gun, I was not alarmed by Obama. Since I barely have enough energy to get out of bed I ignored Trump’s warning. But I can get worked up if you have your eyes on my ribeye.

Turns out Fox News had to eat crow and retract a story claiming that Joe Biden will foreclose your divine right to slay a fatted calf. It was a Big Lie like all the rest – that your property rights will be denied for the sake of the endangered Topeka shiner minnow; that the election was fraudulent, except in Iowa where Trump won in a rout; that Obamacare would divorce you from your doctor.

Related: Republicans’ climate credibility hit by make-believe ‘war on burgers’ claim

This lie started in the Daily Mail, which of course would know exactly what the US secretary of agriculture is thinking. The Daily Mail insisted that meat consumption would need to be cut 90% to meet President Biden’s climate goals, citing part of a University of Michigan study.

Meanwhile, here is what the secretary, Tom Vilsack, is really thinking about: cow burps and pig poop. He wants more cattle on grass as part of a system with reduced emissions resilient to extreme weather. He is proposing money for methane digesters on hoghouses to power farms and sell dry compost – and getting a ton of flak from the left for it.

After Biden’s first 100 socialist days, Tyson is running full tilt cranking out pork and turkey from Storm Lake with non-union labor. Hoghouses are going up everywhere, spreading up the Missouri into South Dakota. Chicken hind quarters were only 69¢ a pound at the grocery store last week.

There are a fair number of NRA members deeply suspicious of Obama and Hillary Clinton who also want cleaner rivers and lakes, more grass buffers for habitat and limits on livestock confinements. They know the difference between BS and apple butter.

The 'take away your meat' scare belies the fear felt by Big Meat when its own system crashed

And they sense the real threat to their way of life – including Saturday night sirloin – is an ossified oligopoly food system that teetered on the brink of collapse last spring when its workers were overcome by Covid. Meat prices shot up 50% when the Waterloo and Sioux Falls pork plants shut down for a week. There was no way they could let the squeal go out of Storm Lake. For the first time in my life, meat counters were empty. The system failed. We have wrung the diversity out of the food supply chain. Just a few producers and packers stand, and when one of them falls we are all the hungrier.

The “take away your meat” scare belies the fear felt by Big Meat when its own, unsustainable system crashed up against its limits.

Livestock can be sheltered humanely for efficient food production and better protection from disease. We can finish a lot more cattle on grass for the benefit of the planet. We can enhance food security with more diversity in production and open, competitive markets. Almost everyone in the midwest understands those basic facts.

So when the meat scare is propagated it makes the messenger look stupid. It’s not going to sell, just like the idea that wind turbines kill geese. We know better.

Eventually, the stupidity becomes obvious to the semi-zealous. The rush on bullets turned out to be a ruse from the ammo makers. It took a lot of shine off the gun lobby as the dues-paying members figured out they were getting played so prices could take a nice run. The organization’s membership dues are drying up accordingly.

The more lies they tell, the worse they get.

Eventually, people figure it out. Even the “QAnon shaman” who crashed the Capitol wearing a horn helmet realized he got duped when they didn’t serve organic in jail.

Vilsack reassured the public that USDA loves it some more red meat. Biden gave a shout-out to cover crops in his address to Congress – foretelling a huge step in environmental progress broadly supported by agribusiness. In Iowa, Republicans and Democrats are working to strengthen small meat processors.

Despite several fish kills from floods of manure in north-west Iowa rivers this spring, nothing will be done to prevent the next one. A meager fine will be assessed. People do care about that. They do care about antibiotic resistance and viral pandemics inherent in our system. They want reasonable solutions based on science and reality. When there is enough BS, they begin to think it stinks. That can have consequences.

  • Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing. He is a Guardian US columnist and author of the book Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland

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