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  1. News Release

  2. Sep 10, 2020

Kansas Governor Targeted With Hard-Hitting Billboards

Doctors Group Files Complaint Demanding That State Authorities Shut Down Slaughterhouses and Promote Plant Protein

TOPEKA, Kansas—Two billboards that directly address Governor Laura Kelly were installed Sept. 9 near the governor’s office at the state capitol, and they will remain posted until Oct. 4. One billboard is on 6th near MacVicar and the other is on Kansas Avenue near 4th Street, one half mile from the governor’s office. The billboards are about 10 feet tall and 22 feet wide, and they are sponsored by the Physicians Committee—a national nonprofit of 12,000 doctors, including 67 physicians in Kansas. The billboards confront the governor with the message “Governor Kelly: Can Kansas Switch to a Safer Food Supply Like Sunflowers Over Swine? PromotePlantProtein.org!” Sunflowers are a profitable crop according to the Topeka Capital-Journal, and the billboards feature an eye-catching image of a farmer in a field of sunflowers.

The doctors group also filed a complaint Sept. 8 with the head of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Lee Norman, MD. Any slaughterhouses that continue to see new coronavirus cases should be shut down immediately. The complaint argues that meatpacking facilities should be replaced with cleaner, safer facilities that produce plant-based protein. The current public health emergency highlights the need to transition the food production system away from animal agriculture. This is especially urgent since meat products increase the risk of chronic diseases, including those that have helped make covid-19 so deadly. For example, patients with high blood pressure have twice the risk of dying from the novel coronavirus, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal. Studies show that affordable, plant-based options can help people prevent and even reverse diabetesheart disease, and high blood pressure, among other conditions.

“The transition to plant-based protein is already underway, driven by consumer demand, but this health-promoting trend needs the support and assistance of government,” says Susan Levin, MS, RD, director of nutrition education for Physicians committee.  “With incentives from the state, farmers could increase acreage of sunflowers, pinto beans, and other high-protein crops while decreasing livestock production.” According to an April 2 article in the Topeka Capital-Journal, sunflowers are a very profitable crop to grow and there are several facilities in western Kansas that process the seeds for oil, butter, and roasting. Ms. Levin has written directly to Governor Kelly with her proposal.

Consumers in Kansas and elsewhere are increasingly embracing plant-based protein products like veggie dogs and veggie deli slices. These products are money-makers for the companies that manufacture them. As consumer demand rises, food companies are ramping up production of plant-based protein products. According to the Indianapolis Star, Greenleaf Foods is building a $310 million facility in Indiana to produce plant-based protein including veggie sausage. The facility is expected to hire about 460 workers in Indiana, and the state announced that it would support the project through grants and tax credits.

In response to the popularity of plant-based protein products, Tyson Foods and other large meat processors are launching plant-based nuggets and other products. Meanwhile, facilities that produce traditional meat products have been hotspots for coronavirus infections. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports that as of Sept. 7, there are nine active outbreaks associated with meatpacking facilities, accounting for over 2,000 cases.

By contrast, one of the most profitable manufacturers of plant-based protein, Impossible Foods, reports zero coronavirus cases at its facility in Oakland, Calif.  

Media Contact

Jeanne Stuart McVey

202-527-7316

jmcvey@pcrm.org

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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