Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Wisconsin physicians file legal action, demand Gov. Evers halt $10 million program to support meat industry

Contact: Leslie Raabe [email protected], 443-534-5803

WASHINGTON—In a legal action to be filed early next week, a national public health organization demands that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers immediately halt the $10 million Meat and Poultry Supply Chain Resiliency Grant Program announced on May 23. Instead, the physicians group says the funds should be directed to Wisconsin crop farmers growing and manufacturing plant-based foods. The petition cites several studies linking meat consumption to increased risk of death and disease.

“Instead of bailing out the declining meat industry, Governor Evers should help Wisconsin’s farmers pivot to a profitable future by growing crops for organic plant-based products to support health at all levels of society,” says Wisconsin physician Rose Kumar, MD, a member of the Physicians Committee, a nonprofit of more than 17,000 doctors, including 150 in Wisconsin.

The World Health Organization has declared red and processed meats “carcinogenic to humans,” and observed an increased risk for pancreatic, stomach, and other cancers. A recent Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study showed that “people who increased their daily servings of red meat over an eight-year period were more likely to die during the subsequent eight years compared to people who did not increase their red meat consumption, and … that higher consumption of red meat, especially processed red meat, is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetescardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancers.”

The Physicians Committee asks that the funds be directed to support Wisconsin-based production of plant-based foods that are shown to improve health. That means Wisconsin should help farmers who want to convert from cows to crops. Instead of being propped up by the government to produce meat, they would cash in on corn and soybeans, which are among Wisconsin’s top agricultural commodities and are fueling the plant-based product boom.

PURIS, which has operations in Wisconsin, buys corn, soybeans, peas, and lentils from farmers in several states and uses them to manufacture plant-based ingredients for products like Beyond Burgers. Global meat producer Cargill has even invested $75 million in the PURIS “as consumer demand increases for plant-based proteins.”

Sales of plant-based food products grew 27% in 2020—twice as fast as overall food sales, according to Modern Farmer. The subcategory of plant-based meat grew 45%, and the top makers of plant-based meat use pea protein grown by U.S. farmers.

Growing more peas wouldn’t just aid Wisconsin’s farmers, it would help all Wisconsinites. Studies show that legumes are beneficial for cardiovascular diseasetype 2 diabetes, and weight management, and satisfy hunger more than meat. They’re good for the planet, too.

To improve the health and well-being of Wisconsinites, Governor Evers should incentivize Wisconsin farmers who want to produce peas and other crops to be processed at Wisconsin plants and stop funding for the Meat and Poultry Supply Chain Resiliency Grant Program.

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 research and medical training.