New dietary guideline recommendations suggest less meat

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s report. This report is a recommendation to the Secretaries as they develop the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that will be released later this year. Many ag groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the National Pork Board (NPB), are calling this report inconsistent, and if adopted they feel it will lead to conflicting dietary advice. In the report, the Committee has endorsed the Mediterranean style diet, which has higher red meat levels than currently consumed in the U.S. The rub comes when the committee leaves lean meat out of what they consider to be a healthy dietary pattern.

Shortly after the news of the guideline recommendations report, the National Pork Board was quick to point out its flaws, stating that meat, including pork, is a nutrient-dense food that is not over consumed on average in America.  As NPB pointed out, “more than 60% of the U.S. population is consuming the Protein Food Group at or below recommended intake levels and scientific evidence shows that eating lean, high-quality protein like pork can help people lose or maintain weight by contributing to feeling full and by preserving lean muscle.”

“Meats, including pork, offer a greater percentage of high ‘nutrient density value’ compared to all other protein sources, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” the statement read.A 3-ounce serving of lean pork provides about the same amount of protein as 1.5 cups of black beans, but with 21% fewer calories. Research demonstrates that pork can increase dietary variety without adversely affecting total fat or saturated fat intake.

Shalene McNeill, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Scientist with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said the recommendation that a healthy dietary pattern should be lower in red meat is not consistent with scientific evidence and would be unsound dietary advice.

“Lean meat is red meat. Today’s beef supply is leaner than ever before with more than 30 cuts of beef recognized as lean by government standards,” McNeill said. “The protein foods category, which includes meat, is the only category currently consumed within the current guidelines, and it is misleading to conclude that a healthy dietary pattern should be lower in red meat.”

According to the report, “dietary patterns with positive health benefits are described as high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products; lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains.”

Unfortunately, the statement disregards the positive role of lean meat. Lean beef is one of the most nutrient rich foods, providing high levels of essential nutrients such as zinc, iron and protein, as opposed to empty calories.

NCBA shared in a statement that lean meat plays an important role in the American diet and science shows it needs to be recognized as part of a healthy dietary pattern just as it was in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“On behalf of U.S. cattle producers that work each and every day to provide a nutritious and healthful beef product for consumers, we encourage Secretaries Burwell and Vilsack to reject the Advisory Committee’s recommendation that healthy American diets should be lower in red meat,” NCBA said. “The process was incomplete with flawed conclusions specific to health benefits of red meat’s role in the American diet.”

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