Recently, the National Pork Producers Council criticized recommendations related to meat in the diet from an advisory committee informing the creation of federal guidelines for healthy eating.
In a report for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, an Obama administration-appointed advisory committee of health and nutrition professionals recommended that people consume less red and processed meat, and it omitted lean meat from its recommended dietary pattern. (It did maintain the Recommended Daily Allowance of 5.5 ounces of “protein foods.”) The panel recommended moderate amounts of alcohol.
Additionally, the advisory committee concluded that a diet higher in plant-based and lower in animal-based foods would be more environmentally sustainable.
The report was sent to the secretaries of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services, who will use it to develop the 2015 guidelines. Due out later this year, the guidelines affect all federal food purchasing programs, including the School Lunch program.
“We think the advisory committee has taken the wrong approach,” said NPPC President Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa. “Science recognizes that meat is, and should be, a part of a healthful diet, and NPPC urges the USDA and HHS secretaries to keep meat in the center of America’s plate.
“It appears the advisory committee was more interested in addressing what’s trendy among foodies than providing science-based advice for the average American’s diet,” Hill said. “Have we really come to the point where alcohol is okay and meat isn’t”?
NPPC pointed out in comments on the 2015 guidelines that animal proteins are considered complete proteins, containing all the essential amino acids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A number of critical vitamins and minerals, including B12, Heme iron and potassium – often lacking in many American diets – are found primarily in meat, and lean, nutrient-rich meat is versatile, affordable and accessible, making it easy to incorporate into the diet.
For school children, eating meat promotes satiety and preserves lean muscle mass, said NPPC. Additionally, including lean meat in their diets can help adults prevent or manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Research even shows that, for those dealing with obesity, many cuts of meat can improve long-term weight maintenance.
As for sustainability, said Hill, “pork producers today are much more environmentally friendly than even 25 years ago. In fact, a U.N. report (starting on page 278) on greenhouse gases cited intensive agricultural production, such as the modern U.S. meat production system, as a way to address those gases.”
According to North Carolina research firm Camco, compared with 50 years ago, U.S. pork producers today are using 78 percent less land and 45 percent less water to produce a pound of pork and have a 35 percent smaller carbon footprint.