In comments submitted today to the secretaries of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Pork Producers Council criticized recommendations related to meat in the diet from a committee informing the creation of new federal guidelines for healthy eating.

In a February report to USDA and HHS, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommended that people consume less red and processed meat, and it omitted lean meat from its recommended dietary pattern. Additionally, the panel of health and nutrition professionals concluded that a diet higher in plant-based and lower in animal-based foods would be more environmentally sustainable.

USDA and HHS every five years write new dietary guidelines, which affect all federal food purchasing programs, including the School Lunch program. The 2015 guidelines are expected to be issued late this year.

NPPC pointed out in its comments that there is ample scientific evidence supporting the nutritive value of meat and noted that previous dietary guidelines recognized and supported the critical role animal proteins play in ensuring a nutritionally optimal American diet. The organization said the DGAC recommendations on meat were reached “on tenuous grounds.”

It also was critical of the committee for not reviewing the “full breadth of scientific research that supports the inclusion of meat into healthy dietary profiles” and for relying extensively on information sources from outside USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library, a repository of nutrition information. The DGAC acknowledge that the NEL was used to develop about a quarter of its conclusions.

On the issue of sustainability, NPPC wrote that the DGAC had “neither the mandate nor breadth of expertise needed to do this topic justice.” Consideration (and inclusion) of sustainability was a significant overreach, said NPPC.

The organization pointed out that meat, including pork, includes a number of critical vitamins and minerals, including B12, Heme iron and potassium, which often are lacking in many American diets. It also noted that lean, nutrient-rich meat is versatile, affordable and accessible, making it easy to incorporate into the diet.

NPPC asked USDA and HHS to “ensure that pork retains its rightful place on the American plate.”

Comments echoing NPPC’s also were submitted by 27 state pork associations.