The Meat Industry Isn’t Happy About New Dietary Guideline Recommendations

Will Americans finally eat their veggies?

Nutrition experts brought in at the request of the Obama administration have recommended that the environment — in addition to health and wellness — should be considered in any revised dietary guidelines. To that end, they suggested more fish and vegetables for the American diet, which, according to a chart published in The Wall Street Journal, favors tacos, hamburgers and sweets.

The recommendation isn’t sitting well with the meat industry, who are clearly under the impression that there’s an anti-meat Illuminati at play. Not only do they criticize the recommendations for not taking into account the eco-friendlier nature of their processes but also for downplaying the value of a diet that includes red meat.

“Suggesting a diet lower in red meat is not consistent with science…we need to be specific and clear because people need good advice on what to eat,” said Shalene McNeill, head of nutrition research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

On the other end, there’s this (again from the WSJ):

According to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future, large-scale animal operations can generate large amounts of waste, pollute waterways and produce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The committee said the global production of food is responsible for 80% of deforestation and more than 70% of freshwater use.

And then you have the argument that Americans don’t eat well, causing the obesity epidemic, and should be encouraged to chow down on fruits and veg a lot more.

The concern from the meat industry is justified. Recent studies show that Americans are growing more worried about climate change, including Republicans. And Hispanics, a demographic that’s only getting bigger, are increasingly saying that climate change is a problem. And it’s a problem that impacts them personally. Nothing motivates people to take action more than something that has an effect that people can feel directly. Stories like this don’t help.

But the industry’s concern shouldn’t be confined to just this one area. Americans are getting a bigger glimpse of farm practices with stories about things like gestation crates and California’s egg rules (though the recommendations did include a note about doing away with the hubbub about cholesterol). And the growing popularity of Meatless Mondays ties all of this together.

The meat industry, in other words, needs to take a look at the growing unease that Americans have with the ways in which meat reaches their plates and the consequences of their eating habits. Fighting for your livelihood and the right for Americans to enjoy a meal is one thing. To do so at the seeming disregard of other factors of interest to the eating population (aka everybody) is another. There needs to be some sensitivity from meat producers going forward — for the animals they raise and the people who eat them. And that needs to come through in messaging and responses.

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