Last year about this time I penned an article titled “The ‘Super Bowl’ of nutrition policy is in the first quarter” to remind our beef-loving readers that two federal agencies were in the early stages of updating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you’ve lost track of the process over the past 11 months, it’s time for this industry and anyone who supports the role of lean beef in a healthy, well-balanced diet to stand up and make its case because it appears the new guidelines may not include lean meat.

How’d that happen? Bear with me for a second. The guidelines, which are designed to provide science-based advice related to food and physical activity choices to promote good health, a healthy weight and prevent disease for Americans ages 2 and older, are the basis for federal nutrition policy, education, outreach and food assistance programs used throughout the nation by families, schools and health professionals.

Since last January, the USDA- and HHS-appointed Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has held various public meetings, reviewed nutrition research and information. In fact, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) says that data from one of the subcommittees “demonstrated strong and consistent evidence from a majority of randomized control trials (RCT) that red and processed meats consumption is part of healthy dietary patterns.” Further, data was presented that shows most studies evaluating healthy dietary patterns have red and processed meat in or above the range in the 2010 guidelines.

That’s why NAMI and others in the beef and meat industries sounded the alarm when the committee returned from a closed-door session, with the intent to remove lean meat from the healthy dietary pattern in the 2015 guidelines. It has been reported that the committee stated that a “dietary pattern higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet.”

“The committee’s removal of nutrient-dense lean meat from a healthy dietary pattern is stunning,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “If the DGAC believed lean meat was not part of common characteristics of a healthy pattern, why was it included in the draft evidence conclusion through the morning of December 15?”

NCBA says the committee “missed this opportunity to positively influence the American diet by blatantly disregarding sound science and removing lean beef from a healthful dietary pattern” and that removing lean meat from the healthy dietary patterns is “inconsistent with more than three decades of scientific evidence on the benefits of lean meat in healthy diets. It also conflicts with all previous editions of the dietary guidelines, NCBA notes.

What happens next? The committee is finalizing its recommendations that will go to USDA and HHS secretaries for review any day now. After being reviewed, they will be printed in the Federal Register and open for public comment before the recommendations can be made final.

What’s this mean to you? It means if you’ve been on the sidelines, it’s time to get in this ballgame. It’s time to get your comments ready to go and let the agencies know that protein and lean meat are the only area in the existing guidelines being consumed within the recommendations. It’s time to remind the agencies of the decades of science-based information that has illustrated time and again the positive role that naturally nutrient dense lean meat plays in a well-balanced diet.