On Feb. 19, 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. Unfortunately, the report is inconsistent, and if adopted will lead to conflicting dietary advice. On one hand, the Committee has endorsed the Mediterranean style diet, which has higher red meat levels than currently consumed in the U.S.; and on the other hand, they have left lean meat out of what they consider to be a healthy dietary pattern.
Dr. 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,” said McNeill. “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.
Dr. Richard Thorpe, Texas medical doctor and cattle producer, said the key to a healthy lifestyle is building a balanced diet around the healthy foods you enjoy eating, coupled with physical activity.
“It is absurd for the Advisory Committee to suggest that Americans should eat less red meat and focus so heavily on plant-based diets,” said Thorpe. “The American diet is already 70 percent plant based and to further emphasize plant-based diets will continue to have unintended consequences. The Advisory Committee got it wrong in the ‘80s advising a diet high in carbs, and look at what that got us – an obesity problem. My colleagues and I commonly encourage people to include lean beef more often for their health, not less.”
Thorpe added, “We are disappointed the Advisory Committee would go outside the purview and expertise of nutrition/health research to bring in topics such as sustainability. We urge the Secretaries to reject the Advisory Committee’s recommendations on topics outside of diet and health.”
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. The process was incomplete with flawed conclusions specific to health benefits of red meat’s role in the American diet.