The report submitted by the DGAC in February to the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, lacks a certain consistency in the way it targets red meat.

Cooper david
Managing Editor / Progressive Cattle

Some portions identify red meat and saturated fats as part of a sedentary lifestyle, yet in another section the Mediterranean diet is applauded for its judicious uses of lean meat in providing rich nutrients such as zinc, iron, niacin and protein.

McNeill, speaking at the International Livestock Congress in Houston last month, didn’t waste time dismantling the contradictions put together by the 14 members of the DGAC panel.

But McNeill also established credibility beyond just targeting the flawed report. She also has some tough lessons for the beef industry itself.

Showing a slide with a double cheeseburger and fries and soft drink from a fast-food chain, McNeill said those products shown on billboards and mailer coupons are not helping the beef industry as it makes a case for lean beef in diets.


“The image of our product is one that is associated with excess calorie intake and unhealthy dietary pattern,” she said. “One of my pet peeves is when we do this to ourselves as an industry.

We’re proud of the product that we produce, and we love a big steak on a plate.”

McNeill said that kind of marketing has to change, given the government’s use of dietary guidelines and other policies to promote less beef. The industry’s main challenge is to create an image of beef that encourages a healthy life.

Some key examples noted by McNeill:

For starters, despite what the government claims, we’re already eating less meat. The Dietary Guidelines of 2010 and the new 2015 report actually recommend the same amount of lean red meat – 12.5 ounces a week, or 1.8 ounces a day.

Yet actual consumption, McNeill contends, is around 1.5 ounces a day. “So we actually could encourage people to eat more lean red meat to meet the guidelines.”

Second, our overeating isn’t tied to meat but other foods. Consumption of all meat has declined 11 percent since the 1970s. The average American’s caloric consumption in his diet from meat, eggs and nuts is the same since that period.

Yet the amount of calories eaten from added oils and sugars is 600 more calories per person daily. This is especially the case with burgers, sandwiches and tacos.

Third, today’s sirloin steak has 34 percent less fat than it did in the 1960s, and since the first Dietary Guidelines in 1980, external fat on beef has been decreased by 81 percent.

Healthy lifestyle is more than just healthy food. It’s portion control, exercise and moderation. And beef certainly is a tool that fits in that lifestyle.  end mark

David Cooper