For much of the past year, the beef industry waged a battle with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and its message that Americans were eating too much meat and sugar. Most protein industry groups applauded the final result.
Enjoy the Pyrrhic victory while you can because it’s not going to get any easier to defend healthy, lean red meat. Not unless we become smarter about it.
Media reports from dietitians and experts who were on the DGAC, which endorsed tighter recommendations against red meat and processed meat, show an agreed sense that it was politics – not science – that won out in changing the dietary guidelines.
Don’t buy that. If you read deeper into the final dietary guidelines, they planted their own seeds of victory. There are multiple references in the report that still suggest Americans find ways to thin protein out of their meals and rely on a plant-based diet.
In the future, those references won’t be so covert. Those defending their campaign against meat, dairy, sugar, GMO foods, corn syrup or other products that don’t have the sustainable stamp of approval will come shielded with science and money – a lot of it.
You’re already seeing this movement build. It’s happening with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and its campaign against red meat.
You’re seeing it in retailers’ evolving messages to consumers (Subway, Chipotle and Campbell’s Soup). And you saw it in 2006, with the U.N.’s overreaching study “Livestock’s Long Shadow” and other ensuing reports wherein respected authors suggest the world begin adopting vegetarian diets to reverse climate change.
Don’t expect this pattern to change. Instead, let’s more aggressively promote beef as a healthy and sustainable product.
For producers, that means efficiency in raising beef cattle. Use less. Produce more. Raise or buy feeds taxing fewer resources. Utilize genetics that promote healthier beef. You’ve already succeeded in creating these efficiencies over the past 30 years, but more can be done.
Be open and transparent. Don’t keep secrets in how you’re making these efficiencies happen. Consumers eat and live off your product, so it’s natural for them to be curious about it. When they hear answers, they will trust you.
The use of science to wage a debate over whether a food is good or bad, or sustainable or not, will drag on. When the next round of debate begins, it will be even more critical that consumers trust where we come from in defending healthy and sustainable beef.
- Managing Editor
- Progressive Cattleman magazine
- Email David Cooper