Meat alert on the Hill

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 Announced in the quiet of Congressional recess, new data published this week by Consumer Reports indicates that ground beef often contains bacteria that causes sickness in humans and resists drug treatment. Congress should take note. Fortunately, the United States Department of Agriculture already rolled out meat substitutes in school lunches nationwide, replacing meat with equally protein-rich alternatives. It’s part of a shift in national dietary guidelines, and it’s long overdue. Our current approach to diets is not only unhealthy but also unsustainable.

Federally appointed health experts serving on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee agree with this assessment and recommend a rethink on the future of American food and nutrition programs. Congress will want to pay attention, as the committee’s findings will have a major impact on what we eat.

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In submitting a scientific report to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this year’s committee recommended less meat and more plants as essential for the health of America’s population and the planet. Hundreds of prominent environmental and health leaders agree, submitting a letter to HHS Secretary Silvia Matthews Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, encouraging the adoption of sustainability standards and considerations.Influencing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a document published every five years by the HHS and USDA that guides U.S. food programs and nutrition policies, is a competitive space as innumerable meat and dairy industries are also interested in altering outcomes and have been fighting the committee’s recommendations. Industry realizes how big of a deal it is for HHS and USDA’s own Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to call for plant-based diets.

It’s unsurprising that industry would be on the defensive. The impact of the guidelines on American health and environment is substantial. It comes with the added benefit of modifying the National School Lunch Program and MyPlate (previously known as the food pyramid) and impacting millions of American diets, and millions of square miles of American farmland as well.

Industry shouldn’t drive our country’s dietary priorities, however, if it flies in the face of what we already know regarding what’s good for the planet and good for the American people.

There is no question that a plant-based diet is key to sustainability and our survival.

On the production front, for example, we know that a unit of beef protein contributes 150 times more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than a unit of soy protein. That’s a whopper of a difference. Pork and chicken also have a heavy carbon footprint but are only 20 to 25 times heavier in GHGs than soy. Additionally, cows, and their methane, are responsible for 65 percent of livestock emissions, more than any other species, and beef production requires nearly 30 times more grazing land than chicken or pork production.

Going further, when you consider organic farming versus conventional methods, the gains are even more pronounced as organic agriculture captures significantly more carbon than non-organic and industrial-scale farming, which is often much more water and resource intensive.  Organic farming’s health and environmental benefits, by avoiding pesticides, herbicides, hormones and genetic engineering, are also clear.

But it’s not just the environment that benefits from this and an immediate implementation of the committee’s dietary recommendations. Our health benefits as well. We need to shift away from diets featuring a heavy intake of meats (along with refined sugars and fats and oils), all of which is expected to increase agricultural emissions by 80 percent by 2050. By doing what’s sustainable for the planet, we also help prevent diabetes, heart disease, colorectal, ovarian and breast cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, and other diseases that lower life expectancy.

The good news is that we can do all of this without costing consumers more. By reducing animal products, we’re cutting out the middle person, which in this case is the cow, pig or chicken, and we’re going directly to the source: plants. We increase agricultural efficiency and effectiveness and ultimately feed more people. A Dutch study predicts that roughly 10.4 million square miles of grazing land would be immediately available, as well as 386,000 square miles of land that is currently growing crops for livestock.

As our population continues to grow (the U.S. has one of the fastest population growth rates in the developed world), we must think creatively and courageously about more sustainable diets. We simple do not have sufficient energy and water resources for a diet heavy in animal protein. The science committee points another path forward for HHS and USDA, and it’s one we must adopt soon. Do it for the health of this country. Do it for the American people. Do it for the heartland.

Shank is a professor at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and writes in his personal capacity.

Sorry, Meat Industry! U.S. Dietary Guidelines Report Rules Vegan Diet is Best for the Planet

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Meat Industry

Meat and potatoes, it’s the quintessential American meal. Well, based on the new scientific report from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Americans might want to start thinking more along the lines of plant-based meat and potatoes. And not just for the sake of their own health, but for the planet’s health as well.

That’s right, after a long and heated debate over whether or not the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee should take sustainability into consideration when creating the 2015 guidelines, the committee has spoken and they have!

“Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is 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 (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet,” states the Committee in their newly released scientific report.

Naturally, this recommendation has the meat industry shaking in their boots, but the fact is, if Americans do not reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products, we will never be able to sustain food production as the population grows. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of environmental degradation in the U.S. and arguably the entire planet. In the United States alone, at least 170,750 miles of rivers and 2,417,801 lake acres have been deemed “compromised” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of agricultural run-off. Globally, livestock production is responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

And promoting a primarily plant-based diet is not just better for the planet, but it isbeneficial for people as well. A diet high in whole, plant-based foods and low in saturated fat and cholesterol (mainly found in animal products), is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.

“Previous advisory panels have noted the value of vegetarian diets, but these recommendations have been expanded to specifically demonstrate how a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of many types of chronic disease,” says the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

So, what is not to like about the many lauded benefits of the committee’s recommendations? Well, for one, it deals quite the blow to the animal agricultural industry. When news first surfaced that the Committee might consider suggesting lowering their recommendations for meat and dairy consumption, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association was quick to undercut the decision, releasing a statement from Dr. Richard Thorpe that called the committee “biased” and the draft meat recommendations “absurd.” While the meat industry contends that lean meats can play a role in a healthy, balanced diet – there are plenty of plant-based protein sources that can do a better job (without the cholesterol).

Many environmental and animal rights groups have applauded the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for their report (we certainly did!), but this does not guarantee that these recommendations will be reflected in the official 2015 guidelines. The animal agriculture industry has a significant influence in Washington and there is no doubt that they will throw as many lobbying dollars they possibly can at this “problem” to make it go away.

One thing is certain, however, this report sends a message that many people need to hear: our current food habits are neither sustainable nor healthy. Whether or not the guidelines reflect the findings of this report, we can all actively work to reduce (or completely eliminate) our personal consumption of animal products. When there are so many delicious plant-based options out there, making a better choice for you and the planet has never been easier!

Image source: evilrobotsmash/Flickr

Meat and Soda Industry are not Happy

Meat and soda industries
Lobbyists for the US meat and soda industries are rallying the troops after a government committee on healthy eating has recommended that Americans consume less red meat and sugary drinks, and more fruit and vegetables. The 571-page report published by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was dismissed as “flawed” and “nonsensical” by representatives of the meat industry. Soda makers joined in the criticism, saying the panel of experts had gone “beyond its scope” and that high intensity sweeteners criticized by the panel “can be an effective tool in weight loss.”

Although the report has no legal powers, it’s very likely that the government will implement its advice. This will inform new public health campaigns and set federal policy for things like school lunches, which is a program worth $16 billion annually. The report also recommends for the first time ever that Americans consider the sustainability of their food. As with the advice for healthy eating, this means simply eating less meat and more vegetables and plants.

THE ADVICE IS STRAIGHTFORWARD AND FAMILIAR

Even those of us that love a burger and Coke will recognize the DGAC’s advice is hardly radical. “A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts,” says the report, “[It’s] moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.” Surprisingly, however, the report did repeal decades-old advice that individuals limit their intake of cholesterol, noting that there was no clear link between foods high in the nutrient (e.g. eggs and seafood) and health problems.

COFFEE, THANKFULLY, GETS A THUMBS-UP

Thankfully, for the caffeine-addicted among us, the report gives the thumbs-up to moderate coffee consumption, noting that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day “is not associated with increased long-term health risks.” However, the panel added that Americans tended to underestimate their coffee consumption and that three to five cups a day was equal to only two or three servings from Starbucks.

They also highlighted the dangers of energy drinks with high caffeine content, saying that children and adolescents should drink them sparingly, or better still, not at all. Adults should also avoid consuming energy drinks and alcohol together — whether “mixed together or consumed at the same sitting.” This means popular drinks like Red Bull and vodka should be off the cards for those trying to stay healthy. The panel also mooted the idea of a tax on sugary drinks and foods.

As well as recommending that Americans consider the sustainability of their diet, the report highlights the meat industry as a particular environmental concern. “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use,” said the report. “This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower.”

BEEF USES 28 TIMES MORE LAND THAN PORK OR POULTRY

The meat industry described the panel’s “foray into the murky waters of sustainability” as “well beyond its scope and expertise,” and pointed out that although the carbon footprint of meat was higher than plants, the two do not deliver an equal amount of nutrients. This is true, of course, but the ratio of environmental impact to nutritional output is not something that can be easily measured. Even among livestock there is much variation. Beef, for example, needs 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork and poultry.

Although the government is free to ignore the DGAC’s advice, the chances are it won’t, said former member Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. Nestle describes the 2015 report as a “dramatic departure” for the panel, which has previously recommended eating meat as a way to reduce saturated fat intake. “The one thing the Dietary Guidelines have never been allowed to do is say clearly and explicitly to eat less of anything,” Nestle told Politico. “This committee is not burying anything, or obfuscating …They’re just telling it like it is.”

Uncle Sam Says: Eat More Meat!

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Posted: December 9, 2014 in Images, Posts
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640px-Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)In his 1932 novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley imagined a future where people exist solely to support the economy and are conditioned from birth to buy things. Government bureaucrats manipulate the sheep-like citizens with drugs and slogans to make them consume as much as possible. In Huxley’s vision, 26th-century consumers learn that “ending is better than mending” and “the more stitches, the less riches” – that is, buying new things is better than fixing old ones. But as I discuss in my book Meatonomics, this eerie futuristic fantasy – with government using marketing slogans and other undue influence to drive consumption – has arrived centuries early for US consumers. In the Brave New World of the 21st century – where big box stores and mega markets dominate the landscape – the US government uses innocuous-sounding “checkoff” programs to encourage people to buy more animal foods.

In fact, checkoffs make us consume much more meat, eggs and dairy than we would otherwise. Yet most Americans have never heard of these government programs, and for that reason it’s important to consider the dramatic impact checkoffs have on our consumption patterns and our lives. In this article, I explore seven surprising facts behind our government’s marketing of animal foods via these little-known programs.

  1. Checkoffs Use Super-Catchy Slogans

beefiwfdMeat and dairy ads have bombarded American consumers relentlessly for decades.  You’ve seen the milk mustaches and the snappy slogans:

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.
Pork. The Other White Meat.
Milk. It Does a Body Good.

They’re as American as apple pie and as commonplace as ads for Ford or Chevy. Like an ink stamp, these ads imprint themselves on our subconscious and become part of our belief system. What’s for dinner? Without even knowing why, many think, Beef.

  1. A Checkoff is a Tax

Checkoffs used to be voluntary, and producers opted in by checking a box. Nowadays, the programs are mandatory – just like any other tax. The way they work is simple: Congress slaps a small assessment on certain items, and the collected funds are used to pay for research and marketing programs that boost the goods’ sales. So when animal food producers collect $1 per head of cattle, $0.40 per $100 of pork, or $0.15 per 100 pounds of dairy, the funds go to national, state and regional marketing groups. There aren’t many Boston Tea Party–like protests when it comes to making the payments – because most consumers don’t know about checkoffs and most producers think their trade groups put the money to good use.

  1. It’s Consumers, Not Producers, Who Pay the Tax

Nominally speaking, it’s producers who pay checkoff taxes – a fact they proclaim loudly and regularly. But that’s not who really pays for checkoffs.  Economists point to a tax’s “incidence” to describe who ultimately bears the burden of paying it. In the case of checkoffs, the cost is generally passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. In other words, we pay extra to get both the product and the snappy marketing message.

  1. They’re Incredibly Effective

dreamstime_xl_17990934Across the board, checkoffs work remarkably well to make Americans buy more meat and dairy than we would otherwise. According to the US Department of Agriculture, for each dollar of checkoff funds spent promoting animal foods, “thereturn on investment can range as high as $18.” The pork checkoff program drives $14 in sales per dollar spent. The lamb checkoff lacks a memorable motto but still provides an unusually huge boost, driving additional sales of $38 for each dollar spent on promotion. But the biggest winner might be dairy, which boasted that over a year and a half, checkoff efforts contributed to more than 7 billion additional pounds of milk sold. That’s an extra forty-seven servings of dairy per person in the United States – above and beyond the hundreds of servings people would have consumed anyway during the period. Clearly, milk is up to more than just doing a body good.

  1. They Spend a Fortune

All told, these programs provide funding of $557 million yearly for animal food producers to promote their goods. This massive, government-mandated marketing budget gives the animal food industry something few other sectors have: a huge marketing war chest to boost sales of all goods from all producers in the program. In almost every other industry, individual corporations must fork out their own funds to increase sales rather than rely on government programs to prop up their numbers. With checkoff programs, on the other hand, Americans buy more of nearly every conceivable animal food than they would otherwise. Like an insatiable diner, the animal food industry relishes the higher sales that result. Dairy promoters brag that since their checkoff program started in 1983, annual per capita consumption of milk “has climbed 12 percent to 620 pounds.”

  1. They Speak the Message of the Federal Government

800px-Oblique_facade_1,_US_Supreme_CourtSome producers say checkoffs have been unfairly linked to government and are actually just the tools of good old-fashioned capitalism. They argue these arrangements involve only private firms who pool advertising monies without government participation, and their mission and methods are no different from those of any private advertiser. However, the US Supreme Court decisively rejected this position in a 2005 case involving the beef checkoff. In Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association, the Supreme Court held the beef checkoff’s message was actually government speech(a form of speech the government can make others support). This holding from the highest court in the land leaves little doubt that checkoff programs, and the messages they generate, are the product of the federal government. So when one of these organizations speaks – regardless of the product it’s hawking – it may say it’s the National Pork Board, but the background sounds are the imposing bass tones of the US government.

  1. They Drive Unhealthy Levels of Consumption

400px-Physical_Exam_-_StethoscopePerhaps the most disturbing feature of checkoffs is that most Americans already consume more animal foods than the USDA recommends. Nonetheless, like a desperate salesperson trying to meet an unrealistic quota, the agency keeps using checkoffs to goad people to buy even more. One result is these programs impose billions of dollars in hidden costs on American consumers and taxpayers. Another is that they further sicken an already-ill nation. Ultimately, perhaps the question we should ask ourselves about checkoff programs is: Got Milked?

Hard to Swallow: How Meat Advocates Skewer Science

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How meat advocates skewer science

In 1974, a new book titled We Never Went to the Moon: America’s Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle alleged that NASA faked the lunar landing. In 2001, the Fox network broadcasted a documentary on the subject, and a follow-up survey showed that as many as one in five Americans doubted that Neil Armstrong’s boots had ever touched the moon’s surface.

Fast-forward to June 23, 2014. Time magazine’s cover proclaimed in large type “Eat Butter” and featured a big artistic swirl of the stuff. Several other publications—the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Scientist, and others—ran similar stories. The experts have been wrong all this time, the articles exclaimed. Fat isn’t unhealthy after all. Steak and pork chops won’t hurt you. Go ahead, dig in!

Of course, meat and dairy products are strongly linked to all manner of health problems, from heart disease to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. So what is behind the contrarian stories?

Eskimos and Maasai

Some of the articles were based on a new book called The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. Its author, Nina Teicholz, aimed to rehabilitate meat’s image, starting with Eskimo and Inuit populations of the far north. They have almost no heart disease, she held, despite a diet heavy on fish and blubber. Was she right or wrong?

Wrong. A study from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology showed that cardiovascular disease has been at least as frequent among northern native populations as for others.1 Strokes have been particularly common, and life expectancy overall was found to be about a decade shorter. Heart disease seemed rare among northern native populations mainly because reporting of medical problems has been spotty.

Teicholz then invoked the Maasai, an African population who are supposedly free of heart disease, despite a diet of meat, milk, and blood. Right or wrong?

Wrong. Researcher George V. Mann wrote in 1978, “We have collected hearts and aortae from 50 authenticated Maasai men who died of trauma and we found extensive atherosclerosis.”2

Okay, so the Maasai’s arteries are clogged with atherosclerotic plaques. But they don’t have heart attacks, Teicholz maintained; so meat and milk must be safe. Right or wrong?

Wrong. Plaques that form in arteries can rupture, sparking the formation of a clot that blocks blood flow like a cork in an artery, causing a heart attack. Teicholz’s notion was that the Maasai have plaques, but the plaques somehow never rupture, like time bombs that never explode. This is highly unlikely. A better explanation for the lack of reported heart attacks among the Maasai comes from their tragically short life expectancy. If life is cut short in one’s 40s by an accident or an infection, plaques have not had enough time to produce a heart attack. Moreover, in a rural population with limited medical care and poor medical records, heart attacks may not be recognized or reported.

Ancel Keys and the Seven Countries Study

Teicholz and other fat-backers zeroed in especially on Ancel Keys, the University of Minnesota researcher who identified the dangers of fatty foods in the 1950s. Looking at six countries with reliable dietary and medical records, Keys found a clear association between fat intake and heart disease deaths.3

But as Teicholz tells it, the rug was pulled out from under Ancel Keys by University of California at Berkeley statistician Jacob Yerushalmy.4 If Keys had zeroed in on more countries than just six, Yerushalmy held, the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease would have been weakened. In Teicholz’s words, it “nearly disappeared.” Right or wrong?

Wrong. Including additional countries, as Yerushalmy suggested, did muddy the correlation between fat and heart disease deaths, because many of these countries had poor data on diet or medical care at that time. Even so, the correlation between fat and heart deaths remained high, and the correlation between animal protein and heart deaths was even higher.

Meta-analysis

What really grabbed the headlines, however, was a meta-analysis published in early 2014 by the Annals of Internal Medicine.5 The meta-analysis combined 72 smaller studies, finding no overall effect of saturated fat on heart risks. According to the fat lobby, that proved that “bad” fat isn’t bad for your heart after all. Right or wrong?

Wrong. The Annals meta-analysis combined data from many studies. Some were designed to accurately show the dangerous effects of saturated fat. The designs of other studies did not make the hazards of saturated fat readily apparent. The net result was that the two types of studies canceled each other out, showing no risks. For example, take these two studies the Annals meta-analysis included:

The Oxford Vegetarian Study6 included 11,000 people whose diets ranged from vegan to ovolactovegetarian to nonvegetarian, with saturated fat intake ranging from a low of 6 percent of calories to more than 13 percent of calories. The study found that the fattiest diets tripled the risk of dying of heart disease, compared with diets that had very little saturated fat.

But in a Swedish study, no groups were on lower-fat diets. All of the study groups averaged more than 13 percent of their calories from saturated fat.Not surprisingly, the study could not identify any effect of avoiding saturated fat, because no groups in the study had a low fat intake.

Is Meat Safe or Not?

Is meat safe?Of course, no one orders saturated fat at a restaurant or puts it on a shopping list. This fat is hidden in meat, dairy products, and other foods. And here, the evidence is crystal clear. Meat-eaters are heavier than people who avoid meat. They have higher blood pressure, higher risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and many other problems. And in carefully controlled studies, when people take meat out of their diets, they lose weight, and cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease all improve. So while researchers debate the statistics on saturated fat, it pays to remember that getting away from meat is a healthy choice.

So how could the media have been duped? As John McDougall, M.D., said, people are always looking for good news about bad habits.

1. Fodor GJ, Helis E, Yazdekhasti N, Vohnout B. “Fishing” for the origins of the “Eskimos and heart disease” story: facts or wishful thinking? Can J Cardiol. 2014;30:864-868.
2. Mann GV. The Masai, milk, and the yogurt factor: an alternative explanation. Atherosclerosis. 1978;29:265.
3. Keys A. Atherosclerosis: a problem in newer public health. J Mt Sinai Hosp NY. 1953;20:118-139.
4. Yerushalmy J, Hilleboe HE. Fat in the diet and mortality from heart disease: a methodologic note. NY State J Med. 1957;57:2343-2354.
5. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:398-406.
6. Appleby PN, Thorogood M, Mann JI, Key TJA. The Oxford Vegetarian Study: an overview. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:525S-531S.
7. Wallstrom P, Sonestedt E, Hlebowicz J, et al. Dietary fiber and saturated fat intake associations with cardiovascular disease differ by sex in the Malmo Diet and Cancer Cohort: a prospective study. PLoS One. 2012;7:e31637.

CAPTIONS:
Maasai woman
Ancel Keys

The Secret’s Out: The Reason Red Meat is So Bad for Our Health

We’ve known red meat isn’t the healthiest choice for a long time now. It’s a leading cause in heart disease, inflammation, cancer, and even digestive problems. While its highly touted by meat-lovers as being a good source of iron, (though we know there are better sources), the truth is, red meat is not a healthy food. But what is it about red meat that’s so bad?

Scientists at the University of California Found The Secret

Researchers at the University of California found that meat triggers a toxic reaction within the body that weakens the immune system due to a natural sugar it contains our bodies can’t digest. Yes, you heard that right – meat actually has a natural sugar, as small as it may be. Known as Neu5Gc, this sugar is a foreign agent to our body that is seen as an invader.

The body launches an immune response as it tries to get rid of it and in the mean time, a host of health problems occur, such as cancer (which is largely a disease of a weak immune system). The unique findings are that other carnivores can eat red meat fine because their bodies actually contain the natural sugar that digests the meat. Our bodies don’t – clearly a sign that we’re not meant to eat it.

Meat and Tumor Production

The sugar, Neu5Gc, is already in the body of other carnivores that consume meat for food. Mice (who don’t contain the sugar as we don’t) were fed meat and actually developed tumors quickly.

“This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans increases spontaneous cancers in mice,” said Dr Ajit Varki, Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California. ”The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by.”

We don’t think we need more proof to go meat-free, do you? Meat has led to a host of negativeenvironmental and health factors for years. Harvard University found that a diet high in red meat raised the risk of breast cancer for women by 22 percent, and found those who regularly ate 5.6oz (160g) of red meat a day had one third higher risk of bowel cancer.

These studies provide more proof that meat really isn’t a healthy choice. If our bodies don’t see meat as a welcomed food, it’s time to stop eating it once and for all.

For tips to go meatless, check out: 13 Meatless Monday Meals for the Beginner Cook.

Lead Image Source: Rpavich/Flickr

USDA “Beefing” Up Special Interest Marketing Funds

It's What's for Dinner

Remember the old “Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner” advertisements? Those were sponsored by the beef checkoff program.

Red meat production and sales have declined as the public has become increasingly aware of the link between meat consumption and chronic disease. For consumer health, this is progress. However, the USDA is now proposing a new “checkoff” program to allocate additional funds—potentially totaling $160 million—towards the promotion and marketing of beef in 2015. And since the USDA also issues national dietary recommendations, this creates a clear conflict of interest.

Beef is bad for your health. Physicians, researchers, and medical organizations clearly state the consequences of eating red meat. Harvard University has published numerous studies associating meat consumption with chronic disease. The World Health Organization notes the correlation between meat and colorectal and prostate cancersin its dietary recommendations. The American Heart Association published findings saying that women who had two servings per day of red meat had a 30 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. Physicians Committee researchers found that eatingmeat is a risk factor for diabetesThe American Institute for Cancer Researchrecommends reducing and removing red and processed meat, as does the American Cancer Society. Even government officials in the United Kingdom have been clear in their recommendations to British citizens to cut red meat consumption.

However, the USDA has remained ambiguous when discussing red meat. In the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the USDA recommended reducing saturated fat and cholesterol intake—neglecting to mention that a sirloin steak overloads your arteries with 155 percent of your daily maximum intake of saturated fat and 152 percent of your daily maximum cholesterol.

The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed checkoff program until Dec. 10.Click here to take action by submitting your comments to the USDA.

Want to know more about the research? Check out this sample of studies from just the past two years linking red meat and chronic disease:

Red and Processed Meats Increase Risk of Bladder Cancer
Red Meat in Childhood Increases Risk for Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer Linked to Eating Red Meat
Iron in Meat Linked to Heart Disease
Even Modest Amounts of Meat Increase Risk for Diabetes
Meat-Eating is a Risk Factor for Developing Diabetes
Red and Processed Meat Endangers Health
Many Ways Meat Causes Colon Cancer
Red and Processed Meat Products Linked to Mortality
Cutting Out Meat Boosts Heart Attack Victims’ Chance of Survival
Red and Processed Meat Linked to Death for Colorectal Cancer Patients
Researchers Discover New Way Meat Causes Heart Disease
More Evidence That Red and Processed Meats Are Deadly

Last updated by at December 8, 2014.