The North American Meat Institute, national beef and pork associations and other corporate lobbies of the powerful meat industry are seething at the historic new scientific report by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Why historic? Because the committee takes on the meat industry head to head in a scientific report intended to help set five year national guidelines on nutrition and because for the first time, the recommendations take into account the environmental footprint of our food (production) choices. If these recommendations are accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the report will not only help set national nutrition policy but will also likely impact the $16 billion school lunch program. The USDA and HHS will jointly release the National Dietary Guidelines later this year.
Based on their research, the Committee came to the conclusion that, “a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.”[i]
It is the emphasis on lower red and processed meat consumption that has the meat industry up in arms, particularly so because the Committee integrates environmental impacts in its approach to dietary guidelines:[ii]
Access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food is an essential element of food security for the U.S. population…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, compared to the above dietary patterns [Healthy U.S.-style Pattern, Healthy Mediterranean-style Pattern and Healthy Vegetarian Pattern]. This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns.
Now, the powerful lobby is planning an all-out offensive in Congress to prevent USDA and HHS from adopting these recommendations as the national guidelines. Citizens can comment on the report until April 8th—the meat lobby hopes to extend this period to 120 days rather than the 45 typically allotted.
Quoted in Politico, Dave Warner, a spokesperson, for the National Pork Producers Council said, “We’ll go through it with a fine-tooth comb. We certainly will then talk to lawmakers about it and express to them our concerns.
Anticipating this response from the meat industry, close to 50 food, health and environmental organizations sent a letter to the USDA and HHS calling for the agencies to support the recommendations of their own advisory committee. The letter stated:
The vast majority of animal products consumed in America today are produced with large quantities of energy-intensive inputs (like water, pesticides, fertilizers and fuel) and presents what the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production characterizes as “...an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment.” Therefore, we are asking the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to show a strong commitment to keeping Americans, and our shared environment, healthier by developing clear dietary recommendations on the need for reduced consumption of animal products and more plant-based foods.
IATP also endorses the recommendations made by the advisory committee and cautions against the power of the meat industry in watering down our standards for healthy and safe food!
Public Comments to the Report can be given here until, April 8, 2015.