Pork Checkoff refutes 'Eating Less Meat' claims

by Bryan Salvage
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DES MOINES, IOWA — After a cookbook author recently claimed America’s “collective desire for meat has resulted in human health issues and environmental degradation, the Pork Checkoff challenged the claims.

“We want to make sure people have correct information and understand that nutrient-rich pork can be an important part of a healthy diet,” said Adria Sheil-Brown, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition communications and research for the Pork Checkoff.

An article titled “Eating Less Meat: Signs of a Growing Trend” by Tara Mataraza Desmond appeared in the January 2010 edition of the International Association of Culinary Professionals’ Frontburner e-newsletter. The author wrote that “meat-heavy diets have been consistently linked to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis.” She also cited Mark Bittman’s book “Food Matters,” which claims that global livestock production is responsible for “about one-fifth of all greenhouse gases — more than transportation.”

The Pork Checkoff contacted Frontburner editors and shared the most current, science-based information on pork and pork production with I.A.C.P., which consists of approximately 3,000 members from more than 32 countries.

“I.A.C.P. is very influential in the food industry, so we were very pleased to get our letter published in the February Frontburner,” says Sheil-Brown, who wrote that:

• The National Pork Board (N.P.B.) believes the healthiest diets consist of a balance of fruits and vegetables, as well as nutrient-dense red meat—a position consistent with the nutrition recommendations of many health organizations. Red meat provides many under-consumed nutrients such as potassium, phosphorous and vitamin B12.

• Vital nutrients, such as iron and zinc, are more easily absorbed when they come from meat rather than vegetables. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods.

• The N.P.B. believes the current dietary guideline of an average of 5.5 ounce equivalents in the meat and beans group (based on a 2,000 calories/day diet) remains appropriate based on the preponderance of scientific evidence.

• Consumption survey analysis shows despite an average amount of meat and meat equivalents of 5.3 ounces per day by Americans, only 44% of all individuals two years and older, 62% of men 20 years and older and 37% of women 20 years and older, consume at least the minimum recommended amounts from the meat group. “Clearly, Americans are not over-consuming meat,” Ms. Sheil-Brown said.

• Animal agriculture creates only a small percent of the total greenhouse gas missions in the U.S., and pork production contributes an even smaller percentage. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2007, only 2.8% of G.H.G. emissions in the U.S. came from animal agriculture through a process called enteric fermentation (the digestion of feed by ruminant animals) and through manure management. And according to the E.P.A., pork production contributed only 0.33% of total U.S. emissions.

• Livestock-related G.H.G. emissions have declined per unit of production.
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