Slideshow: Protein's place in a healthy diet

by Erica Shaffer
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Per-capita meat consumption over the past decade has declined, from approximately 220 lbs. in 2007 to just over 200 lbs. this past year. But the food industry is doing its part to reverse the trend.

Meat-based proteins continue to play a prominent role on plates, however, because of consumer demand for protein-packed foods. Also, foodservice operators and food manufacturers have created healthy meals that include meat and poultry — the primary source of protein for most consumers.
For example, Red Robin features “Chicken Stickens” on its children's menu. For the grownups there's Stouffer's Fit Kitchen frozen meals that include lean protein and complex carbohydrates.

The tide seems to be turning. Consumer perceptions about meat have improved, according to Steve Meyer, Ph.D., vice president of pork analysis for Express Markets Inc. He said many mainstream media outlets and authors are encouraging consumption of animal fats and lean meat products.

The National Pork Producers Council reports that some cuts of pork are as lean as the ever-popular chicken breast. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said beef producers have responded to consumer demand for leaner beef evidenced by reductions in both external fat on retail cuts of beef (81 percent since 19980), per capita available fat from beef (44 percent); and saturated fat (29 percent).

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