Editor's Blog: Rethink Meatless Mondays

by Bryan Salvage
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation’s health, and fantastic for the planet, trumpets the Meatless Monday web site. This tired mantra was and continues to be pounded out endlessly by former Beatle bassist and vocalist Paul McCartney…as if any rational adult should care about what celebrities preach regarding maintaining perceived healthy diets.



 Bryan Salvage

First of all, I don’t know of anyone who eats meat and poultry seven days a week – and that includes me – because variety is the spice of life when it comes to choosing proteins to consume. But purposely not eating meat once a week makes as much sense as purposely not eating vegetables or fruit one day a week; it makes no sense at all. Lean meat and poultry consumed in moderation continue to play an important role in a balanced diet.

The Meatless Monday web site proclaims that going meatless once a week may reduce one’s risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity; curb healthcare spending and cut the weekly budget; plus minimize water usage required by livestock, reduce greenhouse gasses emitted by food animal livestock production and reduce fuel dependence. About 25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy is used to produce 1 kilocalorie of all meat based protein, as compared with 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel input per 1 kilocalorie of grain based protein produced, they further claim.

Sorry, Meatless Monday proponents, but there are always two sides to every story. The Meat MythCrushers web site (www.meatmythcrushers.com), which is hosted by the American Meat Institute, was created in consultation with leading experts in meat and animal science, food safety and nutrition to provide consumers and media with the other side of the story plus the truth regarding meat myths. Here’s some of what they have to say.

Meat provides important nutrients. Protein found in meat helps people maintain weight and muscle mass, among other things, and it’s important for young children during brain development — it helps them to learn. Animal protein is a complete protein. Protein is made up of amino acids. When people eat animal protein, they provide their bodies with the amino acids their bodies need to be healthy.

And contrary to charges made by anti-meat camps, Americans aren’t eating too much meat. USDA recommends consumers eat 5-7 oz. from the protein group, which includes meat, per day. The average American consumes about 6 oz. per day, Meat MythCrushers points out.

Although studies that have been widely reported allege a link between processed meats and cancer, many other studies claim the opposite, yet the latter studies are always under-reported in the mainstream media. One of the largest studies completed includes data from 14 major studies and it found no association between red and processed meat and cancer. What’s more, a comprehensive, 2010 review of the evidence on processed meat and colon cancer concludes there is insufficient evidence to support a link between the two. Processed meats, a favorite activist target, are available in many formulations — low-fat, fat-free, lower-sodium and gluten-free products — and again they can play an important role in a balanced diet. The fact is — all meat is processed before it is consumed either in a plant, where it is cut, seasoned or cooked, Meat MythCrushers adds.

Is meat production really ruining the planet? US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data shows agriculture, in total, contributes 7 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions while livestock production accounts for 3 percent. Meanwhile, transportation contributes 26 percent. Research at Washington State Univ., Cornell and other universities shows beef production today requires fewer natural resources than in the past to raise the same wholesome products that help us continue to feed a growing global population, Meat MythCrushers explains.

Nicolette Hahn Niman relays in the October Meat&Poultry magazine cover story written by sausage icon Bruce Aidells that when properly managed, grazing cattle do not lead to global warming, they benefit grassland ecosystems and can reverse desertification and increase plant and animal biodiversity. What’s more, cattle are essential to an environmentally sustainable global food system, she stressed.

My advice to McCartney is to be thankful for your God-given talent for creating unforgettable music and leave dieting advice to the experts. No food should be labeled a “bad” food…there are only bad eating habits. As for those who are considering dropping meat from their diet, do research on the benefits of meat-eating before making that decision. As my old high school motto proudly states, “Knowledge is power” and that motto is especially true today when it comes to choosing the right foods to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

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