WASHINGTON – Meat industry stakeholders raised strong objections to dietary guidance that encourages consumers to eat less lean animal protein.

A draft recommendation by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee said a diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is "more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average US diet."

Industry groups have noted that meat, poultry and fish contain more protein per serving than dairy, eggs, legumes, or cereals, vegetables, or nuts. Meat and poultry consumption also can prevent vitamin deficiencies. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said the advisory committee failed to recognize the nutritional value of lean meat and ignored the nutritional contributions that lean meat and poultry make to the diet.

“The committee’s removal of nutrient-dense lean meat from a healthy dietary pattern is stunning,” said Barry Carpenter, NAMI president and CEO. “The change was made behind closed doors during a lunch break at the final December 15 meeting. Actions made in haste behind closed doors are not rooted in science and do not make good public policy.”

NAMI noted that data from a committee meeting in November 2014 “demonstrated strong and consistent evidence from a majority of randomized control trials (RCT) that red and processed meats consumption is part of healthy dietary patterns. Further, all trials indicated that ‘gold standard’ Mediterranean-style diets reported red and processed meat consumption at or above the usual adult consumption range, which is higher than USDA Food Patterns (median consumption up to twice the USDA Food Patterns).”

Dr. Richard Thorpe, a medical doctor and cattle producer, said the committee was "turning a blind eye" to its own evidence on the health benefits of lean beef.

To recommend that Americans eat less of a heart-healthy protein, the only area of the existing guidelines currently consumed within the recommended amounts, demonstrates that this committee has its own agenda, and it is not guided by the evidence, Thorpe said.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee makes recommendations that will serve as the basis for the eighth edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated and published jointly by the Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture.

The committee's final meeting was Dec. 15, 2014. The Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will be submitted to the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture in early 2015.