The food police: A plan to link diet and the environment?

We all chuckle at the Chick-fil-A TV commercials in which cows stare balefully at hamburger-consuming humans and wear crudely-lettered signs saying “Eat Mor Chikin.”

And we snicker at the anti-animal agriculture folks who lambaste cows as culprits in global warming because of the methane they produce from belching/flatulence (anywhere from 25 gallons to 50-plus gallons per cow per day they contend).

For years, they’ve advocated less meat in our diets (even “meatless Mondays”) and more plant-based foods, such as beans, lentils, nuts, and grains (and one wonders, doesn’t this kind of diet swap animal gases for human gases?).

There’s little doubt millions of Americans, and particularly we southerners, eat too much of less-than-healthy foods — one has only to check the stats on obesity and all the ills that engenders, chief among them diabetes, which has become rampant in many areas of the country.

The alarming trend of obesity in school age kids, along with high blood pressure and pre-diabetes, has led to the banishment of snack/soft drink machines in many school systems and the USDA has decreed that schools should serve healthier, more nutritious foods in their meal programs.

Now, though, the food police are reported taking a new tack on forthcoming guidelines. A draft proposal to the USDA by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, is said to recommend diets lower in meat-based foods and higher in plant-based foods as not only better for humans — but healthier for the environment.

Wait just a minute, say ag organizations, it’s one thing to advocate for healthier diets, but adding an environmental component goes too far. A cattleman’s organization terms it “absurd,” and members of Congress from agricultural states are jumping into the fray — in the massive $1.1 trillion government spending bill approved last month, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was enjoined to include only nutrition/dietary recommendations, not “extraneous factors” in the final guidelines.

Current USDA dietary “food pyramid” guidelines — which are updated every five years — suggest that people should eat lean meats, but reports are that the advisory panel has considered whether that language should be continued. The panel’s December draft recommendations noted that a healthy diet should include fewer red meats and processed meats than currently consumed by Americans.

In its work over the past year, the panel is reported to have debated the possibility of including sustainability as a dietary goal with “lesser environmental impact.”

North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter, says the change, “made behind closed doors during a lunch break” isn’t ‘rooted in science” and doesn’t “ make good public policy.”  He terms the action “arbitrary and capricious” and says the committee “fails to recognize the nutritional value lean meat offers and is ignoring the scientific evidence supporting its inclusion in the American diet.”

Dr. Richard Thorpe, Texas medical doctor and cattle producer, said in a statement that “despite a large body of strong and consistent evidence supporting lean beef’s role in healthy diets,” the Dietary Guidelines Advisory … has turned a blind eye to their own evidence library criteria, arbitrarily excluding peer-reviewed, sound science on the health benefits of lean beef.” It demonstates, he says, that the committee “has its own agenda, and it is not guided by the evidence.”

TAGS: Beef Agenda
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