By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 – Meat consumption may be down but not out if the new federal Dietary Guidelines succeed in shifting Americans to more healthful eating choices. The guidelines released Monday say “Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week.” But meat industry groups highlighted the guidelines' emphasis on nutrient-dense foods as a prescription which should favor meat over less healthy choices.

Summarizing the overall recommendations, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the guidelines recommend “More fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins including more fish and seafood, less sodium, less sugar, and certainly less saturated fat for sure.” He said “Protein is obviously extremely important to consume, the leaner the protein the better. . . There are multiple ways to deal with the issue of lean protein. One of them is to consume more seafood and fish, another is to take a look at beans and things of that nature. We are just giving people a multitude of choices that they can chose among.”

The 112-page Dietary Guidelines recommend lean meat: “Eat a variety of foods from the protein foods group each week. This group includes seafood, beans and peas, and nuts, as well as lean meats, poultry, and eggs. Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. Select some seafood that is higher in oils and lower in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and herring. Select lean meats and poultry. Choose meat cuts that are low in fat and ground beef that is extra lean (at least 90% lean). Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin before cooking or eating. Try grilling, broiling, poaching, or roasting. These cooking methods do not add extra fat. Drain fat from ground meats after cooking. Avoid breading on meat and poultry, which adds calories.”

Some of the new recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines 

Vilsack said “I don't see that this necessarily means a reduction of opportunities for cattle operators, hog producers, poultry at all.” He explained that “we not only have domestic markets that are important, there're also expanding export markets.” He said “That's one of the reasons why we've been very aggressive in promoting exports, that's one of the reasons why we are proud of the fact that we've got a record export year under way here at USDA and what's leading that effort is in fact expanded opportunities in the protein area as we see expanding middle classes in countries like China and India and other places.”

National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Sam Carney, an Iowa pork producer himself, welcomed the guidelines and said “NPPC agrees with the guidelines’ call for eating nutrient-dense foods.” Pointing out that “many cuts of lean pork, including tenderloin and loin chops, contain quality nutrients,” he said “The solution to the obesity problem is not a shift from animal-based foods to plant-based ones but rather a shift from nutrient-poor foods to nutrient-rich foods, emphasizing the consumption of lean meats, including pork, along with vegetables, nuts and beans.”

American Meat Institute Executive VP James Hodges commented that “It is noteworthy that the government's previous recommendation that consumers eat five to seven ounces from the meat, poultry and beans group will remain unchanged. This makes sense because the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's documents show that the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts group is the only group that is consumed in the recommended amount. . . Consumers should heed the Guidelines' dietary recommendations that they consume five to seven ounces from the meat and beans groups – which is what Americans are consuming, on average, already. They can continue to feel good about meat and poultry's big nutrition punch – and great taste.”

Speaking for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Texas medical doctor and cattleman Richard Thorpe said “When reading these guidelines, consumers need to realize that protein-packed lean beef accompanied by an increase in fruits and vegetables translates into a healthy choice. These guidelines reinforce the fact that Americans are over fed, yet undernourished. Lean beef is a nutrient-rich food that, on average, provides 10 essential nutrients provided in only 154 calories. The guidelines are calling for a well-balanced diet and lean beef is a good place to start.”

For more on the Guidelines announcement, click HERE. To read the four-page executive summary of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, click HERE. To read separate chapters or download the complete 112-page Guidelines, click HERE.

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