The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) in comments submitted this week raised strong objections to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) removal of lean meat from a healthy dietary pattern.
“The committee’s removal of nutrient-dense lean meat from a healthy dietary pattern is stunning,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “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’s comments called the action “arbitrary and capricious” and said it “suggests that the DGAC fails to recognize the nutritional value lean meat offers and is ignoring the scientific evidence supporting its inclusion in the American diet.” The Institute provided extensive references showing the important nutritional contributions that lean meat and poultry make to the diet.
NAMI noted that Subcommittee 1 data from the DGAC November 7 meeting 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).
“Based on the December 15 meeting, NAMI questions the scientific rigor of the DGAC decision, especially after nearly 24 months of reviewing the scientific evidence,” NAMI said. “If the DGAC believed lean meat was not part of common characteristics of a healthy pattern, why was it included in the draft evidence conclusion through the morning of December 15?”
The Institute said it supports nutritional guidance that encourages the consumption of nutrient dense foods, which includes meat and poultry, and moves away from consumption of energy dense foods. “This guidance would be more helpful to the average American rather than guidance that ignores the role lean meat contributes to the diet because it would promote energy balance and healthier diets for Americans,” NAMI said. In addition, the Institute said dietary guidance should be practical, affordable, attainable and positive and should encourage Americans to focus on eating a healthful diet while respecting cultural forces, food preferences, budgets, availability and habits.
The DGAC’s focus on sustainability is objectionable because it is not within the committee’s expertise. “The Committee wrongly assumed if production animal agriculture were eliminated, the food supply as a whole would be more sustainable,” the Institute said. In fact, the committee appears to be acting on incomplete data. A November 2014 analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed the environmental impact of various foods and noted that many analyses have relied upon environmental impact per pound produced rather than per calorie supplied. When viewed in the latter manner, meat and poultry are quite “green.” The authors noted that when fruits and vegetables were substituted for meat there was either no change or even an increase in greenhouse gas emissions because of the amount of fruits and vegetables required to maintain the caloric content was so high.
Contrary to the committee’s view, processed meats are an example of a highly sustainable meat and poultry product. “Making food products from the entire animal is the most sustainable thing to do. In some cases, nearly 70 percent of the animal goes into processed products. To disregard such a significant portion of the animal is irresponsible, especially when those products provide an affordable, safe and nutrient dense form of protein,” NAMI commented.
“Meat and poultry are an integral part of the American diet and the DGAC’s failure to recognize the role of lean meat as a component of a healthy eating pattern is concerning and ill considered,” NAMI concluded. “It also reflects either an astonishing lack of awareness of the scientific evidence or a callous disregard of that evidence, again calling into question the entirety of the recommendations submitted by the DGAC to the agencies. We encourage the agencies to include lean meat and poultry as a component of a healthy eating pattern.”