Horse News

Beef, agriculture industries upset with dietary guidelines that consider environmental impact

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat  ~  photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Privately owned welfare cattle being herded onto public land and wild horse habitat ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“A study by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year said raising beef for the American dinner table is more harmful to the environment than other meat industries such as pork and chicken.

The study said that compared with other popular animal proteins, beef produces more heat-trapping gases per calorie, puts out more water-polluting nitrogen, takes more water for irrigation and uses more land.”

By Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The government issues dietary guidelines every five years to encourage Americans to eat healthier. This year’s version may look at what is healthy for the environment, too.

A new focus on the environment would mean asking people to choose more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other plant-based foods — possibly at the expense of meat.

The beef and agriculture industries are crying foul, saying an environmental agenda has no place in what has always been a practical blueprint for a healthy lifestyle.

An advisory panel to the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments has been discussing the idea of sustainability in public meetings, indicating that its recommendations, expected this month, may address the environment. The two departments will take those recommendations into account as they craft the final dietary guidelines, expected by the end of the year.

The guidelines are the basis for USDA’s “My Plate” icon that replaced the well-known food pyramid in 2010 and is designed to help Americans with healthy eating. The guidelines will also be integrated into school lunch meal patterns and other federal eating programs.

A draft recommendation circulated by the advisory committee in December said a sustainable diet helps ensure food access for both the current population and future generations. A dietary pattern 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 U.S. diet,” the draft said.

That appears to take at least partial aim at the beef industry. A study by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year said raising beef for the American dinner table is more harmful to the environment than other meat industries such as pork and chicken.

The study said that compared with other popular animal proteins, beef produces more heat-trapping gases per calorie, puts out more water-polluting nitrogen, takes more water for irrigation and uses more land.

As the advisory committee has discussed the idea, doctors and academics on the panel have framed sustainability in terms of conserving food resources and also what are the healthiest foods. There is “compatibility and overlap” between what’s good for health and good for the environment, the panel has said.

The meat industry has fought for years to ensure that the dietary guidelines do not call for eating less meat. The guidelines now recommend eating lean meats instead of reducing meat altogether, advice that the current advisory committee has debated. A draft discussed at the panel’s Dec. 15 meeting says a healthy dietary pattern includes fewer “red and processed meats” than are currently consumed.

After that meeting, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sent out a statement by doctor and cattle producer Richard Thorpe calling the committee biased and the draft meat recommendations absurd. He said lean beef has a role in healthy diets.

The American Meat Institute issued comments calling any attempt to take lean meat out of a healthy dietary pattern “stunning” and “arbitrary.”

Objections are coming from Congress, too.

A massive year-end spending bill enacted last month noted the advisory committee’s interest in the environment and directed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “to only include nutrition and dietary information, not extraneous factors” in final guidelines. Congress often uses such non-binding directions to put a department on notice that lawmakers will push back if the executive branch moves forward.

Environmentalists are pushing the committee and the government to go the route being considered.

“We need to make sure our diets are in alignment with our natural resources and the need to reduce climate change,” said Kari Hamerschlag of the advocacy group Friends of the Earth.

Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the idea of broader guidelines isn’t unprecedented. They have already been shaped to address physical activity and food safety, he said.

“You don’t want to recommend a diet that is going to poison the planet,” he said.

11 replies »

  1. It will be interesting to see if the cattle & meat industry lobbyists have more push than a scientific review! Certainly seems they do when it comes to our wild horses & burros and any other wildlife! It seems looking out for the environment just isn’t anywhere on the agenda for the meat industry! But then look how caring the whole oil & gas industry is pertaining to the environment.
    Watched an interview Charlie Rose had with Neil Young – this is someone who actually DOES care about our planet and the animals on it. Certainly worth watching.
    I don’t know if its only people in his age bracket & mine (76) that care but its time those of us who do – speak out.

    Like

  2. This is due to the same set of laws that were passed to eradicate horses and burros. It’s not about the cows, it’s not about the methane, it’s about the fossil duels that are found in the grasslands.

    Like

  3. Wait for it…..the Entire Beef Industry will have a Temper Tantrum. First comes screaming…then threats then crying. Happens every time someone disagrees with them. Im surprised they printed this. Its the truth about beef. So what happens next? Horsemeat Environmental Impact is tremendously bad so they should recommend it Never open again. I lived 1 mile from a Livestock exchange that shuttled and handled thousands of cattle and pigs and they effects on the community were tremendous….we understand farming however anything on a tremendous scale is bad for the environment period. It was never intended to be so vastly reaching and overpopulated and destroying valuable plant life which cleans our atmosphere. In case you had not noticed we never had rainforrests in America and our pollutants are cattle depletingplants whichproduce clean air destroying horses unbalanced the environments replenishment program. The horses and clean air are hand in hand. Cattle are not. Methane gases changed farming cattle however theres no controls on how many people raise them how close together or the numbers within a specific state. The reasoning? Methane produced across one facility theoretically can be reduced however when you consider private owned as well as large farmed over counties or states it makes a different calculation on how much damage is done. To make matters worse multiple farms spread cattle around to stay under the control statistics for environmental impact studies however they are all owned by one group or person. So they found ways around the studies until thi

    Like

  4. I can only speak from personal experience but…

    A while back, I quit eating meat entirely, and a coupla stuff happened:

    I lost 12 pounds in three months (applause,applause,applause).

    And there’s a lot more cash in the coffers. For what we normally spent on a few packages of meat to feed us for a few days, we now spend on enough (canned, frozen, fresh) fruits and vegetables and different rices, beans and the like to feed us for WEEKS.

    Sure, it’s inconvenient, having to cook from scratch instead of slappin’ a piece of dead animal of indeterminate origin in a frying pan or whatever, but aside from an unexpected weight loss and a heavier wallet, some other nifty benefits have also sprung up: My tummy and I are friends again. I haven’t had a migraine since I gave up meat. And POTATOES. (My goodness, what you can do with a potato!)

    I find it a little creepy, given what the Fed has brought down on the well-being of the American Public in the last few years, any credence would be given their recommendations on how best to feed ourselves. I applaud their efforts to minimize the importance of meat in the human diet, though. Particularly if it causes a certain faction, er, discomfort.

    Like

  5. I encourage reading Howard Lyman’s “Mad Cowboy” … then make up your own mind.
    Among many other things, he tells a story about when he was a cattle rancher he indiscriminately gave all his cattle antibiotics and chemical growth products and sprayed pesticides and herbicides on all of his cattle and land (and therefore the ground and water and feed troughs and the air they all breathed in the feedlots etc) and of course it got on him also … and one day after spraying he walked into the house and ALL THE HOUSEPLANTS DIED. That’s just a very small bit of the book but I found it a very revealing warning for anyone who eats meat.

    Like

  6. Congress insisting that USDA include (limit) “only include nutrition and dietary information and not extraneous factors” is code for NOT caring about health since the water we drink, the air we breathe, and our soil is all contaminated from the meat industry. That is before dead animals – 30 on average per person per year – get into our bodies with growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides from a steady diet of GMOs. We have an epidemic of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes in this country caused in large part by the overconsumption of fat laden and processed meat. Boycott the meat mafia!

    Like

  7. Remember it is not just beef–all our factory farms are the same- beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or pork, eggs and milk are all raised with antibiotics and growth hormones, fed who knows what, and live in unhealthy conditions. I am not trying to convert anyone, just remember ORGANIC-RAW-UNFILTERD that has worked for me and I eat no meat.

    Like

Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.