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Dietary Guidelines Deliver Win for Midwest Meat Industry

A platter of steaks at a steakhouse in Omaha, Neb. (Photo: Brian Seifferlein | Harvest Public Media file) A platter of steaks at a steakhouse in Omaha, Neb. (Photo: Brian Seifferlein | Harvest Public Media file)
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New federal guidelines for healthy eating announced Thursday do not urge Americans to eat less meat, delivering a big win to Midwest meat farmers and ranchers.

Initial recommendations by scientific advisors suggested Americans could be more environmentally friendly by cutting back on meat. Although the final version of the dietary guidelines issued every five years by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services propose teenage and adult men reduce their intake of protein, there is no specific request to eat less meat.

Environmental groups has hoped the recommendations would reinforce their campaigns to factor the environment into eating habits.

“There’s plenty of evidence that what happened was strong pushback from the meat industry, as well as allies in congress, for USDA not to do exactly what the science advisors had said,” said David Wallinga, the senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Meat industry groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association maintain lean meat can be part of a healthy diet. Richard Thorpe, a Texas doctor and cattle rancher, defended the NCBA’s position in a press release.

“Numerous studies have shown positive benefits of lean beef in the diet, and I commonly encourage my patients to include beef in their diet to help them maintain a healthy weight and get the nutrients they need to be physically active,” Thorpe said.

Much of the dietary advice remains unchanged from 2010 recommendations.

One big change included in the guidelines: Americans are being told to cut down on their sugar intake.

— Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR 89.3, reports on farm and food issues in collaboration with public media stations across the Midwest. For more information, visit www.harvestpublicmedia.org.

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