The average age of the U.S. rancher is 58 years old and rising. With fewer young people getting into production agriculture, the older generation works longer and the word “retirement” doesn’t exist in the vocabulary for many.
My grandpa is still working on the ranch at 78 with no plans to slow down anytime soon, and I think others can relate to the mentality that if you’re fit and healthy, you would rather stay active and be outside doing what you love instead of sitting in the house and turning over the reins to younger family members.
With advancements in nutrition and medicine, our life expectancy is longer and the focus for many now is not just aging, but aging well and having a quality of life as we get older.
An article written by Linda Milo Ohr for the Institute of Food Technologists highlights the best foods for the aging population to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. The list includes things like probiotics, prebiotics, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. Milo Ohr also recommends plenty of animal and dairy proteins to maintain muscle mass and mobility as we age.
Sarcopenia is a growing concern for the elderly; it’s age-related loss of muscle and function. After 30 years of age, it’s common for people to start losing 3-8% lean muscle mass each decade. It affects more than 20% of people in their 60s and 70s and nearly 50% of people over the age of 80, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council 2015.
Her solution to stop the advancement of sarcopenia is to consume high-quality protein.
She writes, “With age, the body’s natural ability to repair and strengthen muscles begins to decline. To help prevent this issue, it is important to support amino acid formation through sufficient protein intake. By aiding the weakened muscle fibers, collagen peptides (which can be found in pork, beef and fish) help to promote the body’s natural muscle replacement process.
What’s more, Milo Ohr recommends eating a higher protein diet to maintain muscles, particularly if a rancher wants to continue to be active in the often labor-intensive beef business.
She writes, “Consuming high-quality protein, spreading out protein intake to increase effectiveness, and exercising are three recommendations highlighted in a Nutrition Spotlight publication from the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Diets higher in protein have been shown to help maintain muscle as people age.
"Research shows that protein intake at the higher end of the acceptable range as a percent of total calories (25%–35%, depending on the country) may help older individuals better maintain bone and muscle mass. In addition, research and protein experts recommend aiming for 20–30g of high-quality protein per meal. And consuming 40g of protein after resistance exercise is recommended for older adults to maximize muscle protein synthesis.”
Of course, this advice doesn’t just apply to ranchers. I think this message isn’t shared enough with our aging consumers, and I believe this group of consumers is an underserved market and one where we could promote more protein consumption.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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