Is the beef industry handling the proposed dietary guidelines the wrong way?

March 3, 2015

4 Min Read
Is the beef industry handling the proposed dietary guidelines the wrong way?

Last week, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released its recommendations for the five-year update that will become the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The DGAC report, which USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services will consider in the five-year update to be released later this year, calls for a reduction in red meat in the American diet due to reasons of saturated fat and environmental impact. It marks the first time that environmental impact has been cited in the DGAC recommendations – a surprising citation since committee members are charged with considering only nutrition.

Needless to say, the beef industry -- myself included -- has been very vocal in its opposition to the report. But are we voicing our opposition too loudly or in the wrong way? When I peruse the headlines related to the dietary guidelines, I see many about how the beef industry is responding, and the overall picture it isn’t pretty.

For example, the Washington Post says the proposed recommendations are, “The meat industry’s worst nightmare.” One blog site recently posted the headline, “Big meat lobby to attack new dietary guidelines.” The headline on FOX News reads, “Beef producers say Obama is trying to kill their industry.”

Other headlines all paint the meat industry as aggressive, on the defensive, and worried about dollars lost in sales, not nutrition.

Here are a few more: “Attack on meat has industry seeing red,” “Meat and soda industries prepare to fight new U.S. dietary guidelines,” and “Government dietary guidelines might hurt beef industry.”

Jude Capper, sustainability consultant, makes a great point in her latest blog that while Americans aren’t likely to follow the new dietary recommendations (unless, of course it’s in school, military or food stamp programs), consumers will likely remember how “Big Ag” attacked the guidelines and lobbied to keep meat on the table because we have skin in the game.

Capper writes, “Individuals don’t pay a lot of attention to a government report on nutrition. Despite the fact that six updates to the guidelines have been released since their inception in 1980, we are all still eating too many Twinkies in front of the TV and super-sized takeout meals in the car, rather than chowing down on broccoli and lentil quinoa bake.

“Yet people do pay attention to headlines like ‘Less meat, more veggies: big food is freaking out about the ‘nonsensical’ new dietary guidelines’ and others. The media sub-text is that big bad food producers (so different from the lovely local farmer who sells heirloom breed poultry at $18 per pound at the farmers market) are appalled by the release of this governmental bad science that’s keeping them from their quest to keep you unhealthily addicted to triple cheeseburgers washed down with a 500-calorie soda, and will do anything to suppress it.

“This makes me wonder – at what point do we need quiet, stealthy change, rather than loud protests that attract the attention of people who would otherwise never have read about the guidelines? At what point does industry protesting seem like a modern version of ‘The lady doth protest too much?’”

Capper suggests that instead of griping on social media about our disapproval of the guidelines, we should instead promote the benefits of high-quality, nutritious, safe and affordable beef.

I think Capper makes a great point, and I plan to devote more effort to promoting beef instead of whining about the guidelines. However, there is also still time to make a change when it comes to the DGAC’s recommendations. The comment period is open until April 8 (some groups have requested an extension), so be sure to share the benefits of beef with your congressional representatives, as well as your Facebook friends.

Written public comments can be submitted and/or viewed at using the ‘‘Submit Comments’’ and ‘‘Read Comments’’ links.

How do you think the beef industry should respond to the proposed dietary guidelines? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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