A report issued by a European non-profit suggests drastic limits on meat and dairy consumption will improve the world’s health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
On Thursday, a group called the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health will begin launching events over the next month in five cities around the globe (Oslo, Jakarta, Melbourne, New York and Rome) to promote its new report on health and environmental sustainability.
“The EAT-Lancet report is based on dubious science and is irresponsible,” the National Pork Producers Council says.
The report’s concerns include sustainability and undernutrition. However, EAT-Lancet’s recommendations to reduce meat, dairy and egg consumption would be counterproductive to both of these concerns, the National Pork Producers Council adds.
“U.S. farmers and ranchers lead the world in efficient practices that deliver unmatched nutrition while conserving natural resources and decreasing environmental impact. The EAT-Lancet Commission ignores evidence of meat and dairy’s contributions to healthy, sustainable diets. The Commission’s radical recommendations to drastically limit meat and dairy consumption would have serious, negative consequences for the health of people and the planet,” says Kay Johnson Smith, President and CEO of the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
Smith says the EAT-Lancet recommendations to eat just a quarter ounce of beef per day and drink just one cup of milk risks worsening malnutrition, increasing food waste and distracting from the highest priorities for addressing GHGs.
“The science about the best path forward is clear – meat and dairy are critical to high-quality nutrition, less food waste, and efficient use of our precious natural resources,” Smith says.
The report also favors a meat tax, a tactic that animal activists have been promoting for some time.
Pork’s Nutritive Value is Undeniable
Ample scientific evidence supports the nutritive value of meat, including pork, which has critical vitamins and minerals, such as B12, Heme iron, zinc and potassium. These often are lacking in many diets, particularly in developing countries.
The recommendations made by the EAT-Lancet Commission are based on modeling data, not clinical trials that can demonstrate cause and effect, says Adria Huseth, manager of nutrition communications and research at the National Pork Board. Research has consistently demonstrated that one food or dietary pattern does not cause a health or environmental risk.
Huseth says consumption survey analysis shows the average intake of meat and meat equivalents (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and legumes) is 5.3 ounces per day. Nearly 60% of the U.S. population is consuming the Protein Food Group at or below recommended intake levels – pork only contributes 6% of total calories (based on 2,000 calories/day).
“Dietary patterns that emphasize nutrient-dense foods can help optimize nutrition,” Huseth says. “Animal proteins, like lean meat, are complete proteins, offering all of the essential amino acids our bodies need, whereas most plant-based protein sources are not – making animal proteins efficient and effective protein foods for all life stages.”
Lean meats, like pork, also provide other essential nutrients such as vitamin B-12.
“Eliminating meat from peoples’ diets puts them at a higher risk of deficiency because they cannot get B-12 from plant sources,” she adds. “Instead of focusing on what foods to eliminate, we – collectively – should help people eat more nutrient-dense foods, eliminate food waste and create behavior change that is beneficial for human health and that of the planet.”
Animal Ag Alliance Vice President of Communications Hannah Thompson-Weeman says the report’s recommended diet would limit pork consumption to around a quarter ounce per day and dairy to around one glass of milk per day and dramatically increase consumption of beans, nuts and other plant-based proteins.
According to the Animal Agriculture Alliance website, it would take five cups of red beans to equal the calcium absorbed from one cup of milk.
Pork Production is More Sustainable Than Ever
America’s pig farmers are producing a product that has become increasingly sustainable over the past five decades, reports a new study from the University of Arkansas.
According to the study, A Retrospective Assessment of U.S. Pork Production: 1960 to 2015, the inputs needed to produce a pound of pork in the U.S. became more environmentally friendly over time. Specifically, 75.9% less land is needed today, 25.1% less water and 7.0% less energy. This also resulted in a 7.7% smaller carbon footprint.
These environmental improvements were achieved while the production of pork more than doubled, increasing to 25 billion pounds in 2017 from about 11 billion in 1960.
“Consumers may be surprised at how much progress America’s pig farmers have made in sustainability over the years,” says Steve Rommereim, National Pork Board president and a pig farmer from Alcester, S.D. “We not only want them to know that we’ve got a good track record, but that we’re not satisfied with the status quo. We plan to use the information to produce an even more sustainable product in the future.”
Animal agriculture is responsible for just 4% of total U.S. GHGs, with pork production being about one-third of 1%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Wrongly focusing on restricting diets distracts from the highest environmental priority – the burning of fossil fuels, which is responsible for a large portion of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says Brett Kaysen, assistant vice president of sustainability for the National Pork Board. “It is not true that animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas than transportation, a frequently-cited but mistaken claim.”
Production efficiencies have dramatically reduced the carbon footprint of modern livestock farming and ranching, Kaysen adds.
“Modern U.S. livestock agriculture is a tremendous example of how the world can produce the nutritious, safe food people need while contributing less GHGs per calorie of food,” says NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Ohio. “The U.N. has said there are ‘limitations to emissions reductions in the agriculture sector particularly because of … providing food for a global population that is expected to continue to grow’ and that ‘it would be reasonable to expect emissions reductions in terms of improvements in efficiency rather than absolute reductions in GHG emissions.’
“To address sustainability and undernourishment,” Heimerl adds, “maybe the report’s authors should call on the European Union to drop its Draconian ‘precautionary principle’ that all-but prevents the use of new technologies and modern production practices. It’s those kinds of restrictions that are forcing farmers around the world to forego using scientifically proved technologies that produce more food and in a more environmentally friendly way.”
U.S. Pork More Sustainable Than Ever, Study Shows
What's for Dinner? New Research Reveals How Americans are Eating