As described in detail in this 1993 article by Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University’s nutrition department, instead of saying to “eat less,” the guidelines came to include only positive instructions. In the most recent Dietary Guidelines, published in 2010, “lean meat” is listed in Chapter 4: Food and Nutrients to Increase. This year, however, the advisory report preceding the updated guidelines explicitly advises to eat less red and processed meat, though the total amount of recommended meat intake is the same as it was in 2010.
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While the 2015 advisory report included a footnote that “lean meats can be part of a healthy dietary pattern,” the panel’s advice to eat less of specifically red and processed meat has run into the same industry objections that McGovern’s committee did in 1977. “Lean meat is a headline, not a footnote,” said Barry Carpenter, NAMI’s president and CEO, in a statement the trade group released in February after the panel’s recommendations were released.
In response to an email inquiry, NAMI extolled the healthfulness of meat as a reason to keep eating it at current levels. Americans “currently eat the recommended amount of protein, there is no reason for the government to reduce its recommended levels of meat and poultry,” NAMI spokeswoman Janet Riley wrote.
But as government data consistently shows, most Americans actually eat much more than their recommended daily protein intake (46 grams for women, and 56 grams for men). And among populations where more protein is necessary, lean meats, poultry, seafood, and plant-based proteins are the ones usually suggested by health professionals.
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The efforts to keep Americans from lowering their meat intake include some important new allies. Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, and the Nutrition Coalition, backed by John and Laura Arnold, billionaires from Texas whose fortunes are tied back to Enron, have joined in as major power players in the fight, according to an in-depth report from Politico.
The key tactic: Attack the scientific methodology used by those recommending a drop in consumption.
According to Politico, before the Nutrition Coalition was officially formed, Teicholz attended a meeting with representatives for ConAgra, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, among others, to talk about whether criticizing the guidelines from the scientific standpoint would “create new opportunities” for rewriting the recommendations. Since then, Politico reports, Teicholz also has met with USDA staff, House Agriculture Appropriations chairman Robert Aderholt, and Debra Eschmeyer, a senior nutrition policy adviser to Michelle Obama and the executive director of the first lady’s health initiative, “Lets Move!”