'Eat less meat' fuels backlash

The meat industry has hit back against calls from a former government advisor for a dramatic reduction in meat consumption to fight obesity and climate change.

Professor Tim Lang, who has advised the World Health Organisation and the Department for Environment on food policy, told The Telegraph that meat consumption was “out of control” and said people should return to the past tradition of saving meat for special occasions.

“Let’s go back to where culture has been for thousands of years, which is meat is an exception,” he said.

Professor Lang claimed that high levels of meat consumption can cause obesity, heart disease and 
type 2 diabetes, as well as damaging the environment. He said that Meat Free Mondays did not go far enough and called for meat to be eaten once a week at most. “I am saying instead of having one day where you do not eat meat, eat meat once a week and have really good, grass-fed meat.”

His comments elicited a furious response from meat industry leaders, who denied claims that a dramatic reduction in meat consumption would improve health. Stephen Rossides, director of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), told Meat Trades Journal: “This sort of ‘meat free/eat less meat to save the planet’ message from celebrities and so-called experts is fatuous nonsense. Any real nutritionist will tell you that eating red meat as part of a balanced diet has a range of dietary benefits, and is especially important for particular groups of people.

“Let’s all grow up a bit here and have a serious discussion about the challenges of food security, climate change and sustainable food production and consumption, not juvenile sound-bite policy advocacy.”

Nick Allen, sector director for Eblex, said: “It’s disappointing to hear commonly held misconceptions about meat consumption being reinforced yet again." Lean red meat is extremely nutritious and can be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet — advice that is reinforced by the government’s official EatWell plate.”

A National Farmers Union spokesperson agreed that a varied diet should include meat, fish, fruit and vegetables and pointed out: “For some people, cutting out meat from their diet could have an adverse effect on health — for example those with a poor iron intake.”

The meat industry is currently working hard to set facts straight on meat consumption and health. With the backing of Eblex, experts at the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) recently developed 15 factsheets to point out the nutritional value and health benefits of red meat to consumers. These included a factsheet on meat and weight management, which noted that lean meat has a relatively low energy density (number of calories per gram of food), while also contributing to feelings of satiety more than fat and carbohydrates, meaning it can “usefully contribute to a palatable healthy balanced 
diet to aid successful weight loss 
and management”.