Many Americans, especially men and teenage boys, eat too much red meat, poultry and eggs, and should reduce their consumption, according to new federal dietary guidelines jointly released on January 7 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing Americans' meat consumption will not only help improve public health, but reduce climate and water pollution from the meat industry.
"Eating less red meat is good for all of us and good for the planet. We have long known that meat has supersized impacts not only on our health, but on the environment -- from intensive use of water to massive greenhouse gas pollution. These sensible changes will mean healthier school lunches for our children, better nutritional advice for all, and progress in the fight against climate change," said Erik Olson, Senior Strategic Director of the Health Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
This is the first time federal dietary guidelines have included a recommendation to reduce meat consumption. The report advises that cutting back on meat can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
The new dietary advice, however, did not include the recommendation from the agencies' expert scientific advisors that the FDA explicitly link the science-based benefits of adopting diets lower in red meat, and higher in plant-based foods, to additional benefits to environment sustainability and to food security.
Revised every five years, these recommendations guide food purchasing for the federal school lunch program, as well as form the basis for federal nutrition policy. They will also help inform the dietary advice and information delivered by public health and nutrition experts to the general public.