I’ve often seen “scientific” studies used to defend cruel, unjust institutions like factory farming so I was skeptical when I saw an article in an agribusiness journal entitled “Study examines link between high-protein diet, bone density” (Meatingplace.com, 7/7/2010) a few weeks ago. The research was funded by the National Pork Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and I expected the same sort of reductionist self promoting conclusion that is commonly arrived at by industry funded “science.” Instead, the study found that high protein diets including lean meat was associated with a loss of calcium in the bones. Those on a plant-based diet fared better.
Then, a couple weeks ago Meatingplace.com published a provocative article entitled, “How can food retailers become more sustainable? Use less meat.” It described a presentation at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists that suggested that the food industry should move toward “lower intensity agricultural products,” and that means using fewer animal-based foods.
And, yet another veggie friendly Meatingplace.com article recently reported: “More menu items are being labeled as ‘healthy,’ according to Mintel Menu Insights. These items saw a 65 percent increase between the second quarter of 2009 and the second quarter of 2010. Vegetarian labels on menu items rose by 12 percent between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2010. More than half of diners who say they’re eating healthier food when they eat out do it by adding more fruits and vegetables.”
It is encouraging to see these subjects published in agribusiness trade media and showing up in concrete data. At the end of the day, agriculture should seek to feed the world by producing food in an ecologically efficient way that’s affordable, especially to those who need it. The best way to do that is to grow plants instead of animals for human consumption.
Now, if only our U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines advocated for a plant-based diet, rather than allowing the meat, dairy and egg industries to insert their products into government recommendations. The Dietary Guidelines, released every five years, are up for revision this year, and thankfully the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee produced a report urging that Americans modify their diets to become more plant-based. The final 2010 Guidelines are now being crafted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Farm Sanctuary, in conjunction with Lewis and Clark Animal Law Clinic submitted comments to the USDA and HHS making recommendations for the 2010 Guidelines. We applauded the Dietary Guidelines Committee for advising that we move toward a more plant-based diet, and urged that the final Guidelines help facilitate a shift in dietary habits. You can read our comments here.
Although agribusiness is deeply entrenched in Washington, DC and in institutions that influence how we eat, there is a growing recognition of the many costs associated with our animal-based food system, and citizens are starting to make more healthful and conscientious food choices. As consumers and policy makers learn more about the consequences of our food choices, and seek to improve how we eat, the food industry will be forced to change.