I stumbled upon some food for thought on NPR’s food blog, The Salt, and it left me feeling quite perplexed. Why? Because this story is yet another Food Politics battle in which the good guy just never seems to win.
“The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is showing an interest in incorporating agriculture production practices and environmental factors into their recommendations”. A sound idea, isn’t it? We already know that plant-based diets are necessary for optimal health AND the production practices of growing fruits and vegetables is less of a burden on the environment compared to raising say, beef. Seems like a no-brainer to me (and others I’m sure of it).
But member’s of Congress are “concerned” with this notion of joining together sustainability practices and dietary recommendations and so the Obama administration is being directed to ignore these changes. I’m not sure why, but you can bet it has something to do with the meat industry. The American Meat Institute has already weighed in on the matter, proclaiming that “nutritionists don’t have the expertise to take on environmental questions.” Sure, that may be the case. But it doesn’t mean the committee can’t collaborate with environmental experts to answer those questions. Nutritionists have a responsibility to all things food; it seems silly for them NOT to be engaged in an issue like this.
If these guidelines are approved and Americans truly adopt them (which has yet to be seen with any set of dietary guidelines in my opinion), it is possible that people will start buying less meat and these companies will no doubt lose some hefty dollars. Sure, their concern is justified. But if such a change helps foster a healthier nation, that change should be worth the minor losses (better start innovating, boys). Whatever happened to honoring the greater good? Our nation is the sickest it’s ever been and it’s largely due to the Standard American Diet (SAD); lots of meat, too much processed foods and very little – if any- plant foods. Modifying the distribution of farm subsidies could also help alleviate this problem but we’ll have to save that argument for another day.