Commentary: You can help keep lean beef on Americans’ plates

Issue Date: April 15, 2015
By Billy Flournoy
Billy Flournoy
Dietary guidelines that are revised every five years influence government recommendations such as the MyPlate graphic from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, left. Cattle ranchers and others disagree with some of the recommendations of a committee advising USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services about updating the guidelines.

What people eat and how food nutritionally benefits their bodies have been popular topics of discussion among consumers, but recently the discussion shifted to the national level. Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services, reviews the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and presents a report as part of the dietary guidelines review. In February, the committee released its report, which, unfortunately, undermines the role of lean beef in a healthy, balanced diet.

As a fourth-generation Northern California rancher and president of the California Cattlemen's Association, I cannot simply stand back and risk beef's place in the dietary guidelines. As fellow ranchers and farmers across the top agriculture-producing state in the nation, I hope you will join me in telling the USDA and HHS that lean meat has a place at the table in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines—and for good reason.

CCA has addressed this topic with our members in our California Cattleman magazine, the Hot Irons newsletter and the CCA Legislative Bulletin, asking them to write comments to the secretaries of USDA and HHS to let them know the importance of beef in the diets of Americans. Now, I am asking the support of California Farm Bureau members and other readers who stand alongside beef producers in California, by making our voices heard in an effort to keep lean beef in the dietary guidelines.

The committee released its scientific report in February to the secretaries of the HHS and USDA, who will make the final decision on the guidelines by the end of this year. The committee has contradicted itself in its recommendations, disregarding sound, scientific evidence to support its claims. For example, the committee praised eating patterns such as the Mediterranean-style diet, which is higher in red meat levels than current U.S. diets, but the committee excluded "lean meats" from the report's section on dietary patterns that reflect positive health benefits. However, the report contains a footnote that says lean meat can be a part of a healthy diet. Does that make much sense to you? It certainly has me scratching my head.

This year, the committee also decided to bring topics outside of health and nutrition into its considerations, such as sustainability, which goes beyond the committee's expertise.

Staff of our national affiliate organization, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in Washington, D.C., have been working hard to make members of Congress aware of the committee's mistakes and are directly addressing this issue with USDA and HHS. We also have the support of 30 members of the Senate, who sent a letter to the secretaries expressing their concerns and requesting that they reject the report.

Currently, no final decisions have been made, and there is still much work ahead—and this is why I'm writing. We need every person who has an interest in keeping beef on consumers' plates to be engaged in this process. The public comment period is open now through May 8, and we need each of you to visit and submit comments. If you'd like to create your own unique comments on the matter, your actions would be greatly appreciated, and there are sample comments available on the NCBA website to provide you inspiration, as well.

If you're social media inclined, there's another way you can help. In early April, NCBA launched an online campaign to help show the secretaries that beef belongs on America's plates as part of a healthy, balanced diet. If you use Twitter, you are encouraged to share positive photos of beef as part of a healthy diet, using the hashtag #BeefsOnMyPlate. If you'd like to know more about how to accomplish this, please contact Malorie Bankhead in the CCA office at 916-444-0845. She can help you sort out your involvement in that campaign.

Protecting the livelihoods of ranchers and beef producers in California is why CCA was founded in 1917. We hope you will help us continue to protect our final product by urging the secretaries to reject the committee's recommendations to exclude red meat from a healthy diet pattern, reduce red meat consumption and include sustainability as a part of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and ask them to carefully review the comments they receive during the comment period. If you are a farmer who is a friend to the beef industry, we would appreciate your voice alongside ours in support of lean meat in the American diet.

(Billy Flournoy of Likely is president of the California Cattlemen's Association.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

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