How should agriculture respond when celebrities promote anti-meat diets?
I was scrolling through my Instagram feed yesterday morning and was disappointed to see fashion designer Stella McCartney getting political to kick off the week. She had posted a photo of a button that read, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, or experiment on. #MeatFreeMonday” McCartney is the daughter of musician Sir Paul McCartney, who is also an avid anti-meat activist.
Within one hour of posting the photo, McCartney had received 5,496 likes and 220 comments. It was interesting to read through the comments, where about half of folks applauded McCartney’s politics and half vowed to keep eating their beloved meat.
McCartney’s post touched on three points – eating, wearing and experimenting on animals -- and each one could spark a different debate. Today, however, I will address the issue of eating animals.
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In my experience, I have found that consumers ditch animal proteins for several reasons, which include misconceived notions or concerns over the environment, animal welfare or nutrition. I believe that the most prominent reason is the belief that forgoing meat from the diet is a healthier choice.
The American Meat Institute and American Meat Science Association recently released the latest video in their Meat Crusher series. This video is very fitting for this topic because it addresses the misconception that simply cutting meat from the diet will make a person healthier.
In the video, Anna Dilger, Ph.D., a University of Illinois assistant professor, discusses the variety of nutrition benefits of meat and poultry products and their role in an overall diet.
According to the Meat MythCrusher video, meat offers "a number of nutrition benefits that cannot be replaced without other dietary changes. Protein is a necessary part of the diet, and meat and poultry are considered complete proteins, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids needed for health."
The video goes on to point out that a person would have to eat a wide variety of plant protein sources over the course of a day or several days to get all the amino acids available from meat in just one meal. Meat is also rich in absorbable essential vitamins and minerals. Meat and poultry products are uniquely rich sources of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 as well as selenium, choline, vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. Vitamins like iron and zinc are more easily absorbed from meat than they are from vegetable sources.
“Some people claim that we are eating far too much meat in our diet, but federal data shows that we’re currently eating the correct amount of protein based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. On average, we eat 6.08 oz. of protein/day. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 5-7oz.1 It’s the only category that’s being eaten in the correct amounts. Research also shows that protein offers weight loss benefits through a higher degree of satiety or “satisfaction” from hunger, which means people are less inclined to snack between meals, compared to carbohydrate or fat,” the video says.
I challenge you to share this video and resources similar to this on social media to help balance the conversation. Undoubtedly, McCartney’s reach is much wider than ours, but we can’t allow people like her to be the only viewpoint that people hear.
What do you think about McCartney’s statements? How should agriculture respond? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
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