USDA recently launched a school lunch recipe contest that excludes meat from the recipe categories. That move, along with the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's recommendation to move to a plant-based diet, is sending the wrong message to consumers, says Kristina Butts, director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).

The newly proposed 2010 Dietary Guidelines issued by USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services suggests a plant-based protein diet. The guidelines are updated every five years. The final report is slated to be released later this year.

"First off, USDA's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's recommendation for a plant-based diet causes consumers to wrongly assume that they are eating too much meat. We are not eating too much meat,” Butts says.

“The fact is, plants already make up 70% of our diets. On average, Americans are consuming about 2.3 oz. of red meat/day, well within 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. By excluding meat from its healthy kids recipe contest, USDA continues to add to the misconception that meat is over consumed in the U.S."

Cattle producers need to encourage their elected lawmakers to ask USDA to use science and facts when finalizing the dietary guidelines, she says. Lean beef needs to be incorporated as part of the solution to curbing obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle for children and adults.

Butts encourages grassroots consumers and producers to submit recipes to USDA showcasing how lean beef compliments vegetables and fruits. "USDA never specified that they won’t accept meat recipes but failed to include a specific category for the protein," she says. "We have plenty of well-balanced recipes that include beef, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. We encourage our members to step up and show beef working in a healthy diet."

For more on the recipe challenge, visit
-- TCFA Newsletter