We’ve all heard of the “turn the other cheek” philosophy, but there comes a time when this method isn’t always the best course of action. I believe a lesson for the beef industry can be learned from the current situation in the United Kingdom. Recently reports leaked to the press that UK government advisors were to release a report stating that eating less red meat and processed meat lowers the risk of developing cancer. This report suggests that consumption of red meat has been linked to higher risks of tumors and cancer in research studies. The part they forgot to mention is that most of these studies have proved inconclusive in their findings and cannot justifiably say that there is a true correlation between consuming red meat and increased risk of cancer. Nutritionists from the British Nutrition Foundation have responded to this government report stating that “moderate red meat consumption has positive benefits” and “consumption of moderate amounts of meat makes a significant positive contribution to both micronutrient and macronutrient intakes, without risking any negative health effects.”
Beef and Lamb New Zealand, a large supplier of lamb to the UK, released a statement saying that they will take a relaxed approach to the UK government claims. Because their market for the UK is mainly a lamb market, which is one of the most expensive of mainstream red meats in the UK, it is considered more of a special occasion product. They feel that this sets lamb apart from beef making it less likely to be affected by the government report’s claims.
The UK’s leading beef producer organization, the National Beef Association released a response:
The National Beef Association urges the Coalition Government not to rush to judgment on the place of red meat in the diet if it is presented with yet another, hesitant and confused report, linking meat with a cancer.
Its plea comes after yesterday’s media leaks claiming that government was poised to warn the British people that a more cautious approach to the weight of both fresh red meat, and processed meat, in their diet must be taken – otherwise they faced an increased risk of bowel cancer.
“The red meat industry, which embraces farmers, processors, and retailers, will despair if it becomes the target of yet another in a long line of alarmist reports – which later undergo deep reconsideration, and substantial modification, after initial conclusions of been found to be too simplistic,” explained the NBA’s director, Kim Haywood.
The Association fears that another, unnecessary, embarrassment to both government, and the specialists on its Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, is inevitable unless the expected public statement on cancer and red meat consumption properly acknowledges the complexity of the subject and the contradictory nature of the evidence.
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Situations such as this only emphasize the ongoing need for beef producers, processors, and retailers to share the facts about beef with both the consumer and government officials. If we do not do our part to tell our story, someone else will do it for us and we may not like what we hear. So the next time you hear false claims about beef do your part to speak up!