Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Why we need beef and sheep farmers to feed the nation

It seems that never a month goes by without the red meat industry facing headline-grabbing negative challenges that demonise it.

In the face of such negativity, it’s easy to see how consumers can draw ill-informed conclusions about red meat consumption. A survey by the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) has worryingly revealed misconceptions about meat are leaving Britons at risk of health problems.

The survey not only highlighted lack of understanding about red meat and its role in consumer diets, but also revealed a lack of consumer awareness as to which meats were actually classified as red meat. For example, one in five, or 22 per cent of respondents for example, didn’t realise lamb is red meat.

Equally concerning was the fact that people routinely underestimate the importance of red meat in delivering essential nutrients, such as iron and vitamin D. Low levels of both care common within UK population groups in the UK and can lead to a range of health-related problems. Only eight per cent of women in the study were aware of their greater need for dietary iron.

Just 15 per cent of respondents to the MAP survey correctly rated red meat as a superior source of iron than spinach. Red meat is one of the best sources of easily absorbed iron and is particularly important for women. Low iron levels can lead to a host of niggling health problems including tiredness, poor concentration, headaches, feeling short of breath, irritability and dizziness.

According to MAP, there is growing evidence that vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining the immune system.

So, what’s the answer? Our climate means that we often can’t make enough vitamin D from sunshine and many of us have sub-optimal levels, so it is important that we get the most from natural food sources such as red meat.

Globally, the UK is one of the most efficient places to produce beef and lamb. We have a ready-made red meat food source on the doorstep, which is why beef and sheep farming is so important and should continue to be. The win, win, solution for a healthy balanced diet while supporting effort that farmers put in to produce such high-quality products.

EBLEX will continue to support research into the role of red meat in a healthy, balanced diet, most recently the production of the Mind the Knowledge Gap study.

Coupled with its continued programme of working with farmers at source to drive efficiencies and help improved performance of their enterprises and programme of educating consumers about the health benefits of red meat, EBLEX will continue to champion beef and lamb’s crucial role in feeding the nation.