Last week’s Listener had a story headlined Let them (not) eat meat. It referred to the Independent report which said 760 million tonnes of grain will be used to feed animals this year, with 8 kg of grain needed to produce 1 kg of beef.
The story goes on to say that “globally we are eating more meat than we used to – 50% more than in the 1960s – with consumption predicted to double by 2050. So to help our futures and those of our children, the experts recommend eating less meat and more veges…”
In this week’s Listener Tanya Hart, Marketing and PR manager for Beef & Lamb NZ responds. She points out the story lacks local context because:
…the vast majority of New Zealand’s beef- and lamb-producing livestock is not grain-fed or produced via intensive feedlot systems. Our livestock are raised on extensive, natural pastures with no intensive farming. This results in low pollution, lower use of fertiliser and more efficient energy use. The Independent article Boland sources clearly refers to global farming systems that are substantially different from the sustainable farming practices here.
Second, New Zealanders are not eating more meat “than we used to”. We eat red meat in moderate amounts well within the “safe” guidelines outlined in the recent World Cancer Research Fund report and within those of the Ministry of Health, the National Heart Foundation of New Zealand and the Cancer Society of New Zealand.
Though eating less meat might seem a simple solution to a “global food crisis”, it has serious nutritional implications. Eating less meat is likely to lead to inappropriate diets that will not necessarily protect against obesity, cancer or rising food bills. Lean red meat is an excellent source of a whole range of nutrients and, when eaten three to four times a week, is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Eating too much meat is linked to cancer and heart disease, but too little can result in health problems too. Rather than being cause for concern, an increase in world-wide consumption of meat may be an indication that people in developing countries like China and India are becoming better off and so able to spend more on protein. That would be good news for our sheep and beef industry and also for the health of those people.