This Week’s Headlines
Just where are we headed? (Editorial)
(Jan. 20, 2015) A fellow named Dan Kitttredge is executive director of an organization called the “Bionutrient Food Association and the Real Food Campaign.”
Syndicated newspaper columnist Lee Pitts, in a piece called “Generation ‘Why?’” notes that the nation’s culturally exaggerated concern with what it eats is fed to us by the Millennials and Generation Y, who he writes, “prefer chicken to beef and like to eat raw fish, yet they don’t like to fish or hunt.”
Is there any doubt that we are in the midst of a foodie revolution?
Even the government may have swallowed the bait.The Associated Press reports government officials, every five years, issue dietary guidelines to encourage Americans to eat healthier. The guidelines are the basis for USDA’s “My Plate’’ icon that replaced the well-known food pyramid in 2010 and is designed to help Americans with healthy eating. The guidelines will also be integrated into school lunch meal patterns and other federal eating programs.
This year’s version may look at what is healthy for the environment, too.
A new focus on the environment would mean asking people to choose more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other plant-based foods, possibly at the expense of meat.
That would take aim at the beef industry. A study by the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, last year said raising beef for the American dinner table is more harmful to the environment than other meat industries such as pork and chicken.
The study said that compared with other popular animal proteins, beef produces more heat-trapping gases per calorie — the old flatulence in the stockyard syndrome — puts out more water-polluting nitrogen, takes more water for irrigation and uses more land.
The beef and agriculture industries are crying foul, saying an environmental agenda has no place in what has always been a practical blueprint for a healthy lifestyle.
An advisory panel to the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments has been discussing the idea of sustainability in public meetings, indicating that its recommendations, expected this month, may address the environment. The two departments will take those recommendations into account as they craft the final dietary guidelines.
Doctor and cattleman Richard Thorpe called the panel biased and the draft meat recommendations absurd. He said lean beef has a role in healthy diets.
Late last year, The NewYork Times hosted a meeting under the title of Food for Tomorrow Conference. It was held at a former Rockefeller family dairy in New York’s tony Westchester County. A group of more than 200 food activists, peppered with a few dozen conventional farmers, ranchers and retailers, gathered at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture for a meeting organized by the New York Times to discuss the future of food. Their goal was to transform a trend into a full-fledged social and political movement.
The meeting opened with “There is a war here!” thundered by Mark Bittman, the New York Times columnist and self-described rabble-rouser. However, the United States Farmers and Ranchers Association got a seat at the table, offering a panel of farmers and observers, said USFRA changed the tone of the event from one of attack to one of dialogue .
The meat industry has fought for years to ensure the dietary guidelines do not call for eating less meat. The guidelines now recommend eating lean meats instead of reducing meat altogether, advice that the current advisory committee has debated.
A draft discussed at the panel’s Dec. 15 meeting says a healthy dietary pattern includes fewer “red and processed meats’’ than are currently consumed. The American Meat Institute issued comments calling any attempt to take lean meat out of a healthy dietary pattern “stunning” and “arbitrary.’’
Objections are coming from Congress, too.
A massive year-end spending bill enacted last month noted the advisory committee’s interest in the environment and directed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack “to only include nutrition and dietary information, not extraneous factors’’ in final guidelines.”
Bur environmentalists are pushing back, urging the committee and the government to go the route being considered, citing “the need to reduce climate change” and to shape physical activity and food safety.
“We need to make sure our diets are in alignment with our natural resources and the need to reduce climate change,’’ said Kari Hamerschlag of the advocacy group Friends of the Earth.
Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the idea of broader guidelines isn’t unprecedented. They have already been shaped to address physical activity and food safety, he said.
“You don’t want to recommend a diet that is going to poison the planet,’’ said Jacobson.
Is this a war? Is this a revolution which could turn into a war? Despite appeals for dialogue, the foodies and their “real food campaign, ” encouraged by a rabid environmental community that argues that cattle fart too much so don’t eat meat — it could get dangerous.
The animal rights movement has gotten very nasty. And so could this.