Aussie farmers have voiced anger and say they are alarmed over a push for people to cut the amount of red meat they eat to a tiny amount.
Aussie farmers are preparing to fight a pitch by an environmental activist with a leading role at a United Nations food summit that people’s red meat consumption should be slashed to 14g a day.
A “bewildered” National Farmers’ Federation claimed it was like eating just three blueberries-worth of meat and are pushing for Australia to refute the advice when the nation participates in the UN Food Systems Summit, to be held in New York next month.
The 14g restriction first emerged in a 2019 “planetary health diet” report, which was prepared by scientists commissioned by start-up advocacy group EAT in partnership with The Lancet medical journal.
The report says half of each plate of food should be fruit and vegetables, and about a third whole grain cereals to cater for the growing population, while transitioning to a more environmentally sustainable system of food production.
EAT’s founder and executive chair Dr Gunhild Stordalen has been appointed to a leading role at the Food Systems Summit and gave a presentation at the “pre-summit” in Rome in July, which stirred the angry response from the Australian livestock industry.
The UN has not officially endorsed the 14g red meat limit.
Australian Lot Feeders’ Association president Bryce Camm said that he and his industry colleagues were “pretty alarmed” by the advice.
Mr Camm, a lifelong cattle farmer on Queensland’s Darling Downs, said the nation’s livestock industry should be celebrated for working to reduce its carbon footprint.
Red Meat Advisory Council chair John McKillop claimed the “vegan movement” used “half-truths” in their bid to stop people eating meat, including that land was always better used to grow grain than graze livestock.
“The reality is if you can crop it in Australia you most likely will because there are higher returns per hectare in growing grain than running livestock,” he said.
RMAC is among the peak Australian red meat and livestock industry bodies that have committed to a carbon neutral target by 2030.
Professor of sustainable agriculture at The University of Melbourne, Richard Eckard, said reducing emissions and maintaining a productive livestock sector were not mutually exclusive.
“To say we need to [reduce our red meat consumption] for greenhouse gas emissions is misguided and naive,” he said.
“It completely ignores that we have emerging technology that can reduce livestock emissions by as much as 80 per cent.
“I would say the carbon-neutral-by-2030 announcement by the red meat industry in Australia is one of the most significant announcements towards a climate response that we‘ve seen anywhere.”
Dietitian and nutritionist Lyndi Cohen said it was exciting to see a dietary report consider its environmental impact as well as nutritional recommendations.
She said dietitians would typically recommend people eat red meat two or three times a week at about 100 grams per serving size.
Animal Justice Party NSW upper house MP Mark Pearson welcomed the advice presented to the UN forum, saying it had “been a long time coming”.
Mother of two Kate Anderson from Greenhills beach said “red meat is a staple” in her household.
“I think it’s important to have a balanced diet including protein for the kids,” Mrs Anderson said.
“I don’t think meat is all we should eat but the kids like it with lunch and dinner usually.
“The kids especially like lamb cutlets, sausages, steak and mince in spaghetti bolognese or lasagne.
“It’s the farmer’s’s livelihood so I can understand it would be worrying for them if we all stopped eating meat but I don’t think 14g is enough.”
NCA NewsWire sought comment from EAT but did not receive a response by deadline.
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