How to 'meat' the needs of the future

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From meat-free Monday to Veganuary, there’s been a lot in the news recently about going meat-free or cutting down our consumption – whether it’s for health or environmental reasons.

We know that over the last ten years beef and lamb consumption is down 38% and 45% respectively, but before you jump on the meat-free bandwagon, it’s important to take a look at things in context.

Our Head of Nutrition Fiona Greig, Fiona Greig, a registered nutritionist, points out that we here at Beef + Lamb New Zealand have been advocating for plant-based diets for over two decades.

“Advocating a plant-based diet is not new. Our advice has always been to ensure when eating red meat, that three-quarters of your plate is made up of plant-based foods.”

This is an important point to make because while plant-based foods have a lot to offer from a nutrition stand-point, it’s hard to beat the bang for buck nutritional value of NZ beef and lamb.

NZ grass-fed beef and lamb is naturally produced and packed full of essential nutrients including quality protein, vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 and naturally low in sodium and low in fat when trimmed, contributing to the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders from conception to positive aging. The place of red meat in a healthy diet is well recognised in national and global dietary guidelines.

While we support a range of healthy dietary patterns with and without meat (everyone’s requirements and preferences are different and we need to be mindful of that), the call for a near total reduction in meat consumption is concerning as it could have implications for vulnerable groups especially young women who may already be suffering from nutrient deficiencies.

For instance, 15.5% of women aged 71 years and over have an inadequate protein intake, 89.7% of men aged 71 years and older don’t get enough Zinc, while 34.2% of females between the ages of 15-18 are iron deficient. Quality NZ beef and lamb are great sources of these nutrients and removing them from our diets could have severe implications.

That’s all well and good I hear you say, beef and lamb might not be bad for our health but what about our planet?

That’s a great question, and one that highlights the value of sustainable, grass-fed red meat produced in countries such as New Zealand. 

New Zealand’s sheep and lamb sector is committed to continuing the improvements it has made over the past three decades.

Since 1990 the sector has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent without sacrificing the value of one our nation’s biggest export earners.  

In fact, Kiwi farmers are helping to preserve unique flora and fauna, with some 2.8 million hectares of native vegetation found on our farms. This includes 1.4 million hectares of native forest, on sheep and beef farms, almost a quarter of the country’s total – contributing to sequestering or removing carbon from the atmosphere.

However, the job is far from done and more time, effort, brainpower, and resources need to be invested into reducing the impacts of red meat production.

That’s where something like the Beef and Lamb New Zealand environmental strategy comes in. The strategy commits the sector to four big goals that will have a massive impact on the environment. These include: being completely carbon neutral by 2050, supporting New Zealand’s thriving biodiversity, improving soil quality, and ensuring the cleanliness of our freshwater lakes and rivers.  

At the end of the day, like you we care about keeping New Zealand beautiful. We care about ensuring that our tamariki grow up free from want and are able to enjoy a balanced and nutritious diet. That’s why we’re committed to working hard every day to ensure that the delicious NZ beef and lamb on your plate is both good for you – and our planet.