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Statement of North American Meat Institute on 'Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Future' Report

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Attribute Statement to North American Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter 

“A new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) is riddled with factual flaws about protein consumption and, in turn, the environmental impact of balanced diets that include meat.

 The report relies on the wrong data – utilization data -- in determining how much protein people consume globally rather than data that examine what people actually eat.  Utilization data is based on a rough analysis of the amount of protein produced and moved through channels then divided by the population – but there is no verification of how much protein was consumed.   These flaws mean utilization data tends to overestimate per capita consumption because the analysis fails to consider losses due to waste, which are significant, as well as non-human uses, such as pet food. 

Global protein malnutrition is well documented in the literature.  A 2009 paper that looked at the malnutrition challenge concluded, ‘Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is a common problem worldwide and occurs in both developing and industrialized nations.

More accurate data, which WRI did not use, is readily available.  Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that mean protein intake for U.S. men is 16 percent of calories and mean protein intake for U.S. women is 15.5 percent of calories.  Data considered by 2015 the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Chart D1-20) reveals that some men and some women both under-consume and over-consume protein, but on average, Americans are hitting the target.  

             Further, WRI fails to consider the nutrition impact on people if protein is reduced and substituted with a less nourishing food.  A research team led by Stuart Phillips at Canada’s McMasters University analyzed nutrition intake and concluded that it is ‘prudent to advise the intake of high-quality dietary protein to ensure adequate intakes of a number of nutrients, particularly nutrients of concern.

      As a result, WRI’s environmental impact analysis is flawed because it relies on inaccurate consumption data.  These flaws are further compounded by WRI’s failure to consider the nutrient density that animal protein provides.  Consider a recent paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Drenowski, et. al., who concluded, ‘Considerations of the environmental impact of foods need to be linked to concerns about nutrient density and health.  The point at which the higher carbon footprint of some nutrient-dense foods is offset by their higher nutritional value is a priority area for additional research.’  In other words, it takes more resources to produce more nutrient-dense foods.

Finally, WRI fails to consider that the more efficient livestock and meat production systems in North America, well documented by experts like UC Davis’ Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D., reduce the overall impact of livestock and meat production relative to less efficient producers in developing countries.”


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