Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Healy defends meat from damaging British findings

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Lovers of the 12oz steak were left dismayed this week after the publication of a British report that recommends a drastic cut in daily intakes of red meat.

The report's draft findings said that lower consumption of red and processed meat could reduce the risk of cancer and that intake should be kept to 70g a day "as a precaution".

A typical 12oz steak is almost five times larger than this new limit, instead leaving meat lovers facing the prospect of a minuscule 2.5oz steak.

The report was compiled by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, on behalf of the British Department of Health.

This was more bad news for the meat sector, coming in the same week that the January beef and lamb sales figures for Northern Ireland revealed a slump of 12pc and 22pc respectively compared to the same period last year.

Industry analysts suggest that unusually high beef sales in December may have had an impact.

The British report has generated plenty of debate within the multi-billion euro meat business both here and in Britain.

Commenting on the report, Cormac Healy, director of Meat Industry Ireland, said that red meat had an important role in a balanced diet and is the source of many important nutrients.

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"Another report published this month by the British Nutrition Foundation highlights the healthy attributes of red meat and challenges some of the existing research," he said.

"At the end of the day, none can better the basic advice of a balanced diet and active lifestyle," he added.

Farm groups have pointed out that the study was based on beef from feedlot production systems as opposed to the predominantly grass-based systems in Britain and Ireland.

"Red meat from animals reared on grass is known to contain much higher levels of beneficial fatty acids and other compounds, such as conjugated linoleic acid, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties," said the Soil Association's policy adviser, Richard Young.

However, Britain's Department of Health backed the report, pointing out that men were more at risk, with 42pc eating more than 90g a day as opposed to only 12pc of women.

There are 36,000 cases of bowel cancer in Britain every year.

The Department of Health's interim chief medical officer, Sally Davies, emphasised that people did not need to exclude red meat from their diets.

"Red meat can be part of a healthy balanced diet. It is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins," she said.

"But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down. The occasional steak or extra few slices of lamb is fine, but regularly eating a lot could increase your risk of bowel cancer."

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