Diet plan drops environmental jab at red meat

Beef Central, 13/12/2011

New draft national dietary guidelines have been released for consultation across Australia today after months of revision by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The implications for Australia's red meat sector are mixed, with the plan calling for adult men in particular to consider reducing their red meat intake, but suggesting that women may benefit from eating more meat.

What has generated most reaction from Australia's peak farming body however has been a decision by the NHMRC to remove the criteria of environmental sustainability from the dietary guidelines. 

Earlier indications that the council was considering including suggestions that consumers limit red meat consumption based on environmental concerns riled livestock industry groups back in May.

NFF President Jock Laurie said the removal of the environmental sustainability criteria from the guidelines was a win for common sense.

“We support healthy eating and the development of dietary guidelines, as long as they are based on nutrition and diet needs or health concerns, not on environmental sustainability,” Mr Laurie said.

“While environmental sustainability is obviously critically important to farmers and to agriculture, we don’t believe it is the right criteria on which to base decisions about what we eat. There are already many guidelines that determine the best way for agriculture to produce food for the future.

“The initial version of guidelines released earlier this year had capped the recommended consumption levels of our produce – things like red meat, pork, fish and dairy – not on their nutritional value, but rather on their perceived lack of environmental sustainability.

“For instance, the draft dietary guidelines had limited the consumption of fish based on overfishing of wild fish stocks, but hadn’t taken into account fish farmed in environmentally friendly, sustainable fish farms or new management regimes for wild fishing.

“Our concern with this was that while the NHMRC may well have had the best of intentions in originally including the environmental sustainability criteria; there is very little information available on which such criteria can be accurately based."

Mr Laurie said the NFF had worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to ensure the NHMRC understood that a huge amount of variability existed between different industries and different production systems as to what constituted ‘sustainable’ production. Data around this to date had proved inconsistent, inconclusive or irrelevant to Australian agriculture.


The draft guidelines, released for consultation across Australia today, contain the following key recommondations:

  • People should eat a variety of nutritious food; advice that has not changed over many years, but is now reinforced with stronger scientific evidence.
  • Most Australians need to increase our intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grain cereal foods, and milk products- particularly reduced fat varieties.
  • Some population groups need to eat more of some food groups and less of others. For example, some women who consume an omnivore diet may benefit from eating more red meat, while some adult males may need to reduce their consumption.
  • Most Australians may benefit from reducing excessive intake of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and drinks which are high in saturated fat, salt and added sugar, particularly sugar sweetened drinks, if we are to tackle obesity and diet-related chronic disease.

The NFF said it was up to the individual to take responsibility for their own diet and lifestyle in making food choices, based on expert advice.

“Importantly, our farmers will continue to grow world leading produce, renowned for being fresh, affordable and disease free, so that consumers can make the choices that are right for them and their families,” Mr Laurie said.

Consultation on the draft Australian Dietary Guidelines, incorporating the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, opens today and closes on 29 February 2012. To provide feedback or for more information visit



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