If Americans want to get healthier and protect the planet simultaneously, they should eat less meat – that's according to a new report from America's top nutritional experts.
The report issued by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends that Americans lower their intake of red and processed meats and up their intake of fruits, veggies and seafood to live a healthier lifestyle. (Video via U.S. Department of Agriculture)
The committee also says eating less meat could help our planet. Animals generate a lot of methane and tend to leave behind larger carbon footprints than plants. (Video via National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum)
But meat interest groups have been quick to question the accuracy of the report. A spokesperson for the National Pork Producers Council told Politico the report was "off-base," while a dietitian with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association called it "misleading."
It may not come as a huge surprise that meat producers are unhappy with the report. But the consequences of these recommendations could reach other massive sectors of U.S. agriculture.
If Americans choose to eat less meat, grain growing operations could also take a major hit.
Corn is a major source of feed for cattle farmers — it's cheap and it helps cows bulk up quickly for slaughter. (Video via How Farms Work)
So a potential decrease in demand for meat could contribute to a decreased demand for corn. That's bad news for an industry that relies on government subsidies.
These subsidies have made growing corn and other grains a less risky option for farmers. As one Washington Post contributor writes, "What’s important about how we subsidize farms isn't necessarily the overall dollar amount ... it's that it takes some of the risk out of farming grains and oil seeds, but not fruits and vegetables."it's that it takes some of the risk out of farming grains and oil seeds, but not fruits and vegetables."
But these corn subsidies actually contribute to the poor American diet the new report addressed. According to the USDA, more than 90 percent of domestic high fructose corn syrup deliveries go to the beverage industry.
And domestic production of the syrup has increased from 2.2 million tons in 1980 to an average of 9.2 million tons in the 2000s.
The panel's report also indicated that cholesterol intake among healthy adults may not increase the risk of heart disease, directly contradicting the findings of the same committee just five years earlier.
This video includes images from Getty Images.