Rumor has it the USDA is preparing to release the latest dietary guidelines according to their research. This time, they have been getting recommendations to lower the recommended amount of red meat that we should all consume. Now, it isn’t exactly news that the health benefits/effects of red meat have been heartily debated in the past. This time, however, the recommendations are coming from an environmental standpoint.

The argument some people are posing here is that the carbon footprint of the meat industry is exponentially higher than that of plant-based food production. To which I say… duh! Of course a cow is going to have a greater carbon footprint than a soybean plant. But what does this have to do with dietary recommendations that are supposed to be based on research regarding health of the human body?

Here is my disclaimer: I have been raising beef cattle since I was 7 years old. Obviously, I’m biased here. However, I am NOT here to tell you that “RED MEAT IS THE BEST AND ALL OF YOU SHOULD EAT STEAK 3 TIMES A DAY.”

So, hear me out.

  1. The issue at hand is the latest version of dietary guidelines. Is environmental impact really a relevant piece on information to be considered here? Of course, I’m not saying that environmental impact should be disregarded altogether, I just don’t think it should be a consideration for this particular case. If we start taking sustainability into consideration for this, then we must also consider economics, ethical issues… it’s a total domino effect. While each of these issues are important, should they really be a part of nutritional recommendations?
  1. Can we just take a moment to remember that every person has different health issues such as dietary restrictions, heart health, etc.? I know people from all walks of life that choose to eat in completely different ways. And do you know what? I don’t think any of them are wrong. I know vegetarians, and I know people who eat meat almost exclusively. They all have their reasons, and what other people eat isn’t really your business. If it works for them, awesome. You do what works for you and your body.
  1. For most of us, the USDA’s list of dietary guidelines is something we can take into consideration or not. At the end of the day, we get to eat whatever we choose to eat. The problem is, this isn’t the case for everyone. The biggest effect this change would made is on federal feeding programs (i.e. food stamps, school lunches, senior care…). Is red meat really what we should be providing less of in these programs? I personally don’t think we should be limiting access to a great protein source for those individuals who rely on one of these programs.

I love red meat. I eat it once or twice a week, and it works for me. That’s not going to change based on these guidelines. But we really do need to think about the bigger picture with these sorts of things, not just ourselves. Would this change really be for the best?

Food for thought.

rsandersonRosalie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Farmers, livestock feed, texas mission, ddgsDried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) have become a valuable part of agriculture.  A by-product of ethanol production, this product makes an excellent livestock feed and is transported by rail to various parts of the U.S. so that the livestock centers of the world can take advantage of it.  DDGS are also exported to other countries to feed livestock there.

coop, livestock feed, ethanol plant by productDDGS can be either dry or wet.  In the Midwest, it is very common for ethanol plants to dry their DDGS in a dryer.  This dry product stays fresh for a much longer time and is able to be transported across the country or world.  It is also cheaper to transport because ethanol plants are not shipping so much water weight.  The DDGS in the photo above are dried.

ethanol plant, by product, livestock feed, wet distillers grains

The Distillers Grains in this photo are wet.  Often, ethanol plants that are co-located with livestock farms don’t undergo the additional cost to dry their DDGS because they can be used nearly instantly by area livestock.  Also, with livestock close by, these WDGS don’t need to be transported great distances, thus the water weight does not matter.  The WDGS pictured here are produced in Texas and feed almost immediately to cattle.

One-third of the corn used in ethanol production returns to the market as livestock feed.  In fact, DDGS have replaced soybean meal as the second largest livestock feed component, second behind corn.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director