Consumers join dietary debateConsumers join dietary debate
Recently released preliminary dietary guidelines register no measurable effect on meat demand yet.
March 28, 2015
IN February, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) — consisting of health and nutrition professionals — submitted its preliminary dietary guidelines for Americans; the report also includes the impact the U.S. diet has on the environment (Feedstuffs, Feb. 23).
In the advisory report, the DGAC stated that "current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use."
Moreover, the committee concluded that a diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods would be more environmentally friendly.
As a result, the committee proposed that the next edition of the dietary guidelines will highly recommend consumption of a plant-based diet; lean meats still will be considered part of a healthy diet — just with lower levels of red and processed meats recommended.
The meat and poultry industries expressed continuous concerns with the team of nutrition and health professionals examining the diet's environmental impact.
In official comments on the DGAC report, the North American Meat Institute stated, "If our government believes Americans should factor sustainability into their choices, guidance should come from a panel of sustainability experts that understands the complexity of the issue and address all segments: transportation, construction, energy management and all forms of agriculture."
Still, consumer input in regard to the newly released preliminary dietary guidelines has not been thoroughly investigated during the development process for the final version.
Oklahoma State University economist Jayson Lusk and his team of researchers took on the task in the March "Food Demand Survey" (FooDS).
In the ad hoc questions, the researchers asked U.S. consumers which statements they believed to be true about the DGAC's preliminary dietary guidelines for Americans.
When asked about the trustworthiness of the committee's dietary advice, 41.79% of the survey participants said they trusted the information, whereas 40.79% did not find it reliable (Figure).
The majority of survey takers understood that the DGAC is recommending consuming less meat.
Overwhelmingly, 74% of consumers responded that the committee's dietary advice should consider impacts on health.
However, the respondents were more divided about whether the dietary guidelines should consider other factors such as cost, taste and the environmental impact.
Only 43% of consumers stated that the committee's dietary recommendations should consider the amount individuals spend on food, while 38% believe the taste and enjoyment of a meal should be reflected in the advice.
Interestingly, more than half of U.S. consumers surveyed — 52.8% — said the DGAC should consider impacts on the environment when it makes the federal dietary guidelines for Americans, while 21% disagreed and 32% were unsure.
Additionally, 53% of the survey participants think the best available scientific knowledge should be used in the next dietary guideline recommendations.
Yet, with all that said, more than 65% of consumers participating in the March FooDS believe the committee's dietary advice will most likely change in 10 years.
Despite the ongoing debate over the federal dietary guidelines, the preliminary guidelines did not have a measurable effect on meat demand as consumer "willingness to pay" (WTP) for all meat products (except steak) increased from February to March, Lusk noted.
The WTP climbed 12% for pork chops and 8% for chicken breast. Similarly, the WTP for all meat products is relatively higher now than at this time last year.
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