Red meat “vital” to balanced diet

Meat from grass-fed cattle and sheep can have up to 10 times more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than meat from animals reared on non-pasture sources, a group of MPs has been told.

Professor Robert Pickard, of Cardiff University and a member of the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP), said that it was vital that more emphasis was placed on the important role that fresh, lean red meat plays in a balanced diet and called on policymakers to focus on “what is natural and necessary” when giving advice on diets.

Research has shown that long-chain omega-3 fatty acids support foetal development, as well as help to lower the risk of inflammatory conditions, depression and dementia in later life.

Professor Pickard also suggested that producers, processors and retailers could benefit from higher prices for meat from grass-fed animals.

“2,500 million years of evolution tells us that red meat has a vital role in our diet,” said Prof Pickard, speaking to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on beef and lamb in Westminster last week.

“Red meat has a high concentration of vitamins and minerals, easily absorbed by the body and readily available. Evolutionary science has shown us that eating a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing is the best way for the body to stay healthy and absorb the nutrients that it needs.”

He added that red meat was the best source of iron and could become a more important source of long-chain omega 3 than fish over the next 50 years, if marine pollution continues to increase.

Prof Pickard went on to outline red meat’s positive role in the diet throughout the different stages of life, including its crucial role as a source of iron for teenage girls and long-chain omega 3’s role in protecting against heart attack in middle age. He also stressed the positive environmental benefits of grazing livestock.

“Long-chain omega 3 is made by plants and our red-meat animals extract this oil and concentrate it. Red-meat animals are an alternative source of long-chain omega 3s to oily fish, which is often sold with its oil replaced by brine or the less valuable olive oil.

“Also, if you take the animals off the land, biodiversity plummets. Therefore, they are essential to maintaining the stability of the environment. Overall, from the positive role in the diet to landscape management, the raising of red-meat animals is both sustainable and sensible.”

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