Government report: Save the planet. Go vegan.

The meat industry is livid over a government report from a panel that sets dietary guidelines for the country, that says we should eat less meat in order to lessen the environmental impact from our food choices.

What's a "recommendation" today could become mandatory policy tomorrow.

The Hill:

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a federally appointed panel of nutritionists created in 1983, decided for the first time this year to factor in environmental sustainability in its recommendations. They include a finding that a diet lower in animal-based foods is not only healthier, but has less of an environmental impact.
The meat industry is lashing back, contending the panel has neither the authority nor the expertise to make such a judgment. 

“When you talk about the lens of the dietary guidelines it’s just not appropriate for the advisory committee to enter that conversation when they were asked to look at nutrition and health science,” said Kristina Butts, executive director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) agrees, saying sustainability is a complex issue best left to a body that specializes in the environment.
“The same concern would exist if an expert sustainability committee were making nutrition policy recommendations,” Betsy Booren, NAMI’s vice president of scientific Affairs, said in a public meeting last week. “It is not appropriate for the person designing a better light bulb to be telling Americans how to make a better sandwich.” 
The Agriculture Department and Department of Health and Human Services will use the committee’s report and recommendations to draft the final guidelines for 2015, due out later this year. 
But even Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said sustainability is an issue that falls outside the scope of the guidelines. 
“I read the actual law,” he was quoted saying in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “And what I read … was that our job ultimately is to formulate dietary and nutrition guidelines. And I emphasize dietary and nutrition because that’s what the law says. I think it’s my responsibility to follow the law.”
But members of the committee say they had free reign to discuss food supply in recommending what people should and shouldn’t be eating.
“The scope is ours to fully define,” said Barbara Millen, chairwoman of the advisory committee and a professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. 

So a bunch of nutritionists are giving their advice on the environment – swell.  Perhaps they could give us recommendations on how to combat global warming too.  Or Ebola.  Or maybe solve California's water crisis. 

The nutritionists accused the American people of being wrong-headed about their diet. 

The 571-page report says the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use than the healthy dietary pattern it suggests — one that’s rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seafood, legumes and nuts; moderate in low- and non-fat dairy products and alcohol; and lower in red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.
In its review of scientific studies, the committee highlighted research concluding that a vegan diet had the most potential health benefits.
"The organically grown vegan diet also had the lowest estimated impact on resources and ecosystem quality, and the average Italian diet had the greatest projected impact,” according to the report. “Beef was the single food with the greatest projected impact on the environment; other foods estimated to have high impact included cheese, milk, and seafood." 

And if kids thought food at school tasted bad now, just think when these guidelines are incorporated into school lunches.  The guidelines will also impact other federal food programs including WIC, food stamps, and...military rations! 

In truth, no one follows these guidelines, so there is little danger that you will be doing most of your shopping at Whole Foods Stores anytime soon.  But it takes a government to destroy one of the only universal human pleasures – our choices of food – by incorporating wacky notions of "sustainability" into what constitutes "healthy" eating.

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