THE positive health benefits of consuming lean red meat should be more widely-known in order to ensure an informed public debate; that was the message presented by leading experts at the Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) annual conference.

Before an audience of policy makers and food industry leaders, independent dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton argued that beef, lamb and pork, consumed as part of a balanced healthy diet, offered many benefits. These include helping people to reach optimal intakes of iron and zinc, and acting as a natural source of high-quality protein.

These positive messages are reflected in HCC’s latest PGI Welsh Beef marketing campaign featuring rugby player Dan Lydiate, from Abbeycwmhir, which focuses on beef as a natural source of protein.

Dr Ruxton, who has published widely in a variety of scientific journals on nutrition as well as featuring as an expert on a number of TV documentaries, presented evidence to show the positive benefits of meat.

“Consumers may be forgiven for being confused when they read sensationalist or conflicting coverage about meat and health,” explained Dr Ruxton, “so it’s important that they see the whole picture.

“Most people in Britain do not consume excessive amounts of meat,” she explained. “So long as consumers adhere to the Government advice of eating less than 500g (1 lb) cooked red meat a week and choosing leaner cuts, there is no evidence whatsoever of links between red meat and cancer, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. This is good news for people who enjoy eating red meat”

She added: “Blanket advice to eat less red meat does consumers no favours as it tends to be acted on by women and girls who are the lowest consumers. Lean lamb, beef and pork are rich in protein and important nutrients for health, such as iron, zinc, vitamin D and B vitamins. Many people in society, particularly the elderly, women, girls and young children often lack these nutrients and could benefit from eating more red meat, while four in 10 men could do with eating slightly less.”

The HCC conference also heard from Frances Meek, senior education officer at the British Nutrition Foundation, who outlined the work of the Meat and Education programme.