USDA Preparing New U.S. Dietary Guidelines

Tom Vilsack the United States Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Sylvia Burwell the Secretary of Health and Human Services jointly said the agencies will remain within the scope of their mandate which is to provide dietary and nutritional information, when it pertains to dietary guidelines.

Rather than recommending a diet that is strictly based upon nutritional value, in February the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that environmental sustainability needed to be a factor therefore people in the U.S. should eat more plants and less meat. The response to that was controversial.

The DGA guidelines that are used by Americans are reviewed every five years. Only five years ago, the guidelines proposed received close to 2,200 comments from the public. In comparison, the report this year has received 29,000.

The talk about sustainable diet surrounds the production of meat since the process contributes to emissions of methane, a climate change contributor. The meat industry needs a large amount of water and land as well.

If you compare 10 pounds of meat to 10 pounds of apples, the meat has a carbon footprint much larger, but also has much more nutrition, as it nourishes people for longer.

However, meat is not the only item that requires disproportionate amounts of resources.

A former USDA deputy secretary takes as much as 2.8 liters of water in order to produce one almond. With over 80% of the almonds in the world growing in California, which is amidst a terrible four-year drought, should the consumer be advised to limit the consumption of almonds and consider alternative which will consume less resources.

Secretaries Vilsack and Burwell confirm that although the guidelines for 2015 have not yet been finalized, they will be quite similar in a number of important respects to those of the past years therefore meat will remain as part of the building blocks to produce a strong and healthy lifestyle.

 

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