With shoppers seeking reassurance on the role meat and dairy plays in their diet and for the environment, leading nutritionist explains the importance of achieving balance
Research from Meat and Dairy Facts, carried out in partnership with Red C, has revealed that there is a very real appetite for meat and dairy among Irish consumers with 8 in 10 grocery shoppers agreeing both meat and dairy provide essential nutrients not easily obtained elsewhere. The research also states that as many at 69% would never consider eliminating meat and dairy completely.
All that being said, 60% wish they knew more about the benefits of meat and dairy for their health. Only one in 4 admit to understanding how meat and dairy compares nutritionally with plant-based alternatives.
Irish families want to make informed decisions but have stated that they feel there is a lack of clear and accessible information, with this being cited as a reason for some of them becoming more cautious of the meat and dairy industry.
Ireland’s leading Dietitian, Orla Walsh has come together with Meat and Dairy Facts to fill that knowledge gap and to educate people on the role both meat and dairy can play in a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet.
A Balanced Diet
Speaking about finding balance in our diet, Dietitian, Orla Walsh said, “With plants such as wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds the foundation of a healthy diet, meat and dairy also provide the body with important nutrients. Research is showing that Irish households are facing a common struggle of being time poor when it comes to food preparation. When foods such as meat and dairy are consumed sustainably, they can be better for the environment while also ensuring that the entire family gets the minerals and vitamins their bodies need. Making more sustainable food choices can be as simple eating less processed foods, being conscious of food packaging and being even more aware of how much food is going to waste”
When it comes to nutrition gaps, iron deficiency is a cause for concern amongst all age groups in Ireland. 41% of Irish women are at risk of iron deficiency and almost a quarter of one-year olds and 10% of two – three-year olds (10% and 11%) are estimated to have inadequate iron intakes. Iron is especially important in a growing body. A toddler requires nearly 4 times the amount of iron per kg of their body weight compared to an adult.
The BDA (British Dietetic Association) Environmentally Sustainable Diet recommendations for the UK encourage 350g-500g per person per week (cooked weight) for those that wish to eat red meat.
“Lots of different foods contain iron but red meat is a particularly rich source and is the most easily absorbed into the body. The iron from animal-based sources helps the body absorb the iron from plant-based sources. Therefore, to help meet iron requirements a person could add plant sources of iron to meals containing meat. For example, add lentils to a Bolognese sauce or adding more kidney beans to a chilli”, said Walsh.
“Iodine is also often forgotten about in the diet – critical for thyroid function, metabolism and brain development in the unborn child. Unfortunately, Irish women were shown to have inadequate intakes during pregnancy. Iodine is quite a unique ingredient and generally, Irish people rely on dairy and fish as their primary source.”
Living Sustainably, Eating Sustainably
The Red C research revealed that 76% of Irish shoppers believe Irish farmers need to do more to produce food in a way that respects the environment. Over the last 6 years Irish dairy farmers have reduced their carbon footprint by 9% and beef farmers by 5%[i] with continued Origin Green audits across our nation’s farms driving improved performances year on year.
Orla Walsh continued, “Irish farmers not only produce some of the highest quality meat and dairy in the world, but they are also making huge strides in doing that in the most sustainable way. I want to reassure people that it is ok to keep these as fixtures in a balanced diet if that is what they want, but urge them to do so responsibly. People need to make sure that they are eating well for both themselves, their grandkids and future generations.”
Meat and Dairy Facts has established a go-to resource providing science-based, relevant facts about the role played by meat and dairy in a healthy and balanced diet to help answer the needs of the Irish public on their quest for information and help them make an informed decision on meat and dairy products. It also explains the major steps that Irish farmers are undertaking to care for their animals and the environment.
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[i] Figure recorded across farms participating in the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme and Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme