Why is Eating Better healthier?

Meat is a source of important dietary nutrients and Eating Better is not advocating its elimination from diets.  However, in line with healthy eating advice we recommend a shift towards more plant-based diets.

High levels of meat consumption - particularly of red and processed meat - are detrimental to public health.  UK Department of Health advice is to consume no more than 70g/day of red and processed meat. Currently 6 out of 10 men and 1 in 4 women exceed this.[1]  While UK per capita consumption is average for the EU it is high in global terms – approximately twice the world average.[2]

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which carries out a major global study of cancer and diet every ten years, recommends that we should eat “mostly foods of plant origin” and “limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat”. (WCRF identifies “red meat” as beef, pork, lamb, and goat from domesticated animals, including that contained in processed foods.) Processed meats are often pork-based, such as bacon, sausage, salami, ham etc.[3]

Reducing meat consumption in high meat consuming countries, such as the UK, will help reduce heart disease, obesity and cancer.[4] Indeed it has been calculated that eating meat no more than three times a week would prevent 45,000 early deaths a year in the UK and save the NHS 1.2bn a year. 

Eating meat that is more extensively farmed may also have health benefits. Pasture-reared beef has been found to contain less fat and has a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids compared with intensively reared beef.[5]

[1] Westland, S & Crawley, H, (2012) Healthy and sustainable diets in the early years, First Steps Nutrition Trust.

[2] Westhoek, H., Rood, T., van den Berg, M., Janse. J., Nijdam, D., Reudink, M., and Stehfest, E. (2011) The Protein Puzzle: The consumption and production of meat, dairy and fish in the European Union. The Hague: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

[3] World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC: AICR, 2007

[4] McMichael A J, et al, 2007, The Lancet 370:1253-1263

[5] Compassion in World Farming (2012) Nutritional benefits of high welfare animal products.