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Should environmental impact be considered in federal nutrition policy?

March 25, 2015

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

Every five years, the federal government issues food guidelines meant to encourage Americans to eat healthier. These guidelines are detailed in My Plate, a guide to help us eat a balanced and healthy diet. They form the basis for federal nutrition policy and food assistance programs.

The guidelines also heavily influence what is served in your cafeteria. They are the basis for the school lunch program that feeds 30 million children each school day and for what is covered by food assistance programs like SNAP and WIC.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a panel of scientists, is responsible for making recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. The government generally adopts the recommendations as policy. Many of the latest recommendations are not surprising. Americans should reduce the amount of salt and sugar in their diets and increase the amount of plant-based foods.

The report also featured for the first time recommendations that consumers consider the environmental impact of their diet. The committee recommends that more Americans adopt a sustainable diet, meaning eating habits that promote “health and well-being and provide food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations.”

The report says: “The environmental impact of food production is considerable and if natural resources such as land, water and energy are not conserved and managed optimally, they will be strained and potentially lost. The global production of food is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation, more than 70 percent of fresh water use, and up to 30 percent of human-generated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It also is the largest cause of species biodiversity loss.”

So what dietary changes are recommended to reduce the impact on the environment? Increase the amount of plant-based foods and reduce considerably animal-based proteins.

The report says that animal-based proteins require more energy, food, water and resources than the plant-based alternatives and that they emit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, with cattle using the most resources and emitting the most CO2 and methane.

The recommendations don’t call for an outright end to eating hamburger, but asks Americans to reduce the red meat in their diet and eat more plant-based proteins like lentils and beans. The report says that “no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve food sustainability outcomes.”

The recommendations have not sat well with many meat lovers out there, and the meat industries oppose them. The National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA), a trade organization that lobbies for cattle ranchers, said the recommendations were biased.

Richard Thorpe, a doctor and a cattle producer, said that lean beef has a role in healthy diets. He said in an NCBA statement: “It is absurd for the Advisory Committee to suggest that Americans should eat less red meat and focus so heavily on plant-based diets. The American diet is already 70 percent plant-based and to further emphasize plant-based diets will continue to have unintended consequences.” Thorpe criticized the recommendations for going outside the scope of nutrition and introducing topics like sustainability into the report.

The National Pork Producers Council says the recommendations focus more on what is trendy and politically popular than what is healthy. “It appears the advisory committee was more interested in addressing what’s trendy among foodies than providing science-based advice for the average American’s diet,” Howard Hill, a veterinarian and president of the National Pork Producers Council, said to the New York Times.

Update: June 29, 2015: In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found that the EPA should consider compliance costs when creating emission rules.

What do you think?

Should the federal government consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policy? Would you mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in your school lunch? Would you personally adopt some of the recommendations? Should the report focusing on diet and health include sustainability in the guidelines? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Comments
3/14/2016
Stroudsburg/PA
Niamh
Mr. Hanna/ SJHS
The federal government should consider the environment when adopting nutrition policies. Without a safe and clean enviornment, there will be no people to recommend nutrition policies to. Excessibe amounys of red meat actualy eats holes in your blood vessels, so seeing less of that, and more plant based things would not be a tragedy. Adopting them would not make a difference in my life, as I already use these recomendations. The report should contain diet sustainability, because only using it sometimes cannot help us as people, because we'd just fall back into our old, unhealthy habits, and not improve in life.

3/4/2016
Murrieta/California
McKenzie
Jabro/Creekside High school
I believe if the government is willing to help out with your nutrition by simply saying they want more plant based foods and cut down meat intake because of a possible extinction problem and because of health issues.

9/2/2015
Sidney, Montana
Bryana Christensen
Mr. Faulhaber/ Sidney High School
Personally, I do believe that people should eat more plant-based foods and cut down on red meat gradually. However, if the federal government wants to encourage Americans to eat healthier they need to educated more on the subject and really emphasis that this will improve not only our health but the environment we live in. I believe it would be great for the schools to cut down on the red meat served but I do still think that it should be served at least twice a week. In order for this to happen this report needs to go viral and let everyone know, or this will never come into effect at any schools in the United States.

6/5/2015
Stroudsburg/PA
Hirali
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
I won't really mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in ny school lunch. I won't really mind because I am already a vegetarian, so red meat doesn't really matter. I think eating healthy food is even good and it could even help our environment. I do think that people should use their little brain to think that eating red meat is not healthy for our environment, but people think that it's because the are not healthy. So, I think I would prefers what is good for our environment.

6/5/2015
Stroudsburg, PA
Lia
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JHS
Yes. No I think it's a good idea to have more vegetables, but not complete to exclude meat from the menu. Yes I would personally adopt some of the recommendations. Yes.

6/4/2015
Stroudsburg, PA
Juliet
Mr. Hanna/Stroudsburg JH
Yes, I think that environmental impact should definitely be taken into account for school nutrition policies. Our society needs to stop fully relying on meat, especially red. I don't think many people will voluntarily give up meat to eat, say, beans and celery. However, if we slowly change our eating habits, think we can take a huge step towards saving our environment. First, we need to educate the public and make everyone more aware of what a completely meat-based diet can harm. Also, school lunches should have start leaning off so much meat. Maybe they can make a system where red meat is only served a few times a week. Anything can help, and we have to start small. Hopefully change by change, we can stop these harmful impacts from our diets.

6/4/2015
Stroudsburg,PA
Taylor
Hanna/stroudsburg JHS
I do think that changing our diet gradually to protect the environment is a good idea. I am already a vegetarian, so this doesn't really affect me. It is the cold, true, reality that we do need to change our habits, because it truly is affecting our world. I do think that we need to educate people more about how our diets are affecting our planet, because not many people know about the situation. Some people think that the government is trying to reduce the amount of red meat that Americans eat because it is unhealthy, which isn't true. The experts in the article are correct, red meat is healthy for us in moderation. However, red meat isn't healthy to our environment. Because of this, I believe that it is time for a change

5/19/2015
Murrieta/CA
Julianna
Jabro/Creekside
The federal government should consider the enviormental impact when adpoting nutrition policy because it would be a good ting to do. I wouldn't mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in my school lunch. I would personally adopt some of the recommendations. The resport focusing on diet and health should include sustainablility in the guidlines.

4/29/2015
Irving/Tx
Sophia
Bradley/Nimitz
The federal government needs to consider the environmental effects that could be caused by adjusting the nutrition policy. While trying to make the nutrition policy better in order to help the children who are actually eating the food, it could cause increased demand for foods that the environment cannot reach. I actually would mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in my school lunch because I rarely see any now; if anything, there needs to be more red meat proteins in our school lunches, as anymore plant based ones would make our cafeteria a vegetarian cafe. I would adopt some of the recommendations, but only to my personal life. I wouldn't want to enforce it in school cafeterias for everyone, especially when some students can’t afford to eat much of anything else outside of school; they need all the red meat they can get. The report should include sustainability in the guidelines because it must be sure it can stay implemented long enough to make an impact; if it comes and goes, it won’t prove to be effective at all.

4/28/2015
Irving/Tx
Chellandria
Bradley/Nimitz
I am personally just fine with seeing less red meat,because I am not a big fan of red meat but others may not be too happy with the decisions that are being made for them. When changing others diets we need to think about the impact it may have. Some people doesn't eat fruit,so then we'll have to think of an alternate for those. I believe everyone should take inconsideration of the recommendations. You have to think about if the kids are going to eat their lunch or continue their unhealthy habits and bring their own lunch. Of course everyone wouldn't agree with these guidelines but I now believe it should be include sustainability in the guidelines.

4/23/2015
Irving,TX
Hans
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that we as a species should consider the environmental impact of our actions in general; so I definitely agree that the Federal government should consider the impact when adopting nutritional policies. I don't eat cafeteria food because because I dislike the way they are prepared, vegetables/legumes are pretty hard to botch so I wouldn't mind seeing more plant based proteins. I already have adopted many of the nutritional recommendations but I would feel even better about it if they were reinforced at school. Sustainability is a major concern that most people choose not to think about, It should be a bigger focus from everyone.

4/21/2015
Irving/Texas
Abraham
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that the federal government should consider the environmental impact when adopting the nutrition policy. If the federal government were considering the impact of what food production does to the environment, then the pollution could in our planet will decrease. I don’t mind seeing less red meat in my school lunch for a more plant-based protein school lunch, since I feel like I already have that. I don’t think I would adapt to some of the recommendation, since I myself ain’t a plant eater, but more of a meat eater. Also the report should focus on a more healthy, and suitable diet for everyone, also I don't think it just be limited to healthy food, but to tasty food that will encourage the youth to achieve a much healthier and tasty diet.

4/17/2015
Irving/Texas
Maggie
Bradley/Nimitz
It's critical that the federal government consider the environmental impacts considering the large impact of the food industry on the environment, and the need for sustainability in the future, however if it should be enforced through nutrition policy is questionable.Nutrition and environmentally beneficial practices don't always go hand in hand. However, when suggesting the increase of plant-based protein and a decrease in less red meat, this definitely more nutritious and better for environment despite meat industry opponents beliefs. Red meat is a important component of the diet and recommendations.

4/17/2015
Irving/Texas
Brian Vigen
Bradley/Nimitz
Should the federal government consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policy? The government absolutely MUST consider the environmental impact when adopting anything--including nutrition policy. Our environment is under disastrously unprecedented levels of duress by industry. It is imperative for everyone to consider the environmental effects of their actions; it is especially imperative for the government to initiate these considerations. With that said, adopting a more beneficial diet for school lunches would not only positively affect students’ diet, but also guarantee a better future for the world, therefore a better future for everyone. Personally, I would love to try some of the government informed recommendations to further my own health and wellbeing. Lastly, government reports on school nutrition absolutely must include sustainability reports, because cursory plans on sustainability is what has caused all of our environmental problems in the first place.

4/17/2015
Irving/Texas
Rebecca
Bradley/Nimitz
We have no choice but to consider environmental impact when deciding which course to take with our nutritional guidelines. With the recent announcement of water restrictions in California, one of the nation's leading producers of produce, it has come as a shock to many of us that the resources to satisfy our wants are not unlimited. Given the space required for grazing of livestock, and the energy required to raise, slaughter, and butcher them, it is clear that the production of meat is certainly not the most efficient. Nor is the production of plants, but these are at least more sustainable, and contribute to lower rates of deforestation/water consumption. It is interesting to note that all critics mentioned of this initiative have a hand in the livestock industry and are therefore obviously have a stake in the future of red meat consumption in America. If we are to follow the environmental impact guidelines, I believe it will be beneficial to the environment as a whole, even if we may miss a few of the steaks we forego and the results aren't immediately apparent.

4/14/2015
Irving/Texas
Ali
Ms.Bradley/Nimitz
It is critical that the federal government consider the environmental impacts considering the large impact of the food industry on the environment, and the need for sustainability in the future, however if it should be enforced through nutrition policy is questionable. Nutrition and environmentally beneficial practices don’t always go hand in hand. However, when suggesting the increase of plant-based proteins and a decrease in less red meat, this is definitely more nutritious AND better for the environment despite meat industry opponents beliefs. Red meat is an important component of the diet and recommendations plainly state a reduction in red meat, not the elimination of. Many nutritionist would agree on the lack of plant-based products in American diets is being filled with instead meat or highly processed foods. Personally, I would not mind seeing more plant-based proteins at my school lunch, and I would adopt some of the recommendations myself. A report focusing on diet should not include sustainability measures, unless the measures are in line with nutritional needs. Unfortunately it seems that environmental issues will continue to fall on the back burner when opposed with economic issues despite the fact that achieving sustainability is one the best economic investments we can make.

4/13/2015
Irving/Texas
Carol
Bradley/Nimitz
The government should definitely consider environmental impacts when adopting a nutrition policy because the foods we eat today will directly effect the foods we eat tomorrow. I believe that taking out some red meat would not be horrible because you're still getting the vitamins, minerals, and proteins, you're just getting it less in the form of meat. I eat red meat at least 4 times a week so I would not like to cut down on that. I think sustainability should be taken into account, but should not be the most important thing.

4/7/2015
Irving/Texas
Kamille
Bradley/Nimitz
I am a firm believer in environmental conservation and I believe that it is necessary for not only the federal government, but the nation as a whole to think about the impact we have on the environment, specifically dealing with nutrition policies. If the government just did this to help the environment, I’m sure restoration and other benefits could positively affect our nation. We can all reap the benefits of better proteins and healthier school lunches. If we decreased the use of red or other meats and increased the consumption of plant-based proteins in the lunches we give our growing generations, we could redefine health in the school system and reverse all of America’s unhealthy dilemmas. I would definitely adopt some of these suggestions because in the grand scheme of things, it is only beneficial and can make a great deal of change. The report needs to be an honest source of information, focusing on dieting and healthy decisions but also mentioning the sustainability that it can provide.

4/6/2015
Irving/TX
Sajni
Bradley/Nimitz
The health of the world should be our minds and the well-being of our future generation should be taken into considered if our consumption of red meat is a direct harm to our planet. The federal government is right in taking into thought the environmental impact that the average American diet is having on natural resources. I believe that we should accept these ideas/recommendations since it is for a overall good cause, also a more plant based diet is guaranteed to led to a healthier lifestyle.

4/2/2015
Irving/TX
Rabab
Bradley/Nimitz
Yes the federal government should consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policy because it is for the better health of the people. I personally would not mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in school lunch because it is healthy and it has good benefits. I would adopt the recommendations because it does not recommend to stop but to decrease the use of meat so I wouldn’t mind.Yes the report should include sustainability in guidelines because it is very important for people to know that will it be effective for future generation so they can easily adapt it.

4/1/2015
Irving/Texas
Jamon
Bradley/Nimitz
Should the federal government consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policy I would have to say yes,here is why I say that, in order to consume the food we have today it all comes from our environment that is how they get the percentages that you see before you. From a mutual stand point an understanding I would not mind seeing more plant based proteins in school lunches however I just think that even though seeing more of em they would end up for having to balance the two so that way students would take a chance in getting what they want to get an if they do get more plant based protein get something that you know the kids will an that is for future reference. An the report itself should include guidelines so that way they can keep enforcing the policy otherwise it would have all been for nothing.

4/1/2015
Irving/TX
Cynthia
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that the federal government should consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policy because we need to conserve our resources so the next generation will have a fair share when it come to nutrition, plus, we need to reduce greenhouse gasses to protect our atmosphere and live in a safe environment. Personally, I am not a huge fan of red meat, therefore, I would not mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in my school lunch. Also, the meat served in the cafeteria is not always the best, for example, sometimes it’s not cooked right, therefore it is wasted. I would adopt the recommendations given by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee because the report given explains why more red meat affects our environment and how it could negatively affect the next generations. The report focusing on diet and health should include sustainability in the guidelines because it needs to make a long lasting impact for the future generations, it needs to be in someway effective.

3/31/2015
Irving/Texas
Jayden
Bradley/Nimitz
Yes, I believe that the federal government should consider the environmental impact when adopting federal nutrition policies. It centers on the future of environmental effects of the nutrition policies. As stated by doctor and cattle producer. Richard Thorpe, "The American diet is already 70 percent plant-based and to further emphasize plant-based diets will continue to have unintended consequences.” Honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing less red meat at all, due to the fact that I am not, in any way, a [red] meat eater. However, lovers of red meat and health fanatics would certainly mind, because red meat is a great source of protein.

3/31/2015
Irving/Texas
Brittany
Bradley/Nimitz
Yes, the federal government should consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policies. Doing so could benefit the environment in the present and the future. Personally I wouldn't mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in school lunches, but this could disappoint a lot of students. Honestly, I probably wouldn't adopt some of the recommendations, at school or at home. Yes, the report should include sustainability in its guidelines because it should be proven that it will be effective for a significant period of time.

3/26/2015
Irving,Tx
Jennipher
Bradley/Nimitz
I believe that the federal government should consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policies but only to a certain extent. Like Richard Thorpe stated, the American diet is already 70 percent plant-based and although red meats may require the most energy they are also very important to the health of the people. I would mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in my school lunch because currently most of our foods are plant-based. Red meat is very important to the body in order to maintain protein levels and I myself am more of a meat eater than a plant eater, because of this I wouldn’t mind seeing more red meat served in our school cafeterias. I may begin to eat more plant-based foods but I do not believe that I would lower my intake of red meats because I enjoy them and I feel like they are important to my well-being. The report focusing on diet and health should include sustainability guidelines in order to prevent the reports and recommendations from becoming lost causes and to ensure that they make a long lasting impact on our generation and those to come.

3/26/2015
Irving/Texas
David
Bradley/Nimitz
The federal government should consider the environmental impact when adopting nutrition policies. It looks after not only the immediate impact of the nutrition policies, but the long term environmental effects as well; it’s all about the future. I actually would mind seeing less red meat and more plant-based proteins in my school lunch because I rarely see any now; if anything, there needs to be more red meat proteins in our school lunches, as anymore plant based ones would make our cafeteria a vegetarian cafe. I would adopt some of the recommendations, but only to my personal life. I wouldn't want to enforce it in school cafeterias for everyone, especially when some students can’t afford to eat much of anything else outside of school; they need all the red meat they can get. The report should include sustainability in the guidelines because it must be sure it can stay implemented long enough to make an impact; if it comes and goes, it won’t prove to be effective at all.

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