Red meat key to health, says expert

Unprocessed red meat has a key role to play in improving the nation’s health, but product changes may be needed to ensure Britain eats enough high quality protein.

A ‘health by stealth’ method of increasing high quality red meat supplemented with plant proteins to create novel meals could be examined to help people live longer, according to a health expert.

Dr Alex Johnstone from the Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen, has advised Jamie Oliver on meat nutrition and helped develop the M&S Balanced for You range of high-protein meals. She floated the idea of incorporating plant protein with red meat to feed a growing population at the World Angus Forum (WAF) in Edinburgh. But three areas need to be examined first: reformulation, new product development and education.  

“Health by stealth is a method whereby you make changes to meals [or] foods without necessarily informing the consumer - examples of this include salt reduction or sugar reduction.  And I mentioned this as a future way to combine health advice with food choice.

“I could see that high quality small portions of meat could be used in this way, supplemented with appropriate plant proteins to create novel meals for an ageing population. It may not be specifically targeted for the ageing, but could be a ‘meal for one’ or ‘small portion’ or ‘half portion’.”

The UK is in the midst of a “protein boom” where “eating meat is both pleasurable and socially desirable, which is changing the psychology of consumption,” Dr Johnstone said in her WAF speech.

Young males from affluent socio-economic groups are the biggest consumers of red meat. Poorer women aged 40-60 years old eat the least red meat. With a vast disparity on red meat consumption, Dr Johnstone said people should not cut meat from their diet’s entirely, but eat the right stuff - unprocessed red meat.

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