Be Nice To Your Waistline By Keeping Lean Beef On Your Holiday Menu

Mary_Lee_ChinMary Lee Chin, MS, RD, Food and Nutrition Consultant in Denver, Colo.

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As a registered dietitian, I understand it can be difficult to be health and weight conscious during this hectic time when we juggle travel, party planning and gift buying along with our regular schedules. On top of that, we hear a lot of myths about how to be healthy, such as don’t eat this or that. My best advice to help avoid holiday weight gain is to be nice instead of naughty and build your meals on a foundation of healthful foods. A way to lighten holiday fare is to focus on serving nutrient-rich choices from these important food groups: lean meats, low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Lean beef, with its high concentration of essential amino acids delivers high quality protein content, and easily fits into your healthier holiday meal planning and entertaining.

Research continues to illustrate the critical role high-quality protein plays in optimal health: maintaining muscle, fueling activity, and managing weight. Animal sources such as lean meat, fish, eggs and dairy tend to have a higher percentage of essential amino acids than plant sources and are more well correlated to inducing fat loss. Protein-rich lean beef can help in preserving lean muscle mass which contributes to the burning of fat. Coupled with exercise, lean beef can help you build muscle strength while you work to lose or maintain weight this holiday season.

Holiday celebrations can too often mean fat and sugar loaded treats that are too high in calories and too low in nutrient content. Including lean beef can help balance the nutrition scales. Beef is a natural source of 10 essential nutrients, such as a readily available and easily absorbed source of iron and zinc. Iron is a part of all cells and many enzymes. It carries oxygen from lungs throughout the body and helps muscles store and use oxygen. Zinc is vital for many biological functions, especially effecting our all-important immune system and physical and mental development. Beef also is an excellent source of B vitamins which help convert foods into energy to fuel your activity during these busy days. And its content of Vitamin B12 specifically promotes growth and helps maintain brain function.

Several studies show that protein generally increases satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat and may aid a reduction in overall calorie consumption.  Translate that into action by eating half of a lean roast beef sandwich on whole grain bread before you go out to the holiday buffet party. Blunting your appetite can help prevent your head first dive into the rich dips, creamy desserts and holiday cakes and cookies.

The American Psychological Association reports that half of women experience heightened stress during the holidays due to extra time spent on parties, cooking and shopping. Add in health and weight considerations and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s no wonder we are seeking healthier, and simpler, alternatives.

With beef, you have so many choices to lighten up your menu during the holidays, and simplify your cooking as well. Today there are 29 cuts of beef which meet government guidelines for leanness which includes many popular cuts. One tip: when shopping, make sure to look for lean sources of meat with the word “loin” in the name, such as sirloin or tenderloin. Loin cuts provide lean menu options for both everyday eating and holiday entertaining.

Before you face a busy day of mall shopping, place a bottom round roast with seasoning, winter root vegetables and red wine in a slow cooker. You’ll come home to an impossibly tender roast, and savory vegetables. Add some whole wheat rolls and you have a nutrient-rich, tasty—and easy meal after a tiring day.

Need appealing appetizers? Thinly slice sirloin and skewer with red and green peppers for color and crunch. Glaze with barbeque sauce, broil quickly and watch them disappear. Or make your mother’s famous meatball recipe with 95% lean ground beef. You’ll have great taste and the nutrition benefits of high quality beef.

Holiday happenings are special…and the food should be too. Whether you’re throwing a big bash or hosting an intimate evening, holiday entertaining for friends and family can present a challenge for serving spectacular, yet easy to prepare and healthier food and refreshment. Our family tradition is to carve a whole beef tenderloin for our holiday meal. It’s served with a sauce made from horseradish and low-fat yogurt, and rounded out with salad, roasted vegetables and whole grain rolls. It’s a spectacular entrée; indulgent, elegant and yet still very nutritious and low in calories. Since beef tenderloin is easy to prepare and cooks so quickly I spend more time with friends and family in the living room than isolated in the kitchen.

So is there room for dessert? Of course, satiated by good food, and good company, we always have a bit of room for the traditional family apple pie and chocolate cake. You should absolutely savor holiday treats; just keep portions within reason and treat them as,  well “treats,” not the focus of eating.

Include lean beef in your holidays and you’ll receive the benefits good taste, ease of preparation and nutritious eating, without sacrificing your waistline.

GMO Feeds are Safe for Animals, Meat Safe for Humans

macdonaldDr. Ruth MacDonald, Professor and Chair of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Over the past year, there has been resurgence in discussion about the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the food supply. Stuck in the middle are consumers trying to figure out whether they should be concerned about GMO food and if so, why.

People want to know that food is safe and wholesome and many don’t really understand what a GMO is and how it gets into their food. I don’t have room here to explain GMO technology, but www.gmoanswers.com is a great resource. For consumers, the important message is that GMO-derived foods and food ingredients taste, look and provide the same nutritional value as non-GMO foods. This has been well documented by the agency responsible for the safety of food: the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

There is substantial scientific evidence that food and food ingredients derived from GMO technology are safe for human and animal consumption. The key words in that statement are ‘substantial’ and ‘scientific evidence’. The way science works is that many people carry out research to address a question or problem. These researchers will ask slightly different questions, use different approaches, study designs and models. Their results are then submitted for review by their peers and, if found worthy, published in journals – generating scientific evidence. One study is never considered definitive and a premise of science is that results must be repeated before concepts or ideas are widely accepted. Hence, in order for scientists to come to consensus on an issue, the body of scientific evidence is collected from a wide range of sources and evaluated for consistent results. This was the process used by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Science in the Public Interest that led each of these organizations to conclude that GMO food and food ingredients are safe for humans and animals based on substantial scientific evidence.

An additional tool that is used to demonstrate safety is through practice. GMO products have been in the US food supply since 1996 – hence we have years of practice that have shown no negative impact on animal or human health. Farm animals, the most carefully monitored animals on the planet, have been raised on GMO corn and soybeans over several generations and there is no evidence of negative effects on growth, reproduction or disease. And there has been no documented case of human illness or allergen associated with GMO foods.

A concern that I have heard raised by consumers is that GMO technology puts foreign DNA into food and that DNA will affect their body when eaten. My first response to this is to remind that all food has DNA – any living material, plant and animal, contains DNA. We eat carrot DNA and strawberry DNA and don’t worry that we will grow carrot noses or strawberry hair, so why would it be that GMO DNA is somehow handled differently? It is not – the DNA in food is broken down to elemental parts through the digestive process and cannot be transferred from the intestine to cells within the body. This is true for human digestion as well as animals. There is no evidence that DNA from food is taken up into the animal – so meat from animals fed GMO grain will not be different from meat from animals fed non-GMO grain – and it would be virtually impossible to distinguish these meat products even with the most sophisticated technologies. So consuming meat, milk and eggs from animals fed GMO grain is completely safe for humans.

Consumers that wish to avoid GMO foods—including if they would like to purchase beef from cattle that were not fed GMO’s—may purchase Organic or Non-GMO labeled foods.

We are fortunate to live in the US where we have the safest, most abundant and varied food supply in the world. We also have a healthy and open system of debate around technology and agriculture. With these gifts, we have the responsibility to ensure our food supply is well managed and can be sustained. Given the challenges ahead, we need all the tools we can get in our toolbox – but we must also use these tools carefully. GMO is one tool that has great potential to advance our food system when used thoughtfully and with oversight. We should not allow fear of scientific technology keep us from using the tools that will help us meet the challenges we face to produce enough safe and wholesome food for ourselves and our future generations.

Having Agony Over the Agonists? Perspective from a Former USDA Food Safety Official

RaymondBy Richard Raymond, M.D., former Undersecretary for Food Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture

This is a topic of discussion within the beef industry. The following article does not represent the opinion of the Beef Checkoff or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

With beta-agonists being in the news lately, I find myself frequently being asked questions about these animal feed ingredients and why they’re used in raising some livestock today.  Beta-agonists have been used in US swine production since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in1999 and in US cattle production since 2003. Approval for use in turkey production has followed, but is not used as widely as in cattle and swine.

Beta-agonists have been approved for use in finishing animals raised for food in more than two dozen countries, many of them major producers of red meat to feed a hungry world.

Beta-agonists promote heavier, leaner carcasses, providing less expensive meat and healthier choices.

It is estimated that beta-agonists used as feed ingredients at targeted points in the life cycle of animals raised for food increase pork yields by about 6-7 pounds per pig, and increase beef yields by an estimated additional 30 pounds of lean meat per cow.

If only half of the 24 million head of cattle harvested annually, a conservative estimate to be sure, yielded an additional 30 pounds of meat, this would provide 360 million more pounds of lean beef during a time when drought and high grain prices are forcing a reduction in the size of the American cattle herd. That would equate to 1.4 billion additional quarter pounders to help feed the world’s children, too many of whom go to bed hungry every night.

It is also estimated that over 700 million pigs have been supplemented with beta-agonists since its approval 14 years ago. I am not an Ag Economist, but I can do the simple math that says if each of those 700 million pigs produced an additional 6 pounds because of beta-agonist supplementation, that would be over 4 billion additional pounds of pork, or put another way, an additional 16 billion four ounce servings of protein.

As the former Undersecretary for Food Safety at USDA, I also know that in those billions of servings of pork and beef, not one single incident of a foodborne illness or side effect in a human has been reported. That should make us feel confident as far as human safety goes.

So, why are beta-agonists used in animals raised for food of no significance to our health? There are multiple reasons.

First and foremost, these compounds have a very short half-life, meaning the animal’s organs break down, metabolize and excrete them very quickly. They are not, for the most part, ever detected in meat sampled by the USDA.And when the rare positive does pop up, it is far below the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) established for human safety by the FDA n and by the international Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Secondly, beta-agonists have been used and studied in human medicine for decades. In human medicine, their route to the intended smooth muscle tissue is a direct entry into the cardio-pulmonary system in some of our most vulnerable patients.

Young children inhale beta-agonists directly into their lungs to relax the smooth muscle that is constricting their airways during an asthma attack which leaves them fighting for air. Beta-agonists are life savers.

Pregnant women in premature labor have beta-agonists injected directly into their blood through IVs, to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus to prevent a premature birth. Once again, Beta-agonists are life savers.

If we give them in significant doses to our most vulnerable patients, including young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, most people would agree then that it is safe to consume meat from animals supplemented with beta-agonists when it is basically undetectable.

As two billion more residents of the planet Earth enter the middle class and seek increasing amounts of protein, we can only supply safe, affordable food through technology. We won’t have more land, water or feed.

I believe that people should be able to have choices when it comes to food. I have no problem with people having food choices such as organic, cage free, antibiotic free, hormone free, etc. If they can afford to pay more for more expensive production methods, more power to them. However, I also believe that we should not reduce the use of safe, proven technologies—this would ultimately result in increasing costs from farm to form, meaning higher priced meat to the consumer and subsequently limit choice for those with a less disposable income.

It is a common myth floating out there in the media that 160 countries have banned the use of beta-agonists in animals raised for food. In fact, the Codex Alimentarius Commission is a joint effort of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, two subdivisions of the United Nations. Codex is comprised of over 180 countries, and is charged with establishing, among other things, MRLs for food additives and veterinary drugs.

Last July, the annual Codex meeting voted on MRLs for ractopamine, one of the beta-agonists used to promote heavier, leaner carcasses in animals raised for food. The majority approved the recommendations from the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives. How can we still think there are another 160 countries out there “banning” beta-agonists?

Some countries, such as the European Union and China, do have restrictions on beta-agonists due to prior illegal use of beta-agonists such as clenbuterol, which has a much longer half-life and has caused human illness because of high residues in muscle meats.

But the lack of a registration, or approval of the sales of a drug for use in animals, does not equate to a ban. For many countries, a registration has never been sought, and they have no ban in place.  The reason many have not sought registration is simply that they have no animal agriculture industry in place to use such technologies.

US beef and pork were exported to more than 100 countries in 2012 with no restrictions against beta-agonist use.

As a former “top food safety official in the US,” I see no reason, personally, to pay more for food based on how it was raised. I do not fear for my health, nor do I fear for the health of my Grandkids when they come to Granddad’s house for a sleep over and eat the less expensive meats I buy at my mainstream grocery. I feel confident that the FDA has approved this product as safe for humans and safe as a feed ingredient for animals. I’m incredibly proud of the efficient, sustainable and safe food supply that we have here in the United States and I feel incredibly fortunate that we’re able to pay less for our high-quality food than any other country in the world. Personally, I’m thankful that I can use this cost savings to spoil my Grandkids and donate to efforts to find the cure for true health problems, such as Multiple Sclerosis.

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