An expert panel made up of scientists and food industry experts tasked with tackling the challenging question; Does New Zealand-produced red meat have a role in a healthy and sustainable diet? met to discuss the issue in Auckland last night.
Hosted by the Northern Club in Auckland last night in front of a crowd of around 130 foodwriters, nutritionists, dietitians and other interested parties, the panel covered a range of topics addressing whether we can meet the nutritional needs of exponential population growth, whilst working within the sustainable limits of planetary health.
The discussion was facilitated by NZ Herald journalist and editor-at-large of the Healthy Food Guide, Niki Bezzant who was joined by Dr Denise Conroy, senior scientist at Plant & Food Research; Dr Mike Boland, principal scientist at the Riddet Institute; Dr Mark Craig, a Auckland-based GP advocating a whole food, plant-based diet; Jeremy Baker, chief insights officer for Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd (B+LNZ); and Angela Clifford, chief executive of Eat New Zealand.
Niki Bezzant eats a plant-based diet but is often quick to point out to her readers that this does include moderate amounts of red meat and the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
“I think the key take out for anyone in the audience or who will be listening to the podcast is that our panel were asked a very complex question and it’s going to take very complex solution to answer it. There is not going to be a silver bullet to solve the myriad of issues raised tonight, but I strongly believe that open dialogue with a range of viewpoints and opinions is a vital step in bringing the New Zealand public on the journey.”
Jeremy Baker, who has been with B+LNZ for 18 months having previously held roles with Wellington City Council and Lincoln University, made a compelling case for the beef and sheep farmers of New Zealand. He highlighted that efficient water usage of beef and lamb production in New Zealand sits around 65 to 115 litres of extracted water per kilogram of beef produced (40 to 90 litres for lamb) which is in stark contrast to the astronomical figures that are often publicly cited for beef production or when compared to some fruit and pulse production.
Baker was quick to acknowledge that there is still work to be done in the sector particularly around water quality, sediment erosion and greenhouse gas emissions, but noted the significant work being done to address these issues through Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s environmental strategy which is addressing these specific issues alongside boosting biodiversity and improving soil health.
On a nutritional perspective, Dr Mike Boland pointed out that not all protein is created equal. Pound-for-pound, the nutritional attributes of animal protein is superior when compared to plant-based equivalents. This is includes providing all the amino acids which are essential building blocks for the body as well as the bioavailability of haem iron that is more readily absorbed than plant-based non-haem iron. These points were echoed in the responses from passionate members of the audience which can be heard on the podcast.