ANALYSIS - The European meat sector appears to be hitting back against recent bad publicity and campaigns from anti-meat ginger groups, writes Chris Harris.
There have been regular campaigns to promote beef, pork and lamb at varying times of the year as seasonal promotions.
Organisations such as BPEX, EBLEX, Quality Meat Scotland, Hybu Cyg Cymru and the Livestock and Meat Commission of Northern Ireland in the UK, Bord Bia in Ireland, Meat and Livestock Australia and Beef and Lamb New Zealand all mount consumer advertising campaigns in a bid to boost sales.
These promotions lean more to the emotional than the pragmatic.
However, the meat sector is frequently facing attacks from research studies from organisations pressing the certain dangers from meat-eating, such as cancer, bowel and heart disease and obesity.
Recently in the UK, the sector came under fire from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) with an advertisement showing a baby smoking and warning that meat-eating presented similar dangers to smoking and warning consumers about the dangers of feeding red meat to their children.
The advertisement read: “You Wouldn't Let Your Child Smoke. Like smoking, eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Go vegan! PeTA".
Two complainants to the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK challenged whether the claim "eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer" was misleading and could be substantiated.
PeTA said the link between meat and an increased risk of heart disease and some cancers had been repeatedly documented in a number of medical studies and reports and, as such, they did not feel that the claim was misleading.
The ASA told PeTA that the ad must not appear again in its current form. We told PeTA not to imply that any consumption of meat would raise the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Now PeTA is reissuing the advertisement changing the wording to claim that smoked and processed meats are the danger.
While the red meat sector around the world mounts regular defences against these and similar assaults on its safety and efficacy, it is rarely proactive in this area, despite the numerous consumer directed promotions.
While the industry has in the past mentioned that lean red meat can play an important part in a healthy balanced diet, containing a high nutrient density with high biological value protein, key minerals particularly iron and zinc and it is also an important source of B-vitamins, these facts are generally used as a defence rather than a positive action.
Now the French meat industry organisation, SNIV-SNCP, has gone on the offensive.
It is saying for health reasons consumers should be eating meat at least once a day.
The organisation representing meat companies in France says that it is well known that consumers should eat three dairy products and five vegetable or fruit products a day.
“Everyone has these benchmarks in mind,” SNIV-SNCP says.
Now it says there should be a similar benchmark for meat.
SNIV-SNCP says it advocates “meat every day” because the NFHP (the French National Plan for Health and Nutrition) recommends eating animal protein, meat, eggs or fish “once or twice a day” and to have meat once a day is within this recommendation.
It adds that the proposal to eat meat once a day would help to alleviate the deficiencies highlighted by the latest INCA 2 study that shows that meat consumption has fallen by 20 per cent in children, 17 per cent in adolescents and 16 per cent among women.
It also says that if people are eating five fruit or vegetables a day, they need the protein to develop a balanced fibre and protein-carbohydrate-fat diet.
And the organisation finally says that it is the best way to fight against the “meatless day” campaign promoted by anti-meat activists.
The SNIV-SNCP campaign addresses the health and nutrition issues for which meat consumption has so long been under fire.
However, the industry will soon have to be proactive in answering the environmental issues that livestock and meat production raise, particularly as meat consumption globally increases to meet the needs of a growing population that is becoming increasingly more wealthy.