According to current NHS guidelines, adults can eat 500g a week of cooked red meat (such as beef, pork or lamb), or an average 70g a day. However, a poll conducted by market research specialist BMG Research on behalf of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), showed that 53% of people thought the recommended intake was half that figure.
The results of the poll have prompted some nutritional experts to question whether media coverage urging people to cut down on their meat consumption might have gone too far.
Independent nutritionist Dr Zoë Harcombe said: “Red meat is so nutrient-dense that we should be embracing it at any opportunity. A 150g steak would provide half the daily zinc requirement, while making an excellent contribution to our B vitamin (mood, memory and muscles) and iron intakes. With iron being the world's most widespread nutrient deficiency, we restrict red meat at our peril – girls and women especially, as our requirements are higher.”
The poll did show that most adults were aware of the most important nutrients contained in lamb, beef and pork.
It revealed that 72% of respondents correctly identified that red meat was high in protein, which can support growth and maintenance of muscles, and 56% knew that it was a source of iron, which is an essential mineral required to help the red blood cells transport oxygen to the rest of the body and assists in energy production.
HCC consumer executive Elwen Roberts said: “HCC’s campaigns always encourage consumers to get the right facts on what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet.
“We will continue to emphasise the positive contribution that lean Welsh Lamb, Welsh Beef and pork in moderation can bring to the diet of all demographic groups. The nutrients they contain are easily absorbed by the body, and have been proven to support mental health performance, fight tiredness and boost the immune system.
“Our recent consumer campaigns have tried to drive home this message by working with leading sports stars, such as [rugby players] Shane Williams and Elinor Snowsill, to emphasise the high protein content in red meat, and its suitability as part of the diet of people with active lifestyles.”
The meat sector has come under fire of late with the EAT-Lancet report claiming consumption should be cut by 50%, a suggestion that was slammed by the meat processing industry.