Our commitment to nutrition
Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) supports consumption of 455g/week cooked red meat consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines in 100 to 200g (raw weight) portion sizes, 3 to 4 times a week and as part of a healthy, balanced meal.
Our nutrition research focused on the behavioural, nutritional and compositional aspects of beef and lamb consumption inform strategies and communications to facilitate adoption of healthy meal choices.
Statement from MLA
Meat and Livestock Australia are aware of the World Health Organisation (WHO) evaluation of red meat. Their International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) regularly assesses products and substances by reviewing available evidence and then classifies them according to cancer risk.
Promoting red meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet is important to the red meat industry and we are guided by the Australian Dietary Guidelines which recommend 455g/week of cooked red meat as part of a healthy, balanced diet. The IARC report gives guidance that consumers should refer to the dietary guidelines in their own countries and the Australian Dietary Guidelines are consistent with their conclusions.
Red meat such as beef and lamb is a critical, natural source of iron and zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 - essential nutrients needed to keep the body and brain functioning well.
Children and women are eating less than the recommended amount of red meat and one in five women have some form of iron deficiency.
There is no reason to believe that eating beef and lamb as part of a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle in 100 to 200g portion sizes (raw weight), 3 to 4 times a week as recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, will increase risk of cancer.
When it comes to prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, the evidence suggests a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle is critical - focusing on only one kind of food is not enough. Education around these issues is vital and we consult extensively with experts to ensure our nutrition communications are evidence-based and relevant to everyday Australians.
Key nutrition facts – beef and lamb
Beef and lamb are packed with essential nutrients our body needs for good health.
- Fresh beef and lamb (red meat) are a good natural source of protein and iron, not to mention:
- Beef and lamb provide zinc, vitamin B12, omega-3, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and phosphorus.
- The iron and zinc in beef and lamb are well absorbed by the body, better than the iron and zinc found in plant-based foods like legumes, spinach and grains.
- The type of omega-3 fat found in beef and lamb is the same ‘healthy’ fat found in fish. Because we eat red meat about 3 times per week, it makes a valuable contribution to omega-3 in our diet.
- Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods. So if you don’t eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products, foods enriched with vitamin B12, a supplement is required.
- Beef and lamb are one of the best sources of well absorbed iron and zinc. The redder the meat, the higher the iron content. That’s one of the reasons why when compared to the same amount of chicken, beef and lamb has triple the amount of iron and zinc.
- Eating beef and lamb regularly can help to maintain your body’s iron stores, preventing iron deficiency. This is particularly important for babies, toddlers, young girls and women, who are at risk of iron deficiency, as their bodies need more iron to meet the needs for growth and losses through menstruation.
MLA invests just under $2 million a year in human nutrition research and communications targeting key influencers. Project areas include:
- Research to increase understanding of the role of Australian beef and lamb in a healthy, balanced diet
- Strategic partnerships and collaborations
- Key influencer communications
MLA’s investment ensures red meat is accurately represented in nutrition policy and supports the consumption of three to four healthy, balanced red meat meals a week, consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Nutrition is a key driver of consumption, along with taste, convenience and cost.
The outcomes of MLA’s nutrition program are credible publications highlighting the health benefits of red meat, and practical nutrition education resources supporting adoption of our key messages.
Citations in peer-reviewed journals provide credible references supporting the health benefits of beef and lamb.
The Human Nutrition program publishes research findings in peer-reviewed journals.
Published research has included:
- Relationship between diet, iron and zinc status and health outcomes, particularly in vulnerable groups such as young women, infants and toddlers.
- Dietary strategies for managing weight and other risk factors of obesity-related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.
- Up-to-date data on the nutrient composition of retail beef, veal, lamb, mutton and goat.
MLA-published reports offer insights into main meal choices and practices in Australian homes, which are used to inform communication and marketing strategies. These include:
MLA provides up-to-date and credible nutrient composition data for Australian beef, lamb and goat meats which is available from Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s Food Nutrient Database (NUTTAB, AUSNUT).
Resources and tools
Patient education material is developed in consultation with key influencers and disseminated via healthcare professionals, including dietitians, nurses and GPs
Conferences and newsletter
- An average 250,000 nutrition education resources are disseminated via healthcare professionals each year.
- Research findings and practice implications are disseminated via our annual symposium, Vital newsletter and continuing education activities targeting GPs. Our symposium in April 2015 attracted more than 600 registrations and our Vital newsletter is disseminated to more than 5000 nutrition professionals.