As the Beef Checkoff celebrates its 35th anniversary, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, is shining a light on the successful promotion and research programs that drive the demand for beef. Consumers today are more open to the nutritional benefits of beef than at any other time since the Checkoff began more than three decades ago but getting here was not easy and required consistent long-term investment in nutrition research to turn the tide.
The Beef Checkoff was implemented at a time when U.S. Dietary Guidelines encouraged Americans to limit beef in their diet and reduce their intake of fat and cholesterol. This coincided with Americans’ growing interest in healthy lifestyles and it quickly became clear nutrition and health concerns could be a potential barrier to consumers eating beef. In order to address the concerns and further understand beef’s role in health, the Checkoff began funding nutrition research. Through the years, the Checkoff has made significant contributions to the scientific understanding about beef’s role in health. And now, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recommend introducing solid foods, like beef, to infants and toddlers, in order to make every bite count with protein, iron, zinc and choline.1-2
“I’ve seen firsthand the evolution of nutrition behavior over the years,” said Becky Walth, South Dakota producer and member of the Nutrition & Health Checkoff Committee. “The Beef Checkoff has been ahead of the curve, conducting research to demonstrate the importance of beef in a balanced diet.”
Two landmark studies reinforce that beef not only fits heart healthy diets but may also help decrease risk of cardiovascular disease when included in heart healthy diets. The Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study found that people can enjoy 4-5½ ounces of lean beef daily, as part of a heart healthy lifestyle to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.3 The Mediterranean-style eating pattern study found that eating a Mediterranean diet that included 7-18 ounces of lean red meat per week can improve cardiometabolic disease risk factor profiles.4
The Checkoff has done more than just defend beef’s position in heart healthy diets using a strong foundation of science. In fact, nutrition research has been helping people discover the benefits of beef to health across the life span, starting with protein. Recent studies have focused on the power of protein and its impact on physical and emotional strength. While other research has shown the importance of high-quality protein for the aging population, as well as demonstrating beef’s critical role in growth and development, especially as a high-quality source of iron for older infants, women and girls.
Because of Checkoff-funded nutrition research, beef can now be Americans’ protein of choice in any gold standard heart healthy diet, and beef is consistently recommended by scientists, physicians and registered dietitians. In addition, 75% of consumers agree that beef is nutritious.5
New challenges are on the horizon as the nutrition and public health community grapple with how to ensure everyone has access to sustainable healthy food. A key part of this will be maximizing nutrition with fewer calories making nutrient density an important cornerstone of how the world defines a healthy sustainable diet. NCBA and the Beef Checkoff are already conducting research in these areas to help keep beef as a healthy choice for the center of the plate.
Checkoff-funded research has not only added to the scientific database but has also accelerated scientific discovery from others in a wide variety of areas related to the nutrients found in beef, and beef’s role in overall health. In the past, nutrition may have been a barrier to consumers eating beef, however, with help from the Checkoff, nutrition has now become the reason people want to include beef in their diets. For more information, visit www.beefresearch.org.
1 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC.
2 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170208/nutrients
3 Roussell MA, et al. Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet study: effects on lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins. Am J Clin Nutr 2012;95:9-16.
4 O'Connor LE, et al. A Mediterranean-style eating pattern with lean, unprocessed red meat has cardiometabolic benefits for adults who are overweight or obese in a randomized, crossover, controlled feeding trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2018;108:33-40.ii.
5 Consumer Beef Tracker, Jan.-Dec. 2020.