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Sun Jan 5, 2020, 10:27 AM

Red meat plays vital role in diets, claims expert in fightback against veganism [View all]

The Guardian

Advocates of red meat will begin a fightback against the growth of veganism this week at the UK’s biggest farming conference, with claims that eating lamb and beef is vital because some plants and fish are being drained of their nutrition.

In a speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, Alice Stanton will tell ministers, farmers and environmentalists that key nutrients in some fruits, vegetables and grains have dropped by up to 50% over 50 years.

Stanton, professor of cardiovascular pharmacology at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said nutrition levels had dropped because farmers were trying to meet a demand for cheap food. “For plant-based foods, there’s been drops in vitamins and key electrolytes by up to 50% over the past 50 years because of the genetic selection for large volume and uniformity of shape and appearance, so the things look good on the shelves. There hasn’t been selection for nutrient content,” she told the Observer.

Growing interest in veganism and flexitarianism – people trying to eat less meat – led to a drop in sales of red meat last year of about £185m, according to market researchers Nielsen. Research for veganuary, which promotes plant-based diets on health and ethical grounds, showed that more than 1.3 million people gave up animal products in January 2019. Retailers and food companies have launched thousands of products aimed at vegans – nearly a quarter of all launches had a vegan claim, according to Mintel – including Gregg’s vegan sausage roll, vegan BBQ ribs and vegan smoked salmon.

“I’m not against vegetarianism or veganism,” Stanton said. “It is possible to have a balanced diet with vegetarianism. It’s a little bit more challenging but still possible with veganism. However, it requires a lot of knowledge and effort, which doesn’t happen in the majority of the population. People don’t have time to invest in getting a really balanced diet through a range of plant-based foods.”

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