In the days when a screen was either in your windows, at the movie theater, or on the TV, there was a popular commercial featuring an old woman yelling “where’s the beef?” that went “viral.”
Today, people often associate beef with the best source for protein, even though there are repeated studies showing healthier and less expensive alternatives.
“There are enormous health benefits to be gained from eating a plant-based diet,” says Dr. Sharon Hausman-Cohen of Balcones Woods Family Medicine in Austin. “There is quite a bit of research showing that healthy vegans and vegetarians enjoy more longevity, and less diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity than their animal-eating counterparts.”
The beef industry, like the U.S. dairy industry, has always had a lot of power in Washington. A whopping $40 million food industry lobbying dollars were spent in the last year. Between Tyson’s and McDonald’s, alone, almost one million dollars was pushed through to protect the interests of Big Chicken and Big Beef.
The industry’s many factions all contributed to the D.C. policymakers who rule what’s on our plates. In 2013, Meat Processing invested five million in lobbying; National Chicken Council, $480,000; National Cattleman’s Beef Association, $400,000; American Meat Institute, $248,000; National Turkey Association, $140,000; Agri Beef spent $85,000; Beef Products Inc, $150,000. The list is endless.
According to Mark Astley in his article US dairy industry lobbying 2012: Who spent what and why? “Every year US dairy manufacturers and organisations pump millions of dollars into political campaigns in an attempt to influence proposed legislation. In 2012, the industry spent more than $7m.*
So it shouldn’t be surprising that the USDA reports, “Since 1970, we’ve gone from 8 pounds per person per year (of cheese) to 23 pounds,” and the current RDA is three cups of dairy a day.
Our country promotes overconsumption of dairy and meat as seen in catchy campaigns. Who’s Got Milk? Where’s the Beef? The Other White Meat. The marketing industry and lobbying dollars led Americans to believe that animal products are the only sources of protein. They ignore all the health risks associated with the consumption of meat and dairy.
According to Dr. Hausman-Cohen, “A vegan who eats ‘real food’ including beans, lentils, vegetables, and nuts will get plenty of protein. Green vegetables contain 30-50 percent protein, so protein deficiency will not be a problem for a healthy eater.”
Additionally, most Americans eat twice the necessary amount of protein, each day. Adults only need about 50 grams of protein, daily. That RDA is simple to meet on a plant-based diet, as long as you’re not eating potato chips, soda, and white bread all day. For example, one 3.5 ounce serving of walnuts provides 50 grams of protein. That’s the same protein count in a cup of black bean soup or soy milk.
As Americans were repeatedly flooded with messages from the dairy industry, we started seeing more and more people suffering from osteoporosis. We were told if you didn’t drink your milk, you’d suffer. However, that’s far from the real story. People with higher intakes of calcium tend to have poorer calcium absorption. Research has proven that those living in countries with the highest dairy intake have the most osteoporosis due to calcium excretion. On other continents, the dairy intake is far lower than that of Americans.
According to Dr. Hausman-Cohen Americans don’t need to worry about osteoporosis as long as they consume one calcium-dense food daily. Like almond or soy milk. The plant-based milk drinks, when unsweetened, tend to have significantly fewer calories, too. “Individuals who are vegans and eat a lot of high potassium foods (potatoes, beans, and tomato sauce products all have more potassium than a banana) need less calcium as they excrete less calcium.”
Swami Sivananda was a doctor turned yogi great. In his book Bliss Divine, he said, “Meat generates disease, excites passions, and produces restlessness of the mind. Meat is not at all necessary for the keeping up of perfect health, vigour, and vitality. On the contrary, it is highly deleterious to health; it brings in its train a host of ailments…In large meat-eating countries, cancer mortality is admittedly very high.”