Food Guidelines Should Focus on Nutrition

steve corn head shotEvery five years the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) goes through a process to review the dietary guidelines for Americans. Those of us who are a little bit older will recall the guidelines being reflected in the iconic ‘Food Pyramid’ taught in school to earlier generations. Younger generations know these guidelines today through USDA’s “My Plate” initiative.

USDA is currently in the process of (once again) of reviewing nutritional standards, but this time around there’s a major twist, one that’s of growing concern to farmers and ranchers and to anyone who is focused on nutrition and freedom of food choice.

Previous iterations of the guidelines have focused solely on nutrition, (i.e. identifying how many servings a day of fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy, etc. are necessary for a balanced diet). This time around there’s a movement to try and tie other factors into the nutritional mix, including how food is produced.

For example, should a vegetable that requires more water to grow and requires greater transportation to get it to market be downgraded in USDA’s guidelines because of potential environmental impact, even if it has the same nutritional value? That’s the type of scenario USDA is considering for inclusion in nutritional standards this time around.

America was founded on the principle of an individual’s right to choose in the marketplace. If enough people want hamburgers that come from cows that were specifically raised in Nebraska, someone will fill that market. That’s what America was founded on and why it’s still the greatest country in the world.

When it comes to nutrition, science can tell us the exact make up of our food so we know just how many calories, carbohydrates, fats, etc., are in what we eat. Knowing that information and making recommendations on how much someone should have from a basic consumption standpoint makes sense for guidelines that are supposed to help people make informed dietary choices. However, putting different foods at odds based on where they are grown, how they are grown, and what goes into the process of getting them to market is something entirely different. Those should come from personal choice, not government recommendation.

There are many forces at work that are interested in limiting your food choices. Those interests have wrapped themselves in the idea that such reforms are somehow needed to save the planet or protect food animals in some way. Those ideas are clearly on display in California where residents are finding out the hard way the implications of misguided policy actions. Egg prices have nearly tripled from a year ago due to a movement pushed by animal rights activists to place restrictions on how chickens must be housed on farms. The changes were made under the guise that chickens need to be treated differently, when in reality, the groups that pushed for these modifications believe that we shouldn’t be eating eggs at all.

Allowing USDA to move what should be science-based dietary recommendations in a direction that advances extreme activists agendas for groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States are not good, particularly for those of us who like to eat and have a say in what we put in our mouths. At Farm Bureau we believe there’s clearly a role for government to help people make informed dietary decisions, but that shouldn’t include telling you how and where your food should come from. Some things should still be your choice and Farm Bureau will continue to work to keep government overreach off your plate.

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