Education is key to explain how meat can be an important part of a healthy diet, making up a ‘dream team’ with vegetables, says Paolo Patruno from Clitravi, Europe’s meat processors.
Like any food, meat and processed meat products can be safely consumed as part of a balanced diet.
And this is part of the message that the meat processing sector is trying to spread among consumers. A message inviting consumers to enjoy meat and processed meat products as part of a nutritional dream team with wholegrains and vegetable proteins.
But it is important for consumers to receive a proper education on balanced diets from childhood. A balanced diet should contain each kind of foodstuff and should avoid overconsumption, including too much meat and processed meat.
The meat processing sector can contribute to this goal.
Many companies are already promoting more mindful consumption, and this will continue to be part of the commitment of our sector to be more sustainable. We believe this will help consumers to find a better balance in their dishes and this type of measure should be an important element of the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy.
To provide better products, the meat processing sector is also investing in research and innovation to enhance traditional recipes through the best available techniques.
This exercise has helped companies to reformulate many products by cutting salt content and saturated fats. This is also in line with the action plan in the Farm to Fork Strategy.
Animal welfare is another area where our businesses are looking for improvements and the whole meat processing sector is committed to work in this direction. The way animals are treated can have an impact on the final products and any time a scandal arises on animal welfare, it damages our sector. The respect of high standards in animal welfare is a pillar for the meat processing sector and we are ready to work with the European Commission to improve this area.
Prudent use of antibiotics, cooperation on veterinary prevention, improvement of the environmental footprint of our products are other areas where the sector is investing to be more sustainable.
But to achieve results the most important thing is to understand that the livestock chain is part of the solution and the sustainability of the livestock sector can come from the sector itself.
And a prerequisite to start a real shift towards a sustainable livestock sector is to make the debate less divisive. The main ingredient is pragmatism rather than criticism and ideology.
In the last years, the debate around meat and processed meat products has been quite imbalanced to use an understatement. Alleged links with non-communicable diseases, impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and animal rights were the main topics associated with their consumption, while the debate in many cases ignored their positive aspects, both with respect to their valuable nutritional input and their role in cultural identities.
The nutritional qualities of processed meat products, including the density and the bioavailability of proteins and vitamins and mineral, the added value from simple processing treatments, the cultural value, the diversity and the convenience of processed meat products are enough assets to reclaim pride and virtue.
Meat processing represents a strategic sector that can significantly contribute to the competitiveness of the livestock sector and to food security by ensuring the process of transforming raw meat into finished or intermediary food products (added value products) intended for direct consumption or for consumption after cooking. Such a process can both meet the demands of different categories of consumers and support the efficient marketing of livestock products. At the same time, meat processing is able to make the livestock sector resilient and to adapt it to the consumers’ habits.
We are ready to find solutions and promote them and we hope that the EU institutions and policy makers will engage in a fruitful cooperation to achieve concrete results and match the goals of health, social and economic sustainability, without forgetting anyone of these three pillars.