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Food guide isn’t keen on red meat

Hart Attacks: The problem isn’t that I don’t know about good food... the problem is me

Boy, I can’t wait for the revised version of the Canada Food Guide to hit the store shelves so I can start eating properly.

Health Canada is proposing changes to the food guide steering people away from red meat and more towards “alternative” proteins such as plant-based proteins — your peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, or peanuts. The changes are also leaning toward non-cow related “dairy” products made from avocados, nuts and seeds. Yippeee…

It’s for your own good people. Down the road when you are heading to the customer appreciation day at the local farm supply store you won’t be subjected to the artery-clogging, cancer-causing, ozone-depleting beef on a bun. Hopefully you will get a healthier food choice like a peanut butter and honey sandwich, or guacamole on rice crackers.

I had hoped a nice pulled pork sandwich, might be favoured by the Food Guide, but it has been pointed out that although pork has been at times marketed as “the other white meat,” it is in fact a red meat. It is not in the safe food zone with white meats such as chicken, fish, and most reptiles.

Once the new guidelines are published it will mean a major shift in food choices at the lunch-time buffet at agriculture conferences. The vegetable wraps that are usually at the end of the buffet, just past all the sandwiches made with animal-based protein — those vegan sandwiches will suddenly become a hot commodity.

I can see these new guidelines leading to a protein war on the prairies. Ranchers will be assembling and pushing large herds of cattle to trample pea, bean and lentil fields. Mysterious and apparently threatening packages will be found at the gates of meat processing plants, forcing plant closure until it is investigated. The packages are harmless, but still cause disruption in the meat supply chain. Security cameras catch a blurry image of a vehicle leaving the scene displaying what appears to be a Pulse Canada logo.

Unfortunately one individual who perhaps could have brought balance and helped stave off protein conflicts is no longer with us. Roy Phillips, also known as Ralgro Roy, died a couple years ago.

I didn’t know Roy that well, but his reputation preceded him. (Actually I think on an extended family tree he was the uncle of a cousin fourth removed… something like that).

Roy had several careers during his lifetime, but was for many years a product representative for Ralgro beef implants. And he was also a great cook, ran a catering business for a while, loved beef and beans.

One of the legends surrounding Roy involved his steak-eating achievements. For many years Roy attended the Canadian Western Agribition in Regina and was known to visit a downtown restaurant called Bartleby’s where he reportedly on occasion put away something like a 24-, or 32-, or 64-ounce steak. He had both capacity and stamina.

He enjoyed eating beef. And on the catering side, he made a great pot of beans. I have the bean recipe if anyone would like it. Roy’s recipe wasn’t for traditional baked beans, but actually it just dressed up canned pork and beans — loads of bacon and seasonings, simmered for a few hours. Great stuff. The full recipe feeds about 75 people (or in my house that’s six generous servings).

Roy demonstrated that beef and beans could have a joyous co-existence in a diet. (Okay, I didn’t say that was necessarily a healthy diet. Even I recognize a 32-ounce steak isn’t a great portion size on a regular basis, but perhaps on special occasions you can get away with it. )

I doubt there are too many adults who strictly live by the Canada Food Guide recommendations, but as Tom Lynch-Staunton, issues manager with the Canadian Cattleman’s Assoc. pointed out, it’s not great news for the beef industry if Health Canada is educating kids that beef is poor protein choice, when really there is a great deal of nutritional evidence claiming just the opposite.

As Lynch-Staunton noted, don’t blame moderate or reasonable amounts of red meat consumption for human health problems. Too many sweets (sugars) and other processed foods do much more to contribute to obesity than, for example, a burger.

If I am reading between the lines of his message, he might be saying that eating pie and/or chips in front of the TV may not be the best food choices for a healthy lifestyle. I figured as long as I ate those chips with a diet pop I was okay, but perhaps not.

Who knows what the final wording of the Canada Food Guide will recommend, but I know I won’t be giving up red meat, or meat protein of any kind in my diet. I don’t know about the rest of consumers, but it’s not that I don’t know the “proper” way to eat. I do. Eat meats and protein in moderation, plenty of fruits and vegetables, stay away from too many breads and sweets and get out an exercise. I know what I have to do, but here’s the hard part: I just have to do it. It’s just that procrastination feels and tastes so good.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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