55% of people lack ‘basic facts’ on meat and dairy nutritional value

Over half of Irish people don’t know “basic facts” about the nutritional value of meat and dairy products, according to research carried out by Red C.

The research, carried out on behalf of the new ‘Meat and Dairy Facts’ group, also found that 41% of Irish shoppers believe they should cut back on their meat consumption “based on what they hear in the media”, while 30% of those consumers felt the same way about dairy products.

The Meat and Dairy Facts group is a joint venture between Bord Bia; Dairy Industry Ireland (DII); the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA); the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); Meat Industry Ireland (MII); and the National Dairy Council.

The figures also show that eight out of every 10 shoppers want to know more about what the agriculture sector is doing in the area of climate change, but only 40% knew where to go for that information.

“Concerningly, misleading information is resulting in people becoming more wary of meat and dairy,” said a joint statement from the groups involved in the initiative.

On a slightly brighter note, 59% of Irish consumers believe that farming in Ireland is “superior” compared to other European countries, and that a grass-based system is better for animal care.

L-R: Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia; Conor Mulvihill, Dairy Industry Ireland; Pat McCormack, ICMSA; Joe Healy, IFA; Joe Ryan, Meat Industry Ireland; and Zoe Kavanagh, National Dairy Council

According to the statement, Meat and Dairy Facts aims to “direct consumers towards science-based information about the nutritional benefits of meat and dairy, and the efforts Irish farmers are taking to protect the environment and care for their animals”.

Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia, commented: “The lack of knowledge about the important role that meat and dairy plays in a healthy balanced diet – and about our environmental standards – is creating confusion.”

McCarthy’s point was reiterated by Conor Mulvihill, director of Dairy Industry Ireland, who added: “Meat and dairy are a crucial part of Irish agriculture but, more importantly, they are vital in helping people to obtain the nutritious vitamins and minerals that contribute to good health.”

Among the other key findings of the Red C research are:

  • Almost two-thirds of those surveyed wished they know more about the health benefits of meat and dairy;
  • An impressive 86% believe that grass-based systems are better for animal welfare;
  • 84% believe Government should do more to communicate clear information and facts about the benefits of meat and dairy.

Pat McCormack, president of the ICMSA, highlighted the reduction in the carbon footprint in the last five years of farms involved in the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS) and Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme (SBLAS), and argued: “It’s important that these facts are communicated.”

Joe Healy, the president of the IFA, stressed the need for online resources to tackle “poor information about health claims and the environment”, and said such resources must be “scientifically accurate”.

“Just 13% of the population consume the daily recommended amount of dairy. The fact that so many people believe they should be reducing their intake further demonstrates just how poor the information is,” argued Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the National Dairy Council.

Finally, Joe Ryan, a director at MII, commented saying it was “vital that consumers know the facts” around the environmental and animal health advantages of grass-based systems.