New Zealand is conducting a 3-year research about grass-fed, grain-fed meat and alternative proteins

Published 16th September 2021
Why Free Range All Studies Health and Welfare

Most of the global research around the nutritional, environmental and health impacts of producing and consuming red meat has been based on grain-finished cattle. As New Zealand specialises in free-range, grass-fed farming, it was the perfect terrain to conduct a ground-breaking research programme to explore the differences between pasture-raised beef with grain-fed beef and alternative proteins. This 3-year research is scheduled to deliver its first findings in November 2022. 

Exploring the differences between pasture-raised beef with grain-fed beef and alternative proteins

There is a lot of noise out there about the role of red meat and the diet and whether that is good or bad for you, but unfortunately, a lot of that noise is not substantiated by strong science. so we commissioned this research to actually get that credible science, to be able to have an informed conversation about where red meat fits within a sustainable, well-balanced diet and what the health and wellbeing impacts are on people” explained Sirma Karapeeva, Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand Meat Industry Association. 

While the research is commissioned by the meat industry, a large variety of independent researchers, scientists, dietitians and nutritionists from AgResearch, the Riddet Institute and the University of Auckland are taking part in this research. This study is supported by Meat Industry Association Innovation Ltd (MIA Innovation) and jointly funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd (B+LNZ), the High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge and New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Research Partnership Fund.

The first time a trial of this type is conducted

“I think it’s the first time that this particular type of research has been done, directly comparing some meat and in particular pasture-raised meat with a meat replacement, so non-meat meat. They’re a big business but I don’t think there’s really yet the basis of science behind them to understand the implications for our health,” said Dr. Matthew Barnett, Senior Research Scientist at AgResearch Limited.

The research focuses on young adults because that is an age group where they’re potentially thinking about meat alternatives, due partly because of the influence of the social media. This age group is also young enough to adapt and/or change their behaviour in regards of red meat consumption to get the right diet habits to intervene before potential chronic disease sets in. One of the participants in the study, Quintin Smith, explained that what pushed him to participate is that “there is a lot of misinformation out there about red meats alternative proteins, on the internet, it’s really common to have people piping up, almost sharing things without true research-backed opinions. It’s quite easy to fall into that and I think it’s important for people to have the facts out there and the research about consensus around them.”

Analysing the physical effects on the body from eating different foods

Approximately 100 people will be monitored for up to 10 weeks, with a particular focus on the physical effects on the body from eating different foods. Other psychological elements such as satisfaction, sleep and stress levels will also be monitored.

The research will include a large range of science specialities in order to be the most complete as possible. Scientists, food scientists, agricultural scientists, nutritionists and social behaviour scientists will deep into the impacts that red meat consumption within a balanced diet has on not only the health but also the well-being, people’s physiology, moods, satisfaction, sleep patterns, stress. The collected data focus on various responses and figures, such as digestive response, appetite response, protein and amino acids measures, extensive blood lipid profiles, inflammatory response how the participants feel about the meal, whether they like the meal, etc.

Educating people around what a healthy diet is and how meat can be part of that

“We’re trying to focus on educating the participants around what a healthy diet is and how meat can be part of that. We’re not using meat as a singular ingredient or as a singular food product. We’re making meat a part of someone’s complete diet. Par of the research is looking at how can we make sure that people are eating less sugar-sweetened beverages, less takeaway and learning more about how to cook meat, how to cook vegetables, how to included that as part of their diet,” detailed Dr. Rajshri Roy Lecturer and Registered Dietitian from The University of Auckland.

Consumers are making quite a range of ideological decisions about their food in terms of protein and red meat in particular. Consumers are looking for things like environmental impact, animal welfare and they are looking and seeking out products that they believe will be beneficial for their health. Red meat, from my perspective at least, has a role in a well-balanced sustained diet because it does provide those health benefits that consumers are looking for today. New Zealand’s agricultural system or production system also delivers some of those environmental credentials. We have a natural-based farming system, where pastured-raised animals roam freely and enjoy the natural elements that we find in New Zealand’s climate. This research will give consumers the right kinds of information to make informed decisions and to have a very positive eating experience when consuming natural New Zealand grown beef and lamb,” concluded Sirma Karapeeva.

In a nutshell, the study will:

  • Analyse the nutritional makeup of pasture-raised beef, grain-finished beef, and meat alternatives.
  • Explore how the human digestion system responds to the different foods in stage one and how their nutrients are then absorbed by the body.
  • Compare the impact of eating a meal with red meat to a vegetarian meal (this is the first time a trial of this type has been conducted).
  • Observe the impact of eating red meat or vegetarian diets over a sustained period.
  • Investigate the health consequences of eating New Zealand pasture-raised red meat compared with a meat-free diet (this is also the first time a trial of this type has been conducted).

Farming sustainably is at the heart of everything we do. Here at Hustler, our belief in sustainable farming practices, in particular natural pasture grass-feeding, underpins our range of world-leading livestock feeding solutions. The benefits of natural grass-fed livestock are many – from happier, healthier animals and naturally fertilised paddocks through to better tasting meat and dairy.

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