Protein guidelines and the hidden costs of ‘cheap’ meat

“Cheap protein” sounds like something you buy from a shady character in a raincoat, but it’s right there in the grocery store. The Chicago Tribune reports that in recent years Americans have never paid less for food, with meat singled out as a particularly cheap source of protein.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 46 grams of protein per day for women 19 to 70-plus years old and 56 grams of protein per day for men of the same age. (Read the CDC chart on recommended grams per day by age and sex in “Nutrition for Everyone.”)

But what if you exercise a lot? The American Dietetic Assn. produced an eating-for-endurance profile that recommends .55 to .8 grams per pound (of your body weight) if you are doing light to moderate training and .7 to .9 grams per pound when you have a heavy training load. (Read more at “Eat Right for Endurance.”)

Back to those “cheap” proteins from “factory farms” that work in volume to keep costs low. The story examines the hidden toll associated with this cheap protein -- the cost of healthcare for people who develop heart disease because they can eat more than they need cheaply; the cost of salmonella outbreaks on individuals and the industry as a whole; the cost of subsidized corn and soy feed that artificially keeps prices down; and the list goes on.

Americans already get too much protein in their daily diet, an average of 5.5 ounces from meat, fish, beans and nuts, the story says. “So maybe it’s time to step back and ask if it really needs to be that cheap,” said David Kirby, author of “Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment.” “Maybe we don’t need so much. Maybe we need better-quality animal products in moderation and less regularly.”

Read the full Chicago Tribune story at “The costs of cheap meat: Critics of factory farms say we pay a high price for low-cost food.”

--Mary Forgione