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  • Real Pork Trust Consortium

The Role of Meat in the Human Diet

Meat, such as this pork steak, has a long historical role in the human diet
Image courtesy of the National Pork Board, Des Moines, Iowa.

Under the scientific guidance of Dr. Pedro Urriola, Assistant Professor of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota, Megan L. Meyer, Communication Assistant and Agricultural Communications student, summarized a 2023 peer-reviewed journal article by Dr. Frédéric Leroy and his colleagues about meat's role in the human diet.

Major Finding

Humans have a long history of consuming meat, spanning over three million years. The nutritional needs of the human brain, which requires high-energy food, and the digestive system, which benefits from low-digestibility foods, support the argument that humans are omnivores. The high protein and fat content found in meat is crucial for overall health and proper bodily function. As human understanding has evolved, it has been recognized that meat provides essential, high-quality protein that is more efficiently utilized by the body when compared to alternative options.

Not all protein sources are equal, and meat stands out as a superior provider, requiring less consumption to meet protein requirements than plant-based protein sources. Meat also significantly contributes to the global nutrient supply, offering essential elements like zinc, vitamin B12, and iron. Restrictions on meat consumption could have global implications, particularly affecting the elderly with potential issues related to bone and cognitive health. Overall cognitive development and the prevention of conditions like anemia are also linked to the vital nutrients supplied by meat. In sum, meat plays a crucial role in human nutrition, providing not only energy but also essential nutrients necessary for optimal health.


Why It Matters

This collection of research implies meat plays a large role in the overall health of the population and the global economy. While some groups are concerned about the impact of meat on environmental and human health, it is important to remember the positive contributions of meat to human nutrition. Considering all the information about meat production and nutrition can help consumers make informed decisions about the impact meat, such as pork, has on their society and their health.


How the Research Was Conducted

Peer-reviewed research on global nutrient supply, human physiology, and nutrient impacts were summarized in the article to answer questions regarding meat as a vital protein source throughout human existence. Researchers sought scientific evidence to understand the nutrients meat provides, its contribution to the global availability of these nutrients across global regions, and the impacts reducing meat would have on human nutrition, specifically in regions with low existing nutrient intake. The findings highlight meat's role in providing nutrients for human health.


Learn More

To learn more about the role of meat in the human diet, read the full peer-reviewed research article.

The Role of Meat in the Human Diet
Download PDF • 200KB


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