contributor: Charlotte Rommereim, RDN, pig farmer
Protein, sustainability, animal welfare and antibiotics are all topics in the marketplace today with various “experts” providing their opinion. Leading the conversation with the positive message: doing the right thing for people, pigs and the planet was the objective for the National Pork Board’s (NPB) sponsorship at FoodFluence 2018 in Lisbon, Portugal January 12-16.
FoodFluence is an invitation-only food and nutrition thought-leadership conference for registered dietitians (RDs). Thirty-two RDs were selected to attend because of their broad reach to consumers through traditional publications and social media channels. Many of these professionals appear on major television networks or host their own television shows, podcasts or blogs. Other attendees work as nutrition editors or contributors for major publications such as U.S. News and World Report, Cooking Light, The New York Times and Shape magazine.
I spoke on behalf of NPB and America’s pig farmers about the animal agriculture story to address RD concerns regarding sustainability, animal welfare and responsible antibiotic use. The top six points I walked away with underscore why it’s important to be present at these events.
1. The right source for information
Because this conference is designed to address food and nutrition communicators’ concerns, it’s encouraging that they want to hear the agriculture message from organizations such as the Pork Checkoff that represent the farmers rather than those with an agenda that isn’t favorable to all types of animal agriculture. Farmer-led organizations need to be present to add to the conversation about food.
2. Science and the story of pig farmers
Evaluating articles, research and information that is science-based to establish the right message for education about a healthy diet pattern is the RD’s job. Because of this experience, the RD audience is more receptive to the science and technology of agriculture. It is noted that dietitians are like most people with no connection to agriculture. They have the same concerns, fears and potential for misinformation as any person who is far removed from agriculture. We need to continue to tell the story of pig farming along with the science of today’s agriculture, so the RD can communicate an accurate story about pork.
3. Healthy diet patterns can include meat
In presentations about plant-based foods, one might anticipate it would include an anti-meat message. However, the information presented and the conversations that followed suggested the message about including more plant-based foods in the diet is not at the exclusion of meat. NPB-sponsored research indicates Americans choosing to include pork in their diet are consuming the proper amount. Americans are not, however, consuming the recommended amounts of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables and grains) so the message continues to be, “include more plant-based foods in the diet.” Even RDs who choose to adopt a vegetarian diet pattern themselves will include lean meats as a choice in a healthy diet pattern in their education to consumers, patients and clients.
4. Pork’s sustainability
Sustainability of foods included in healthy diet patterns is important to RDs who feel a responsibility to promote healthy diets that are also good for the environment. Sustainability is not easily defined and often is defined at the whim of the company or organization presenting information. The Pork Checkoff has research that tells the story of pig farmers’ sustainability efforts through decreased land and water use and decreased carbon footprint when compared to 50 years ago. There is a bias towards plant-based diets being more sustainable; future research may need to highlight the sustainability of healthy diet patterns including meat.
5. Enjoy your food
RDs, of course, want everyone to follow a healthy diet pattern, but this is only as a part of the enjoyment of food. Honoring the culture and food choices of individuals is integral to healthy eating. A Portuguese specialty “black pork tenderloin” prepared for our final evening meal honored the culture of our lovely location in Lisbon, Portugal. Pork’s tasty contribution to a nutritious diet was enjoyed by all.
6. Expanding communication through education and relationships
Some of the food and nutrition communicators expressed a desire to assist in communicating the message of agriculture and honoring the farmer. The RD participants at FoodFluence are trusted communicators in the food and nutrition conversation. Nurturing relationships, sharing information and hosting farm tours will build allies in telling the story about what America’s pig farmers are doing for people, pigs and the planet.
Charlotte Rommereim is a consultant dietitian to healthcare facilities in southeastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa with experience in long-term care facilities, critical access hospitals and assisted living centers. She provides diabetes education through American Diabetes Association recognized programs and has a Certificate in Adult Weight Management. Charlotte is the Agriculture subgroup chair on the executive committee for the Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is past chair of the National Pork Board’s Pork Safety, Quality, and Human Nutrition committee. With her unique perspective as a dietitian who understands the agriculture industry, she has been a resource for the National Pork Board as a speaker and participant at the Registered Dietitian Summit at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone and has hosted an RD Farm Tour event on her farm. Charlotte has been a previous FoodFluence speaker sponsored by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA). Charlotte encourages conversations about how food is raised and speaks from her perspective of living “farm to fork.” She has provided countless hours in speaking engagements, media interviews and farm tours for the South Dakota Soybean Association “Hungry for Truth” initiative, South Dakota Pork Producers, South Dakota Common Ground and Agriculture United for South Dakota. She was chosen for a Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group/Academy Foundation Speaker Grant and will be bringing her message to the Ohio Academy affiliate meeting in 2018. Charlotte and her husband are the fifth generation on their family farm where they raise pigs, cattle, corn and soybeans.