With reports in the media suggesting young women are at risk of anaemia, Quality Meat Scotland’s Mairi Sutherland speaks to Alex Black about what she is doing to inspire people to eat red meat.
Educating the public on the health benefits of eating red meat is ‘very important’ when it comes to improving body image and confidence of young women, according to new Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) health and education executive Mairi Sutherland.
It follows warnings from nutrition experts that women in particular were in danger of developing iron deficiencies due to not eating enough red meat, which could lead to breathlessness, fatigue, headaches and hair loss.
“Recent reports of increased iron deficiency and anaemia in young people are deeply concerning,” said Ms Sutherland, who joined the levy board last month.
“For active children, it is crucial to have a nutritious and balanced diet to keep energy levels up.”
Red meat plays a vital role in helping the formation of red blood cells, which allows oxygen to circulate around the body.
Ms Sutherland said: “Iron is also essential in allowing the immune system to function at its best and aids energy metabolism.
“For young people especially, iron plays a significant role in cognitive development and is essential for growth and repair. Red meat has a rich and natural iron source which can be easily absorbed by our bodies.”
Having worked with young women in the Girl Guides for several years, Ms Sutherland said they were ‘very influenced’ by what they saw in the media.
She said: “It is therefore important to educate everyone, not just young women, to encourage a much more positive body image, as well as a healthy lifestyle.”
Dr Emma Derbyshire, nutritionist at Nutritional Insight, warned people were receiving mixed messages, with Government guidelines encouraging people to eat less red meat.
She said: “One-size-fits-all guidelines to reduce red meat intakes do not help women who are already short in iron, especially if they are of childbearing age.
“Lean red meat is an important source of haem iron for these women. Unfortunately, while leafy green vegetables do contain iron, this is non-haem iron, which is not as well absorbed as the form found in red meat.”
While lamb and pork are good sources of iron, beef is the ‘reddest meat’ and has the highest amount of iron.
Ms Sutherland was looking to inspire young women and the general public about the role red meat has to play ‘in keeping you feeling great’.
She said: “I think it is really important to learn good eating habits as early in life as possible and encourage people to sit down together round the table, as well as cooking together.”
Ms Sutherland denied the industry had been too reactive: “Quality Meat Scotland is proactively working year-round to communicate the importance of a healthy balanced diet and red meat’s role.”
She highlighted the work QMS had done in schools, offering cooking demonstrations and education sessions and showing career opportunities within the industry.
She added QMS had also worked with high profile athletes as ambassadors, including Olympic gold medallists, footballers and rugby players.
AHDB had also started a campaign to encourage people to eat five portions of red meat a week, in a similar style to the campaign of five-a-day for fruit and vegetables.