I’m always skeptical of government-issued dietary guidelines. After all, the CDC is still promoting body mass index (BMI) as a way to “screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems” despite the fact that the measurement is based in racism and pseudoscience. So you can imagine my trepidation when the United States Department of Agriculture released its dietary guidelines for the next four years—guidelines that say infants as young as six months old should be sucking down lean beef.
The USDA released the report in mid-2020; however, news outlets like Amarillo, Texas, station KFDA have just started reporting on the beefy revelation. That’s how I found out about the guidelines, which recommend that parents start incorporating iron-rich foods like lean beef and “organ meats” (chicken liver, etc.) into their children’s diets once they reach the age of six months or so. That’s the point at which the USDA recommends parents start “complementary feeding,” or introducing their infant to foods other than human milk or formula.
Is the USDA in bed with Big Beef? Well, the agency is the government’s agricultural arm, so it’s certainly possible. And recommendations like these are sure to increase demand for beef products. “When you have an agency come out and say it’s good and fundamental that we start incorporating these very nutrient dense protein sources into babies at six months old... you’re going to see parents start feeding their kids [beef] early,” Carmen Fenton, director of communications for the Texas Cattle Feeder’s Association, told Amarillo’s KFDA.
One stipulation: stations like KFDA are reporting that this is the first time the USDA has recommended beef for infants, which isn’t necessarily true. As the Wall Street Journal reports, it’s just the first time the agency has made dietary recommendations for children under two. WSJ also reports that the recommendations have drawn some criticism from organizations like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization that advocates plant-based diets. “There isn’t scientific evidence to suggest somehow infants would be better off consuming meat, seafood, eggs and dairy,” a representative from the organization told WSJ. On that note, it’s probably fine to feed your kid beefy baby food—just take these recommendations with a grain of salt. Beefy salt.