Dairy, beef industries respond positively to new USDA dietary guidelines

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
Secretary Perdue drinks a glass of milk after a toast to the dairy industry.

The US Department of Agriculture has released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, which offers guidance on healthy eating for Americans of all ages.

The guidelines have been recently updated to include information for infants, toddlers and pregnant women for the first time. The edition overall was in development since 2019 by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, with input from the public and federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services.

A press release said the guidelines are "steeped in scientific evidence" to guide Americans on making the right choices for their health. While the guidelines have not significantly changed, they do heavily address alcohol and added sugar consumption by asking Americans to limit their intake of both in order to stay healthy.

"At USDA and HHS, we work to serve the American people – to help every American thrive and live healthier lives through access to healthy foods and providing nutrition recommendations," said USDA secretary Sonny Perdue. "With the release of the dietary guidelines, we have taken the very important step to provide nutrition guidance that can help all Americans lead healthier lives by making every bite count."

The slogan "Make Every Bite Count" asks people to stick to a healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods that meet food group needs – grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy (or soy alternative) and proteins. It also emphasizes sticking to a calorie restriction and limiting or altogether avoiding saturated fats and sodium along with added sugars and alcohol.

The guidelines will also be used for federal food programs, like school meal programs and supplemental programs for low-income families, and provide guidance to health professionals and lawmakers. 

The National Dairy Council applauded the USDA for keeping dairy an important part of the American diet. They said the inclusion of low-fat and fat-free dairy is important for staying healthy and preventing chronic disease, like diabetes and heart disease. The NDC was one of the many groups to offer public comments to the USDA throughout the revision process.

"At a time when affordable nutrition has never been more important to our nation, dairy foods, including lactose-free varieties, are a highly nutritious and accessible option that can help fill important nutrient gaps and support overall well-being," said NDC president Jean Ragalie-Carr. "We’re pleased to see dairy consumption recommended for its contributions to healthy dietary patterns based on the scientific evidence."

"USDA missed newest science"

Brody Stapel

Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative president Brody Stapel said he appreciates the USDA's inclusion of dairy in their dietary guidelines, but expressed disappointment that the agency seemed to miss the newest science on dairy, calling on Congress to increase the dairy options for students in schools.

"Unfortunately, the agencies and scientific review committee missed an opportunity to address and include the newer, available science on the nutritional benefits from fuller-fat dairy and a wider array of products," Stapel said. "The DGA directs important nutritional and feeding programs in our schools and our communities, like the school lunch program. The lack of recognition of the nutritional benefits from fuller-fat dairy in the new guidelines will continue to hinder the availability of these food options in our schools."

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said they are glad the USDA is recognizing the importance of lean beef in a healthy diet. They said beef is nutrient-dense, providing protein, iron, zinc and choline all in one three-ounce serving.

"Beef is one of Americans' favorite foods, and science consistently shows lean beef can be the cornerstone in a variety of healthy diets," said NCBA president Marty Smith. "Now more than ever, the key to proper nutrition is giving people practical and realistic advice, to help create balanced diets that work for them – featuring foods they love, like beef, which pairs perfectly with other nutrient-rich foods."