Higher meat prices, meatless Mondays

Local hog raisers and meat processors are once again at loggerheads over pork supply and rising prices for processed meat products, confusing consumers with their conflicting claims.
The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) warns of a possible spike in prices due to a shortage in meat supply caused by a Department of Agriculture (DA) order that limits importation of meat.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, PAMPI claims that Administrative Order No. 9 restricts the trade and distribution of imported meat, causing a shortage in pork and resulting in higher prices this month.
PAMPI complained that the National Meat Inspection Service, an agency under the DA, implemented the order without consultations with the industry group.

"There is a definite shortage of pork but the NMIS continues to strangle our only other alternative for raw materials - imported pork - by making importation of pork more difficult, and in fact impossible, for new industry entrants," PAMPI said.

PAMPI describes AO No. 9 as "anti-business" for companies involved in food manufacturing and meat processing, as well as import and export. Because of the order, the group claimed, operations of some meat processors have halted, while other companies that depend on meat raw materials have experienced a slowdown in operations.

It also noted that the order prohibits trade and distribution of Indian buffalo meat, which is effectively a technical barrier to trade. Imported buffalo meat is mainly used for canned and frozen corned beef, meat loaf and sausages.

MEATLESS MONDAYS -- The Philippines has one of the lowest per capita intakes of vegetables in the world, at only 39 kilograms (or 86 lbs per person) per year. Filipinos normally consider vegetables as ''food for the poor'' and prefer to eat meat if they can afford it. A worldwide movement to decrease meat intake is fast spreading in the country and could increase vegetable consumption among Pinoys.

Meatless Monday, an international campaign that is fast catching on, encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet.

Founded in the US in 2003, Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns Inc. in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future. The program follows the nutrition guidelines developed by the USDA.

In the Philippines, Meatless Monday is part of the ''Luntiang Lunes'' project founded in July 2011 by neuroscientist Dr. Custer C. Deocaris. ''Luntiang Lunes'' is quickly gaining support from government officials nationwide, beginning with school canteens and cafeterias which have formulated special meatless menus for Mondays.

Quezon City led the initiative in Metro Manila by officially endorsing the Meatless Monday project. The Meatless Monday Memorandum was supported by the Mayor and Vice Mayor of QC, as well as the city Health Department.

Councilor Jessica Castelo Daza began the effort to officially back the campaign, urging Quezon City to protect the health of 11,000 government workers by serving meatless meals in cafeterias of government buildings. According to the official ''Luntiang Lunes'' Facebook page, ''The MOA will pave the way for the passing of the City Ordinance marking QC as the 1st Meatless Monday City in the Philippines.''

Meatless Monday is set to be backed by legislation that would spread the gospel of Meatless Monday in elementary and high schools throughout the Philippines. The bill was filed by Party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, who hopes that meatless meals in the cafeteria and nutrition education in the classroom will encourage students to eat more locally-grown produce.
A quarter of adult Filipinos are hypertensive and seven million are diagnosed with diabetes. Each year, 200,000 Filipinos die of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with heart disease as the leading cause of death. The Meatless Monday website lists health benefits from a diet change.

LIMIT CANCER RISK: Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.

REDUCE HEART DISEASE: Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%.

FIGHT DIABETES: Research suggests that higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

CURB OBESITY: People on low-meat or vegetarian diets have significantly lower body weights and body mass indices. A recent study from Imperial College London also found that reducing overall meat consumption can prevent long-term weight gain.

LIVE LONGER: Red and processed meat consumption is associated with increases in total mortality, cancer mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.

IMPROVE YOUR DIET. Consuming beans or peas results in higher intakes of fiber, protein, folate, zinc, iron and magnesium with lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat.