Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Raising Awareness about Nutrition: Dairy and Beef in Nicaragua

Ms. Uribe being interviewed on Nicaraguan television
Alexandra MacMillan Uribe, a Nutrition PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin, traveled to Nicaragua in February 2016 to promote the nutritional value of Nicaraguan beef and milk in the context of a healthy diet to increase awareness and stimulate demand for these products. This was accomplished through several television, radio, and newspaper interviews throughout Nicaragua. Ms. Uribe also trained senior marketing and branding officials at the Nicaraguan Institute for Development (INDE), the Nicaraguan Chamber of the Meat Industry (CANICARNE) and the National Cattleman’s Commission of Nicaragua (CONAGAN) about the nutritional value and potential health benefits of pasture-raised beef and milk.

Reflecting on her media appearances, Ms. Uribe shared: “I was asked many questions about beef and some about milk. I had explained that milk was important because it is a rich source of calcium and most national dietary recommendations, which Nicaragua does not have, recommend between 2 and 3 servings per day.”

“Clear-cut recommendations for beef, however, were much trickier. Beef is an excellent source of iron and a nutrient-rich food but it’s high content of saturated fat, which links high consumption to heart disease, limits the recommendation to a maximum of 2 to 3 90-gram portions per week. The emerging research on the healthy fats found in grass-fed beef complicates matters as the saturated fat in this type of beef may not be linked to heart disease.”

“I was told that Nicaraguan beef was from pasture-raised cattle and, therefore, could contain these nutritional benefits over corn-fed cattle. I was encouraged to talk about these findings for my interviews. However, as I spent more time in the country and talked to more individuals about ranching techniques, the answer became hazier.” Because of certain traditional Nicaraguan practices as well as the composition of local tropical grasses, Ms. Uribe noted that Nicaraguan beef may have a different nutrient profile. In her interviews, she was open and honest about current scientific research and reflects, “I felt invigorated and excited to talk about what I knew."

At the end of the assignment, Ms. Uribe recommended that the hosts obtain an analysis of the fatty acid composition of Nicaraguan pasture-raised beef and milk, ultimately allowing them to candidly market their products’ potential health benefits beyond protein and calcium.

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