An accusation that beef was the “new tobacco” of the world that caused health issues was flatly rejected by Macra na Feirme president Thomas Duffy.

Duffy was speaking in response to the statement made by Dr Colin Wage, an independent scholar of food systems and sustainability, during a United Nations Food Systems Summit held in the RDS on Tuesday 4 May.

“In reality we know that beef does have a very positive nutritional contribution and it’s a vital source of high-quality iron,” Duffy said.

“But tobacco produces no common good whatsoever and so to compare the two of them is just downright offensive to anyone with any bit of reasonable logic.”

He acknowledged that eating beef in excess could cause harm but pointed out that eating anything in excess caused harm.

Smaller return

He also pointed out that many alternatives that were advocated as more climate friendly than beef gave an even smaller return to the primary producer and said that people needed recognise this in terms of a sustainable food system.

Duffy was speaking as part of a panel discussion made up of Carmel Fox, director of social enterprise and chair of Self Help Africa; Sophie Healy-Thow, youth activist promoting food security and gender equality; and Professor Anna Davies, Trinity College Dublin and SHARECITY. The event was chaired by RTÉ presenter Áine Lawlor.