Northern Ireland adults eating the wrong quantities of beef

3 March, 2008. A review of the beef food chain on the island of Ireland has revealed that men are eating too much beef and that women are eating too little. The review undertaken by safefood also highlights that consumers have enhanced confidence in the beef food chain on the island and the industry enforcement controls that are in place.

Martin Higgins, Chief Executive, safefood commented: “This review highlights that while beef remains extremely popular and that three out of four people2 on the island eat it regularly, the average portion size consumed during a meal is 100g with men consuming more than women. This intake far exceeds health professional guidelines of 57g in a single portion of lean, red meat. Furthermore, our review reveals that young women and children could benefit from including more beef in their diet as it is an excellent source of iron and can help with boosting low iron levels”.

Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood added, “Consumers, particularly men, with high consumption levels of beef are less likely to include the other elements essential to a balanced diet  and are more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Reducing beef intake to recommended levels and enjoying fresh, leaner cuts of meat instead of processed varieties like burgers can help with their long-term health”.

“For women, including more beef in their diets is advised as research shows 40% of those aged between 19 and 34 years have iron intakes below recommended levels3. Beef is an excellent source of iron, easily absorbed by our bodies and very palatable”, continued Dr. Foley-Nolan.

safefood is concerned that too much of children’s meat consumption in Northern Ireland may be from processed varieties which are higher in salt and fat and lower in nutrients when compared to lean red meat4. Whether it’s a beef stir fry with vegetables or a bolognaise with peppers and pasta, including more lean meat varieties in children’s diets can help with lowering their intake of salt and saturated fat while also increasing their consumption of vegetables at the same time”, she added. 

This review is the latest in a series by safefood which examines how food is produced, processed, sold and consumed on the island of Ireland and includes research into consumers’ awareness and perceptions of nutrition and food safety issues surrounding beef. Previous reviews have looked at the chicken, finfish and fruit and vegetable food chains.


For further information please contact

Kathy Doyle / Leanne McCarroll   Fiona Gilligan/Dermot Moriarty
SMARTS     safefood
Tel: 028 90395500    Tel: +353 (0) 1 4480600

Editor’s Notes

  1. A Review of the Beef Food Chain; safefood (2006)
  2. Safetrak 7 Consumer Tracking Research; safefood/Amarach (2006)
  3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Adults aged 19 to 64, Volume 5 2004 - A survey carried out in Great Britain on behalf of the Food Standards Agency and the Departments of Health by the Office for National Statistics and Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research”
  4. 34% of girls and 13% of boys aged 5-12 years don’t have enough iron in their diets - National Children’s Food Survey; Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (2005)