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Published March 31, 2014, 09:58 AM

Event speaker advocates against ’30 years of misinformation’

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — When Lance Baumgard joined the faculty at the University of Arizona after earning his PhD in animal science, he was inundated with messages from his colleagues in the human nutrition department that “people need to start eating less animal food products.”

By: Julie Buntjer , Forum News Service

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — When Lance Baumgard joined the faculty at the University of Arizona after earning his PhD in animal science, he was inundated with messages from his colleagues in the human nutrition department that “people need to start eating less animal food products.”

The more he heard about meat and animal products being unhealthy, the more he read — and he discovered the messages getting to consumers aren’t necessarily true.

“There’s a pretty strong controversy associated with diet and disease,” Baumgard told attendees of the Nobles County (Minn.) Corn and Soybean Growers banquet March 24 in Worthington.

Baumgard, now an animal science professor at Iowa State University, is a native of southwest Minnesota. He graduated from Sioux Valley-Round Lake-Brewster, attended Worthington Community College and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from the University of Minnesota before advancing to Cornell University to earn his PhD.

While Baumgard rarely has to defend meat consumption in his classrooms at ISU, as an animal science professor he does have to face a general public, hearing messages of unhealthy animal products.

“There’s been this message for so long that animal products and animal fat are unhealthy,” he says. “We’re going against 30 years of misinformation. That’s difficult.”

Baumgard says his objective is to enlighten people about research projects and papers that “simply do not support that hypothesis.”

A 2012 speaker at the Regional Bioscience Conference in Worthington, Baumgard will repeat his presentation during the banquet. Through his research, he will demonstrate how science can be misconstrued.

“For every scientific experience that links animal products and disease, there are at least 10 that don’t,” he says. “The media picks up on those experiments that demonstrate a link and (either) ignore on purpose or aren’t aware of all of the experiments that don’t (demonstrate a link) — and that’s going to be my message.

“Animal food products can play an important role in a healthy diet,” he added.

Baumgard says he will never be able to convince the Michael Pollans (author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma) of the world that animal food products have health benefits, so his message is for those who might be a little confused about what science says.

“If they were provided accurate information, they would probably change their mind,” he said.

Animal rights and animal welfare activities, along with vegetarians, “have ulterior motives,” Baumgard said, and they try to convince the public to eat less meat and milk.

“You have to understand what people’s real motives are when they try to get you to change your diet,” he said.

“We’re all advocates of the industry,” Baumgard said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a corn farmer, your primary customer is the animal producer. We’re all on the same team here.

“The more we’re advocates for animal agriculture, the better,” he added.

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