Knowledge for better food systems

China’s new dietary guidelines encouraging citizens to eat less meat

In their latest dietary guidelines, the Chinese government recommends a slightly lower meat intake than it did in its previous 2007 guidance.


Environmental commentators have noted that this change in recommendations (if followed) could potentially benefit the environment as well as people’s health. International NGO WildAid is now working with the Chinese Nutrition Society to promote the recommendations by, for example, creating billboards featuring celebrities and other public figures that advertise main messages from the guidelines.

In a new blog-post for the FCRN, Lucy Luo from the organisation JUCCCE comments on these new dietary guidelines, what they actually recommend and her views on their potential for helping shift diets in China in a more healthy and sustainable direction. 

Source: Chinese Nutrition


Source: Chinese Nutrition Society

However, the difference with the earlier guidelines is small – leaving the upper recommended limit at 75g of meat a day, and only reducing the lower value from 50 to 40g a day, with a maximum total intake of 200g for fish, dairy and meat. Dairy intake recommendations remain the same.

The important thing to note, however, is that the Government’s dietary recommendations do not match with general consumption patterns. Current average meat consumption in China is far higher than either the old or the new dietary guidelines recommend and growing. Average daily meat and dairy consumption in China is estimated to be more than 300 grams per day, with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projecting sharp increases in the number over the coming decades. Adherence with the new (and similarly the old) dietary guidelines would therefore entail a substantial average decrease in meat consumption.

Read articles on this issue from the Washington Post here and from the Guardian here.

You can read the FCRN’s overview on China’s changing food system Appetite for Change, here.

More relevant resources can be found in the RL category on Governance and policy, the category with resources relating to Asia, and keyword categories dietary guidelines, food and agriculture policy. You can also see the results list for a general search on ‘China’.

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Asia is Earth's largest and most populous continent. It hosts many densely populated and large cities as well as enormous barely populated regions, which all together host over half of the human population. Agriculture as a source of income is of major importance in the region. In most Asian countries, agriculture is the biggest user of water and in some regions can be responsible for to 90% of total water consumption through irrigation.

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