A strong majority of Iowa grocery shoppers see real meat and dairy as healthy food options and say they would increase their consumption of animal proteins to strengthen their immune systems, according to the latest Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index®.

The seventh annual survey was conducted online this fall by The Harris Poll among 510 Iowans ages 20 to 60 with primary or shared household grocery shopping responsibilities.

During a time of heightened awareness about health and wellbeing, the Food and Farm Index found that nearly 9 in 10 Iowa grocery shoppers (87%) said they are likely to purchase food based on its ability to strengthen their immune systems.

The survey revealed 9 in 10 Iowa grocery shoppers see animal-based proteins such as milk (91%) and meat (90%) as healthy options.

After learning that zinc helps immune systems function properly and that meat and poultry provide the majority of the zinc in Americans’ diets, 70% of Iowa grocery shoppers said they are likely to increase their consumption of meat and poultry beyond already robust levels.

Consistent with previous surveys, the Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index found 95% of Iowa households eat meat at least weekly and 96% consume dairy at least weekly.

“Animal proteins — meat, milk and eggs — are ‘complete’ proteins, which means they contain all the required amino acids needed for humans. These foods are also great sources of nutrients that maintain and enhance the immune system such as vitamin B12, iron and zinc, which are not as well absorbed from plant-based foods,” says Dr. Ruth MacDonald, chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. “Having a well-balanced diet is always important, but during high stress times, it’s even more important to ensure the foods we eat are rich in the vitamins, minerals and proteins that support and strengthen our immune system.”

Although plant-based imitation meat options are frequently in the news, 67% of Iowa grocery shoppers said they aren't likely to purchase them in place of real meat.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Food and Farm Index also found: 

• Iowans trust the safety of their food (91% at least some trust) and the farmers who produce it (90%).  

• More than one-half of Iowa grocery shoppers (55%) rank a dietitian/nutritionist as one of their top three most trusted sources for nutritional information. 

• 85% of Iowa grocery shoppers are confident that farmers are caring for their animals responsibly and 75% are confident that farmers are caring for the environment responsibly.  

The latest Environmental Pro­tection Agency (EPA) data backs up environmental efforts made by farmers, showing that agriculture accounts for just 10% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, far less than the transportation (28%), electricity production (27%), industry (22%), and commercial and residential (12%) sectors.

“Iowa farmers strive to provide consumers with a variety of protein options that are not only healthy and fit into a variety of budgets, but are also sustainable,” said Craig Hill, president of Iowa Farm Bureau. “We take great pride in continuously improving how we raise animals for protein in a way that’s compassionate for the animal and our environment.”

For more information about the benefits of real meat, visit www.realfarmersrealfoodrealmeat.com.

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