New Zealanders will be invited to take part in a major research programme to assess the health and well-being benefits of eating pasture-raised beef and lamb, compared to grain-finished meat and plant-based alternatives.

Approximately 100 people will be monitored in two ground-breaking clinical studies, led by researchers from AgResearch, the Riddet Institute and the University of Auckland.

The projects will assess the physical effect on our bodies from eating the different foods for up to 10 weeks, as well as psychological elements, such as satisfaction, sleep and stress levels.

The research team includes meat scientists, agricultural academics, dietitians, behavioural experts and social scientists.

The highlight of the programme, a sustained clinical study, will see members of 40 households on a managed flexitarian dietary regime over 10 weeks. The participants will be monitored over the course of the study and changes in health status, behaviours and attitudes and perceptual well-being recorded.

Senior scientist Dr Emma Bermingham of AgResearch said: “We will carry out an advanced analysis of red meat, looking at its unique components, such as bioactive lipids and minerals, that make red meat such a nutritious form of protein when included as part of a balanced healthy diet.”

Doctors Mike Boland and Lovedeep Kaur, both senior scientists at the Riddet Institute, will demonstrate how the human digestive system responds to the differing food compositions to release the nutritious proteins and lipids for the body to use.

“We will examine how well these three contrasting foods are digested, using gastric simulation techniques,” says Dr Boland.

Dr Andrea Braakhuis, an Academic Director and Research Dietitian at The University of Auckland, and her team will examine how the beneficial lipids and nutrients from a single meal are absorbed and utilised by the body, before moving to the longer 10-week study where health and well-being benefits of red meat as a part of a balanced diet will be the focus for the researchers.

The research is supported by Meat Industry Association Innovation Ltd (MIA Innovation) and jointly funded with Beef + Lamb New Zealand Ltd (B+LNZ), the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Read the full media release.