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Are you getting enough iron? We sure are!

Beef & Lamb NZ is not giving New Zealanders the full picture

Facilitated by Beef & Lamb New Zealand, the Iron Awareness Week campaign draws attention to the issue of iron deficiency. While maintaining a healthy iron level is indeed essential – and although red meat does contain plenty of iron – there are many concerns around red meat, which Beef & Lamb New Zealand is not highlighting.

  • In 2015 the WHO (World Health Organization) classified red meat as group 2A, probably carcinogenic to humans. (Processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans.)
  • Red meat is also a significant source of bad fats (cholesterol, saturated fat).

Worldwide, concerns are rising about the huge environmental costs of red meat production. Last year, we learnt about Wakanui beef’s Canterbury feedlot – contaminating the idea that all cows in NZ have an idyllic life with sparkling blue waters, rolling green hillsides, and fresh sea air. And the horrendous slaughterhouse footage that has been shown in the media in recent years has turned many people off eating meat.

The good news is that there is an abundance of options for plant-based iron-rich foods that are consistent with long-term healthful eating and environmental sustainability. Regular consumption of wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, iron-fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables provides an adequate iron intake.

Studies are showing that vegetarians who eat a varied and well balanced diet are not at any greater risk of iron deficiency anaemia than non-vegetarians.

To raise awareness about healthy iron sources, the NZ Vegetarian Society is inviting vegetarians to participate in the ‘Give Blood on Iron Week’ campaign. We want to show the world that plants contain all the iron we need while doing a good deed at the same time!

NZ Vegetarian Society President Julia Clements says, ‘I have two healthy teenage girls, who are fourth generation vegetarians. They have never had an issue with iron deficiency. They are looking forward to donating blood once they are old enough.’

NZ Vegetarian Society member, Gillian Ward says: “I am a regular blood donor and have recently received a nice back pack as a “thank you” from NZ Blood for giving my 50th donation. It is actually many more donations than this, but their records for Gisborne donors only start from when the blood donor centre moved away from Gisborne Hospital. I have been a vegetarian almost my entire life, and a blood donor since my last year in high school in 1974, with breaks during pregnancy and breast feeding.”

What does iron have to do with donating blood?

Iron is an important part of red blood cells. It is needed to make haemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen around the body and gives blood its red colour. A finger prick test is done before you give each blood donation; it measures the concentration of haemoglobin in your blood to confirm it is in the healthy range required for blood donations.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, you can help by…

  • Giving blood during Iron Awareness Week (26th August- 1st Sept) at your local NZBLOOD donation centre
  • Taking a selfie or ask the nurse to take a photo of you while donating. (Bonus: wear a veg shirt or hold up a veg sign!)
  • Posting your photo this week on social media with #SaveLivesGoVeg #IronAwareness (or send photos to info@vegetarian.org.nz)
  • Making sure the photo is public, so that others can see the great example you’re setting.

If you have any questions, please contact us at info@vegetarian.org.nz.

For media enquiries, please contact trademark@vegetarian.org.nz, 020 4177 2055, or (09) 523 4686.