Do you know why the American Heart Association is partnering with the beef industry?

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The Beef Board, a USDA-managed checkoff program for marketing beef, proudly announced its new partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA), according to Marian Nestle and her blog Food Politics. Similar to Dairy Management, Inc., the Beef Board gets its money from a tax on cattle ranchers computed every time they sell an animal.

Through the partnership the AHA will put its HeartCheck symbol on three cuts of lean beef: Boneless Top Sirloin Petite Roast (select grade),Top Sirloin Filet (select grade), Top Sirloin Kabob (select grade). We definitely know that there's a financial incentive involved in this partnership, but we're left wondering how much the AHA is getting to throw that symbol around.

"Lean beef helps Americans build a healthy diet and manage their waistline because one three-ounce serving provides 10 essential nutrients for about 154 calories, helping you meet the new Dietary Guidelines," says Cheryl Hendricks, a registered dietitian with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which contracts to manage retail marketing efforts for the beef checkoff. "With today's focus on obesity, lean beef is a solution that satisfies our appetites and provides more nutrients for fewer calories than many other foods."

While lean beef is certainly healthier than regular beef with regards to heart health, the idea that the foremost authority on heart health would enter into a financial partnership with the beef industry and the government's tool for promoting it is somewhat disconcerting.

I've written about the USDA sponsored check off programs before specifically the dairy check off program. Dairy Managment Inc. is funded by the USDA's dairy checkoff, a mandatory 15-cent per hundredweight producer tax (roughly 2-cents per gallon) on all milk domestically produced and marketed commercially.