Meat in moderation is still a healthy option. That was the finding of a large-scale review by the British Nutrition Foundation this month.

The paper, snappily titled ‘Healthier and more sustainable diets: what changes are needed in high-income countries?’, looked at 29 scientific papers published over the past decade. It concluded that, while consumption of red and processed meat should be moderated, the “evidence did not suggest the need to cut out meat or other animal-derived foods entirely in order to eat a healthier and more sustainable diet”.

Rather than simply thinking about protein, it was important to “consider the essential nutrients that these foods can provide in the diet” the BNF noted.

It’s an argument the meat and Dairy industry has been making for some time. And one that formed the centre of AHDB’s £1.5m ‘We Eat Balanced’ TV campaign – which today was ruled by the ASA not to be misleading following complaints from vegan groups.

Designed to “remind consumers of the role red meat and dairy play in a balanced diet”, the AHDB ads highlighted the fact meat and dairy contain essential nutrients such as vitamin B12. They also promoted the fact British red meat and dairy production is among the most sustainable in the world.

The ASA received 487 complaints about the ads, with Humane League UK, The Vegan Society, PETA and Viva among the complainants.

However, having reviewed the evidence, the regulator concluded today the ads were fine, and no further action was necessary.

It was, in the words of AHDB chief communications & market development officer Christine Watts, a “landmark ruling”. Not only for British farmers, but for the wider debate around food and farming in the UK.

While it’s unequivocal that we need to eat less meat, switching to a 100% plant-based diet won’t necessarily bring the benefits to health and the environment we crave. Nutrition and sustainability are hugely complex issues and achieving positive long-lasting change requires nuance and debate.

Until relatively recently, the meat sector has been reluctant to enter that debate unless forced to respond to bad press. Hopefully, today’s ruling proves it can and should take a proactive stance, rather than a reactionary one.

British farmers, after all, have better understanding of sustainability and nutrition than they are often given credit for. They have a central role to play in determining what a sustainable food future looks like, alongside campaign groups, scientists, consumers and the wider food sector.

So kudos to AHDB for giving British livestock farmers a voice with its robust and evidence-based campaign. And kudos to the ASA for recognising that moderation matters, even when it comes to something as controversial as meat consumption.