Meat is on the defensive

August 11, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More

Today I ate and much enjoyed a hamburger for lunch (it was grass-fed beef, the restaurant said).   I eat burgers about once every two weeks, and I eat chicken quite often. Once in a while someone will offer me a processed meat like hot dogs or bacon, and eat that sort of food about once a month.  I don’t buy pork or order it at a restaurant, but if it is offered to me by a host, though, I will gladly eat it. Two years ago I decided that pork would be a meat that I didn’t eat, after seeing and hearing a truck full of squealing pigs being taken to slaughter in the middle of Springfield, Illinois.  I eat fake meat about once per week: I typically use the popular brands of veggie burgers and fake sausage sold at the grocery story (such as Morningstar’s “burger” patties and “sausage” links).  If you haven’t seen these products cooked up, here are some photos.

At bottom, I enjoy eating meat, but I’m an ambivalent meat eater, and that ambivalence has been made all the worse with two recent articles I’ve recently read. One of the articles is by Neal Barnard, M.D., who brings this bad news:

At least 58 scientific studies have looked at the issue, and the jury has rendered its verdict, which is now beyond reasonable doubt. The more hot dogs people eat, the higher their risk of colorectal cancer. And it’s not just hot dogs. Any sort of processed meat — bacon, sausage, ham, deli slices — is in this group. And here are the numbers: Every 50 grams of processed meat you eat on a daily basis (that’s about one hot dog) increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. And just as there is no safe level of smoking, no amount of hot dogs, bacon, sausage, ham or other processed meats comes out clean in scientific studies.

I’d like to know more about this study, but if this is accurate, it gives me serious pause about eating hot dogs and other processed food.

The other bad news comes from the Environmental Working Group, which warns of the harsh environmental impact of eating meat. Check out the damage caused by meat-eating in the at-a-glance brochure. There is a lot more information here. These brochures also mention studies indicating that high rates of meat eating are associated with high rates of cancer and heart disease.

If you’d like to take the first step to cut back on meat eating for yourself and for the planet, here’s an easy way to start: Meatless Mondays.



Category: Food, Health, Medicine

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Every couple of years some hyped study declares that people who eat X benefit/suffer from specific effects. For example: Olive oil, red wine, fish oil, soluble fiber, vitamin C, pomegranates, meat…

    Each time I notice that the people who tend to eat the most of each of these items also share many other demographic characteristics, like location, economic level, education, etc.

    In this case, I would suspect (without even pretending to read the study) that the people who eat the (cheaper) ultra processed meats also eat many other bad things and fewer good things. Such as canned versus versus fresh vegetables. Or pork rinds versus whole grain snacks. Canned corn syrup (sodas, Sunny D, Country Time, box “juices”, etc)) versus water or actual lemonade.

    • Jim Razinha says:

      I only pay attention to the studies that say chocolate and coffee are good. But after today’s cholesterol news, I have to make another adjustment…I’m already eating lean meat when I eat it at all…

      Van Jones talks about the vicious cycle of unhealthy foods being the most affordable. Vicious cycle.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Jim: May your latest adjustment pay substantial dividends.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    There is a study out that links red unprocessed meat to type 2 diabetes. I suspect that there are other factors contributing to meat related chronic disease.

    First, factory farming rechniques requires unnaturally large additives to the feed to increase production and fend of diseaases (at least long enough to get the meat to market). Two major additives are antibiotics, and hormones. These additives are passed to the consumers in the meat and its by products. Many hormones are known carcinogens

    Second, about half the vaccines on the market are made from virii cultured in meat extracts. It is possible to grow the vaccine culture in a synthetic medium, but the meat industry by products are a bit cheaper.

    What makes this problematic is that the resulting vaccine contains protein fragments from the growth medium, and can sensitize the immune system to the meat as well as the virus. A simple way to avoid this is to use a culture medium that is does not contain components from common food sources.

    It has been recognized for many years that type 2 diabetes is related to the immune system.

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