This week, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report describing the dangers of eating red meat as cancer causing. This report is seriously damming to the meat industry and has caused people to start talking about food and nutrition. The more we talk about food, the better, we need to be eating consciously and really considering the affect every thing we eat has on us, our bodies and the planet. However, is this report as accurate as it is made out to be?
To be honest, I remember a similar report probably 4 or 5 years ago that argued some of the same things. Unfortunately, time has not made those undertaking the report any smarter than they were before. A fundamental flaw in the article is that they have grouped ALL red meat (think steak) and processed meat (think sausages) as one. Anyone who has any basic knowledge of food knows that they are not even remotely similar, so the WHO putting them into the same bracket is mind numbing. Do you really think sausages, meatballs and hamburgers are comparable to organic, grass fed steak?
A quick look at Wikipedia tells us the following for ‘sausage’:
“There are various laws concerning the meat content of sausages in the UK. The minimum meat content to be labelled Pork Sausages is 42% (30% for other types of meat sausages), although to be classed as meat, the Pork can contain 30% fat and 25% connective tissue.”
Let’s just reiterate that again. A sausage can be labelled as a ‘pork sausage’ when it has just 42% PORK meat in it. Of this ‘meat’, the pork can contain 30% fat and 25% connective tissue.
The only ingredient in steak is ‘beef’! The only way to be sure about what you are eating and what is going into your body is by paying attention and reading the nutritional labels that are on all products in the UK.
The ‘non-meat’ part of a sausage for example will generally be fillers, binders and other additives. They are cheap, bulk out the meat and help preserve it for longer. This makes them ideal for sales in large supermarkets where they do not require good storage conditions or fast consumption. A product which lasts for weeks or even months on the shelf, does that sound like it would be any good for your body? No wonder there is a correlation to bowel cancer. If your body is unable to break down the meat, it is the bowel where they will end up, rotting away.
The WHO also fails to separate traditional methods of processing meat from modern manufacturing methods. Naturally salted, smoked or cured meat is done so with natural ingredients which have helped maintain food resources for generations of families for millennia. The difference today is that our meat is not cured naturally; we add artificial ‘smoky’ flavours, sugars, and chemicals instead. These speed up the curing process and make it more ‘reliable’ for the producer. But the impact on our bodies is radically different.
Association or causation, this is where statistics and analysis of information come into play. Is the association between increased processed meat and cancer caused by the processed food and red meat or are there other contributing factors which are the cause? The baseline for consumers of processed meat show that they are less active, have a higher BMI, are THREE times more likely to smoke, and almost TWICE as likely to have diabetes. This is without considering the other foods a consumer of processed meat is likely to be eating. High and frequent processed meat consumption is a marker of an unhealthy person, but not necessarily a maker of an unhealthy person.
As consumers, we need to educate ourselves and start reading the labels of what we are eating. Processed foods are hard on the body, containing ingredients our bodies were never designed to deal with and are difficult to break down. The more natural foods we eat, the better. Reading into the WHO report further, link between red meat and cancer is tenuous at best. Instead of focusing on all the cancer causing foods, maybe we need to start educating people, make them aware of what they are actually eating. A cheap sausage is not equal to a good quality steak. That hamburger patty with 40% meat is not a real food item, it is a meat ‘product’ and you probably serve better food to your dog.
Red meat does have its benefits. Beef is one of the highest sources of protein you can find which is essential for repairing and rebuilding your muscles. It is also very high in iron, which is a vital component of red blood cells. Iron deficiency is an important consideration for women, and causes low energy levels, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and pale complexion.
Let’s stop making food complicated and instead of scaring people with shock tactics and actively trying to confuse them, let’s start highlight what people should be eating.
Increase your consumption of good quality products - fresh meats, full fat dairy, vegetables, fruit, raw nuts and seeds. Remove the processed rubbish. Less food from out of a packet and more food out of the ground.
Think back to what your grandmother or great grandmother ate, if she wouldn’t recognise what you are about to eat as food, STOP eating it. It’s time to wise up and stop being taken for a ride by the media.
What do you think about processed meats? Do you stay away from red meat and if so, why? Share this article and check out our other social media channels below!