Tag Archives: Meat

When writing a weekly column, it’s tempting to toss red meat to the readers rather than dig into more complicated issues. For once, the latest scientific news is providing an opportunity to do both at the same time.

 

The scientific journal Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a major series of studies about red meat consumption. The authors found that current scientific evidence is too weak to justify telling people to eat less red meat.

 

The response was immediate and furious from groups devoted to eliminating animal agriculture. For years they have leaned on anti-meat recommendations to cloak their true agenda in the language of human health. The groups’ real goals are pushing radical animal rights and remaking the world economy under the guise of climate change prevention.

 

The studies’ data found only minuscule support for lowering red meat consumption. Eating three fewer servings per week might reduce a person’s chance of a heart attack by 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent and chances of cancer by 0.7 percent. The studies found no effect whatsoever on breast, colorectal, esophageal, gastric, pancreatic or prostate cancer, overall deaths or deaths resulting from heart disease. Even these minor statistical blips might be attributable to other traits like income level, education level or exercise frequency.

 

The authors found the evidence was too weak to recommend that individuals radically change their diets. They noted that people’s tastes and preferences should matter in health recommendations. Americans enjoy meat and meat dishes. They are an integral part of our culture and have been for generations. This is and should be relevant to dietary recommendations.

 

If the movement to eliminate meat was really about these tiny health concerns, the massive effort required to change American culture would simply not be worth it. But the movement to end meat consumption was never just about health concerns. Much of the rage has instead focused on radical animal rights beliefs or the alleged environmental harm caused by cattle production.

 

The “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine” (PCRM) is actually an Orwellian-named radical vegan advocacy group. PCRM spends over $15 million a year on efforts to end animal agriculture. It has invested nearly 35 years and countless millions of dollars in pushing this agenda. PCRM was so afraid of letting Americans see the results of these scientific studies, it filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission seeking a gag order to keep the journal from even publishing them.

 

Americans should be trusted to make their own choices about how they want to live, what news to read, and what food to eat. If living an enjoyable life actually adds a tenths-of-a-percent risk of disease, we should be allowed to make that choice. And when the proof of even these tiny risks is this weak, public health authorities have no business sticking their noses in our food.

Health news that’s bound to get bacon lovers’ attention is also stirring controversy in the medical community.

After years of warnings about the potential harms of red meat and processed meat, including links to cancer and heart disease, a panel of experts from seven countries on Monday said people don’t need to cut down on their current consumption of products like ham, sausage, luncheon meat and bacon.

The recommendations, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, were made by nutriRECS, a consortium of experts that describes its mission as producing trustworthy nutritional guidelines “based on the values, attitudes and preferences of patients.”

The new guidelines come after reviews of previous research on how eating red meat and processed meat affected the risk of disease. Canadian, Spanish and Polish researchers said they found anywhere from no, to a very small, to a small association between meat consumption and the risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

People in North America and Western Europe eat two to four servings of red and processed meat per week on average, the authors noted. They suggested adults could continue to eat at their current levels, unless they felt compelled to make a change.

In response, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission on Monday to “correct false statements” contained in the report, calling it “a major disservice to public health.”

A headline that suggested people who eat abundant amounts of meat will enjoy good health and need not change their habits was inaccurate, the group of 12,000 physicians noted.

A more precise summary of the research would be: “Modest reductions in meat intake yield uncertain benefits,” wrote Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in a letter to the editor in chief of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The letter was signed by members of several respected medical societies, including the Harvard School of Public Health.

China has recently been buying a lot of meat. The Wall Street Journal says their recent purchases are pushing up the prices of beef, pork, and poultry around the globe.

Meat buyers are increasing their activity after African Swine Fever hit the country hard and reduced the size of the world’s largest pig herd by more than a third. Domestic pork prices have jumped in China and meat imports are rising in response and placing a strain on global meat supplies. For example, Brazil poultry shipments to China have jumped 31 percent compared to last year.

Retail prices for chicken breasts, thighs, and legs have increased roughly 16 percent. European meat buyers are paying five percent more for pork because more of their domestically produced supplies are heading to China. American shoppers haven’t felt the impact yet, but that may change.

Futures prices recently rose after Chinese officials say the country could exempt some U.S. pork and other agricultural goods from punitive tariff increases. Many American meat companies have watched as European and South American competitors have raced each other to supply China’s pork needs.