Meat producers as well as meat consumers are a bit perplexed by the recently released report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, proclaiming that processed meat is definitely carcinogenic and red meat most probably so… And the ‘eat less meat’ message is not a welcome one for them.
The report hardly springs any surprises. As far back as 1959, nutritionists Ancel and Margaret Keys had warned consumers to stay away from the saturated fats in beef, pork, lamb, sausages and other processed meats if they wanted to keep heart disease at bay. The evidence has only been building up since then.
In the 70’s scientists started linking the consumption of red meat to colorectal cancer, but were not sure what component in the meat was the real culprit, the fat, saturated fat, protein or carcinogens released by cooking at high temperature.
Dietary guidelines by the mid 90’s focused on promoting lean meat, and by the end of the decade, cancer experts declared red meat as a probable cause of not only colorectal, but breast, pancreas and kidney cancers too.
From a new perspective now, another benefit of eating less meat has come into the limelight. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee declared that eating less meat is not only beneficial for human health, but also boosts the health of our planet. Largely plant-based diets are good for all health concerns — heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes as well as cancers.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting down on meat consumption lessens fossil-fuel demand, reduces our carbon footprint and helps minimize water usage – raising livestock requires huge quantities of water in comparison to growing legumes and vegetables.
IARC strongly recommends that if you can’t do without it absolutely, eat less meat, reserve processed meats for special treats and replace with veggies and legumes for a healthy you, and a healthy Planet Earth.