You’ve most likely seen the recent articles claiming the World Health Organization has declared red meat and processed meats to be carcinogenic.  While this is partially true, most of these articles neglected to mention other key facts from the report.  If they bothered to read the full article, they would have seen that “eating red meat has not yet been established as a cause of cancer… the classification (2A) is based on limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer.”

Basically, they compiled the results of over 800 studies and showed that those who ate red meat had higher incidences of colorectal cancer than those who did not.  This correlation did not look into lifestyle factors, such as vegetable and phytonutrient intake, smoking or alcohol consumption or even the type and quality of meat (GMO grain fed vs grass-fed).  We have known for some time that the fatty acid profiles between grain fed and grass fed beef are significantly different, with the former having increased pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids, while grass-fed meat contains more anti-inflammatory Omega-3’s.

Cancer has been virtually nonexistent throughout the history of our ancestors, who survived on wild game (yes, plenty of red meat and healthy fats) and a plant-based diet.  Instead of asking the important question “what have we done to make food so unhealthy, and how can we fix it?”, the media would rather portray an essential part of human nutrition as the vilian.

As for processed meats, I completely agree with the finding that “Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”  Delving into what constitutes processed meats (i.e. hot dogs and nitrate-laden bacon) and explaining the numerous toxic compounds they contain is another post altogether.  We have known for a long time that no one should be eating it, and it is my hope that this classification will help to raise awareness and empower people to make healthier choices in the meat

To summarize, red meat that has come from healthy, pastured animals fed an organic diet of grasses is very nutritious when consumed in moderation.  The GMO grain-fed, antibiotic-loaded trans-fat cows are another story altogether.  So don’t be afraid to eat quality red meat, it has been part of our diet as long as we have been on this earth.  See below for links to some of my favorite pastured meat and wild game suppliers.

Rancho San Julian (Santa Barbara)

Valley Piggery (Santa Barbara)

Eat Wild: Directory of grass-fed farms in California

US Wellness Meats: An Online supplier of quality grass-fed meats

Yours in health,

Dr. Hall