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World Health Organisation, meat & cancer

Today, 26th October 2015, the World Health Organisation declared the consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans, based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans” and declared processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” The red meat association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer.

The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.”

From the headline “carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat”, we’re already down to colorectal (bowel) cancer and “probably”.

The press release is here. The Lancet article is here or here (it may not be on open view for long).

So do we need to stop eating red meat and/or processed meat? Let’s dissect the headline more accurately:

1) Where this data comes from

The gold standard of evidence is a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials – pooling together studies where an intervention was matched against a control group to see what impact A had on B. As far as I am aware, no intervention studies have ever been done testing the impact of 50 grams of processed meat per day as an isolated intervention, or any amount of processed or red meat as a sole intervention for that matter.

We are thus looking at observational studies. This is where a large group of people (e.g. the Nurses’ Health Study or the Health Professionals Follow-up Study) are asked loads of questions and given health tests (blood pressure, weight, height, cholesterol ho ho etc) at the start of the study. This is called the baseline. These people are then followed for years to see what conditions they go on to develop.

Researchers then look at the data to try to see patterns. No pattern = no journal article, so look hard! They may observe a pattern between people who consume processed meat and people who go on to develop bowel cancer. This is then reported in a journal article and it is all such articles that have been reviewed by the World Health Organisation.

The first point to make, therefore, is that all of this is based on notoriously unreliable dietary questionnaires. Many ask what you ate yesterday or over the past 7 days. Here’s the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer questionnaire, one of the best possible questionnaires, as it asks for food intake over the past year. How accurate do you think yours would be?

2) One’s diet vs. one food

By singling out red meat/processed meat in this way, the whole diet and lifestyle of a person is not taken into account. There is a world of difference between the health of a burger/hot-dog/ketchup/white bun/fizzy drink guzzling couch potato and a grass-fed-steak eating/CrossFit/six-pack Paleo specimen.

As I showed in this blog, the baseline for the processed meat eaters showed that they were far less active, had a higher BMI, were THREE TIMES more likely to smoke and almost TWICE as likely to have diabetes. This makes processed meat a MARKER of an unhealthy person, not a MAKER of an unhealthy person.

Even if all the smoking/exercise/other conditions baseline factors are adjusted for, there is no possibility of adjusting for all the dietary factors that make up the couch potato vs. the Paleo buff. The whole diet is not adjusted for when the one line (meat) is targeted.

3) Real food vs. processed food

I’m a real foodie. I pretty much spend my life writing and talking about real food and the nutrition it contains. I am the first to say “Do eat real food; don’t eat processed food” and I include processed meat as processed food – something to avoid. However, this WHO report describes processed meat as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.”

As Peter Cleave, Surgeon Captain, (1906-1983) said: “For a modern disease to be related to an old fashioned food is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever heard in my life.” To think that real meat, or meat preserved in natural ways, is bad for us is ludicrous. 1) You’d have to explain how we survived the past 3.5 million years, since Australopithecus Lucy first walked upright; especially how we survived the ice age(s). 2) You’d have to explain why all the nutrients we need to live (essential fats, complete protein, vitamins and minerals) are found in meat if it were trying to kill us at the same time.

Meat needed to be naturally preserved with salting, curing, drying, smoking etc or we would have needed to binge on the kill and risk dying of starvation before the next kill. The WHO report should have separated traditional ways of preserving meat from modern manufactured processing (where sugars and chemicals are added – just read the label). Similarly – if there is any harm in red meat, it will be because manufacturers have got involved and fed the poor animals grains, which they cannot digest and then pumped them with drugs to medicate the resulting illness. (Chris Kresser presents the view on nitrates here, if you’re interested).

This should be a call to action to get back to your butcher, know him/her by name, know where your meat comes from, know how s/he prepares bacon & hand-made sausages and enjoy the health benefits of real food while supporting the grafters who provide it.

4) Association vs. causation

Even allowing for the weakness of observational studies, and the unreliability of dietary questionnaires, and the notion that food consumption can be a marker not a maker of health, and the whole dietary intake that has not been taken into account and the ignorance of the chasm between real and processed food, this is still association, not causation.

I always wish that these huge and expensive studies would ask what colour socks the participant is wearing. I bet I could find an association between red sock wearing and one type of cancer if I looked hard enough. Would the headline be red socks cause cancer?!

5) Relative vs. absolute risk

The press release headlines with “each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.” Crikey. 18%! Put that bacon sarnie down now (see – don’t blame the bacon for what the white bread & ketchup did!) This, however, is the game that all of these observational study research press releases play and it’s disgraceful scare-mongering.

Shall we look at the absolute risk?

Cancer Research UK has terrific statistics on all types of cancer. I’ve just looked at the UK. They do have data for other countries if you want to do your own rummage. The incident rate for all people in the UK, age-standardised (you pretty much won’t see bowel cancer before the age of 50 – look at the age data), in 2011 was 47 per 100,000 people.

47 per 100,000 people.

You would need to know 2,128 people, including enough older people, to know 1 person who developed bowel cancer in the UK in 2011.

Now – let’s do that relative vs. absolute risk thing.

Assuming that everything the WHO did had been perfect and that there really was an 18% relative difference between those having 50g of processed meat a day and those not (and assuming that nothing else was impacting this), the absolute risk would be 51 people per 100,000 vs. 43 people per 100,000.

Now where’s the bacon and egg before my CrossFit session?!

The likely harm of this report:

The Lancet article does at least have the decency to mention the nutritional value of red meat: “Red meat contains high biological value proteins and important micronutrients such as B vitamins, iron (both free iron and haem iron), and zinc.” That’s still a bit of an understatement. Try both essential fats; complete protein; and the vitamins and minerals needed for life and health.

What will be the consequences of this report scaring people away from real meat? It takes approximately 250g of sirloin steak to get the daily 10mg of zinc; over a kilo of the same steak to get the recommended daily iron requirement – and in the right form for the body. How about over 20 eggs to get the same iron intake? Still in a useful form to the body. Or 4.5 kilos of brown rice to get iron in the wrong form for the body?

What do I take from this report? There is a heck of a lot of bad science coming out the World Health Organisation, an organisation that should know better, but then there have previous cases of not knowing better.

Nothing has changed from my fundamental belief that human beings should eat real food (especially grass-fed, naturally reared meat and naturally preserved meat). Avoid processed food, including meat processed by fake food companies. And take every observational study that doesn’t know these five points above with a hefty pinch of salt.

167 thoughts on “World Health Organisation, meat & cancer

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  • This comment is coming much after the time you wrote the great article above. I keep seeing over and over again (including from the Whole30 people) that we should consume meat portions that are the size of our palm. You’ve stated above how much red meat we need to eat in order to get the optimal amount of iron etc. I find this all confusing! How do we eat enough to get the nutrients we need? Thanks!

    • Hi Patricia – that’s the key question! I’ve analysed the menu plans recommended by government and they are woefully deficient in vital nutrients. If you look at National food intake data (Family Food Survey in the UK), there are tables that document these nutrient deficiencies and still they do nothing.

      We have a tracker in our club that members often use ( – you can enter what you eat any day (most people eat very similarly from day to day) and see if you’re getting all the nutrients needed (bearing in mind that the recommended daily allowances won’t be evidence based either – just the best guide we have). We can then see, for example, we’re low in vit E and sprinkle some sunflower seeds on meals. Individual are having to take their health into their own hands because our governments are so dull!

      Best wishes – Zoe

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  • I recently spent time with a deer hunter in New Zealand who over 50+ years has studied deer and their eating habits. He noticed that deer that graze on bark and leaves as per their design have healthy teeth right until their final years. Grain fed deer lose theirs to wear after only 3-4 years depending on the ground.
    We should eat what we are designed to eat and humans are omnivorous.

  • the key word is ‘processed’ foods are now seriously connected to cancer. WHO shooting darts only @ meats and not the whole industry of ‘processed foods’ because the depth and width of the industry is so huge….

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  • And the madness continues. This article appeared in the Oakland Tribune today (November 9):

    Cancer findings may result in labels on meat in California – Inside Bay Area

    Proposition 65 in California requires warning labels for anything considered carcinogenic. This study may cause that label to be put on all red meat.

    At the end of the article they have the following statistics:

    CANCER DEATHS PER YEAR, WORLDWIDE 34,000 attributed to high consumption of processed meats
    50,000 attributed to high consumption of red meat
    200,000 attributed to air pollution
    600,000 attributed to alcohol consumption
    1 million attributed to smoking
    Source: Global Burden of Disease Project, University of Washington

    How on earth do they come up with this stuff?

  • You make some good points and demonstrate some knowledge of methodology of good and bad evidence. However, there are a number of points that you failed to cover that I think are important for your readers to know about.

    Firstly is your own conflict of interest. You appear to you have a stance or “side of the fence” that you sit on around this whole area. You should recognise and declare this as a cognitive bias (known and/or unknown). If you don’t have such a stance, and are only interested in what the best evidence tells you, then your article should have been more balanced in recognition of the great uncertainties around the evidence in this field. Some examples:

    You rightly highlight RCTs would provide the best evidence that 50 mg of processed meat has a causative effect on cancer and that this has not be done (to the best of your knowledge). However, you fail to point out the inherent difficulties in performing RCTs of dietary interventions – namely that people do not stick to them and the tools to measure whether they do or don’t are whole inadequate (the likes of Fisher, Bradfor Hill et al would actually find them wholly unacceptable I would imagine).

    Your comment on “looking hard” for patterns – as long as this is reported, corrected for (statistically) and discussed as a limitation then that’s good science and the best that can be done for this type of study.

    The points you raise about the methodological limitations of the Lancet paper are EXACTLY the same as the limitations for most if not all the studies showing no harmful effect or even benefit from eating meat.

    If you claim to be evidence-based then you have to sit in the middle-ground until the evidence is strong enough to support one side of the fence or the other. At the moment the evidence is far from conclusive around benefits/harms of meat. All we do know is that deaths and morbidity from cardiovascular disease have never been lower than they are now (since records started) and match very closely with the introduction of guidance around reduced saturated fat.

    People have to be patient. It’s taken 40 years for us to arrive where we are with saturated fat. Some are all to keen to be the messiahs of health and worryingly even more are willing to follow. As scientists our job is to provide all the facts as best we can and judge based on these. If we have a clear and cut finding, then and only then can we get excited and shout it from the rooftops, but still keeping in mind that the facts we have now may not be the facts of the future (i.e. things can change). I know it’s all sounds terribly boring (“we must blog! We must have something worth blogging about!”), but that’s how it is.

    What’s interesting is that all the low card/high fat folk are providing a a great natural experiment. Let’s see in 20, 30, 40 years time what their health is like. There will be loads of confounding (as there is with current data) but there may be some interesting findings. But these folk have to honest about what happens to them. The fact that the Atkins foundation would not realise details of his post-mortem is telling in that it denies us the opportunity to see the whole picture. What’s to hide?

    When it comes to evidence I’m keen to ensure people see the whole picture. By presenting only half it’s easy to garner support and praise from people who already are sitting on the same side of the fence. I’m fully aware that even by presenting the more of the picture, folk will still stick to their side (regardless of the evidence). That is the nature of humans. However, they can only claim to be ignorant of the full facts/evidence if these aren’t given to them. At least for this piece no such claim can now be made.

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  • When the subject of ‘processed meat’ comes up, it is never properly defined. And furthermore, the finger of suspicion is always pointed at ‘strange chemicals’.

    I happen to make my own bacon and the amount of nitrates/nitrites used is extremely small (in fact, so small, that a pack of curing salt lasts me for years). In order to get the correct amount it starts with a 6.5% concentration of sodium nitrate in 93.5% salt. This is then mixed with a lot of further salt to lower the concentration, and of course the meat, and perhaps water or not depending on whether it is a wet or dry cure. Most of the cure is then washed off. The result is that the proportion of the ‘scary chemicals’ actually in the finished product is measured in ‘parts per million’.

    What is NEVER addressed is why sodium nitrate is used. Apart from giving flavour and the well known pink colour of bacon (without it, bacon would be grey), its main purpose is to destroy botulism spores which can survive in meat that is intended to be preserved for later consumption. And botulism poisoning is nasty: if it doesn’t kill you, it may leave you paralysed for many years.

    There are, however, some very interesting facts about nitrates/nitrites, and this is that they exist in higher concentrations in some vegetables, and indeed in our own saliva. Indeed, I understand that celery, so beloved by pious vegetarians and dieters, has a concentration of nitrites so high that it would be the equivalent of eating some 50 packs of bacon. And there is even more nitrite in your own saliva!

    There are even some artisan bacon manufacturers who try to appeal to the misinformed by curing bacon with ‘natural celery extract’. In other words, naturally sourced sodium nitrate!

    To draw a correlation between bacon and colorectal cancer without a proper controlled trial is simply bad science. It is almost as if the researchers (sorry, statisticians) set out to prove a link due to their preconceived views, and then found one way to manipulate the data in order to confirm their views.

    Anyway, back to the nitrite/nitrate issue. If the population decided to avoid it, there would be many, many, more nasty early deaths from botulism.

    Incidently, one of the reasons that I cure my own bacon is that a lot of commercial bacons follow the American pattern of curing that includes some form of sugar which appeals the the American palate. Although sugar is only added in small quantities in these ‘sweetcures’, it does have a tendency to make it difficult to fry bacon to a state of crispiness – the sugar has a tendency to make the pan go sticky.

    Bacon (the nasty ‘processed’ meat), has just three ingredients, pork, sodium nitrate, salt, and four ingredients, additionally wood-smoke, if one smokes it.

    • Hi Paul
      Many thanks for this – really interesting. May you inspire more bacon makers!
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • There is overwhelming evidence that meat is bad for you. Its been known for over 30 years. If you don’t want to stop eating it, thats understandable, it tastes good. But stop kidding yourself and misleading others. It makes you look stupid.

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  • For me, this looks like Monsanto’s order to get people off from hunting GMO herbs. Conclusion: rather GMO herb than cancer meat.

  • Great essay!

    Just in case it hasn’t been pointed out in the comments yet, the headline has a mis-spelling: “Organisation” should be “Organization”.

    • Ha ha – the WHO should trust English English, not American!

  • Implying that a paleo diet is healthy? I’d like to see some evidence for that please. As far as I’m aware, there is none. Interesting you state something with no evidence immediately after criticising the level of evidence of the WHO study!

    ““For a modern disease to be related to an old fashioned food is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever heard in my life.” To think that real meat, or meat preserved in natural ways, is bad for us is ludicrous. 1) You’d have to explain how we survived the past 3.5 million years, since Australopithecus Lucy first walked upright; especially how we survived the ice age(s). 2) You’d have to explain why all the nutrients we need to live (essential fats, complete protein, vitamins and minerals) are found in meat if it were trying to kill us at the same time.”
    – This is very misleading. You forget that as a society becomes more affluent, they eat more meat. Also, just because we as a species survived doesn’t mean we didn’t lose a large number of people to disease. In fact the life expectancy was very, very low until relatively recently. As for the last point here, are you insinuating that meat is actively trying to kill us? Just because something has nutrients, doesn’t mean it can’t also be harmful.

    Meat has all the essential nutrients you say? So does a plant based diet. And it’s healthier, and it has less impact on the environment, and sentient creatures don’t need to die.

    • Hi Michael
      A plant based diet does not contain all the essential nutrients. You cannot get retinol, B12, vitamin D3, vitamin K2 or heme iron from plant foods.

      As for the environment – grain and soy crops are destroying the planet’s ability to grow food (Destruction of top soil)

      The one I agree on is the sentient creatures – I was veggie for 20 years – but the planet needs ruminants to preserve topsoil and our population has got so huge (because of grains) that fields need to provide food. I really wish human and planet health did not involve eating animals, but it does.

      Best wishes – Zoe

  • It is interesting that they don’t cross check their data with population statistics.
    In Australia, red meat consumption has been falling in the past 40 years and bowel cancer rates have risen over the same period. This means that the observational study does not pass a very simple population study test. It is far more likely that some other factors (possibly nutritional) are the cause of increasing rates of bowel cancer. I’d start by examining foods where consumption has increased in the past 40 years (possibly grains/sugars). Then look for foods on this list that cause gut irritation/inflammation as they are obviously damaging the cells in the gut.
    Just my opinion – I’m going to keep eating bacon & red meat!

    • Hi Trevor – good point!
      Same has happened in UK funnily enough!
      Best wishes – Zoe

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  • After reading your post on: World Health Organization, meat & cancer!

    I just had to send you my tongue-in-cheek story about observational studies – and my maybe not so exaggerated government reactions.

    Carrots finally fingered, as cause of most fatal automobile accidents!

    After a massive 12-year painstaking U.S. Government observational study involving fatal automobile accidents, costing $310 Billion in taxpayer dollars, it was determined that carrots were at the “root” cause (pun intended) of 96.34% of all fatal auto accidents.

    Autopsies, and extensive surviving family member interviews prove beyond a doubt all these innocent victims had all eaten carrots within the last 30 days prior to the tragedies. Some drivers had even consumed these deadly vegetables as recently as within 2 hours or less, just prior the accidents. (Sadly some of drivers were snacking on these dangerous vegetables as their fatal accidents occurred)

    Another new nationwide government study has just been launched to determine if these killer carrots were consumed raw or cooked, and if cooked by which method: steamed, boiled, roasted, microwaved or some other clandestine family recipe passed down through the ages.

    Pharmaceutical companies now rushing to formulate new drugs that would negate the dangerous effects of eating carrots.

    USDA and other government agencies push to put regulations in place to prohibit growing, importing, transporting or selling carrots until agriculture researchers can develop safe varieties. (U.S. Government will subsidize this research)

    Food giants Del Monte and Green Giant will layoff thousands as they hurriedly close packing and canning facilities and they file for bankruptcy protection.

    Food manufactures rush to find and patent new artificial carrot replacement foods made from insects, worms, rusty nails (for natural coloring), and tree bark. Billions of dollars in profits expected to be made on these new products. Shortage of orange colored dies expected as newly manufactured carrot products and substitutes hit the market.

    Food manufacturer stocks skyrocket as new highs unfold.

    Public demands answers – how could this have gone on so long and harmed so many people? Marshall Law and curfews invoked as police and National Guard called up to help quell the massive demonstrations as angry millions flock to streets and storm government facilities to protest.

    Trial lawyers have been suddenly bombarded with requests for new class action lawsuits against farmers, growers, and grocery stores – after all they must have known the problem with carrots all along. Class action suits also to be filed against cookbook publishers whose recipes include carrots.

    Justice department will investigate conspiracy allegations of massive bribes and payoffs to elected officials and government employees by the carrot growers taken over the years from their enormous carrot government subsidies.

    The President, by virtue of an executive order, excludes all public schools and school officials from lawsuits that have served carrots in government mandated food programs.

    Researchers were shocked at just how dangerous carrots really were, and asked for more U.S. taxpayer funds to study how carrots may also be involved in bicycle and skateboard accidents among children of ages between 4-16 years old.

    Congress and the Senate quickly approved (within only 6 hours) the requested $270 Billion with only 1 descending vote (which came from a California Senator who’s family owned a small 1200 acre carrot farm), after all, this new research is necessary to help protect the children.

    This just in: hundreds of thousands of dietitians and nutritionists file massive class action law suits against their former colleges – demanding refunds on their tuitions paid (with interest) for there now worthless degrees. (Jury still out if professors can also be held personally liable as well) Government, of course considering a program to reimburse colleges for these tuition refunds.

    More requests urgently needed for research to determine just exactly how the carrots react in the digestive system to enable them to cause so many automobile accidents. It is also suspected carrots might also be the cause of most industrial accidents as well. New government studies will be needed to validate this suspicion.

    Congress also considering legislation requiring all citizens (over 16 with drivers licenses) to keep a detailed electronic food diary to be kept on their person at all times. A new electronic smart card would be created and issued to every citizen with said drivers license, that records ALL food purchases both at grocery and convenience stores, as well as restaurants, bars, ball parks, theaters, street vendors etc., where ever food is sold or consumed. This will help facilitate desperately needed research. There may be more killers lurking in what we eat. (Ice cream, mushrooms, and pepper also now beginning to look very suspicious) New $300 yearly tax on drivers to help fund this badly needed research.

    Food police could stop anyone at any time, swipe the electronic food and diary card to see if suspects have consumed carrots with in the last 30 days. This would be similar to the breath analyzers in use today for alcohol consumption.

    Government officials assure us that all this new spending would be completely paid for by the savings from the outdated seat belts, shoulder restraints and air bags no longer necessary as auto accidents are dramatically finally reduced and/or eliminated in America.

    Zoe: please feel free to publish this in one of your blogs of posts

    I would appreciate hearing your thoughts

    jack holloway

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  • I am also researching and evaluating the food industry. It seems always possible to prove what you want to prove and the lab test that are not satisfactory, not proving what you want, will be discarded, keeping the ones that does. I am now trying to find out who did the research, which person did the evaluation. It seems that the persons making the conclusions and writing the report have favoritism towards a vegetarian diet and are possibly vegetarian themselves but I can’t prove it yet. What the point is that they might be right and/but it is not the meat that is harmful but the process and that is the same for all foods. The report should read processed foods, the procedures used, ingredients etc are harmful and removing the needed vitamins and minerals we need. MSG salt is used, smoked foods are smoked by adding a smoke flavor which in several countries is not allowed. Processed cheese, milk, fake cheese, bakery products with ‘bread improving ingredient’, many foods that have been produced, cured, smoked, salted etc are not good for you, check the frozen pizza’s! ,vegetables cured and canned or processed into TV dinner’s. The increase in obesity, cancer and explosive growth of diabetes especially in the U.S. started from about 1981 when the soft drink producers as Coca Cola, Pepsi etc, changed from cane sugar and beet sugar to Corn-syrup, The name Corn-syrup is confusing because the name Corn into it you might think it is a natural product but it has not much to do with corn, it is chemically produced. If we go back and think of how our grandparents were raised and advised us, no processed foods back than, fresh foods and people cured there own foods at home.

  • This is not the most intelligent list of criticisms.

    5) is important, and is a common problem with the Health psycs gone crazy. They oversell the effect size by distorting the statistics using relative risk. Their aim is to confuse and scare people. Shame on them.

    If you understand 5) though, then to argue 3) is pretty silly. You don’t have to explain anything about our survival, because eating meat seems to only make a difference to 7 out of 100’000 people (your numbers, I haven’t checked them). And it likely has an effect on those 7 after breeding age anyway.

  • in a study by Oxford in 2009 of European men and woman, conclusion colorectal cancer was higher in vegetarians. yes cancer rate was lower in MEATEATERS. this study was done with over 63,000 people. it is one of the most comprehensive studies done on vegetarians and cancer risk. how can the media show this anti-meat crap. the fact that Japan has a higher colorectal cancer rate for men than the USA should end this stupidity. this is not science this is bull sh.t. and Inuit Indians had a traditional diet of almost 100% raw or smoked meat and fat and they had a cancer rate of almost 0%. so sad the media and WHO thinks we are stupid enough to believe this one report.

  • This Omnivore from Care2 would like to thank you for your efforts. I’m not sure all the wannabee vegans/vegetarians on the site would do the same. Boy oh boy would they rail you. Cheers mate.

  • Exercise is overrated.
    As Zoe says:
    ‘Manage your carbs’
    It really is the only thing that matters.

    • You’ve got that exactly backwards. Unlike dietary studies, there is a consistent and dramatic reduction in all cause mortality with increasing fitness level. Fitness vs. mortality rates are what we should be able to see from dietary studies but NEVER do. The results are measurable and consistent indicating cause and effect regardless of other factors. There are NO such dietary study results, which is why there is so much controversy around them.
      IF diet was a prime factor in longevity it would be just as clear as the fitness vs. mortality results, but it isn’t, and it never will be. The truth is we are very well adapted to eat and survive on just about anything other than a Vegan diet. Look around the world and you’ll find a culture that thrives on just about any diet you can think of.

      Exercise regularly, limit sugar intake, eat your bacon and enjoy life.

      • Tim, I agree about the benefits of sensible exercise, but I think Liz was referring to it being over-rated in relation to weight loss. She would be right about that, although we’re always told the opposite because then it’s our fault and nothing to do with Coca Cola.

        For most people the role of exercise in weight loss is close to insignificant, but I stress that it’s good for us in lots of other ways.

  • Let me share flyover country’s guide to buying beef/pork/lamb…
    (And I can assure you it will taste better than anything you will ever buy in a supermarket).
    In our state, they have numerous town and country fairs in addition to the big state fair. My wife and I go to the 4H livestock auction at our local fair. Each year, we will buy a steer, or a hog and lamb. Our price over the years has ranged from $2K to $3K+ depending on the economy and the size of the steer. (Bidding generally starts at $2/lb on the steers). So we buy the steer and then have it processed locally for another $350 or so. Generally speaking after butchering we get 800 to over 1000 lbs of beef. (That’s every cut, by the way)
    If you can’t afford this, go in with friends.

    Cautionary note: The first year we did this we went out and bought a deep freeze. One was not enough. Had to rush out and get a second (got the floor model at Lowe’s for a 1/3 of what we paid for the first one).

    Now the good news: Remember I said charity auction. When it comes to charities, what do you do when you contribute to a charity? YES, you take the deduction on your taxes. If you hate meat, donate the steer. Guess what, now you get to write off the price of the steer twice.
    After having done this for the past 8 years, my question to you is why are you not doing this?

    • Remember, you can only deduct the amount of “donation” that you paid which was in excess of the fair market value of the purchase.

      Query: what is the FMV of an equivalent steer or lamb or hog where you live?
      What is the cost of labor for a lamb or hog?

      I would really like to know, because this sounds like a good strategy for us, since there ar county fairs and ranch land here too!


      How can I track replies?

  • This type of hysterical reporting of rubbish gets me really angry and is why when you try to talk to people about sugar and the dangers of processed food you get the Yeh Yeh whatever attitude because people are sick of hearing the next thing that may be carcinogenic.
    Only hours before I heard this on the news I’d been trying to explain to my mum why I try to avoid wheat and most carbs. So when I said I will often have meat for breakfast she was all concerned that too much meat wasn’t good for me.
    The report I heard was in one breadth saying they’d found an increased risk of cancer but in another breath said there wad insufficient evidence. How can WHO make guidelines on poor / inufficient evidence?

  • While I agree and applaud most everything you say, I’m confused about this:

    “You would need to know 2,128 people, including enough older people, to know 1 person who developed bowel cancer in the UK in 2011.”

    Didn’t the WHO say that the 18% increase was a lifetime risk? So while the above statement is true, you’d only have to know 14 people to know someone who had/currently has bowel cancer – since the lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer in the UK is 1 in 14 for men and 1 in 19 for women.

    Along those lines, if the average person knows 600 people, that mean that each of us currently knows approximately 42 people who will develop bowel cancer, which seems a little more concerning (and, frankly, relevant – nobody talks about breast cancer risk in terms of likelihood of developing it in a given year, but rather in terms of lifetime risk) than the 47 in 100,000 people who will develop the cancer in any given year.

    Just wondering if you can explain why you didn’t talk about this in terms of lifetime risk? Thanks!
    Numbers are from here:

    • Hi Coco
      The Lancet report makes no reference to lifetime risk. The studies use annual risk – not least because they study people for a number of years – not whole lifetimes. The link to the bowel cancer stats went to the incident rates for one year (2011 happened to be the most recent on offer). There is a separate tab for lifetime risk of bowel cancer if you want to look at this, but I’m not sure you’ll find lifetime study data to match.
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • Great post, Zoe! Here is my response to the WHO warning:

    Nitrates are actually used to treat heart patients. It opens the arteries. I haven’t seen any solid science that supports their link to cancer. I posted about how we came to believe they were harmful here:

    We already know that the fat in pork is good for you, even those who vilify saturated fat must know that pork is mostly mono-unsaturated, like olive oil. So if there is any problem with eating cured meat (other than the fact that it is mostly eaten as a sandwich with a side of fries cooked in a toxic vegetable oil sludge and a sugary soft drink), it is likely due to the way it is processed in this country. Factory-farmed meat, fattened on GMO corn and soy, mixed with starches, sugars, and preservatives like BHA and BHT, many of them cooked and packaged in plastic, (ham, hot dogs, deli meat), might very well cause cancer. We can buy fresh pastured pork belly and grass-fed beef and avoid the nasty stuff.

    Unfortunately, even most of the responses I’ve seen in the media to the WHO warning buy into the myths about cured meat and red meat. The real Mediterranean diet that is so often recommended now was full of cured meat, that’s why a lot of it is called by Italian names, like salami, prosciutto, etc.

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