All meat is not created equal

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) released a compilation of study results with an alarming conclusion:

There is a correlation between eating industrial, processed meats and developing colorectal cancer.


MSNBC, The Washington Post, and countless other news outlets reported this:

Eating red meat causes butt cancer.

The millions of trendy Paleo, CrossFitting, Bacon-t-shirt-wearing yuppies have dropped their kettle bells and jaws while the vegetarians of the planet are hollering a chorus of I Told You So.

As a nutritional therapist who supports an omnivorous diet, news like this is always alarming.  Am I killing my patients every time I tell them to go eat some steak? Should I donate all my bacon t-shirts to the animal shelter thrift store? And, God forbid, should I return to vegetarianism?

The answer to all of these is No, No, and No, and neither should YOU.  Unless you’re a cheapskate at the market and you’re buying (see studies) INDUSTRIAL, PROCESSED MEATS.

In which case, you should probably go get a colonoscopy. Right now.

What shocks me is the shock factor of a blatantly obvious reality. And that the real issue is not being addressed in this study: Did they test grass-fed and finished animals? Did they test people who consumed mostly game meats? Did they use organic products?

I was walking down a trail the other day with my friend and fellow Nutritionist, Kelly Greenway, NTP, discussing our grocery budgets.  They border obscene except that we don’t have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s here or we’d be doing real pocket book damage.  She said something simple and true:

“Well, it’s really our health insurance.”

Chew on that while you chew on some well-marbled, grass-fed tri-tip. She could not be more right.

It is true that your natural, grass-finished and pastured animal products cost more.  This is because they are not subsidized by the millions.  They are not fed GMO corn and pesticides until they are overweight and sick.  They are not treated with antibiotics and hormones.  They are not packed with ammonia, coloring, and nitrates and preservatives so that none of the pathogenic bacteria living there can possibly survive after you ingest it.

Indeed, there is a price difference and a difference in ethics of purchase, a difference in social and environmental responsibility, and a difference in the outcome of your health.

The moral of the story is this, and it is nothing new: You are what you eat.

Being responsible for your health also means making a financial commitment and setting priorities.  If you have cable TV but cannot afford grass-fed beef, perhaps they need some adjustment. Learn how to hunt, befriend a farmer, buy a cow.

There is, of course, the option to be a vegetarian and not contribute to any of the meat industry.  In my professional opinion and based on the countless studies and research papers available, it is far nutritionally superior to be a vegetarian than to eat Industrial, Processed Meat.

Aside from the damage (and apparently, cancer) you are causing your body, the meat industry is ridden with inhumane, unethical treatment of animals and a contribution to global warming that is largely ignored.  You and your colon polyps will sleep better at night knowing you are not a part of that obtuse, ignorant paradigm.

So while WHO has pointed out a clear health concern and potential pandemic, it and the poor journalism highlighting the studies have failed miserably at pointing out the real causes: The meat industry, the miseducation of our public, and lack of responsibility among consumers.

Extract yourself from all of that. Make better choices. Buy local.  Buy pastured, grass-fed, organic. Those colostomy bags only come in one color and it isn’t pretty.

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