The big news this week was the release of a National Cancer Institute study concluding that test subjects who ate the most meat were 30% more likely to die than those who ate the least. The increased mortality rate was attributed mostly to cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Processed meats were also fingered as responsible for slightly higher mortality risks. The study also concluded that those consuming more white meat in relationship to red meat had a slightly lower mortality risk.
This study certainly won't help red meat demand, and seems to be getting a lot of media play. Not surprisingly, the meat industry has raised a lot of complaints about the study, based largely on the assumptions, methodology and the like.
I am biased and don't pretend not to be. But I think these studies are largely bogus; more than anything they reflect the bias of those conducting the study and do nothing more than validate the accepted view of the population on whatever the topic is.
Ask people to go back and estimate how much classical music their kids listened to and I’ll guarantee you kids who listen to more classical music will score higher on standardized tests. So will kids who were home schooled, ate a hot breakfast every morning or are the children of immigrants. Concluding that immigrant children are smarter, classical music improves learning habits or oatmeal increases brain activity may all be true, but they are more likely reflective of larger belief patterns.
I’m willing to bet that people who believe the dogma that red meat is bad for you likely also exercise more, eat less in general, and smoke and drink less than the general population. Who knows, they also be more likely to drive a Volvo than a Porsche, but don’t try to tell me Porsches contribute to increased diabetes rates among drivers.
The bottom line is these studies only validate the billions of dollars that have been spent and the reputations that have been built upon an industry that got started 30 years ago based on the concept of good foods vs. bad foods. Much of what is accepted as “science” in human nutrition would never see the light of day in the cattle industry.
Let's look at the real cause and effects, not broad-based assumptions. Data shows that the percentage of cattle grading Choice is higher in Nebraska and Iowa than Oklahoma and Texas. Does that mean that Nebraska and Iowa corn is better than Oklahoma and Texas corn?
Certainly, we have to respond to these individual studies, illuminate their flaws, and point out similar studies that have produced very different results. We also have to recognize that we’ll continue to battle this pseudo science and bias against red meat until we deal with the underlying cause. That is that 30 years ago, someone decided diet could solve cancer and heart disease and red meat was the primary problem.
This approach may not have saved lives or reduced the incidence of the diseases. In fact, the opposite is the case. But it has generated billions and billions of dollars for research. Doesn’t it make more sense to push for funding research for the causes and cures of these diseases instead?
-- Troy Marshall