Red meat gets another kick in the loin

messages Jun 07, 2009

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know I've been struggling trying to come to terms with my love of red meat and the negative affects it can have on health and the environment.

I'm doing just okay on my goal of having one evening meal each week contain no animal flesh.  It's still a work in progress.  I'm getting there, but it's taking longer than I thought.  For my entire life I've defined a meal (besides breakfast - that's always no meat) as meat, grains and some sort of vegetable or fruit.  I'm slowly changing a way of thinking that has been automatic for over 3 decades.  Change takes time.  Just like adapting any sort of new behavior, it typically doesn't happen over night, but if it's something meaningful you can't give up on it.

Okay, I got a bit side tracked from what I wanted to talk about.  A new study just released by the National Cancer Institute (that has been in the works for ten years) found that people in their study who ate the most red meat had a higher risk of dying - mostly of heart disease or cancer - that was roughly 30% higher than the risk of those who ate the least red meat.

Make it stop!

And just exactly how much red meat are we talking about here?  People at the high end consumed about five ounces per day (which could be likened to just over 1 1/2 Quarter Pounders) whereas people at the low end took in about 2/3 of an ounce each day (which would be about 1 1/2 Quarter Pounders per WEEK).  I could probably pick 2/3 of an ounce out from between my teeth.  (Before brushing of course, I am a bit on the obsessive side when it comes to oral hygiene.)

When it came to processed meats, there was less of an impact.  Those who ate the most had almost 2 ounces per day (equal to about 1 hot dog per day), and those who ate the least consumed the equivalent of one hot dog EVERY 2 WEEKS. Huh?! That much probably aerisolizes from just one of my burps.  (Lunch is typically a turkey or ham sandwich.)

According to the study "white meat" - chicken, turkey and fish - posed no risk.  How irate do you think the beef and pork industries are right now?

As a human being with a brain, I immediately started to try and rationalize what I had just read.

"The study must be flawed.  There's no way they could unequivocally link the increased risk of disease to red meat alone.  Maybe those people drank more, or exercised less or had some other unhealthy habits."

"Red meat is my one unhealthy habit.  If I continue to do everything else right I can keep eating red meat with no negative consequences."

"What about organic, grass fed beef?  They didn't say anything about that.  We buy our meat straight from an organic farmer.  Corn fed cattle are gross and grass fed beef has a much lower amount of saturated fat."

This is what we do when we learn information that challenges our way of thinking or our habits:  We rationalize.  We deny facts.  We blame.  We choose to ignore things.  We bargain.

It's important to consciously recognize when we think/do these things and to question our thoughts or conclusions.  I've been toying with going off caffeine for quite some time, though I see studies that sing the praises of the positive benefits of caffeine everywhere.  Are there studies that say the opposite?  Of course, but I choose not to pay much attention to them.

Obviously, I'm still processing this whole thing.  I think it's healthy for all of us to try and objectively look at our habits and routines on a regular basis to see if there are any things that have room for improvement.  What habits do you have that may not be taking you where you want to go?  Maybe you have excuses around not exercising or you can be impatient with your children.  Perhaps you have rationalizations in regards to smoking or drinking.

My theory is that all of us are doing one of two things (which also happens to be a general rule of the universe):  you're either growing or you're dying.  To a certain extent the choice is up to us.  I choose growth.  And beef.  OR NOT!  I'll get back to you on that one....

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