Meat and Cancer


Recommendation for this: none

A recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) reiterates their suggestion that we limit red meat and avoid processes meats to significantly reduce our risk of colorectal cancer.

“There is strong evidence that red and processed meats are causes of bowel cancer, and that there is no amount of processed meat that can be confidently shown not to increase risk.”

This is based on many published studies over many years.

What is “Red Meat”?

Red meat refers to the meat of mammals: beef, pork, lamb, etc. Generally I suggest the guideline if it has four legs then it is red meat. Pork is red meat, despite its appearance and marketing of the term “the other white meat.”

What is “Processed Meat”?

All meat is technically processed, meaning it is cut and cleaned before it is ready for consumer use. However in this case, processed meat refers to meats that are cured, smoked, salted or have added preservatives. This includes ham, sausage, bacon, salami, bologna, hot dogs, etc. Many deli meats also fall into this category.

How Much?

When it comes to processed meats, the WCRF recommends “very little if any.” Having the hot dog or two at the ball game or the summer holiday weekend once or twice a year may not be too big a deal. Bacon, sausage, or ham for breakfast daily could be problematic in the long-term. Still eating bologna sandwiches? Perhaps you should stop that.

As for red meat, it is recommended that we consume no more than 500 grams a week, and less than 300 grams a week is preferred. How does that translate to the real world?

Here you go: 500 grams is just over one pound. That works out to a 3-4 ounce serving no more than five days a week.

What does 3-4 ounces look like? A deck of playing cards is about the size of 3-ounces. The diameter and thickness of a woman’s palm is what a 3-4 ounce hamburger patty looks like.

Do you need to cook the 18 ounce steak and eat if all for yourself? Uh, no you don’t. Really you don’t. And you shouldn’t.


No you are not. If you want to do 5-6 ounces three times a week that is fine. Have chicken, turkey, or fish on the other three or four days. Even better have a “meatless” day or two or three with beans as your primary protein source.

I had a burger yesterday/Sunday after a 30 mile bike ride.  We don’t have red meat on the menu until Thursday this week. By the end of the week I will have eaten no more than 10 ounces of red meat or less than the 300 grams recommended.

It is entirely possible for a die-hard carnivore to cut back on daily meat-eating habits. It just takes time, and, not deprivation, but moderation.



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