We’ve known for some time that having too much red meat in our diets has negative health consequences. We also know that the meat industry goes out of the way to play down these risks as it is motivated by profits and not public health. We also know that the only really effective way to protect the public from the negative consequences is to demand that the government regulate and educate. We must work towards expanding democratic control of the economy in order to achieve these ends.

New scientific evidence released by the Harvard School of Public Health, definitely shows that eating red meat increases mortality from both cancer and cardiovascular problems.

The results of the Harvard study have been reported in ScienceDaily, but it has some good news, which is that we can all lower our risks for these health problems by replacing red meat with nuts, legumes, fish, and poultry (and of course a vegetarian diet would dramatically reduce these risks).

An Pan, the main author of the report, is quoted as saying: “Our study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type two diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies.”

The study followed thousands of people over two decades correlating their diets with disease incidents. The researchers found that eating processed red meat daily (e.g., two strips of bacon or a hot dog) increased your risk 20 percent (a daily serving of unprocessed red meat upped you risk 13 percent.) Cured red meat was thus seven percent more deadly than uncured.

The report also found that those who replaced the red meat serving with fish, poultry, nuts, low fat dairy, or legumes had a significant reduction in their risks of death. This led Frank Hu, a nutrition specialist and co-author of the report, to say, “This study provides clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death. On the other hand, choosing more healthful sources of protein in place of red meat can confer significant health benefits by reducing chronic disease morbidity and mortality.”

So red meat consumption ought to be limited in the interests of public health, and especially the health of children. Processed red meats as well as red meat in general should be regulated and reduced in school lunch programs (remember the Republicans in Congress want to classify pizza as a vegetable– which shows the influence of the junk food industry; money always comes first) and in all other government food programs.

The new USDA “food plate” simply has “protein” as one of its recommendations but no further recommendations such as less beef and more fish or other red meat substitutes. Beef should not be given equal time with chicken! In any event progressive politics goes hand in hand with progressive health advocacy and we can hope people will heed the warnings of science.


Thomas Riggins
Thomas Riggins

Thomas Riggins has a background in philisophy, anthropology and archeology. He writes from New York, NY. Riggins was associate editor of Political Affairs magazine.