Meat is the Bad Guy…Again

Even before the official report on whether red meat would be classified as a carcinogen was released by the IARC, I was approached by a fellow mom on the soccer field this weekend.   Knowing that I work in the meat industry, she hit me with, “So I hear meat causes cancer!”

And so it begins… again.  According to Meatingplace, “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has concluded that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans and that red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans.”

It doesn’t take long for the media to shorten that finding into the kind of inflammatory headline I heard on the soccer sideline.   No matter that the IARC reviewed a total of 940 agents for their potential to cause cancer:  the only one getting any attention is red meat.  (Other potential cancer-causing agents, according to the IARC’s report, include air and sun – really.)

Meat, as usual, continues to be an easy target. So whether you’re a packer, processor, retailer or allied industry supplier, you’re likely to face questions about these findings like I have.  This is a prime opportunity to review the scientific data in our arsenal that helps promote red meat’s excellent nutritional value.

The industry response thus far has been swift and smart, with both NAMI and NCBA weighing in with comments that give much-needed perspective on and context to the rulings.  A Q&A document presented by the IARC that delves deeper into the report also notes that their cancer-causing classifications don’t assess the level of risk, a critical point in the discussion that is often lost in the media frenzy.

To help you fight the provocative headlines closer to home, we’ve pulled together a few resources you can review to educate yourself, your customers, your consumers, and maybe even the woman sitting next to you at your kid’s soccer game.

Risk Bites Video: What does “Probably Cause Cancer” actually mean?

Meatingplace:  IARC issues carcinogen ratings on processed, red meat

Meatingplace:  Parsing the IARC ruling on meat and cancer; it’s complicated

Meatingplace Issues Story:  The Next Cut


  1. Walker Stockley says:

    I responded to all my friends on Facebook with commentary of the conflicting messages in the news release, using quotes from IARC and one of the advisory professors. One quote was about the risk being “small” yet they put processed meat on the same risk level as tobacco and asbestos. The other from the advisory member was the statement about a large study on “bowel cancer” in Europe showing no difference in cancer between vegetarians and meat eaters. Their commentary does not match the risks assigned to processed meats, nor the cancer risks of red meat.
    The public reads such and assumes eating any meat will cause cancer. Life is about moderation for the consumption of any foods.
    BTW, had bacon at lunch today.

    • Danette Amstein says:

      Walter – we need everyone to do what you are doing. We have to help our friends – both in person and our social virtual worlds – put these kind of findings into perspective. Kudos for doing just that!
      Thanks for the comment!
      P.S. I had bacon for breakfast…no finer way to start the day 🙂

  2. Erica Prescott says:

    I’ve had a few questions concerning this issue as well! Another great article that we found that discusses this issue is :
    I found the video: “what does probably causes cancer really mean?” to be very informative and interesting! I’ll use this resource to help my friends understand more about this in the future. Thanks!!!

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