Health and diet studies about red meat
Current and past health and diet studies of red meat consumption are nearly unanimous. The research shows that eating red meat harms our health in many ways. And more evidence is coming in.
Red meat increases inflammation. It causes more cardiovascular disease. More red meat in the diet equals higher cancer rates. Overall mortality increases with added meat in the diet.
The evidence against processed meats is particularly damning. Even occasional small amounts of processed red meats boost cancer incidence. There are strong suggestions to label these product carcinogenic. That would be hot dogs, bacon, salami, bologna, etc…
The case against red meat seems airtight. You can’t argue with good evidence, right? And these are good studies.
It has me thinking of eliminating all red meat from my diet. Not that I eat a lot. Beef or pork make it to the plate once per week or less. That is much healthier than daily servings but still decreases longevity.
What current red meat studies are missing
None of the current health and diet studies look at how the animals were raised. They all study people eating standard commercial meat. Meat from animals fed exclusively grain(often GMO grain). Meat from animals confined on feedlots with minimal exercise. Meat from animals medicated often to keep them alive long enough to slaughter. In other words, the vast majority of people in these studies eat meat from unhealthy animals eating an unnatural diet in a confined space.
But I now eat only 100% grass-fed beef and mostly pasture-raised pork(it is much harder to find). Studies show this meat has much healthier omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid balance. It has more vitamins. It comes from healthy animals and doesn’t include a hidden dose of antibiotics or other medications. It is leaner and tastier because the animals get daily exercise and graze instead of gorging on grain.
So the first health and diet study I would like to see would replicate the current studies with one difference. My study would compare the health and longevity of people eating moderate amounts of grass-fed beef versus vegans. Repeat for pasture raised pork. I have tried to find this information. The work has not been done yet.
What about dairy?
Health and diet studies for dairy follow the same pattern as for red meat. And the results are similar to the meat studies. Dairy products, even low-fat dairy, seems to harm health and shorten lifespan.
None of the studies discern between factory-farmed dairy products and grass-fed, pasture-raised dairy. The same nutritional differences are seen as for meat: grass-fed dairy is healthier by every measure. But is it enough to actually make grass-fed dairy good for us?
We don’t know. The health and diet studies have not been done yet. And that is the second study I would like to see: does eating grass-fed, pasture-raised dairy products have the same negative health effects as eating commercial factory-farmed dairy products?
Health and diet studies show that poultry and eggs are even more harmful than red meat
Chickens are without doubt the most mistreated food animals. They are barely given enough room to stand. Most live their entire life without ever seeing the sky. The only food is grain. Their beaks are clipped so they can’t bite each other. They are intentionally bred to be too heavy to stand up before they are a year old.
These conditions invite disease. Though it is no longer allowed to routinely feed poultry antibiotics for faster growth, antibiotics are allowed when the birds are ill. Antibiotic use for poultry has increased since this change was made. This is because the birds are always sick. Crowded, breathing dusty air and eating an unnatural diet is not a healthy way to live.
The real reasons why poultry and eggs are so bad for us to eat are not known. I think there are several reasons. Eating nothing but grain causes an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids. The combination of a high protein and relatively high fat diet along with sedentary lifestyle causes birds with very high fat levels. The constant antibiotics and other medications pervade the meat and get stored in the fat. Then we eat it.
The third health and diet study I want to see would compare eating organic, pasture-raised poultry and eggs to commercial factory-farmed poultry and a vegan diet. This is unknown territory. No studies have been done that I could find.
What should we be eating?
Until we learn more, I am eating less meat and dairy of all kinds. I have been trending in that direction for years. We do not have claws, we do not have fangs and we do not have powerful crushing jaws. There is no reason to think we evolved as predators eating large amounts of meat.
Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. Opportunists. Animal protein was probably part of the diet only when it was easily gotten. Plants can’t run away and are more abundant than animals. So plants surely made up the vast majority of the diet.
I will continue to eat occasional meat, dairy and eggs. But it will be grass fed and pasture raised. It will come from healthy animals not full of antibiotics and other medications. It seems like the only wise course of action until more health and diet studies are completed.