The Red (Meat) Scare

On Monday, the Archives of Internal Medicine published a study titled Red Meat Consumption and Mortality and it will not surprise you to learn that when I used Google to check for the fallout, I found some 900 new stories from publications scattered around the planet.

The study was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, which undoubtedly added to its credibility factor. But it’s important to note that this was not a controlled experiment that established a causal link between red meat and specific causes of death.

In fact, the researchers used a rather broad definition of red meat that included unprocessed sources such as beef, pork, and lamb as well as processed sources such as bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs and baloney slices. This leads the picky science writer to feel argumentative: wouldn’t there be different issues associated with eating these different products? The researchers report that mortality risks are greater with processed meats, possibly due to the chemical preservatives. But to continue being picky: Is this just a red meat issue? What about the possible chemical risks of, say, processed poultry products? — via

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