The Meat Business By Gregory Bloom
Gregory Bloom shares over 26 years of industry experience working in six USDA inspected meat plants - buying and selling meat, working with chefs and restaurants and teaching COP classes. He is the CEO and owner of U.S. Protein.

Who cares what the WHO says?

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

Will their warning about red and processed meats matter in the long run?

This week, I think we in the meat industry all felt a little like Rocky Balboa in the ring, getting beat up pretty badly by the heavyweight champion of the world.  Our beating is not coming from Apollo Creed, but from the World Health Organization, the world’s heavyweight “fact-finders” concerning human health.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) offered the media a beautifully wrapped early holiday gift.  But this gift, instead of clearly informing consumers about healthy food choices, confused them even more. What the WHO proudly boasts in accredited scientists, they certainly lack in communication experts. 

Mainstream and social media took the overly confusing news from the WHO and most outlets flatly reported that all red meat is bad, and that bacon, sausages and lunchmeat should now be avoided.  They know that most consumers won’t take the time to read the official release from the WHO. It stated, “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” according to Dr Kurt Straif.

I can save the WHO and the IARC a lot of time and money and provide a much simpler health message for consumers about their health: Everything likely causes cancer if you consume too much of it.

Perhaps we should just stick a hyperbolic, one-size-fits-all label on all consumables that says, “Warning, the Surgeon General and the WHO have determined that everything you consume in excess is harmful to your health and will eventually kill you.  No matter what you consume in excess, in the end, you will not survive it.”

This obsession with constantly redefining a balanced diet is about as useful as watching reruns of last year’s congressional budget meetings on C-Span.

Instead of that, this should be the constant and simple message of the WHO:  Too much wine, beer, meat, fish, and even tofu, pickles, lettuce or broccoli, is not a balanced diet.  To get the necessary vitamins and nutrients from our food, we need a varied and balanced diet, and not too much of anything.  And you need to exercise regularly.  So simple.  So common sense.  Yet so unpopular to say or report in the news.

Correlation Does Not Mean Causation

Like Rocky Balboa at the end of his first fight with Apollo Creed, he loses.  But then comes the rematch.  I think the rematch between us and the IARC report will be in studying their methodology and finding that their conclusions are not based on sound science.

They cannot demonstrate a definitive cause and effect relationship between red meat consumption and cancer. The fact has long been in evidence that people have been eating moderate amounts of meat without adverse health effects for longer than anyone has been keeping records.  That can’t be disproven.

WHO Cares?

But in the long run, does it really matter which alarmist bells the WHO rings?  Will you actually feed your family any differently?  Do you remember when everyone was saying eggs were bad for you?   Then they said they were good for you. Then they said they were bad again, and then they said they were good again.

My wife and I made bacon and eggs for breakfast this week, the same as we’ve always done once or twice every week for breakfasts.   My kids packed ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, with apples, carrots and celery sticks.

For our family’s food choices, Christy and I are much more concerned about too much sugar, caffeine and junk food intake than we are with eating too many bacon strips or sausage patties.  Bacon is good food.  Mmmm,  Bacon!

What about you?  What’s your reaction to this latest sensational dietary alarmism?


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