Reason #1: Excessive consumption of red meat, especially in processed forms such as hot dogs and bacon, has been linked to a higher risk of total, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, according to a just-published study in Archives of Internal Medicine.
Researchers observed 37,698 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study for up to 22 years and 83,644 women in the Nurses’ Health Study for up to 28 years. Participants were free of cardiovascular disease and cancer at baseline and their diets were assessed via questionnaires every four years.
The two studies found a combined 23,926 deaths, of which 5,910 were from cardiovascular disease and 9,464 from cancer. As noted in Science Daily, a single daily serving of unprocessed red meat (which is about “the size of a deck of cards”) was connected to a 13% increased risk of mortality, while a single daily serving of processed red meat (a hot dog or two slices of bacon) was linked to a 20% increased risk.
Replacing one serving of total red meat with a serving of a healthy protein source (fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, even vegetables) was associated with a lower mortality risk. Indeed, the researchers “estimated that 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% in women could have been prevented at the end of the follow-up” if all who participated had simply eaten less than 0.5 servings per day of red meat.
Reason #2: Another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that eating meat exclusively results in the loss of the taste for sweet foods. Researchers from the Monell Center found that seven of twelve related mammal species including cats, who are obligate carnivores — who only eat meat to subsists– are “unable to taste sweet compounds due to defects in a gene that controls structure of the sweet taste receptor.”
Besides cats, the other species with defective sweet receptor genes who were tested are the sea lion, fur seal, Pacific harbor seal, Asian otter, spotted hyena, fossa and banded lingsang. All of these animals have a meat-only diet.
In contrast, the aardwolf, Canadian otter, spectacled bear, raccoon and red wolf were all found to have intact sweet receptor genes. All of these animals eat meat and other types of foods.
The study has implications not only for diet choice, but for overall bodily functioning as, note the authors, taste receptors have recently been “identified in many organs throughout the body, including intestine, pancreas, nose, and lungs.” Researchers are still studying the various functions of these “extra-oral taste receptors.”
Reason #3: As noted in a number of Care2 posts, “pink slime,” a term used to describe a “ground-up combination of beef scraps, cow connective tissues and other beef trimmings that are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens like salmonella and E. coli,” as Care2 blogger Judy Molland writes. This “substance” is used in ground beef and hamburger patties and is on the USDA’s shopping list for school lunches.
In other words, what you think might be “red meat” could actually be a food product of quite a different color and not exactly what you might think “meat” is supposed to be.
Reason #4: In addition to concerns about the effects of meat-eating on one’s health, eating animals raises numerous ethical issues. In a recent column, the New York Times’ Mark Bittman discusses the book Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight by Timothy Pachirat. The book, writes Bittman, “shatters any belief you might have about the system treating animals with a shred of decency.”
Pachirat worked for five months in an Omaha slaughterhouse where about 2,500 cows are killed per day; he had taken the job “not as an animal rights activist but as a doctoral candidate in political science seeking to understand the normalization of violence.” Noting that “meat-eaters may assert that this is somehow justifiable, because we ‘need’ to eat meat — just not cats or dogs or goldfish — to live,” Bittman points out that the “system” of industrialized agriculture is simply “perverse.”
This “system” reduces “all of us to a warped state”, says Bittman. The way our culture raises, kills and eats animals reduces the humanity of all, whether we are working in slaughterhouses or consumers of the products wrapped tightly in plastic in the local grocery store.
Do we want to be remembered as the civilization that created, and ate, pink slime?
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