Eating Meat Kills People. So Why Do We Keep Eating It?

Editor’s Note: This post is a Care2 favorite, brought back by popular demand. It was originally published on April 23, 2013. Enjoy!

What’s the news in nutrition these days?

It’s that red meat can kill you, and processed meat can kill you.

We knew that already, you say?

Sure, but it turns out they can kill you even faster than we thought.

According to Dr. Frank Hu, co-author of a new Harvard study on the topic, what is new “is the magnitude of risk associated with very moderate red meat consumption.” Predictably, the magnitude is greater. And the magnitude for processed meat is even greater than that.

The Harvard study concluded that one serving of red meat a day increases the risk of early death by 13 percent. The same single daily serving of processed meat (like bacon or hot dog) increases that risk by 20 percent. And “one serving” means that little deck-of-cards sized lump that doesn’t satisfy anyone over the age of 10.

Hu acknowledged that “it’s not really surprising because red meat consumption has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. What is surprising is the magnitude of risk associated with very moderate red meat consumption.”

The study, published on March 12th in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, followed over 120,000 U.S. health professionals for 28 years. Every four years the subjects completed food questionnaires.

The researchers had to tease out the health effects of red meat from all the other bad habits beef-eaters tended to have, like smoking, drinking and physical inactivity. Even when they accounted for all the other terrible things research subjects were doing to their bodies, the strong association between red meat and death still stood out.

Eating more healthful protein sources in place of red meat has a significant positive effect. Eating nuts instead of red meat decreased a person’s mortality risk by 19 percent.

Even eating higher-quality beef can help, says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. He recommended eating “a vegetarian dinner once or twice a week. And when you eat red meat, switch to leaner cuts and grass-fed cattle,” because when you eat an animal you are also eating whatever the animal ate.

Hu summarized, “I think the public health message is pretty straightforward. We should switch from a red meat-based diet to a plant-based diet with healthier protein choices.”

We should switch to a plant-based diet? Huh. That isn’t news either.


Related Stories:

Vegan Eats Steak, Shows Why Going Meatless is Good For You

4 More Reasons Not To Eat Meat

Western-Style Diet: A Recipe for Dying Before Your Time


Photo credit: Digital Vision


DaleLovesOttawa O.
DaleLovesOttawa O.about a year ago

Astounding, Barbara D! In fact, neither am I. One would think that the entire omnivore population would have been wiped out and gone extinct long ago, but ...we are still here, as are most people who enjoy a well-balanced diet,

Barbara D.
Past Member 1 years ago

And a year and a month later I' m STILL eating meat and I'm STILL not dead!

Nancy M.
Nancy M.1 years ago

Gerald L, you are correct that MDs take absolutely no courses in nutrition and most know very little.

I am sure that there are some who do out of interest.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa1 years ago

Thank you

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.1 years ago

Thanks, Gerald!

I eat apples from my own tree, but cannot swallow many kinds of vegetables. I have to eat fruit instead.

You are right about the grassland. I can see some of it by looking out of my own windows, and it is the way it is (beautiful! :-D ) because of grazing by sheep. They are prey animals, so it is natural for most of them to have short lives. Any issues lie with the way they are treated at slaughterhouses, and high standards can be maintained. I don't believe everything I hear from militant vegans.

Your point about oxen and buffaloes is a very interesting one that I'll remember.

Gerald L.
Gerald L.1 years ago

@ Rosemary H. @ 3:01am PST on Nov 24, 2014; Gerald,
I confess it's so long since I was in this discussion, that I can't remember if you favour selective omnivore eating habits - grass-fed beef only or vegetarian/vegan diets.

My preference is home grown vegetables, berries, apples if the deer leaves us any, grass-fed and wild meats, fish, fowl. I have issues with foods grown with nitrate based chemical fertilizers. My experience is that they drive inflammation in the body.

I am annoyed by the Vegan Militia who demonize meat. Globally there is a vast area of Grassland available for livestock. What is ironic is that most of the rice grown, still use oxen and buffalo in the process. Which is animal exploitation in Vegan speak.

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.1 years ago


As I've said many times: Big Business never puts ethics before corporate greed unless the law forces it to do so - and then it seeks loopholes...

I confess it's so long since I was in this discussion (and my computer won't load threads with over 1000 replies) that I can't remember if you favour selective omnivore eating habits - grass-fed beef only or vegetarian/vegan diets.

Gerald L.
Gerald L.1 years ago

contd; Such gradients affect and regulate the hydration of the body as well as blood pH, and are critical for nerve and muscle function.

Omnivore commentators here vocalize their objections to FEEDLOT and CAFO operations. The MARBLED Steak in the above picture is a result of being stuffed with grains & Antibiotics in a Feedlot to be fattened up, instead of being raised on grasslands.

Our problem with the Industrialized Food System is Wall Street, and its intrusion into the Futures Market, every commodity has to be showing increased profits to satisfy investors. That is why the perverse practices in animal husbandry & cropping have taken such a foothold. They have bullied their way into Family Farms, often crippling them with enormous debt, guilting them to move ahead into modern practices.

Gmo $eed$, chemical $pray$, artificial fertilizer$ etc. when it was basically local farm production with some farm produce Marketing Boards. Milk, Grain, Pork etc.

Gerald L.
Gerald L.1 years ago

contd; Quote; Dr. Thierry Vrain; University of Victoria, BC: The Glyphosate molecule was first discovered in 1960 by Stauffer Chemicals as a De-Scaling Agent for Boiler Tubes & piping, in 1964 it was Patented in the US as a powerful and very broad spectrum descaling agent. Meaning it binds to metals indiscriminately and does a great job at "dissolving and preventing minerals from being reactive or bioavailable in solution". When the descaling agent was disposed of in nature it was obvious that it killed plants. The chemical company Monsanto promptly bought the molecule , patented it as a herbicide in 1969, and got it commercialized in 1974.

Thiamine deficiency is onset by eating white breads, rice, alcoholism etc. The outer hull of rice & grains is polished off, called Bran and mostly fed to animals in pellets. Now with a diet of gmo mineral deficient grains, our bodies are under attack. We have our basic Electrolytes for bodily functioning,‎
In physiology, the primary ions of electrolytes are sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), chloride (Cl−), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42−), and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3−)... Sodium is the main electrolyte found in extracellular fluid and is involved in fluid balance and blood pressure control.

All known higher lifeforms require a subtle and complex electrolyte balance between the intracellular and extracellular environment... Such gradients