More bad news for bacon lovers -- a Harvard study offers urgent reasons to eat less
It’s a great day to be a cow.
On Monday, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health announced that just a single serving of red meat per day dramatically increases your risk of death – by 13 percent. The odds of developing cancer or heart disease start around 14 percent — and they climb even higher for people who eat processed meats like hot dogs and bacon. As MedSNBC summed it up, “Americans’ love of meat likely accounts for about 1.5 million excess deaths every decade.” Damn you, bacon.
It’s just another blow for an industry with a reputation that’s only slightly worse than Lindsay Lohan’s. Despite the continued, relentless urgings that beef is “what’s for dinner” and the shudderings of manly men like Herman Cain (remember him?) at the thought of a pizza piled with vegetables, meat consumption in America is on the decline. In fact, meat’s had an image problem ever since Oprah declared she was through with burgers after the mad cow disease outbreak of the 1990s. The problem continues with the latest controversy over “pink slime” (beef scraps treated with ammonia) being served in our children’s school lunches.
The Atkins diet was beef’s biggest friend for a moment, but over the last decade, the industry has suffered blows from searing exposes like Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation.” When I looked for news of e. coli warnings about meat while writing this piece, I found a major recall that had been posted just this morning. Add the overhaul of the food pyramid, the popularity of “meatless Mondays” and a general movement toward plant-based diets, and you’ve already got a radical shift in how we feel about eating animals.
Of course, the Harvard study’s dire warnings are already being met with pushback from the kind of Internet commenters who insist, “I’m going happy, hello Ribeye!” Behold that certain, modern insistence that whatever it is, you’ll have to pry it out of our cold, dead hands. “More BS from the food police!” They’re coming for our brisket! They’re going to force us to eat nothing but salad!
But life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I stopped buying plastic-wrapped meat from the back of the supermarket the day I watched the documentary “Food, Inc.” I still buy meat, however, from local, trusted sources. It’s considerably more expensive than the Manager’s Specials of yore, which is why my family eats a whole lot less of it. It’s not a big deal – my older daughter has been inclined toward vegetarianism since she was a baby, picking the meat out of every meal since she could muster finger-thumb dexterity. Her younger sister, meanwhile, would rather have pasta than anything. No meat? No problem. I like the flavor and flexibility of being a sometime meat-eater, of knowing that boeuf bourguignon is still an option and that I don’t have to sweat the menu when I’m traveling or a guest at someone’s home. I also like supporting the hard-working farmers who make their living from their livestock, who aren’t part of the grotesque industrial-meat complex. And I’m really not fond of the smug, in-your-face variety of vegetarianism that gets giddy with every new study about What Will Kill You.
Dr. An Pan, the lead author of the Harvard report, writes that the “results indicate that replacement of red meat with alternative healthy dietary components may lower the mortality risk.” We eat for a variety of reasons – not just to live but to share, to celebrate, to seduce. It doesn’t have to be a struggle against the Grim Reaper three times a day plus snacks. And health doesn’t have to be a slog of deprivation and hunger. When you cut down on meat – when you make the choice to not eat it every single day — you find other foods that are satisfying and often cheaper and easier to cook. You appreciate the beauty of a reasonable portion of a really great cut of meat. And you realize that it’s possible to live without sanctimony and fear.
More Related Stories
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- My text blew up in my face
- Boy Scouts end ban on openly gay boys
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Greek yogurt, toxic waste hazard?
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Pope Francis: Atheists are all right!
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- Is recreational pot use safe?
- How I ended up in a pyramid scheme
- My bipolar partner beat me
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11