Search This Blog

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Rant on Processed Meat

So, this started off as a post about sausage rolls.  How innocent they seem, right?
Well before I knew it I got carried away on a self-stimulating, rambling rant about processed meat...  So, I changed the post title.  But before you close this page and look instead for the (inevitably delicious-looking) pictures of my admittedly delectable sausage rolls, please don't go!  It's not a long post...

In fact, I'll tell you what, if you stick with this post all the way until the end, I'll include a link straight to those yummy pictures!  :D

I don't eat a lot of processed meat.  Hardly any at all, actually.  I consider the recent clamour surrounding bacon and other processed meats, as just the most recent affirmation of something which we've all secretly suspected for many decades.

In case you haven't heard, or you've been under a rock somewhere, or you're one of those people who unintentionally prides themselves of the co-dependency of ignorance (you actually won't know who you are... but everyone else does)... the deal is that, this month, Bacon and other processed meats have officially (by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer) been declared a Class 1 carcinogen.  Same class as cigarettes.  And plutonium.

I mean, that's not really a surprise, but the fact that it's been made official, and in the 'for-absolute-super-duper-sure-definitely-causes-cancer' category has a lot of people incensed.  Not everyone of course, but a few.  Probably the same people who got upset when smoking was similarly labeled all those many years ago.  And bacon manufacturers of course.

Anyway... I won't get into the science of it, but I'll just say that, while all animal products have some degree of deleterious effect to humans when ingested, when it's been smoked, salted, treated, or any thing like that... it's real bad.

Again, without going into crazy detail, it largely has to do with those pesky N-Nitroso Compounds (NOCs).  These form when the basic building blocks of protein (amino acids) are exposed to oxides of nitrogen, such as happens when meat is smoked.  These NOCs are also there sometimes because the manufacturer literally put them there.  Yup.  Remember that big nitrite hubbub from last decade?  Meat processing manufacturers used to (many still do!) add these nitrates and nitrites on purpose, because they stop the growth of bacteria, most notably botulism... which, sure, is bad... but c'mon.

So, these NOCs are so good at messing with DNA that researchers actually use them to purposefully induce tumors in lab rats.

So, don't put that shit in your body, basically.

Cooking meat also causes some bad things to happen as well... harmful compounds that come out during the heating and such... 

It should also be noted that the IARC also puts regular old red meat into a carcinogen category of '2a' which while not as obviously carcinogenic is still "probable".

Sure your grandpappy survived for 98 years and ate bacon and eggs for breakfast every day and prime rib for supper every night.  What can intelligent, well-informed people say to that in argument?  Just this: it's probabilities people.  There is no direct causal relationship, but that's only because it's extremely intricate and complicated in there (your body), so there is a very real chance that you can eat bacon your whole life and never suffer ill effects.  Just don't delude yourself.  Every time you do that you are increasing your chance at some illness, disease, or death.  For every 50 grams of processed meat you eat, on average, per day, your chance of developing colorectal cancer increases by 18%.  (  

So, by all means, you can roll the dice and gamble, if you want to... I'm not going to stop you.  I will strongly encourage you not to, however... 

The bottom line? Meat is not good for you.  Processed meat... well that's just outright bad for you.

It's not a difficult concept, nor is it anything new.  But for a food-lover like me it is hard to just stop something entirely.

So, rather than consigning myself to the utter, dark desolate and despairing oblivion that would be complete abstinence, I opt instead for a strategy of infrequency... and mitigation.

Firstly, that means eating processed meat—or any meat in general, really—very infrequently.  I'd say I have it down to about one serving of meat per week, on average.  For processed meats, I'd say that is down to one serving a month.  Perhaps less.  Anyway, it's not vegetarianism, but it's pretty darn close.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I am a strong believer in the biological mechanisms behind our metabolizing and incorporating foods.  It is foolish to think of our bodies' relationship with food as a case-by-case individualized basis.  We are complicated and so is food. If, just as one example, you analyze a particular food and determine it has inflammatory properties in your tissues, I believe this analysis should also determine whether any anti-inflammatory properties might also be at play from those, as well as any accompanying, food molecules.  And that's just one aspect, there are countless molecules all interacting (and not interacting) with each other in the giant soup tank that is our stomach.  There are bound to be some favourable interactions amid all the unfavourable, and there are possibly some which might even counteract each other.  

Like eating pheasant in a blackberry sauce.  I'm not saying the one will completely negate the other, but I have to believe (not just from my own faith in science and nature, but from the laws by which they themselves are set) that there is going to be some larger picture happening... and perhaps... just's not unreasonable to expect some degree of mitigation.  

So, while I do eat a burger once in a while, or enjoy a good bolognese sauce here and there, I have to admit that I do feel some small measure of relief from balancing that out with a heavy reliance on a large quantity of richly coloured, anti-oxidant-laden fruit and vegetables.

Actually (and fortunately for me) if I am going to be honest, when it comes down to it, given a choice between a steak or a big bowl of fresh red raspberries, I'd choose the latter 99/100 times.  That's good, and not just because a diet of infrequent meat DOES save some money... raspberries are freaking expensive!


Anyway, if you stuck with this post all the way to the end, yay!  

And sorry; it can get pretty discombobulating up there inside my head sometimes.  :)

Also... remember that I am not an expert, and by no means do I have all the answers.  I, like most people, just try to do the best I can, with whatever knowledge I can assimilate, and try to build that into a lifestyle strategy.  Actually, I quite like that word: strategy.  It implies foresight, planning, adapting, and above all: critical thinking.  And that's always good advice.  Just be smart people.

Anyway, after all that talk about how bad processed meat is... here, as promised, is a link to my Breakfast Sausage Rolls.  Which—to be clear—should only be enjoyed once in a very slim while.