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Hot Springs, Ark. – The World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat
among substances considered carcinogenic while red meat was classified as probably
carcinogenic. At this point it is uncertain as to what sort of demand impact the release
of this report will have on red meat consumption.
There have been other reports in the past that have sought to link meat consumption
and cancer but the impact on demand appeared to be relatively transitory. However,
we live in a very different media landscape than even a few years ago. The consumption
effects will depend largely on how the nuanced message of this report will be packaged
“This meat causes cancer” is one of the headlines, showing a picture of sausages and
bacon. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report however says
that each 50 gram portion (1.8 oz) consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal
cancer by 18%. The average consumer does not have an actuarial background or an inclination
to model risk behaviors. However, they do have an abundance of common sense, especially
when it comes to consumption of foods that are deeply rooted in tradition, across
cultures, and have been shown to provide sustenance over the millennia.
One of the more interesting facts in reviewing the story is red meat is the 939th
agent found by the IARC to increase the risk of cancer. Examining the inter-relationship
among all these agents (which include air, work environments, etc.) and understanding
the true level of risk from each one is outside the scope of the work of IARC. Other
agents will most surely be added to the list in the coming years as the committee
continues to catalogue all and everything that could be bad for us.
In the meantime, the world population has gone from around 3.2 billion in the early
1960s to around 7.5 billion today and will likely be at 9 billion in another 25 years.
The global life expectancy has gone from around 55 years in the early 1960s to well
over 70 years today. Some of that improvement is certainly due to modern medicine
and reductions in child mortality. It is also due to the fact that as incomes have
risen across all regions of the world, it has led to better nutrition, including higher
consumption of meat protein. And this is one thing that reports such as the one above
do not really tell the consumer.
While eating a portion of processed meat every day could increase the risk (which
may be quite low to begin with) by 18%, how does that risk change if people stop eating
meat and instead seek to find nourishment from less nutritional foods? Consumers well
remember all the fuss about cholesterol and fat and heart disease. This led to a dramatic
change in food consumption as manufacturers tripped over each other to replace fat
with sugar. Today the consumer is more obese and new science tells us that risks from
fatty foods may not be as dire.
Meat consumption has been increasing, in tandem with global incomes and well-being.
In the developing world, rising incomes have allowed consumers to substitute meat
for lower quality protein, a trend that will likely continue as developing countries
close the income gap. WHO reminds us of the 939 risks. Fair enough. But the ride
is too short and precious to hide in a bunker, breathing filtrated air and eating
celery sticks. (Source: CME Group)
For more information, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703,
or email Jimmy Driggers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest
volunteer organization in the state. For information on EHC call 623-6841 or 922-4703
or email email@example.com.
If you’re interested in becoming a Master Gardener and would like more information,
you’re welcome to attend their monthly meeting on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 1pm at the Elks Lodge. You may also call the Extension
office on 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have several 4-H clubs for our Garland county youth who are 5 to 19 years old.
For more information on all the fun 4-H activities there are, call the Extension Office
at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email Linda Bates at email@example.com.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative
By Allen Bates County Extension Agent - AgricultureThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Allen Bates County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal
access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to
participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension
office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible
persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national
origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information,
or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity