A trial of red meat and processed meat

I started to rethink my diet after I read some papers relevant to colon cancer. I fell into a dilemma: should I or should I not stop eating red and processed meat? This is not a black or white problem that can be easily answered. However, one night, I had a bizarre dream.

In the court of law, a judge said “Quiet! Quiet! Please quiet!” He then continued to highlight the background of red meat and processed meat.


The history of meat-eating among human beings can be traced back to 2.6 million years ago. With improving quality of life for most people, eating meat is not considered a luxurious diet in daily life. It is notable that the consumption of meat is remarkably high in some industrial countries following recent years. A survey from the World Health Organization estimates that 34,000 cancer deaths are caused by excessive consumption of processed meat in the world annually. According to the Organization of Economic Development and Co-operation and UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Australians devoured 94.6 kilograms of meat per capita in 2017; which makes our red meat consumption rank in top three around the world.


Meat consumption around the world

red meat includes beef and veal, pork meat and sheep meat.

Source: OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook (Edition 2017).


Subsequently, red meat and processed meat were summoned to appear and gave a private prosecution.


Vibrant red meat, in a small salami shop in a Roman market. Image credit Aghogho Omonigho via Flickr


My name is all mammalian muscle meat, everyone calls me ‘red meat’. My friend, processed meat is a famous person, who is good at packaging (salting, curing, fermentation, smoking) itself, such as sausages, ham and corned beef. Following studies which show that we contribute to some cancers, people turn pale at the mere mention of us.


What types of cancers are linked to eating red meat and processed meat?

Strong but limited evidence illustrates that bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer are associated with eating red meat. Conversely, processed meat is able to cause bowel cancer. Researchers spent around 20 years to quantify the risk of bowel cancer between 10,210 individuals who were either vegetarians or low-meat consumers and high-meat consumers. Surprisingly, they found that high-red meat consumers do not experience a significantly higher risk of bowel cancer when compared to vegetarian or low-meat consumers. (more details can be found in paper: Vegetarianism, low meat consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer in a population based cohort study.) There is no clear evidence which shows that processed meat and I are not bad for men. Have you thought that cancers are caused by multi-factors, such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity? Please look at yourself men!

“Red meats and processed meats are demons. Kill them!” A voice comes from jury.


Are red meat and processed meat offenders?

As red meat, I provide essential nutrients for people, such as proteins, vitamin B, iron and zinc. My charming friend, processed meat, takes responsibility for increasing your appetite. We have taken pride in one of our successes, which is to be part of Australia’s national dish, the meat pie. We are so tasty! What faults do we have?

Homemade Upper MIchigan Pasty Meat Pie with Ketchup. Image credit Brent Hofacker via Flickr


Currently, people often evade us when we say “hi”. They think we increase their risk of bowel cancer. However, high-level and long-term consumption of processed meat or red meat are most likely to increase bowel cancer risk. In this case, people are responsible for their dietary habits.

Although we do not want to mention our competitor, fibre, people can gain multiple benefits from a balanced diet, which consists of limited lean meat with a variety of fibre (vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes). Cancer Australia recommends eating less than 500 grams red meat per week and avoiding processed meat to reduce risk of cancer. You can read more about dietary recommendations on the Australia Cancer Council page.

The audiences fell silent. Suddenly someone yelled out “red meat is lying! They are criminals!” Most people were resentful, then, a big bang was heard in the court. I woke up.

I still remember that it was a foggy Friday afternoon. I decided to buy a BBQ bacon cheese stacker at Hungry Jack’s and plenty of lettuce from the market to spoil myself. At dinner, I ate a dish made of lettuce and was thinking whether I should start quantifying the amount of red meat and processed meat that I am consuming each day.

2 Responses to “A trial of red meat and processed meat”

  1. Ye Zheng says:

    Thanks, Gary! I’m glad to know you enjoyed it.

  2. Gary Yang says:

    This article is really creative! I found it pretty funny when “Red Meat” appeared and defended itself in court.
    Well researched and an imaginative take on a relevant topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *