A trial of red meat and processed meat


Since reading some papers relevant to colon cancer, I decided to rethink my diet, but I have fallen into an uphill battle: should I stop eating red meat and processed meat?  This is not a black or white problem, but one night, I had a bizarre dream.

In a court of law, a judge said “Quiet! Quiet! Please be quiet!” He then started to talk.


The history of meat-eating among human beings can be traced back to 2.6 million years ago. With the improving life quality of people, eating meat became the norm rather than a luxury. It is notable that the consumption of meat is now remarkably high in some industrial countries. The World Health Organization has reported a Q&A which mentions that 34,000 cancer deaths are caused each year by high-intakes of processed meat. A growing number of tabloid newspapers use the gross levels of consumption of red meat or processed meat to attract the public’s attention. According to the data of 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; and this level of consumption ranked Australia in the top three meat-eating countries in the world. A number of people have started to resist the consumption of red meat and processed meat.

Meat consumption around the world
Red meat includes beef and veal, pork meat and sheep meat.
Data source: OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook (Edition 2017). Figure made by author.


In my dream the Judge summoned red meat and processed meat to appear and face a private prosecution.

Still life of various smoked pork meat, salami and sausage. Image credit grafvision via shutterstock.


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, represents  hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef etc. Since some studies show we are able to attribute 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?


There is strong but limited evidence illustrate that bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer are associated with eating red meat. Processed meat is able to cause colorectal cancer. However, the interesting thing is some researchers spent around 20 years to analyze the risk of bowel cancer for vegetarians or low meat consumers and high meat consumers, including about 10,210 individuals in Netherlands. They found that there was no significant differences in the bowel cancer risk between these two different diet groups and the normal population (more details can be found in paper: Vegetarianism, low meat consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer in a population based cohort study). Although the controversy about us has not stopped yet, there no clear evidence shows that we are bad men. Okay, I am sorry about that sometimes we are trouble makers. But have you thought that the cancers are caused by multi-factors, such as total cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, BMI, and physical activity? Please look at yourself men!

“They are demons. Kill them!” – A voice comes from jury.


Red meat and processed meat are offenders or not?


As red meat, I provide essential nutrients for people, such as proteins, B vitamins, 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 Australia’s national dish, meat pie. How tasty it is! What faults have we?

Homemade Aussie Meat Pie. Image credit bonchan via shutterstock.


Currently, people often evade us, when we say hi to them. I know what they are thinking: we increase their risk of bowel cancer. But the key point is that only high-level, long-term consumption of processed meat or red meat are likely to increase bowel cancer risk. In this case, people are responsible for their daily diet habits, eat us in moderation and their risk of bowel cancer will not change.

Although we do not want to mention our competitor, fibre, people can gain benefit from a balanced diet, including limited lean meat with a variety of fibre (vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes). Cancer Australia suggests eating less than 500 grams red meat per week and avoiding processed meat to reduce the cancer risk. The Australia Cancer Council also gives more details about a recommended diet to avoid cancer.

At that moment, the people in court fell silent. Suddenly someone yelled out “Liars! They are criminals!” People almost appeared to resent us, there was a big bang in the court and I woke up.

I still remember that foggy Friday, I decided to buy a double BBQ bacon cheese stacker in Hungry Jack’s and buy a plenty of lettuce from market to spoil myself. Later, I ate a dish of lettuce and was still thinking about “shall I buy a measurement device to measure the amount of beef I eat every day?”


Further readings on red meat and processed meat:


Processed meat, red meat and cancer: 3 important questions to consider

Some questions and answers of red meat and processed meat from WHO

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

  1. Ye Zheng says:

    wow, cool. That’s a good idea to label meat, especially to remind people of the content. Some of my friends don’t eat meat, and they feel more healthy. The main reason is that they find a balanced lifestyle, such as doing the activity, keeping happy and regularly sleeping habit. thanks!

  2. Jason Conley says:

    Nice article. It makes you wonder if processed meat and red meat packaging might end up with health warning labels in the future like cigarettes.

    I stopped eating all animal products four years ago partly for health reasons but also after learning about the huge environmental impact of animal agriculture and the ethics of killing animals for food.

  3. Ye Zheng says:

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

  4. 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.