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Posted by Julie Day

I’ve never been a massive fan of eating red meat, and therefore it has never featured greatly in my week-to-week diet. This probably stems from the fact that we very rarely ate red meat at home when I was growing up because my mum used to say that she hated the smell of it while it was cooking. She also came from a country where red meat was terribly expensive and was raised on the chicken and rabbits that they used to keep in their garden.

In recent years, especially since living in Spain, I’ve veered more towards a vegetarian diet, although I do eat fish and poultry occasionally. However, during a recent visit to Cuenca, I experienced one of the best meals I’ve ever had, which included several excellent cuts of red meat cooked to perfection over an open fire. There is definitely a lot to be said about buying the best ingredients to make the most deliciously tasting meals.

In any case, the latest report from the World Health Organization about the carcinogenic properties of processed meat and the possible carcinogenic qualities of red meat has made headlines across the media worldwide.

This doesn’t really surprise me when you take into consideration the way that animals are raised these days or the fact that most of the things that we eat just aren’t natural anymore. We are constantly feeding ourselves with chemicals and toxins, not even fruit and vegetables are safe, that it’s no wonder it is affecting our health.

According to the report, which was published earlier this week, experts have concluded that for every 50g portion of processed meat that we consume daily, the risk of bowel cancer increases by 18%.

This implies that the risk of developing bowel cancer is still small, but the risk is greater with the more processed meat that is consumed. For this reason, the WHO is calling for public health organizations to recommend a reduction in the consumption of these products.

So, which products are we actually talking about? A report carried out by the International Agency for the Investigation of Cancer, has divided these meats into two groups:

  • Processed meat: classified as cancerous towards humans (at the same level as tobacco), and associated with pancreatic and prostate cancer
  • Red meat: classified as probably cancerous for humans, although test results have not been definitive, and associated with bowel cancer


All types of flesh from mammals that is a red colour before cooking. This includes beef, veal, pork, venison, mutton, lamb, horse and goat.


This applies to all meats that have been transformed via a method such as salting, curing, fermenting, smoking or other processes that aim to strengthen the flavour or improve its conservation. The majority of these involve beef or pork, but can also contain other red meats from birds, guts or sub-products such as blood.

There are a number of products that have been highlighted for their higher risk of forming cancer and they are:

  • Frankfurt sausages
  • Fresh sausages
  • Ham
  • Cured meat (such as corned beef)
  • Tinned meat
  • Dehydrated meat
  • Bacon
  • Salami
  • Paté

Health experts recommend that for those that eat a lot of red or processed meat, they should reduce their consumption to 70g per day (equivalent size of one and a half slices of bread, although the meat should be thinly sliced).

For a country where preparing, cooking and eating meat is considered an art in some areas, I’m not sure whether this news will affect us much, however, when you consider the rise in the number of vegetarians, vegans and these type of restaurants and establishments over the last couple of years, it is possible that it will affect the production and consumption rates of these products in the near future.



  • red meat
  • processed meat
  • cancer
  • health
  • food
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