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Red Meat and Cancer

Organic meat can cost a little more than meat from animals raised in the conventional manner. In this piece I will discuss some of the issues surrounding the discussion of traditional meat and organic meat.

Red meat has been suspected of contributing towards the risk of cancer since the 1970's. There was a review published by the World Cancer Research Fund, looking at the evidence for nutrition, food and cancer. This review confirmed that if you eat large amounts of red meat this will increase in the chances of getting several different types of cancers. These include (possibly) colorectal cancer, also kidney, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers. They advise that the recommended amount of red meat that you should eat is 80g (3oz) of red meat, which is beef, lamb or pork a day. Also advised is for people to eat fish, poultry or meat from wild animals instead of red meat. But also preferably to base your diet as much as possible on plant-foods. This evidence comes from studies of meat from conventionally intensively raised domesticated animals.

Would it be better to eat meat from organically reared animals?

The way that organically farmed animals are reared, looked after, fed, etc, are different from intensively farmed system. Animals in an organic farming system are not caged, tethered, or confined in building without natural light and ventilation. Organic farming methods are based on the animals physiological and behavioural needs. Animals are kept in appropriate size herds and flocks and are given enough room to move freely. Organic methods of farming pay attention to bedding materials, paints and wood preservatives used in their housing, they are also given access to fresh water and pasture. The animals are fed properly and it is made sure that they are getting the right nutrition, this helps the animals health and vitality. All growth hormones and promoters are forbidden, also prophylactic antibiotics. If the animals are ill and after seeing a vet there is no way to make them better other than treating them with conventional medicines, then veterinary drugs are allowed. The withdrawal periods after giving veterinary drugs are very strict, this is to prevent residues in the meat.

How do organically reared animals make a difference in the quality of the meat?

The meat from organically reared animals could differ in many ways which means that it could account for a lower risk of cancer. The difference in the amount of fat and the amount of growth hormones. There is a difference in fat, intensively reared animals result in meat that has a high fat content. There is more than three times as much protein as fat in wild cattle, compared with domestic cattle who have half as much protein as fat. As well as the amount of fat increasing there is also a change in the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids - in intensively farmed animals. The ratio is 1 to 50. However in wild animals the ratio is 1 to 2.3. There is strong evidence to suggest that total fat and saturated fat, increase the risk of some cancers such as colorectal and prostate cancers. There also may be a link with breast cancer. The main source of fat and saturated fat in the British diet is from meat and dairy products.

Is organic meat more like intensively produced meat or more like wild animal meat?

We do not know how much fat organic meat contains compared to intensively farmed meat. There are some comparative studies on the quality of organic meat compared with intensively farmed meat, but we can not gather any conclusions about fat content. There is however a difference in contaminated meat with hormones. Growth hormones are given to animals to help them absorb nutrients more efficiently. They can be given as an implant in the ear or in their food. There are three kind of growth hormones: Natural steroid hormones ­ oestradiol, progesterone and testosterone, Synthetic steroid hormones ­ Trenbolone, Finkplix, Ralgro and Stilbenes including DES (diethylstilboestrol), and Phyto-oestrogens derived from plants ­ Zeranol. Natural steroid hormones in high levels are carcinogenic, that act as a promoter of cancer not an initiator of cancer. One of the synthetic hormones DES, is carcinogenic in animals and people. This was discovered when women took the drug to prevent miscarriage.

If you are concerned about eating intensively farmed meat because of the effect it could have on your health, then you really should reduce the amount of red meat you eat, and when you do eat red meat eat organic. You should keep you intake of red meat down to about 80g a day - which is the recommended amount.






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