As every sentient omnivore must know by now, red meat got butchered by the media last week. Unfortunately, it only further confuses a public in desperate need of information on what they should eat to improve their health as more Americans become obese and rates of chronic disease skyrocket.
The first story was a bona fide expose that 70% of the ground beef for sale in the local grocery store has been adulterated by "pink slime," a filler made from fat and other debris left on the killing floor in the meat processing plant. The concoction is put through an industrial process to remove some of the fat then gassed with ammonia to sterilize it. In a comic display of corporate doublespeak, a meat industry spokesperson made the rounds on national television to say with a straight face (with no hint of humor or deception) that pink slime is beef. Nobody was fooled.
Then a second meat blockbuster blared from every major TV station and newspaper because of the severity of the claim: The Harvard School of Public Health announced that people who eat red meat are shortening their lives by years! What this study really proves is that Harvard's stature as a credible source of information for national policy debates on health and nutrition should itself be studied. Harvard's study is to legitimate scientific inquiry what pink slime is to beef. Read these excellent critiques of the Harvard study by Gary Taubes (warning: it's long but worth it) or Denise Minger at Mark Sisson's website.
What I find most intriguing and absent in the Harvard study is that it ignores multiple questions about all red meats that so many of us consume, which are tainted with growth hormones, antibiotics, and other additives. And what about corn? The industrial ag feed lots force cattle to fatten up fast with corn so they can be turned into $. Unfortunately, corn is a grain that a cow's their ruminant GI system is not designed by nature to digest. As a result, vital nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids are diminished while excessive saturated fats are increased. The USDA says not to worry, but more and more people do not believe them any more than Harvard University.
A TOJ always tries to keep an open mind. Right now there's a paradigm fight underway between the meat eaters in one corner, represented by the Paleo and Primal crowd, and the vegetarians, represented by Dr. Dean Ornish and former president Bill Clinton, in the other. It's possible that there's something in meat, especially if it's eaten in excess, that is harmful to our health. Dr. Gabe Mirkin provides an interesting bit of scientific speculation about a molecule called New5Gc that was discovered by Ajit Varki of the University of California and included in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2003. Spooky.
However, this TOJ will continue to eat red meat, mostly organically grown and grass fed, and not-charred. Red meat is rich in amino acids and B-vitamins. Your muscles need to be fed with high quality protein, despite what Harvard or the USDA have to say about it. Living long is great, but first and foremost you want to live well.