A coalition of experts and politicians in the United Kingdom are warning that the meat industry will gain the murderous reputation of the tobacco industry if it doesn’t stop adding cancer-causing nitrites to meats like bacon and ham.
According to food scientist Professor Chris Elliott, and cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, the coalition has reached a “consensus of scientific opinion” that nitrites, used to cure meat, produce carcinogens called nitrosamines when ingested.
Nitrites are the chemicals that give processed meats their pink color.
The coalition further claims that nitrites in meat cause 6,600 cases of bowel cancer in the UK each year – 4 times the number of deaths caused by vehicle accidents, They are campaigning for the government to give the chemicals the same health priority as sugar.
“Government action to remove nitrites from processed meats should not be far away. Nor can a day of reckoning for those who dispute the incontrovertible facts. The meat industry must act fast, act now – or be condemned to a similar reputational blow to that dealt to tobacco.”
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified processed meat as “probably carcinogenic,” linking the foods to colorectal, esophageal, lung, and pancreatic cancer. The agency, part of the World Health Organization (WHO), placed the blame on nitrites and nitrosamines.
In October 2018, processed meat was linked to breast cancer when a Harvard analysis of more than 1.5 million women showed thatregularly consuming processed meat increased the risk of the disease by 9%.
In a December 29, 2018 statement, the coalition said “that not enough is being done to raise awareness of nitrites in our processed meat and their health risks, in stark contrast to warnings regularly issued regarding sugar and fattening foods.”
The meat industry argues that nitrites are essential for fighting botulism and infection, but Malhotra pointed out that Parma ham (Italian dried ham) hasn’t contained nitrites in 25 years. In fact, many meat producers have stopped using nitrites in their products, which proves that the chemicals are indeed unnecessary.
The European Food Safety Authority maintains that exposure to nitrites as food additives are within safe levels for all population groups, except for a “slight exceedance” in children who consume a diet containing high levels of the preservatives. 
A spokesperson for the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said:
“The industry is constantly looking at the levels of nitrites and nitrates, but reductions have to be balanced against the food safety issues and minimizing waste.”
Oxford researchers said on November 7 that taxing meat could help off-set healthcare costs and save hundreds of thousands of lives. Additionally, taxing red and processed meat could allow hundreds of billions of dollars to be put toward healthcare costs each year, they suggest. 
A study from the U.K. university looking into optimal tax levels for red and processed meats in almost 150 countries and regions found that in high-income countries, red meat prices would need to be increased by more than 20%, while processed meats would need to more than double in price.
Those levels would rake in an estimated $172 billion per year globally and cover 70% of the healthcare costs associated with consuming red and processed meats. The tax would need to be doubled in order to cover the full costs.
Meat consumption has been linked to kidney cancer, and has been shown to worsen the prognosis for people with colon cancer. Processed meat, in particular, has been linked to a significantly increased risk of pancreatic cancer, as well as breast cancer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also linked red and processed meat to coronary heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. 
The authors of the study estimate that in 2020, the consumption of red and processed meat will result in 2.4 million global deaths and a healthcare bill of $285 billion.
In addition to off-setting healthcare costs, the authors said their proposed tax could lead to a 16% decline in the global consumption of meat. This, they say, could be a big boon to the environment, as it would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by over 100 million tons.
Earlier in 2018, an analysis showed that avoiding meat and dairy is the biggest way people can reduce their environmental impact on the planet. The study found, among other things, that if people stopped eating meat and dairy, it could reduce global farmland use by 75% – an area equivalent to the U.S., China, European Union, and Australia combined. 
Study leader Marco Springmann said an overconsumption of red and processed meat had a negative impact on many countries. 
“I hope that governments will consider introducing a healthy levy on red and processed meat as part of a range of measure to make healthy and sustainable decision-making easier for consumers.
Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can’t eat. However, our findings make it clear that the consumption of red and processed meat has a cost, not just to people’s health and to the planet, but also to the healthcare systems and the economy.”
Springmann and his colleagues compared the proposed tax to those already levied on other health-damaging products such as tobacco, alcohol, and sugar. However, with different laws in different jurisdictions, it could be challenging to implement a global meat tax.
The researchers estimate that a global meat tax would save 220,000 lives, including 53,000 in the United States. Moreover, the tax would result in $41 billion in healthcare savings, including $20 billion in the U.S. 
“Consuming red and processed meat not only affects your health but also the economy at large.”
He cited decreased productivity and care for family members who suffer from chronic disease.
Researchers in California and France want to remind us that not all protein is created equal (at least when considering the nutrition of the entire protein-filled food). They say that meat protein is associated with a significantly increased risk of heart disease, while proteins from nuts and seeds are heart-healthy. 
Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study found that people who eat large quantities of meat protein had a 60% risk increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD). By comparison, people who consumed large amounts of protein from nuts and seeds experienced a 40% reduction in CVD risk.
Gary Fraser, MB ChB, PhD, from Loma Linda University, and François Mariotti, PhD, from AgroParisTech and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, said:
“While dietary fats are part of the story in affecting risk of cardiovascular disease, proteins may have important and largely overlooked independent effects on risk.”
Fraser said that he and his colleagues have long suspected that red meat increases the risk of CVD, while adding more nuts and seeds to your diet protects against it. 
The researcher hopes that the findings will lead to further research into the way certain amino acids found in animal proteins boost the risk of heart disease, as well as more research into the relevance of blood pressure, blood lipids, and weight.
Additionally, the study found that eating more refined grains, sugary foods and starchy foods like potatoes, may promote poor heart health. These foods tend to dominate many vegetarian diets.
Lead author Dr. Ambika Satija wrote:
“It is apparent that there is a wide variation in the nutritional quality of plant foods, making it crucial to take into consideration the quality of foods in a plant-based diet.”
Reducing meat consumption has long been associated with better cardiovascular health. For example, eating animal products has been shown to increase the risk of blood clots that lead to heart attack and stroke. And back in 2013, Harvard researchers wrote that reducing meat consumption could extend your life by up to 20%.
On July 28, 2018, a bill went into effect in Missouri that prohibits companies from “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.” 
The bill, introduced in May, protects buyers from unwittingly purchasing plant-based products marketed as meat. The law applies to meat substitutes, such as soy-based and plant-based meat, as well as “clean” meat grown in the lab that is close to hitting the market.
Companies that violate the law face a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
The issue, however, is far from over.
Four organizations – Tofurky, the Good Food Institute, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLUM), and the Animal Legal Defense Fund – have already sued the state, seeking an injunction to block the law from being enforced. Both sides claim they’re trying to do what is best for buyers who want to know the precise ingredients that go into their meat. 
Namely, is it really meat?
The groups accuse the state of stifling competition from producers in the plant-based protein industry.
Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement: 
“As more and more consumers are making the conscious choice to remove animals from their plates, Missouri is putting its thumb on the scale to unfairly benefit the meat industry and silence alternative producers. This law violates various constitutional principles, including free speech – which should be a concern for everyone, regardless of diet.”
(Andrea Germanos) A new analysis offers alarming findings as many Americans get ready to fire up their grills for the 4th of July—nearly 80 percent of supermarket meat was found to have antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as superbugs.
One of the largest chicken producers in the United States, Perdue Farms recently released its first-ever chicken welfare report in July 2017. The company says it has taken important steps to follow through on plans it announced a little over a year ago to change the way it raises and slaughters chickens. 
Perdue says in the report that it implemented new breeding methods which allow chickens to grow at a faster rate without causing them harm. The company additionally claimed that it would install stunning systems that minimize stress to the birds as they’re headed to slaughter.
Over time, the changes will be rolled out to about 1,500 contract farmers and 5,000 chicken houses, according to company chairman Jim Perdue and senior vice president Bruce Stewart-Brown.
Factory Farms Have a Serious Negative-Image
In recent years, Perdue Farms has had its share of problems. One I can recall off-hand was in 2014, when farmer Craig Watts – a contractor for Perdue at the time – revealed shocking video footage of the filthy, unhealthy, and downright inhumane living conditions suffered by chickens produced for the company.
Watts, who eventually left the chicken farming industry in disgust, went on to release equally disturbing video footage of the horrid living conditions and treatment of chickens produced for Pilgrim’s Pride.
In both videos, over-large chickens are seen crammed together in a filthy warehouse. They have no natural light in to bask in, and the birds must literally trample each other just to get to their feed.
‘Positive Changes are Coming’
Perdue Farms, the 4th-largest poultry producer in the country, is the largest poultry producer to ensure chickens in its supply chain are treated better, according to Humane Society of the U.S. vice president Josh Balk.
The new chicken houses have lots of windows, space for the chickens to move about, even ramps and straw bales for the birds to perch on. 
Leah Garces, executive director of Compassion in World Farming, who recently took a tour of Perdue’s vision of the future, said “It’s a big difference.” She added that chickens in the house with natural light are “running around, climbing on things, pecking, perching,” compared with the chickens in the the windowless house, which are “quiet, they’re sitting, they’re not moving.”
Company executives say they’ve seen a substantial difference in the health and quality of the chickens raised in better conditions. Jim Perdue said the company found that when chickens are more active and not left squatting in cramped conditions, the meat is of higher quality, something they learned when they started raising their birds according to organic rules.
“We’re finding that meat from organic chickens is better. More tender. Different color. Activity is the key. [Organic chickens] are more active, they’re running around.”
Any person who has ever eaten organic, humanely-raised meat can attest that there is an elephantine difference in the quality and flavor of organic meat. The superior birds – the organic ones – are better for human health, too.
Even without Perdue Farms’ revelations about the virtues of organic chicken farming, pressure from big corporate customers certainly would have forced the poultry producer to alter its behavior. These customers include food service companies and other institutions, such as Aramark and Compass, both of which have announced that by 2024, they will only purchase chickens from companies that improve the lives of its birds.
The food service companies say they’ll only purchase chickens from companies that raise them according to new animal welfare rules set in place by Global Animal Partnership, an organization originally launched by the grocery chain Whole Foods.
Those rules include:
Chicken houses will have natural light.
Chicken producers will use a new slaughtering process that knocks the birds unconscious with gas before they are killed. This will replace electrical stunning, which involves hanging the birds by their feet on a sort of conveyor belt and their heads come into contact with electrically charged water.
More Progress Needs to be Made
Perdue is on the path to meeting the requirements, but there is one hurdle that could be hard for the company to hop over: growing a chicken that can freely move about because it doesn’t fatten up as quickly.
In the secret videos recorded by Craig Watts, hugely fat chickens endeavor to navigate the facilities, balanced on its 2 scrawny legs, only for their legs to give out under the birds’ weight – an image described by Watts as “2 toothpicks sticking out a grape.”
Chickens are raised for breast meat, and for the last, oh, 60 years or so, chicken producers have been on a mission to increase the size of their birds in order to compete. The competition reaches as far down as the farmers themselves, whose pay depends on the amount of meat their birds produce. Chickens have quadrupled in size since the 1950’s, according to a 2014 study in the journal Poultry Science.
The Global Animal Partnership demands that companies use slower-growing breeds. The animal welfare group hasn’t decided which breeds will meet its standard, but Perdue Farms is studying 6 alternative breeds at a research farm.
Unfortunately, the switch to slower-growing chickens is likely to have a palpable impact on business. And because certain breeds of slower-growing chickens produce less breast meat and bigger legs, buyers can expect to feel the impact, too. They may have to pay more for poultry, or eat more dark meat.
Jim Purdue said:
“This is a big change for our company as well as the industry. Getting everyone aligned is the big challenge. From that aspect, I think things are going well as far as people understanding what we want to look like.” 
Researchers announced in April that they may have figured out how eating meat causes heart disease. The nutrient choline, an essential nutrient found in meat and eggs, may feed a certain gut bacteria which produce a compound that makes blood sticky and prone to form blood clots. These blood clots can lead to heart attacks and strokes. 
The study, led by Dr. Stanley Hazen of the Cleveland Clinic, was a small but intense one involving 18 participants – 8 who were either vegans or vegetarians and 10 who routinely ate meat, dairy, and eggs. Each volunteer was given a supplement of 500 mg of choline per day. The recommended daily choline intake for women is 425 mg, and for men it’s 550 mg.
After a month, the participants’ blood levels of a compound called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) rose 10-fold. Tests showed that their blood became much more likely to form clots, leading the team to surmise that “TMAO supercharges platelet function.” Hazen added:
“What is clear from this study is if you increase the choline in your diet, the TMAO level goes up and that changes your platelet function.” 
Both the vegans and the vegetarians had significantly lower choline levels at the beginning of the study than the meat-eaters did. Their levels were still much lower than the meat-eaters’ after taking choline supplements.
The researchers did not find, however, that the volunteers who took the choline supplements had an actual higher risk of heart disease. The study did not last long enough or include enough participants to demonstrate such a conclusion.
But they did discover that other compounds found in animal products had a similar effect on gut bacteria. The team wrote:
“We previously showed gut microbial production of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) from dietary nutrients like choline, lecithin, and L-carnitine is linked to the development of cardiovascular diseases.” 
The scientists also found that taking low-dose aspirin seemed to reduce the stickiness of platelets and also reduced the choline-associated increases in TMAO and platelet clotting, although it didn’t completely eliminate them. The finding is of particular concern for people who are at an elevated risk for cardiovascular problems, whose increased risk of blood clots may not be overcome by low-dose aspirin. 
It also got the researchers to thinking that it might be worthwhile to study whether low-dose aspirin might help otherwise healthy people who have high levels of TMAO in their blood. First things first, though – they need to figure out why aspirin seems to lower TMAO before they can proceed. Besides, aspirin can cause its own slate of health problems.
So, what is the best way to avoid excess, clot-promoting choline? Well, the team isn’t recommending that people stop eating animal products, but they are urging people to avoid choline supplements. Hazen says:
“Foods that raise TMAO may increase your risk for clotting and thrombotic events. Unless prescribed by your doctor, avoid supplements with choline. A Mediterranean or vegetarian diet is reported to help reduce TMAO.” 
Mediterranean diets have a long history of being heart-healthy. There is no specific guide to follow when it comes to the eating pattern, but Mediterranean diets are rich in fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, legumes, lean cuts of poultry and fish, and olive oil. Little to no red meat is included in the diet.