Cancer’s Beef with Bacon


Gavin Argrey a butcher of Argery's Quality Meats stands in front of his Springwood shop. Source: Janelsa Ouma
Gavin Argery a butcher of Argery’s Quality Meats stands in front of his Springwood shop.
Source: Janelsa Ouma

The World Health Organisation’s latest announcement warning that red meat, bacon, and processed meats can lead to certain types of cancer has been met with obvious concern.

The findings came from years of research from the WHO affiliate, International Agency for Research on Cancer, who officially presented the much rumoured discovery on Tuesday.

In the report issued by WHO, the results revealed that both red and processed meats can be linked to various forms of bowl cancer.

“Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans…based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer,” the report states.

The report also reveals that the likelihood of cancer is increased by an extra 18 per cent with every 50 grams of processed meats, such as sausage rolls, frankfurters, ham, sausages, corned beef and any sort of canned beef if consumed on a daily basis.

Director of IARC Doctor Christopher Wild said while the findings further support current public health recommendations to limit the intake of meat, red meat still has nutritional value.

“These results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations,” Dr Wild said.

Cancer Council Australia has backed the WHO research through their own investigations, showing that one in six bowl cancer cases are from direct over-consumption of red and processed meats.

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee Kathy Chapman recommends that Aussies should eat no more than 65-100g of cooked red meat three to four times a week.

“It might be the high fat content, the charring in the cooking process or big meat eaters missing out on the protective benefits of plant-based foods – or a combination of these factors,” Ms Chapman said.

“Whatever the mechanism, eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help you to moderate your intake of processed and red meats and can also help to protect against cancer,” she said.

In a statement responding to the report, Meat Livestock Australia recognised the importance of the discovery, but highlighted the need for further research, and encouraged maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle before looking to make any radical changes.

“When it comes to prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, the evidence suggests a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle is critical – focusing on only one kind of food is not enough,” the MLA statement said.

“Education around these issues is vital and we consult extensively with experts to ensure our nutrition communications are evidence-based and relevant to everyday Australians.”

The statement also noted the dietary benefits that come from red meat consumption.

“Red meat such as beef and lamb is a critical, natural source of iron and zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 – essential nutrients needed to keep the body and brain functioning well.”

For those in the meat business, this new revelation was not hard to swallow, and will be business as usual for local butcher Gavin Argery and his shop Argery’s Butchers.

“I don’t think it will effect us,” Mr Argery said.

“Most people eat bacon, eat ham.”

“They’ll only eat it once a week, twice a week, so it’s not like they eat it everyday,” he said.

Argery’s butchers believe that Christmas and appetite will override the fear of cancer and becoming vegetarians and vegans.

“Just put [the Christmas hams] in the window and they’ll buy it,” Mr Argrey said.

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