Study gives red meat a clean bill of health
A study into the meat-eating habits of nearly 450,000 middle-aged people across Europe has concluded that red meat has no negative effects on health.
The finding – buried in a report in the BMC Medicine journal which found that processed meat like bacon and sausages can contribute to cancer and cardiovascular disease – contradicts a smaller US study that linked all meat eating to premature death.
The European findings were welcomed by Westcountry beef producers yesterday, in the build-up to British Beef Week (April 21-27).
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"Beef should be part of a balanced diet," said Bill Harper, of the National Beef Association in the South West, who farms beef cattle on the Cornwall and Devon border near Holsworthy.
"It's really important people should eat healthily, from known sources and cooked properly. Beef has a much higher content of minerals – particularly iron – and Omega 3, and essentially red meat is far more beneficial to a balanced diet than white meat... and it tastes great."
The medical report that highlighted the dangers of processed meat, including bacon and sausages, came from surveys from ten European countries over a 12-year span, and purported to show that one in 30 deaths resulted from consuming significant qualities of processed meat.
Devon farmer Jilly Greed, a founder of the marketing group Ladies in Beef, said it was important to stress that the survey was all about processed meat, not red meat.
She said: "In Germany a great deal more processed product is consumed, particularly salami. The real issue is these meat-processed diets are not balanced with vegetables and fruit, any form of exercise or a healthy lifestyle – all of which can have a contributory impact to life expectancy, as well as genetic predisposition to cancer. Red Tractor Assured British beef is a really important part of a balanced diet, as it supplies a large amount of key nutrients including protein, zinc, phosphorus, iron, selenium and vitamins B6 and 12, all of which contribute to brain and muscle function, red blood cell development and a healthy immune system.
"Beef has one of the highest nutrient concentrations, which is why it is so good for children and teenagers in preventing iron deficiency. You really have to take a perspective on these surveys."