Foodie on the Half Shell: Processed Meats

Up until I was 11, I was homeschooled on the llama farm where I grew up with my sister and my mom as my best friends. I began private Catholic school when I was going into sixth grade. I was already the weirdo who thought gay people deserved equal rights and that women should be able to be priests.

To make matter worse, the same year I also decided that eating meat was barbaric, and I became a vegetarian and sometimes pescatarian for the next 12 years. As I sat there in the cafeteria with all of those rude little sheep, I ate the same sandwich every day: avocado, cheese, hummus, spinach, and tomato. My peers could just not understand how I wasn’t eating their oh-so-delicious sandwiches such as bologna with mayo, or ham and cheese. My mom didn’t allow us to eat that stuff anyhow; it was pretty much turkey or veggie sandwiches. My sister ate lettuce and mustard sandwiches for, like, five years of her life.  

Well guys, don’t you feel stupid? I wasn’t eating your “meat” sandwiches because it causes cancer, and I wasn’t allowed. Probably because my mom loved me more than your mom loved you…

Ok, no, I’m sure your mom loved you just fine. This article really has nothing to do with criticizing your mom’s choices. We are adults now. It’s all about criticizing your choices.

When people began sharing the posts about “bacon causing cancer” and how processed meats were bad for us, I was shocked. Not because I didn’t know these facts, but because so many of my peers didn’t know. Where have you been? Did you seriously think that processed meats were good for you and a natural part of what a human should eat? Or how about thinking about this: smoked meats. We get lung cancer from smoking. Smoking meats is literally infusing them with stuff that causes cancer.

My mom has been calling processed meats carcinogens since I can remember. Uncured bacon and organic meats were the only things allowed in our home.

My job isn’t entirely to mock you, so I would also like to educate you by explaining in my words what the World Health Organization said exactly about certain kinds of meats, and what that means for you.

So what are processed meats? According to the WHO, they are meats that are cured, salted, smoked, or other processes that help with preservation and to make them taste better. Some examples are salami, ham, and smoked bacon. These are in Group 1 of carcinogens, which means that they most definitely are a cause of cancer.

Red meat (beef, pork, goat, etc.) is in Group 2 of carcinogens, meaning that it probably causes cancer. So, does this mean I’m never going to eat off of a salami and cheese board again? No way. How about that Italian hoagie that I love to splurge on sometimes? Still gonna. I don’t have knowledge about whether or not eating a little bit here and there is going to give you cancer, but I know that for the most part, everything in moderation is ok.

Many find this entire study laughable, such as Michael Symon, a celebrity chef that is a regular on the Food Network. He believes the entire issue is just a ploy to get a reaction out of people and to get visits on their website. I don’t agree with that statement at all, but I do agree with his concern about what these articles are doing to those meat farmers who are doing it “right.” It is unfair to categorize meat that is pumped with nitrates and hormones with all natural grass fed meats.

My advice to you all is to stay educated. Understand the holes in these WHO studies, but also understand that they are probably one of the most reliable sources, and that you probably don’t know more about this stuff than they do. Eat some delicious, all natural salami here and there with a nice glass of vintage (or Barefoot…whatever), but understand that the less meat you eat in general, the better. Chicken and fish are great sources of animal based proteins that are lean and good for you. Remember to buy cage free and wild caught, though! By eating a couple more meatless meals a week, you’ll be doing yourself, and your family, a service.