Meat Consumption: Points of View

02 Apr 2015

The quality of the meats we eat is an added value. If the animal was primarily fed fresh grass, corn, and hay, the nutritional value is better…

Healthy_eating_plateInformation about meat consumption is often heavily influenced by the source that promotes the communication. If this comes from the producers, at times it tends to focus on the role that meat plays in optimizing the intake of high quality proteins and iron, while failing to discuss differences in quality that come from different ways of raising the animals. On the other hand, sometimes the communications propose excessively aggressive positions, maintaining that meat is always related to tumors, degenerative diseases and environmental problems.

The themes of health and sustainability are often associated with the promotion of animal well-being and often, especially where children are concerned, the fear of consuming excess hormones and antibiotics. It is possible, given such diverse and contrasting positions, that even interested and careful consumers can find it difficult to manage healthy and conscious eating habits.

The internet, the virtual space where reliable information meets lies, offers too much information, some of which is found on pseudo-scientific websites that in truth hide a business agenda that is anything but virtuous. The use of reliable sources of information is always the best behavior.

In an attempt to analyze the problem in its various components, we begin with the relationship between meat consumption and health. Over the past few years a relationship between some cancerous diseases and elevated consumption of meat, especially red meat, has been shown. Based on these findings, the most recent guidelines (from the World Cancer Research Fund, or WCRF, and the Harvard University School of Public Health) recommend moderate consumption of red meat (about two portions per week) and only occasional consumption of cured meats (salami and other deli meats). They do not, however, advise vegetarianism as the only healthy choice. The way that the meats are prepared is also always important: grilled meats that are cooked for a long time with evident signs of charring are to be avoided.

The Italian Association for Cancer Research (AIRC) clarifies this aspect of meat consumption, with links to the aforementioned institutions available on their website.

Too_Much_at_steak_coverThis advice applies to people of all ages; even children can benefit from the moderate consumption of high quality meats. Indeed, the quality of the meats is an added value. If the animal was primarily fed fresh grass, corn, and hay, the nutritional value is better, as this diet leads to less cholesterol and saturated fats in the meat.

The regulations of the European food safety system ensure consumers of the absence of drug residues (see also the website of the European Food Information Council or EUFIC); The use of certified meats, which adhere to specifications with even more stringent requirements, can further ensure the consumers that there are no excess drugs in their meat. This certification guarantees the maximum traceability of the entire production process, while often certifying respect for animal well-being and a minimum environmental impact related to these production processes.

Slow Food’s manual Too Much at Steak contains helpful insights to reflect on and improve the consumption habits of a product that has enormous potential, when properly consumed. Quality is always preferable to quantity, and all cuts of meat should be eaten, even those that are less well known but no less noble.

by Andrea Pezzana

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