The simple answer is yes, well maybe. It really depends on what your meat eats.

A study published in the JAMA’s Archives of Internal Medicine shows that the eating a portion of red meat daily increases your risk of dying 13-20%. A portion is equivalent to two strips of bacon or one hot dog. The study showed that eating red meat specifically increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancers and processed meats (such as hot dogs, bacon, deli meats) have a higher risk than unprocessed meat.

This information is nothing new to those familiar to healthy eating; however, it does shine a spotlight on the issue. The authors of the study concluded that almost 10% of the total deaths in the 28 year study could have been prevented if the participants had consumed fewer than 0.5 servings of red meat per day.

However, the study had a major flaw: it looked only at those people that ate factory-farmed-raised, non-organic beef eaters and did not include a comparison to those that ate only organic, grass-fed beef. This is a major oversight as most data shows that even though conventionally raised red meat will decrease the quality and quantity of your life, organic, grass-fed beef may have the opposite effect.

You are what your food eats

Conventionally raised cows are fed grain that is often laced with chemicals, cattle blood, chicken parts, antibiotics, restaurant leftovers and other compounds that dramatically increases the levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids in the meat. In fact, most conventionally raised beef contains over twenty times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids than anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids greatly increase inflammation, which is known to cause and exacerbate cardiovascular disease and cancer amongst many, many other diseases.  This helps explain the study findings noted above.

By contrast, grass-fed beef typically has almost seven times more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6s. In fact, eating grass-fed beef regularly has been shown to increase overall omega-3 fatty acid levels after just four weeks. Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with reduced inflammation, improved cardiovascular function and overall better health. Therefore, eating organic, grass-fed red meat is not associated with the health conditions noted in the Harvard study.

Cows were designed to eat grass. They are uniquely adapted to manufacture and receive all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need simply by being allowed to pasture. However, most conventionally raised cows are fed grain because it is cheaper and easier to administer and it fattens the cows up faster; this also means the meat contains substantially more fat, which contains all the chemicals, hormones and antibiotic residues that are needed to keep these cows alive long enough to get to market. You eat the meat, but you get what your meat eats.

Eat Good Meat

Looking at the data, the choice is clear: if you are going to choose to eat red meat and you are at all concerned about your health, you have only one choice – organic, grass-fed meat. Otherwise, swap out your meat for other more healthy options, including organic chicken or turkey, wild-caught fish or choose some non-meat options such as beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds or whole grains. Choosing to continue eating conventionally raised meat as well as processed meat products is a sure-fire way to hit the fast-track to disease and a decreased quality of life.

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