USDA promotes red meat despite cancer tie


This Diane Rehm  show on February 1st was a group discussion, which included representatives of the food Industry, a USDA representative, Walter Willett of the Harvard University School of Public Health and others. The discussion included, sugar, sodium, transfat, refine grains, dairy and red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat). This post will address red Meat and dairy portion of the discussion.

Walter Willett cited recent studies by Cancer Research Groups connecting red meat and dairy to cancer and Harvard’s recent studies connecting red meat and dairy to heart disease, diabetes and stroke. (these studies are archived on under Cancer). Diane Rehm asked the USDA representative why red meat and dairy products including cheese were still included in the USDA’s recommended daily diet for Americans in view of its strong connection to Heart Disease, Cancer, diabetes and stroke? The USDA’s answer was that they recommend only lean meat and low fat dairy products. Walter Willett when asked for his comment said that the lean version of most of these products was mostly unavailable to Americans.

To further expand on his comment the writer offers the following. While it is certainly possible to find lean hamburger and low fat milk the fact is that all of these animals are grown on factory farms also called CAFO’s (see the National and local Factory Farm map on our site). The concept of factory farming is to keep the animal sedentary and feed the animal hi-starch corn, growth hormones, appetite enhancers and other dietary elements which fatten the animal twice as fast as a naturally grown pasture raised animal. All the animal products in supermarkets are factory grown and are therefore exceedingly fat. Research by Dr. Loren Cordain at the U of Colorado found factory animal hamburger to be 7 times fatter than pasture raised.  Manufacturers do cull out hamburger so that consumers can choose a leaner product but the entire product is consumed by someone and culling results in an even fatter product going to school lunches and to MacDonald’s and other fast food outlets. The question remains open as to whether or not the leaner product is less prone to promote major diseases since very little comparative research has been done. The question of Industry influence on USDA dietary recommendations came up forcing the USDA representative to do evasive action. The fact is that the meat and dairy industry has a strangle hold on the USDA oversight and actually supports the production of this unhealthy food by subsidizing grain and other hidden subsidies such as turning a blind eye to short cuts in soil management and over-application of fertilizer which keeps the price low and consumption of this unhealthy food high. This food production is also causing mass loss of our soil and our water as evidenced by the nutrient pollution of our major rivers and Estuaries including Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and Pamlico Sound.

Don Kerstetter


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