last updated January 28, 2021

Should you eat red meat?

by Rob Arthur

Eating red meat, such as beef and lamb, has been linked to cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality, and its production has been identified as contributing to climate change (1).

But is there more to the story?

Let’s first look at the health claims.

For starters, red meat is a good source of high quality protein, selenium, niacin, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc (2), as well as taurine, carnosine, anserine, and creatine, four nutrients not found in plants (3).

So far as disease risk is concerned, in 2019 a group of researchers conducted a series of systematic reviews, concluded that the evidence for red meat causing adverse health outcomes is weak, and recommended that adults continue to eat red meat (4).

This was a bit controversial, with calls for the reviews to be retracted, but these calls were suspected to be influenced by corporate interests who might benefit from reduced meat consumption (5).

What about red meat and climate change?

Industrial farming may contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but if we shift our efforts toward more sustainable practices like regenerative grazing, livestock can actually help reverse climate change by sequestering carbon back into soil (6).

That being said, you might also be concerned about killing sentient beings.

However, crop agriculture kills large numbers of small mammals, snakes, lizards and other animals, and a diet that includes meat may result in less sentient death than a diet based entirely on plants (7).

Of course, you don’t have to eat red meat if you don’t want to.

You might not have access to an affordable, sustainable, ethical source.

You might not be convinced by the points offered above.

You might simply not like red meat.

That’s all totally cool.

You could go the rest of your life without any red meat and be just fine.

If you do want to eat red meat, though, you can probably do so without harm to yourself, the environment, or your conscience.

Make the best decision for you, based on your values, needs, preferences, and goals.

Only you can do that.

You do you.

You’ve got this.


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