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What Exactly Is Processed Meat?
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It's hard to overstate the power of the livestock industry in the U.S. According to the North American Meat Institute, the livestock industry contributes nearly one trillion dollars to the U.S. economy, as much as six percent of the country's GDP. Such a behemoth field requires a powerful influence on government leaders. In 2014, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that the livestock industry spent $4 million on Washington lobbyists-more than the National Rifle Association.
Watch more on Seeker: Why Do Americans Love Their Bacon?
As discussed in detail here, the meat industry is closely tied to the U.S. government. In particular, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a vested industry in livestock raisers, subsidizing farmers, and running marketing campaigns for meat and dairy products.
Now, lobbyists and spokespeople are doing a bit of damage control in response to a new study from the World Health Organization. The research compiled by WHO says meat products correlate with a higher risk of cancer. The group reviewed over 800 different studies to draw its conclusions, which have been making the rounds online. The findings were compelling enough for WHO to declare processed meats a Category One carcinogen-the same rating given to cigarette smoke.
As with many studies, particularly ones that can earn alarming headlines equating bacon with cancer, this research found a correlative relationship-not causal. WHO found that eating higher consumption of processed meats (sausage, ham, bacon, etc.) correlates with higher chances of colorectal and about a dozen other types of cancer. Industry groups were keen to emphasize the correlation aspect, saying that other behavior factors (e.g. lack of exercise, tobacco use) can get lost if not ignored in this type of research. Even WHO conceded that small amounts of red meat are a part of a healthy diet.
IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat (iarc.fr)
Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes - WHO (theguardian.com)
"Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organisation has said, placing cured and processed meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco."
The Politics of Meat (pbs.org)
"The meat industry in the United States is a powerful political force, both in the legislative and the regulatory arena, even though the way they wield that power is different from many industries on Capitol Hill."
Meat Lobbying (opensecrets.org)