Why Eating Meat (or Eggs or Dairy) Won’t Kill You

eggs, cheese, meat, milk and fish piled on a white counter

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Lately, animal products like eggs, dairy, and especially red meat have been blamed for cancer, heart disease and a host of other health problems.

Here’s why you should be skeptical of any study that says meat (or any animal product) will kill you…

Animal Foods Ensure Human Survival

If you went by the headlines, you would think that everyone is going to die if they don’t switch to a vegan diet, like, yesterday. But humans have been eating animal products generally without ill health effects for our entire existence.

In fact, some of the healthiest and longest-lived peoples on our planet, the Okinawans (Japan), Maasai** (Kenya and Tanzania), and Hunzakuts (Pakistan), among others, eat traditional, omnivorous diets that practically revere animal foods like pork, goat, sheep, yak, raw dairy and seafood—especially during the winter, when many crops don’t grow.

Indeed, for those who live in cold, dry or mountainous regions like Mongolia, Afghanistan, or Norway, livestock convert the grass on poor soils and steep slopes that can’t be farmed into nutrient-dense foods that people can eat, like yak butter, kefir, or goat cheese.

These foods, along with hunted meat and seafood, if available, are sometimes the only major source of calories and nutrients available for half the year. But these populations don’t face even a quarter the rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity or cancer that Westerners do.

So, is meat really bad for you, or is something else going on?

Animal Foods, Then and Now

In my grandmother’s day, people used to whisper the word “cancer,” it was so rare. Today 1 in 3 people will face the disease. That’s just two generations.

Although we have been eating animals, seafood and insects for millions of years, it is really only in the past 60 years or so that heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses have become prevalent in Western countries. And it’s only in the last 20 years that they have become tragically epidemic.

It is no accident that our national health began its noticeable decline at the exact same time that our industrial food system came into existence.

With the Industrial Revolution and all the wonderous, new conveniences it offered, Americans turned away en masse from eating traditional, nutritious foods raised in humane, sustainable conditions on family farms and toward eating pesticide- and chemical-laden, mass-produced “pseudo-foods” made by huge industrial processes.

And with the birth of consumer culture, food moved from farms to factories, and these new industrial food products—and the corporations to manufacture and sell them—became the norm.

It is also no coincidence that today’s unprecedented epidemics of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, autism, autoimmune disease, etc. has grown in tandem with the rate that these industrially-produced, highly-processed, and often genetically modified foods have become the very foundation of our diets.

The wide-scale adoption of industrial agriculture and food manufacturing has brought us new, high-tech food chemicals that humans have never tried to consume in our entire existence on this planet before now, like:

  • hexane processed, refined, bleached and deodorized high Omega-6 vegetable, Canola and soybean oils;
  • trans fats and hydrogenated oils;
  • high fructose corn syrup, refined, granulated sugar and chemical sugar substitutes in huge quantities;
  • MSG, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, chemical emulsifiers;
  • isolated soy protein; maltodextrin and other industrial byproducts;
  • bleached, brominated flours and machine-extruded puffs, chips and cereals that are closer to bio-plastics than food;
  • fortified foods sprayed with cheap, synthetic vitamins that your body can’t properly assimilate;
  • toxic pesticide and herbicide residues in almost all food;
  • BPA, BPS, phthalates, lead, antimony and other toxins from plastic food packaging;
  • genetically engineered (GMO) crops in 80% of the food supply;
  • eggs, dairy and meat from candy- and GMO grain-fed, filthy, confined animals full of hormones, heavy metals and antibiotics; and
  • irradiated and ultra-pasteurized foods.

More and more scientific evidence is piling up that it these modern, sugar-laden, industrially-created “foods” that are making us all sick.

But even without a looking at the huge pile of studies showing that everything from pesticides to BPA to GMOs causes harm, it seems really obvious what is going on if you just look at a bigger, more global and historical picture.

People in the world who still hunt and gather, or who live in pastoral cultures that still strongly support traditional diets and small farming simply do not have the health problems we modern, industrial cultures do.

And, when Westerners facing chronic health problems give up the “Standard Industrial Diet” of boxes, bags and cans, and take on traditional diets comprised of home-cooked, whole organic food, they often find their vitality returns, their metabolism normalizes, and their chronic conditions improve or go away.

What more evidence do you really need to justify eating a clean, whole food diet? 🙂

Is it the Meat, or Something Else?

When we raise animals and fish in concentrated operations where they can barely move, and feed them industrial food waste, candy, and genetically-engineered, pesticide-laden grains and soybean meal that are unnatural and harmful to their digestive systems, they inevitably lose health—at which point we then we pump them full of hormones, medicines containing heavy metals like arsenic, and antibiotics.

These “medicines” are also growth promoters because they damage the animals’ microflora and digestive function so that they start putting on fat, and therefore weight, very fast. (Sound familiar?)

Under such dreadful conditions, you’d have to expect that the meat, fish, dairy and eggs from these mistreated animals would be unhealthy—even toxic! Eating such adulterated food over time would therefore leave us open to a plethora of nutrition-related diseases, like cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and even tooth decay.

But if that wasn’t enough, we then take this depleted and deficient food and destroy it even further by processing it on high-speed machinery that is too big to clean, then we irradiate it, pasteurize it, treat it with fillers, nitrates, preservatives, colorings and MSG, ship it hundreds or thousands of miles, and finally take it home and cook it to death!

How can any food that has been produced and processed in such toxic and inhumane ways possibly be considered healthy or sustainable?

The Devil is In the Bathwater

When it comes to studies about diet, the proverbial devil is in the details.

Not a single credible study that finds animal foods to be harmful was done using meat, eggs or dairy produced organically and humanely on fertile pasture and then prepared simply using traditional cooking and preserving methods—the way animal foods were consumed for thousands of years before cancer and heart disease became epidemics.

All of them rely on meat-eaters consuming a Standard Industrial Diet of very poor quality, industrial animal foods, tons of sugar and lots of processed garbage, because that is who is easily available to study.

And on top of that, almost all of the studies that find fault with animal foods are either very poorly designed, or the data are very poorly interpreted.

For example, no study has ever found a direct cause-and-effect relationship between red-meat consumption and cancer. Not even the latest WHO study.

As for the population studies, they’re far from conclusive. That’s because they rely on observational surveys of people’s self-reported dietary habits, lifestyles, and health afflictions, and those numbers are simply crunched to find trends, not causes. (See studies at the end.)

Observational studies, by their very nature, CANNOT determine causes of disease or health.

How credible would a study about causes of death be if it relied solely on data acquired by mailing out a questionnaire that asked people to write down what they remembered eating over the previous four years? That’s how most of these recent anti-meat studies are conducted, but the news outlets screaming that eating meat will kill you don’t tell you that—it doesn’t lead.

In fact the closest we have come to a comprehensive, well-designed, clinical study of the health effects of pure, unadulterated, pasture-raised animal products is a massive 2010 study of 1,212,380 individuals which found that consumption of unprocessed red meat had absolutely no association with heart disease or diabetes.

There are also a handful of studies that compare meat or eggs from industrially-raised animals to that of pasture-raised. Guess which comes out faaaaaaar better? (See studies at the end of article.)

But even without the “study of the day”, we can easily look at the health of our ancestors and of the people in the world who still eat a traditional, whole food diet for evidence of whether animal foods like meat, fish, dairy and eggs really do harm.

And based on a long history of human health up until the Industrial Revolution, and the continued health of the French, rural Asian, Maasai and other people who still eat mainly whole, unprocessed, farm-fresh and wild foods today, I do not think we can blame eating animal products in and of themselves for what ails us.

Rather, we must point the finger at the inhumane, toxic, and totally unsustainable manner in which we modern societies produce and prepare most food today, and the desperate lack of nutrition in our diets.

I would argue that when we indict modern animal foods for causing poor health, we are unfortunately throwing out the baby with the bath water.

It’s important that we make the distinction between the healthy, minimally-processed, traditional foods that we have thrived on for generations, and the toxic, industrial methods in which we produce, prepare (and essentially destroy) these foods today.

Returning to Our Roots

While amounts vary culture by culture, there have never been any traditional populations in the world that forego animal foods altogether. None.

Virtually all studies of both ancient humans and modern peoples who eat their traditional diets tell us that the healthiest people in the world get a large percentage of their calories in the form of calorie-rich and nutrient-dense animal protein and fat, including seafood and insects (even if the amount of meat on the plate is pretty small).

Even people living deeply isolated in the lush tropical rainforests of South America and Asia get the better part of their sustenance from hunting mammals like monkeys and bats, reptiles, insects and even spiders.

Additionally, about 50-80% of traditional diets around the world is comprised of raw or fermented foods—including raw and fermented animal, fish and insect foods. Fermenting and culturing foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, salami, or pickled herring is an ancient, time-tested way of preserving food for the future.

The remainder of most traditional diets typically includes foods that are more nutritious when slow-cooked at low temperatures, like stews, broths and gruels made from bones, organs, leaves, roots and grains, where the long, low cooking time really breaks these tough foods down, making them more digestible and nutritious.

And perhaps most importantly, none of the food eaten by these robust, disease-free peoples comes from large-scale, modern, industrial agriculture practices.

How did we ever fall so far from our ancestral foodways?

The culinary wisdom and and agricultural heritage that nourished and sustained us in good health for millennia is almost lost for most of us in the U.S.

It would seem that 75-100 years is just long enough for the generations who remember our food and farming traditions to die, so that we younger people—dependent on the industrial food system since birth—have no food roots, no customs to pass on, and no memory of how to raise, harvest and prepare healthy food in sustainable ways.

The good news is that sustainably-raised, naturally-fed animal products are available in most parts of the West now, and the number of sustainable small farms providing these wholesome foods continues to grow every year in response to the burgeoning demand. And more and more people are learning to cook from scratch and studying traditional food preparation and preservation.

In fact, using holistic managed grazing, permaculture, and agroecological techniques, it is possible to produce enough animal products to feed everyone who desires a moderate amount of meat, dairy and eggs without harming the environment. In fact, holistically managed livestock can improve the environment, sequester carbon and restore ecosystems.

We just have to commit to supporting these methods, and to moderate consumption.

Quality is Everything

Left to their own devices, chickens prefer to hang out in lush, green pastures rather than cramped, steel cages (these are from Skagit River Ranch of Washington).

You can get grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free meat, milk, and eggs from the farmer’s market, your local natural food store or online. Look for uncured, pasture-raised bacon, sausages and hot dogs which are organic, minimally processed, and don’t contain any of the chemicals, additives and preservatives that their industrial counterparts do.

You can feel confident that these wholesome, sustainably raised foods, when eaten as part of a clean, whole food diet, are not going to give you cancer, or any other disease for that matter.

You can also find small farms producing pasture-raised eggs, meat or dairy in your area at EatWild.com or LocalHarvest.org. Another good place to find clean animal foods is through online retailers like U.S. Wellness Meats and Vital Choice Seafood.

Because cattle, pigs and chickens raised on pasture get plenty of exercise, sunshine and pesticide-free forage naturally inoculated with healthy probiotic bacteria, they tend to be naturally healthy and free of disease. And raising livestock holistically on pastures that can’t be used for crops is actually beneficial to the environment, too.

And unlike industrially-raised animals, naturally-raised meats, fish, dairy and eggs are very high in Vitamins A, B-12, folate, E, D, and K, as well as bioavailable heme iron, zinc and other essential minerals. During winter months, naturally-raised animal foods and wild seafood are pretty much the only good source of Vitamin D many people have access to.

Naturally-raised animal foods also contain lots of heart-healthy Omega-3s, taurine and carnitine, and are rich dietary sources of cancer-fighting, weight-reducing Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). Industrial grain-fed animal foods, in contrast, contain much more Omega-6s than are healthy to consume, which can contribute to nutritional deficiency and inflammation in the body.

For example, compared to industrial eggs, pasture raised eggs have:

  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 1/4 less saturated fat
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta carotene

Additionally, eggs from hens raised outdoors on pasture have from three to six times more vitamin D than eggs from hens raised in confinement. Eating just two pasture-raised eggs can give you from 63-126% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D!

With so much more nutrition in naturally-raised foods—and none of the hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals, excess Omega-6s, chemical additives or GMOs—why would anyone eat industrial meat, fish, eggs or dairy again?

Despite the fearmongering, both modern science and traditional wisdom tell us that animal foods, when raised right and prepared thoughtfully, can be very healthy, nutrient-dense foods.

So you really don’t have to go vegetarian to be healthy (unless you want to for animal rights reasons). Just be sure to avoid the industrial toxins that can make you sick by choosing only clean, pasture-raised animal products produced naturally and humanely by a farmer you trust.

Studies That Show Animal Foods Do No Harm

Articles That Explain and Debunk Recent Studies Condemning Meat

** Many claim that the short life expectancy of the Maasai (about age 45) is evidence of the dangers of their high-fat, meat and dairy-centric diet. Actually, despite eating mainly fermented raw dairy and cow’s blood every day, the Maasai have extremely low levels of cholesterol and heart disease. The Maasai have relatively high infant mortality due to lack of sanitation and access to modern medicine, which skews their life expectancy averages. What also shortens their life expectancy is the fact that the leading cause of death for the Maasai is syphilis, followed by homicide. The Maasai are warriors after all, and are known to raid each other’s clans in a lethal battle for cattle.

54 thoughts on “Why Eating Meat (or Eggs or Dairy) Won’t Kill You”

  1. Meat and dairy consumption has gone up in general. The way you want animals to be raised is totally unsustainable. There is no valid reason to eat meat so the simplest solution for the health and environmental issues (not to mention animal welfare) is to stop.

    1. Unless you are vegan and animal rights is part of your belief system/religion, then there are many valid reasons to eat meat, dairy or eggs, especially if you live somewhere where the land is not suitable for growing crops, but perfect for raising livestock. A family goat or small flock of chickens makes the difference between food security and hunger for billions of people in the world, even in the U.S. And I’m certainly no advocate for the industrial feedlot method of producing animal foods.

      But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about debunking the myth that eating any meat, dairy or eggs of any kind will lead to health problems.

      1. The proof is you are what u eat and we are facing so many chronic diseases , more than any other country, plant base is way to go, period.

        1. There are a great many people living very healthy, disease-free lives, as well as recovering from chronic illness by adopting whole-food diets like Paleo, Ketogenic, AIP or GAPS that include sustainably raised animal products. Animal foods are not the problem in and of themselves. It’s how we raise, process and prepare them.

  2. Promoting Meat and Dairy consumption on a website that claims to be focused around sustainability is absolutely absurd. Dawn, I reccomend you watch “What that Health” and read “The China Study” as soon as you remove this page from your website. The facts are clear and evident. Promoting meat and dairy means promoting cardiovascular disease, chronic illness, infection and obesity. Shame on your for posting these falsities for the public eye to read.

    1. Small Footprint Family

      Both the movie and the study have been thoroughly debunked, repeatedly, by reputable scientists. We are NOT all going to go vegan, nor is it culturally or agriculturally appropriate for much of the world. If we can produce animal foods in a sustainable way (we can, though we will have to reduce consumption), then great! But that’s not the point of this article, which is about debunking the myth that eating any meat, dairy and eggs whatsoever will give you health problems.

  3. There’s much research that has proven how meat based diets cause cancer and whole food plant diets reverse it. But aside from all of that, I still can’t understand how the ethics of not eating meat isn’t enough. It’s “Your choice” to eat meat but it’s never the animal’s choice. No living thing wishes to die. I’m so tired of people not getting it.

    1. There is also substantial evidence that a whole food, organic diet that includes moderate amounts of fish, eggs and meat reverses many types of disease.

      Most people do not believe that animal life is equivalent to human life or that “meat is murder.” Everything dies to feed something else, whether they like it or not. I would hope that vegans, environmentalists and ethical omnivores can agree that it is good to eliminate inhumane treatment, gluttony and waste when it comes to taking life to eat, whether those animals die by habitat destruction (the greatest cause), agricultural tasks like plowing, spraying or harvesting, or livestock slaughter.

    2. I'm not going to tell you.

      People get it. They get annoyed listening to the poorly-researched arguments done ad-nauseum.

      The thing is that nature does what it does. Everything dies, old or young. Do you really think that there is some inherint morality underlining the lives of animals? There isn’t. Only humans add on “morality”.

      A lion doesn’t give a gazelle the choice to live or die. If the gazelle can escape, great. If not, it will die in great pain like most prey does. Lions do not care about the suffering they inflict. It’s not a question of wanting to or not wanting to die. Unless you can actually read the mind of animals, don’t claim they don’t want it. On that note, there are many humans who legitimitely wish they were dead. Who’s to say animals are no different in their thoughts (providing the animal in question can think).

      Granted, industrial farming practices should be erradicated. We only need as much as we can hunt and raise on smaller farms. Speaking of that, hunters cause far less pain to their game than most predatory animals. Only a bad hunter causes suffering.

      Maybe we should kill all the lions in the world. That’ll show them, for all the innocent creatures they brutalized to death.

      Really, people get it. When someone thinks it’s okay to ride in on a large horse and proclaim how awesome their vegetarian practice is and condemn the non-believers, then people respond in kind. That sort of behaviour isn’t worthy of respect.

      If anyone doesn’t “get it”, it’s the arrogant and condescending jerks in the world.

      As for your claim on their being studies to support your view, please provide your sources.

  4. This article includes false information. Long-living healthy cultures consume over 80% of their calories eating whole plant-based foods. That includes Okinawa where the traditional diet that resulted in so many living to 100 years includes very little meat and not nearly on a daily basis.

    1. I’m sorry, but you are incorrect to say that Okinawans eat very little meat. 20-30% (or more) of calories from animal products is substantial, and healthy cultures definitely don’t abstain from meat because they think it might be “unhealthy.” Rather, it simply expensive and not always in season.

      Okinawans eat pork and seafood as often as possible and revere both as a healthy foods. The market for pork in Okinawa is thriving and noteworthy. Pork (especially organ meats, pig fat and lard) are staples of the diet, and even for dishes that don’t include meat, they cook in lard.

      Okinawan cuisine, according to gerontologist Kazuhiko Taira, “is very healthy-and very, very greasy,” in a 1996 article that appeared in Health Magazine. And the whole pig is eaten-everything from “tails to nails.” Local menus offer boiled pigs feet, entrail soup and shredded ears. Pork is cooked in a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, kelp and small amounts of sugar, then sliced and chopped up for stir fry dishes. Okinawans eat about 100 grams of meat per day-compared to 70 in Japan and just over 20 in China-and at least an equal amount of fish, for a total of about 200 grams per day, compared to 280 grams per person per day of meat and fish in America. Lard—not vegetable oil—is used in cooking. Okinawans also eat plenty of fibrous root crops such as taro and sweet potatoes. They consume rice and noodles, but not as the main component of the diet. They eat a variety of vegetables such as carrots, white radish, cabbage and greens, both fresh and pickled. Bland tofu is part of the diet, consumed in traditional ways, but on the whole Okinawan cuisine is spicy. Pork dishes are flavored with a mixture of ginger and brown sugar, with chili oil and with “the wicked bite of bitter melon.” (From “Take a Lesson from the People of Okinawa,” Health, September 1996, pp 57-63.)

      In 1992 scientists at the Department of Community Health, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, Japan published a paper which examined the relationship of nutritional status to further life expectancy and health status in the Japanese elderly. It was based on three epidemiological studies. In the first, nutrient intakes in ninety-four Japanese centenarians investigated between 1972 and 1973 showed a higher proportion of animal protein to total proteins than in contemporary average Japanese. The second demonstrated that high intakes of milk and fats and oils had favourable effects on ten-year survivorship in 422 urban residents aged sixty-nine to seventy-one. The survivors revealed a longitudinal increase in intakes of animal foods such as eggs, milk, fish and meat over the ten years. In the third study, nutrient intakes were compared between a sample from Okinawa Prefecture where life expectancies at birth and sixty-five were the longest in Japan, and a sample from Akita Prefecture where the life expectancies were much shorter. It found that the proportion of energy from proteins and fats were significantly higher in the former than in the latter. (From Shibata H., Nagai H., Haga H., Yasumura S., Suzuki T., Suyama Y. Nutrition for the Japanese elderly. Nutr & Health. 1992; 8(2-3): 165-75.)

      While traditional cultures don’t fetishize a heaping plate of meat (at the expense of vegetables) the way Americans do, animal products from nose to tail are highly regarded and eaten regularly.

  5. Please update your article. Your website has some great information but you have omitted all the info that doesn’t align with your personal beliefs. There are in fact many credible studies that suggest that one third of humankind’s chronic diseases can be avoided by maintaining a plant based diet. Something like 45% of greenhouse emissions are now caused by industrial agriculture. This includes raising livestock for meat and dairy. Raising animals also pollutes streams and rivers, making them uninhabitable, and wastes an incredible amount of energy from a biological standpoint. Anyone who claims to be an environmentalist and does not have a plant based diet, either does not have all the facts, or is kidding themselves. The World Health Organization, who you claim says red meat is safe, in fact just released a new classification for meat. They now believe red meat is as carcinogenic as tobacco. You read that right. Please do not mislead your readers. Many healthy and amazing meat and dairy alternatives exist today. Animals are routinely tortured in order to produce meat and dairy. The amount of both consumed in this country is disgusting, and our health shows it. It contains cholesterol and produces inflammation in our bodies, which is a leading cause of disease. Animals are simply not ours to do with as we please. This viewpoint is rapidly growing among those of us who are educated and enlightened.

    1. Please do not assume I have not done my research. In fact it is well cited throughout the article and at the end. Specifically the recent WHO study you mention was taken severely out of context by the mainstream press, and applied specifically to cured, processed meat (which is typically full of chemicals), not grass-fed, unprocessed meat. This article was written specifically to bring reason to this kind of data cherry-picking. See here and here for more information.

      Dietary cholesterol and saturated fat have long been debunked as causes of heart disease. It’s the high amount of processed food and sugar that causes all that inflammation. This has been pretty well established over the last 8 or so years. However, I will agree with you that Americans eat too much factory farmed meat. Eating meat more on the scale of the Europeans or Asians, making sure it is humanely and holistically-raised on pasture, and making up the calories with vegetables and natural fats would be far more sustainable and nutritious.

      This site has long been against factory farming of meat or vegetables, as industrial agriculture in any form is quite hazardous to climate, habitat and human health. Holistically managed livestock, on the other hand, use permaculture principles to restore grasslands, streams and habitat, sequestering tons of carbon in the process. This is the only type of meat I advocate eating, and I have written extensively on this site about that.

      On the subject of climate change, it’s important to be accurate about the numbers and how they are tallied, and not cherry-pick data to serve an ideological agenda. The EPA estimates that only 9% of all emissions come from agriculture in the U.S., and only a third of that is from livestock. Globally, the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), an extremely reputable scientific organization, as well as the FAO, state that only 14% of emissions are due to livestock, and that number could be significantly reduced (30%) with best practices. In fact, holistically managed livestock can actually be carbon neutral or positive, and the technique is strongly advocated by the FAO and IPCC as a way of mitigating climate change.

      I have no problem with those who choose vegetarianism or veganism for ethical reasons (I was veg or vegan myself from age 15-32), but such a personal choice has nothing to do with education or “enlightenment.” The farmers I know who run permaculture-based, organic small farms and ranches are some of the most spiritual and educated people I know; people who care deeply about the land and their animals, and have often spent decades learning how to do it right.

      However, I do take issue with those who use blanket arguments, cherry-picked data and extremely outdated health information to justify a one-size-fits-all point of view about how others should live.

    2. So, do you also feel pretty angry with all those murderous mountain lions who torture their mountain goat before eating it? If we’re talking ethics, and on the basis that there is no such thing as a food chain, you’ve got to feel frustrated about that, no?
      I love the argument people have with going vegan and avoiding alllll meat altogether and abandoning what humans did thousands of years ago (let alone millions) simply on the thought of, “let’s allow animal populations to skyrocket to a detrimental point, all because it’s inhumane to kill for sustenance (no matter if it’s a hunter or farmer doing the killing). Because that isn’t backwards whatsoever….

      1. “But lions though” is a hilarious argument to be honest. Ducks gang rape. I suppose if I’m not stopping it I must support humans raping too? No. We do not require meat to survive or thrive so there is no justification for it.

        Why on Earth do you think the populations of meat that we consume in the West would skyrocket? Did you know that the animals are bred? We don’t catch them from the wild (most of the time)! So no, the numbers that are bred would simply decrease.

  6. Wow, I am totally impressed. Your article is very detailed in explaining the topic. I admit, even I, am confused about all of these studies popping in, claiming that a particular food is not good while another study emerged that it’s alright. Sometimes I don’t even know what to think anymore, what’s right and what’s not. But then I realized that I shouldn’t rely too heavily on these studies. I need to listen on my body and what it is telling me. I need to define my own definition of healthy. I still keep eating the healthy and organic version of dairy, meat, and bread, since I couldn’t live without them. But I cut down my intake on artificial sweeteners and I did lose some weight.

      1. ooh yeh so you are like saying ‘we humans are the only animals that deserve this planet lets just kill all of the animals and eat them” WAHAHAHA NO THIS INFORMATION IS FALSE ..

        pleas check out nutritionfacts.org where real facts are and real studies have been done thank you very mutch

        1. I’m not sure where you got that crazy idea. Did you even read the article, or just buzz in to troll? Rather, for those who eat meat, I advocate eating a moderate amount of meat (much less than Americans typically eat) from a local farmer that raises the animals humanely and on pasture. The peer reviewed scientific studies from medical journals that support the nutrition of animal products are listed throughout the article and at the end. I suggest you take a look instead of spouting ad hominem attacks and totally unsupported anti-meat dogma.

  7. While I do appreciate the research that went into this article and agree with the basis that local organic meat and animal products do provide nutrition, there is one significant concern that is not addressed here. The consumption of meat and animal products has drastically increased over the past 100 years, especially recently. Between 1961 and 2009, the average person’s diet changed from consuming 23kg of meat to 42kg of meat per year (Weis, 2013). WIth the “meatification” of global diets comes significant environmental impacts; including deforestation, desertification, and emission of enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. Meat and dairy products require much more energy to produce, and provide significantly less calories in return, compared to a plant based diet. The increased demand for meat has resulted in substantial rates of deforestation of the Amazon and other areas crucial for biodiversity and carbon sequestration. There is no possible way that enough meat can be produced using organic free-range methods to feed the growing global population. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products will result in a significant reduction of agricultural impacts such as land, water, fertilizer, and chemical use, GHG emissions and climate change acceleration, and eutrophication of water sources. For more information see http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/Portals/24102/PDFs/PriorityProductsAndMaterials_Report.pdf or Weis, T. (2013). The meat of the global food crisis. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40, 65-85.

    1. While we cannot sustain an American level of animal product consumption, even with sustainable methods, there is a lot of evidence that we can indeed sustain a moderate consumption, even in a growing global population. If we transition to using permaculture and agroecological methods like holistic managed grazing, among other decentralized techniques that use biomimicry to integrate livestock fully into the farm and pastoral ecosystems, we can not only feed ourselves well, but we can actually improve the watershed, sequester tons of carbon and have a net positive effect on the land we use. For more information on some of these systems, check out this post.

      1. Great article and great answer to this comment. I also want to point out that grazing animals are VITAL to the health, quantity and quality of the prairies, grasslands and meadows of any land–including agricultural land–as evidenced in many studies. Permaculture studies are the easiest and quickest way to see these results. The very act of grazing increases plant health, eases undesirable plant numbers, helps avoid soil erosion through packing from hooves, controls and prunes trees and shrubs, and fertilizes soils. The combined effects of these processes are very hard for humans to mimic well without grazers. While it is a good idea to reduce consumption of anything we over-consume and over-produce, including animals, humans and other top predators such as wolves and bears and eagles, etc, are a vital link in the ecosystem that control the numbers of the grazers in turn. Since we have drastically reduced wild grazers due to our large encroaching population, home agriculture systems done properly, Permaculture methods are a great example of this, are a vital part of this ecological balance. (Obviously factory farm animal systems are NOT included in this balance!)
        We should respect our omnivorous biology and live with Nature, not against it.
        (I full disclosure I am speaking as a Veterinarian and I have seen the insides and studied the biochemistry of all animal groups, including humans, and I can assure skeptics that we are NOT built like a vegetarian animal, although we can live like one somewhat successfully due to our omnivorous digestive system. In both our biochemistry and our digestive structures, we are in fact, a little closer to carnivorous animals than vegetarian animals if one had to choose between the two extremes.)

  8. We are 5th generation farmer/ranchers raising grass fed beef in Britis Columbia since 1887. We never joined the chemical agriculture revolution of the past 60 years. Only 5% of BC is arable and only 1% has te soil and climate for substantial vegetable production. Our cattle graze on some of the remaining 95% of BC land that is unsuitable for growing crops. Without producing livestock for food much of the worlds grasslands, and partly forested grasslands like BC, would not be producing food. More land would have to be cleared for crop production even though the ability to grow food was marginal. Beef has been a safe part of our diet for centuries. Herbicides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotic and GMOs are the new inputs that are causing so much disease and misery, not organically raised livestock that has been safe since time began.

  9. Haha, loves this post. So much people told me that meat and egg’s are bad in general and can kill you. This article has given me so much insights, especially because i eat egg’s on a daily basis. Next time when people confront we with those lies i am prepared now. Thanks a lot.

    1. That article surely make you feel better.. now that you can put away all the facts about how eggs are bad for you, even if eggs are really bad. It’s just that someone says that it’s ok now. Theres alot of poeple who like to close there eyes to feel better about themselves. But if that make you feel good.. go for it but that bad cholesterol will continue to be real.

      1. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of all the peer reviewed studies (many linked in the article) that have thoroughly debunked the cholesterol myth. Here are a few more articles including peer reviewed studies:

  10. Incredibly well written, researched and fair minded articles with tons of useful stuff to go away and think about. I knew organic was much better but this added some substance.

  11. This is a great article, thanks. I stumbled across it while doing a little research after watching Forks Over Knives and being simultaneously terrified and dubious of what they were saying about animal proteins. Do you know if the science they put forth — specifically the part where they explained how animal protein affects the lining of our arteries — is legit? And their claim that animal proteins “feed” cancer — is there any truth to that, or is that what you’re countering here by surfacing all of the other factors that come into play (chemicals, toxins, etc.)?

    Basically, Forks Over Knives blinded me with science, and I’m not scientifically minded enough to know whether it was legit or not. Halp.

    1. You’re right to smell bunk. Check out this article: The science is sketchy at best.

      Denise Minger is a pro at debunking this kind of stuff: “For starters, cholesterol from animal foods does not have some magical ability to set up permanent camp in your bloodstream and turn into plaque. This was a common line of thought decades ago, but as research progressed, we figured out that the body is actually pretty awesome at regulating cholesterol production in response to what we ingest from food. As this paper from 2009 explains, the supposed link between dietary and serum cholesterol stems from studies that had fundamental design flaws, failed to separate the effects of cholesterol different types of fat intake, or were performed on animals that are obligate herbivores (hey there, rabbits!). The doctors in “Forks Over Knives,” it seems, are among the few stragglers who still believe dietary cholesterol is harmful.”

      The rest of her analysis is equally brilliant. In sum, the data just isn’t there for any of the anti-meat arguments in the film. However, the film is correct in that diet can be a very powerful tool for health and vitality.

      1. Dawn, humans were not supposed to eat meat, why? Try to eat raw meat without cooking it. What did humans do before they discovered FIRE? You think you would be able to eat raw meat with the teeth humans have? Think!

        1. Actually, archaeological evidence is really clear that we are omnivorous, tool-using creatures. Raw meat is actually very easy to chew and digest, and many cultures old and new have recipes for preparing it safely and deliciously. I have several recipes for it here.

        2. I'm not going to tell you.

          Indeed, think!

          I’ve eaten raw meat many times. Hunter-gatherers have been doing that for ages (though not all). If you haven’t been conditioned for it, then expect to not feel well. That’s the price to pay for having that lack of raw meat since a young age. It’s kind of like how lots of people who lack vegetables hate the taste of them.

          As for other populations, I have it on the highest thought that people have evolved to consume cooked food. I am in both worlds. I love raw meat, cooked meat, vegetables, fruit…

          Try eating some beef fresh and raw. It’s not hard to tear and chew, but you would have to get used to the taste.

  12. Thanks so much for this information,they said lack of knowledge make my people perish,here in nigeria everything is misunderstood,cow meat and diary products are been avoided bc of fear of so many diseases,God will help us

  13. Hi Dawn,
    I’m one of those crazy homesteaders who butchers my own chickens and I appreciate the level headed approach! Thanks so much for sharing on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again today at:

    Stop by and say hi to our new co-host!

  14. Can you kill, gut and cut up an animal for your own consumption? I cannot so I choose to be vegan. This is a good article BUT fails to address those long lived people who are vegetarian. Also many meat eaters eat far too much meat and why it causes health problems nowadays as the energy requirement is different. In Australia for example our indigenous people used to eat lean meat like kangaroo and goanna but not everyday. Now they consume beef and have many health problems which didn’t exist before white man arrived.

    1. Thanks for commenting. There are lots of small farmers and homesteaders that read SFF who do indeed raise, slaughter and prepare their own meat, eggs and dairy. These livestock are an essential part of the sustainable and holistic management of their farms. Vegetarians eat animal foods like insects (particularly in Asia), eggs and dairy, and were included de facto in the article. (However, the very longest lived peoples in the world do eat meat.) Quality of meat does matter greatly in the health equation, as you’ve noted.

      1. May I suggest cechking out the new documentary : Peaceable Kingdom, The Journey Home

        I believe it will address the humanity issue of eating animals as well as the arguement “humanely raised, humanely killed”. It is a counter-arguement to your point.

        I will disclose that I am pescetarian – I do not eat mammals or birds, or eggs/dairy. Orginally I took on this diet for the health benefits, I quickly added on the humane aspect after watching this documentary. (It is NOT gruesome and it does NOT contain “behind the scenes footage” of anything) I talks to farmers, ones on a very small local lever as well as large.

  15. Thank you for taking the time to so clearly present the facts about our modern diet and the flawed information floating around. Excellent round up of research.

  16. Margaret @ Live Like No One Else

    Wonderful article!!!! In the last 6 months or so I’ve been doing a lot of reading and studying both the Vegan and Paleo Philosophies of Diet and Nutrition. It’s always a good idea to know what both sides are saying. We have been eating a whole foods diet for about a year or so. I have to say that studying Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s teachiings has helped our entire family incorporate a lot more vegetation into our diets (which I feel were lacking). Since having done so, my eczema has basically disappeared (I’ve had it on my wedding ring finger for about 2 years). So I think that there are things that we can take away from both camps. I have to article has helped me feel less guilty about not being completely vegan..LOL. Thank you! Found you through Little House In the Suburbs.

    Margaret @ Live Like No One Else

  17. This is a wonderful post!! Thank you so much for your common sense approach to… It is a shame that more do not. You are so correct in that studies are so easily misleading and come out on the side of who is funding the research. That is not to say there are those who actually run a study and publish the exact results that are found.
    We must look at the bigger picture and do a little research for ourselves.

  18. Super article! It’s going to take words like yours and those of many others to show the devastating damage that can be blamed squarely upon belief in the phrase that has become North America’s mantra, “high cholesterol artery-clogging saturated fats.” It’s scary, as you point out, that the dietary wisdom of thousands and thousands of years can so easily be almost wiped out in a couple of generations – obviously at our peril. Thanks to writers like you and the wise people at the Weston A. Price Foundation, there is hope that we will return to traditional farming practices and eat nutrient-dense, clean and full-fat animal foods and forget all about the cholesterol myth. My favourite line I’ve read about cholesterol states that cholesterol was found guilty because it was at the scene of the crime – the crime being the damage caused to the interior of our veins from eating the industrialized, polluted, and high carb foods of our modern world. More and more people are realizing that cholesterol repairs our bodies and is, in fact, health-giving in so many ways.

  19. Thanks for this detailed post on the “dangers” of red meat. I’ve been having this debate off and on with my family lately (one of whom is a doctor) because of all the negative media coverage of research implying that red meat is the root of all evil. I find it really frustrating as these studies come out and continue to just misinform the general public about what they should and should not be eating. We buy grass-fed beef in bulk from a small local farmer once or twice a year. The cows we get our meat from are entirely different animals from the cows that most people get their hamburger meat from on sale at the supermarket. The former is healthy, nutrient rich, and nourishing, while the latter is straight up toxic. Still, family members and vegetarian friends seem to be concerned about OUR health because we eat red meat! Oh, the irony.

  20. The Provision Room

    Thanks for this! My husband is Mongolian. When we moved there after we got married it was a BIG–HUGE–paradigm shift for me. I saw these people in the countryside who were so old–many over 100, and they lived off red meat, animal fat, and milk products and virtually no produce at all, at least in the winter when it wasn’t growing while.

    It went against everything I had ever learned about nutrition!

    Now I am proud to say that our family lives off red meat and milk. I love it that our diet is high in fat. We are all slim and healthy and I am so grateful that I had that wake-up call in Mongolia!

  21. Loved this post! I know a lot of vegetarians and vegans and I will use these arguments against them. They say animal protein is the number one cause of cancer. I just have to laugh. Thanks for this post!

  22. Interesting info, like that on the nutritional value of eggs. Wow! Thanks for sharing this at the Healthy Tuesday hop. 🙂

  23. Thank you so much for helping to cut through the plethora of nutritional misinformation that’s out there! It breaks my heart that so many people purposely avoid eating meat and eggs because they think they aren’t healthy choices.

    There is such a huge nutritional difference between factory farmed products and pasture based, organically farmed ones, not only for our people, but for our planet too. It’s time for quality to be put back into the food debate once again.

    Articles like yours make a world of difference. Thanks for sharing it!

  24. Great article. I have been writing for a year at life less hurried. I have most recently been covering topics like this. It is so hard with the media screaming so much in your ears. People are so confused about what is good and what is bad. I throw out all the advice. and go with my gut. If it grows on a tree or in a farmers feild, then I eat it. If it comes out of a box or bag with health claims on it, it is a no go. If they have to shout it out on the front of the package that this food is “healthy” I know that it is probably associated with some stupid study that they have skewed the data in thier favor. I think it was Mark Twain who said “There are three kinds of lies in this world; lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! More than ever it is important to sift through the reductive headlines and the bright, shiny objects and return to common sense and traditional wisdom. I love that quote!

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