30 September 2019 | AARON WISE
In the UK, and the world over, we’ve become accustomed to the ‘bigger picture’; sustainability, and all the ways in which we should be endorsing greener alternatives to support, and as the activists would call it, ‘save’ the planet’s fragile resources.

“Ditch plastic, go electric, eat plants” are constant echoes that remind us we must change for the greater good.

The latter of the above sustainable drives, eat more plants, is also heavily linked to improving our health as the gargantuan amount of devilish red meat we consume is said to increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.

The fractures in our once meat-craving society are becoming ever more apparent, especially with the influential rise in veganism, which, in the last four years alone, have seen UK numbers swell from 150,000 to 600,000 according to the Vegan Society.

A lot of brands are getting in on the act of promoting ‘healthy’ alternatives to meat and for the best part, almost all have created smart, well received PR campaigns that sympathise with today’s health-conscious generation.

I’ve actually blogged about the meat-free craze a couple of times before, first covering Air New Zealand’s ‘Impossible Burger’, and then Sainsbury’s meat-free butchers - a UK first.

When we’re are told of the health risks red meat poses to us, unsurprisingly, we may turn to vegetarian or vegan alternatives – unless you’re me in which after having turned vegan for six weeks, I reverted back to meat instantly.

Beef, lamb, pork, veal and venison are all classed as red meats and I love them all, although I would be lying if I said the constant white noise around health risks associated with those meats didn’t bother me. I choose to eat red meat because I enjoy it, but I’m aware it would benefit me more if I ditched the pork sausages for pulled pork jackfruit, or so I thought.

A new study by a Canadian-led team of researchers has revealed that red and processed meats have little or no effect on the risk of heart disease and cancer.

The 14-member international team led by Bradley Johnston, an associate professor of community health at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, concluded that those who like meat should not stop on health grounds. “Based on the research, we cannot say with any certainty that eating red or processed meat causes cancer, diabetes or heart disease,” he said. Now that’s a bold statement, especially as it contradicts some of the world’s major organisations such as World Health Organisation.

Despite the obvious wave of criticism that was expected upon the releasing of the findings, many scientists have welcomed the research, stating that previous studies on the negative impact of red meat consumption was generally poor.

Now, I’m not perceiving this study as a revelation where discouraging the consumption of red meat and shoehorning in plant-based alternatives is all part of some secret government cover-up. It doesn’t change the fact that the current level of red meat consumption is unsustainable, but maybe the intense warnings around its health risks has just been scaremongering?

Prof Johnston concluded: “We're not saying there is no risk, we're saying there is only low-certainty evidence of a very small reduction of cancer and other adverse health consequences of reducing red meat consumption.”

I’m not hailing this as a win for the meat-lovers’ camp, although I will sleep a little easier tonight knowing I have a hearty chili con carne for tea.

Having had a quick Google on this story, it’s clear to see it’s making noise, being plastered across heavyweight titles across the world, so it’ll be interesting to see how food brands respond to it, if at all.

We’ve seen some top-level brands jump on the veganism bandwagon, now I’m interested in seeing if anyone is brave enough to use this new research for a creative campaign. I’d love to be in the boardroom when a decision is being mulled over – utilising a juicy, controversial study like this could be sink or swim territory, and that’s the meaty truth.