processed meat

We’ve all seen the headlines stating that we should reduce the amount of red and processed meat we include in our diet, but why is this and how much should we actually be consuming?

To clarify which types of meat we’re talking about, red meat includes beef, pork and lamb; and processed meats are items such as ham, bacon and sausages, as well as cured meats like chorizo and salami.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) recommends limiting red meat intake to no more than 500g (cooked weight) per week, and completely avoiding processed and cured meats altogether. The current guidance set in 2011 by the UK’s Department of Health also states that we shouldn’t have more than around 500g per week or 70g per day, however this figure is for both red and processed meat.  The Department of Health states that cured meats can still be safe when eaten occasionally.  

A new report by The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently hit the headlines by stating that processed meat is as carcinogenic to humans as alcohol, cigarettes and asbestos. The report says that eating 50g of processed meat a day, the equivalent of one sausage or less than two slices of bacon, increases the chance of developing bowel cancer by 18%. From this, as ever, the key message to bear in mind is moderation and balance: if you’re a frequent red and processed meat eater, try having more meat-free days and swapping some of your meat intake for fish, including oily fish.

Elsewhere in the world, Nutrition Australia recommends that we shouldn’t have more than 455g (cooked weight) of red meat each week, which should be spread across three or four appropriate serving sizes. They also suggest that processed meats and sausages can be eaten and enjoyed occasionally, but that they are more of a ‘discretionary choice’ than an essential part of the diet.

In America, the dietary nutrition guidelines from 2010 say there is moderate evidence to suggest a link between increased intake of processed meat and increased risk of colorectal cancer and heart disease. So it’s recommended people limit their intake of these foods, which are typically high in saturated fat, and opt for leaner versions instead. The latest American dietary guidelines are due to be released before the end of the year, however, so do be aware that the advice may change.

Even though the guidelines differ between countries, it’s important to remember that if you are a meat eater, red meat can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet, as it’s an important source of protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins.    

There are clever ways you can use small quantities of red or processed meat that still offer maximum flavour, though, and these recipes from Jamie’s new book for skinny carbonara and cheese and corn pancakes with smoky bacon demonstrate exactly that! 


bacon, Beef, pork, sausages


  • gerry c

    I respect an individuals decision not to eat animal products, but this statement
    “but you are taking away the choice from another sentient being by killing it and eating it”
    is such a load of twaddle!!
    These animals have been bred for food, If we were all vegan they would have NO life, as nobody would keep them in the first place.
    So vegans would take away their option to live at all.
    If you want to preach to meat eaters, possibly better to focus on how much greenhouse gas is produced by animals bred for food rather than their life choices.
    Eating sustainably grown plants is far better for the planet.
    My choice however is for a varied omnivorous diet and growing my own veg to reduce all the freight related CO2 emission and waste that comes from buying at a supermarket.

  • The Godfather

    Gen 9:2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.
    Gen 9:3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things