Huge New Study on Red Meat: It Doesn't Harm Your Health

Date: September 30, 2019

Source: McMaster University

Summary: Contrary to previous advice, five new systematic reviews suggest that most people can continue to eat red and processed meat as they do now. The major studies have found cutting back has little impact on health.

Read the whole article here: No need to cut down red and processed meat, controversial findings suggest.

Here are some excerpts:

A panel of international scientists systematically reviewed the evidence and have recommended that most adults should continue to eat their current levels of red and processed meat.

The researchers performed four systematic reviews focused on randomized controlled trials and observational studies looking at the impact of red meat and processed meat consumption on cardiometabolic and cancer outcomes.

In one review of 12 trials with 54,000 people, the researchers did not find statistically significant or an important association between meat consumption and the risk of heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

In three systematic reviews of cohort studies following millions of people, a very small reduction in risk among those who had three fewer servings of red or processed meat a week, but the association was uncertain.

McMaster professor Gordon Guyatt, chair of the guideline committee, said the research group with a panel of 14 members from seven countries used a rigorous systematic review methodology, and GRADE methods which rate the certainty of evidence for each outcome, to move from evidence to dietary recommendations to develop their guidelines.

"There is a worldwide interest in nutrition and the issue of red meat in particular. People need to be able to make decisions about their own diet based on the best information available," he said.

Bradley Johnston, corresponding author on the reviews and guideline, said the research team realizes its work is contrary to many current nutritional guidelines.

"This is not just another study on red and processed meat, but a series of high quality systematic reviews resulting in recommendations we think are far more transparent, robust and reliable," said Johnston, who is a part-time associate professor at McMaster and an associate professor of community health and epidemiology at Dalhousie.

The accompanying editorial by authors at the Indiana University School of Medicine said: "This is sure to be controversial, but is based on the most comprehensive review of the evidence to date. Because that review is inclusive, those who seek to dispute it will be hard pressed to find appropriate evidence with which to build an argument."

Other researchers involved in the work included those from the Netherlands, Poland and Spain, including the Iberoamerican Cochrane and Polish Cochrane centres and the guideline committee included lay people as well as the scientists. Dena Zeraatkar and Mi Ah Han, a visiting professor from South Korea, also had leadership roles on the McMaster team working on the reviews.

There were no primary external funding sources.

Banning Beef

Data for Progress co-founder Sean McElwee, whose liberal group has helped shape the Green New Deal, says he’d love to rein in the immense economic and cultural power of America’s “meatriarchy.” But his polling has found there’s literally nothing less popular than banning meat.

“It’s up there with giving VA benefits to ISIS,” McElwee says. “That’s the tension the left has to struggle with; Democrats eat meat, too. But even minor improvements could create massive gains for public health and the environment.”

The above was excerpted from an article in Politico. Read it here: Inside the Race to Build the Burger of the Future.

Later in the article...

The [beef] industry’s climate message is that it can be part of the solution—not only by increasing yields through more intensive production, but by storing more carbon in its pastures and cutting emissions from its operations. For example, one of Project Drawdown’s top 10 proposals for fixing the climate was “silvopasture,” planting more carbon-storing trees on grazing lands. Bill Gates recently touted the potential of “regenerative agriculture,” which uses cover crops and no-till farming to keep more carbon in the soil, to grow animal feed with fewer emissions. And some ranchers use climate-friendly “rotational grazing” to mimic the patterns of migratory buffalo herds; cattle are clustered in one area to devour the grass and fertilize the soil with their manure, then moved to another area so the grass can regrow. General Mills is encouraging its suppliers to embrace these practices; Jerry Lynch, the company’s chief sustainability officer, says one Georgia rancher who provides beef for its EPIC Meat Snacks is sequestering so much carbon his overall emissions are approaching zero.

Right now, there are huge tracts of grassland turning to desert because there are no grazing animals on those lands (grasslands without grazing animals become unhealthy). Meanwhile, in other places, huge tracts of land are used for growing soybeans and corn to feed cattle. Those lands turning to desert are releasing their CO2 into the atmosphere. It's tragic. The need for beef to eat and the need for returning those lands back into thriving ecosystems need to come together on a massive scale. This should be the central theme when discussing the ecological impact of eating beef.

Grasslands are the largest ecosystem on land. And 70 percent of it is desertifying. The issue is urgent.

What is Living in Healthy Soil?

"The soil foodweb" refers to the collection of micro-organisms and micro-arthropods in the soil that interact directly or indirectly with plants, decompose organic matter, and/or prey on the organisms that interact with plants. This dynamic living ecosystem — the soil foodweb — is incredibly diverse and made up of organisms that range in size from one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa, to more complex nematodes and arthropods, to earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants.

Although most are not visible to the naked eye, they help soils in numerous ways with their ability to improve soil tilth and make nutrients available to plants. They help sequester nitrogen and other nutrients that might otherwise enter groundwater, and they fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, making it available to plants. These organisms enhance soil aggregation and porosity, increasing infiltration and reducing runoff.

The soil foodweb works from the premise that everything that can eat or be eaten is involved in a cyclical relationship. As these organisms eat, grow, and move through the soil, they aggregate soil and make nutrients available for healthy plants. In this role, the soil foodweb is an integral part of the landscape process.

A healthy soil is full of life! One teaspoon of healthy soil contains millions of beneficial soil microorganisms that include thousands of species of bacteria and fungi. Beneficial soil organisms act like brokers and make nutrients available to plants, help reduce disease and retain nutrients in the soil.

- Excerpted from a website by Marin Soil Solutions.

Grasslands Explained by National Geographic

Grasslands go by many names, says this National Geographic article. In the U.S. Midwest, they're often called prairies. In South America, they're known as pampas. Central Eurasian grasslands are referred to as steppes, while African grasslands are savannas. What they all have in common are grasses, their naturally dominant vegetation. Grasslands are found where there is not enough regular rainfall to support the growth of a forest, but not so little that a desert forms. In fact, grasslands often lie between forests and deserts. (See grassland photos.)

Grasslands could help mitigate climate change: One study found California's grasslands and rangelands could store more carbon than forests because they are less susceptible to wildfires and drought.

The height of vegetation on grasslands varies with the amount of rainfall. Some grasses might be under a foot tall, while others can grow as high as seven feet. Their roots can extend three to six feet deep into the soil. The combination of underground biomass with moderate rainfall—heavy rain can wash away nutrients—tends to make grassland soils very fertile and appealing for agricultural use. Much of the North American prairielands have been converted into land for crops, posing threats to species that depend on those habitats, as well as drinking water sources for people who live nearby.

The plants on grasslands have adapted to the drought, fires, and grazing common to that habitat.

The above was excerpted from an article by National Geographic. Read the whole article and see the stunning photographs here: Grasslands, Explained.

Video: Effective Rainfall Demo by Allan Savory

This is a simple demonstration of some of the principles of holistic management. Three small plots of bare ground. One is left bare. One is broken up, as if from the hooves of animals. And one is broken up and has straw on it. Then each plot receives the same amount of water sprinkled on top.

Later in the day, the bare plot is completely dry, even if you dig under the surface. The next plot is dry on top but there is still moisture under the surface. And the one with straw is still moist, even up to the surface.

What Desertifying Grassland Looks Like

This is former grassland in Iraq. This is the end result of desertifying grassland.

Click on the image to see it larger.

Who is Allan Savory?

Allan Savory and his wife, Jody Butterfield holding their
Banksia International Award
The following is excerpted from Wikipedia. Read the whole thing here: Allan Savory.

Allan Savory is a Zimbabwean ecologist, livestock farmer, environmentalist, and president and co-founder of the Savory Institute. He originated Holistic management, a systems thinking approach to managing resources.

Savory advocates using bunched and moving livestock to what he claims mimics nature, as a means to heal the environment, stating "only livestock can reverse desertification. There is no other known tool available to humans with which to address desertification that is contributing not only to climate change but also to much of the poverty, emigration, violence, etc. in the seriously affected regions of the world." "Only livestock can save us."

Savory received the 2003 Banksia International Award and won the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Prince Charles called him "a remarkable man" and noted farmer Joel Salatin wrote, "History will vindicate Allan Savory as one of the greatest ecologists of all time."

According to Savory, he has worked on the problem of land degradation (desertification) as early as 1955 in Northern Rhodesia, where he served in the Colonial Service as Provincial Game Officer, Northern and Luapula Provinces. He also claims to have continued this work in Southern Rhodesia first as a research officer in the Game Department, and even claims to have been an independent scientist and international consultant.

He advocated for slaughtering large numbers of elephants up until 1969 based on the idea that they were destroying their habitat. His research, which he claims was validated by a committee of scientists, led to the government culling 10,000s of elephants in following years. However, this did not reverse the degradation of the land. He has called the decision to advocate for the slaughter of large numbers of elephants "the saddest and greatest blunder of my life."

This unnecessary massacre, brought about by interpreting supposed research data to fit the prevailing world-view that too many animals causes overgrazing and overbrowsing, led to Savory becoming determined to solve the problem, which eventually led to his development of the holistic framework for decision-making and to holistic planned grazing, and to his book, Holistic Management: A New Decision Making Framework, written with his wife Jody Butterfield.

Savory was influenced by earlier work of French agronomist André Voisin who established that overgrazing resulted from the amount of time plants were exposed to animals, not from too many animals in any given area. Savory saw this as a solution to overgrazing, and believed that overgrazing was caused by leaving cattle too long and returning them too soon, rather than the size of the herd.

After leaving Zimbabwe, Savory worked from the Cayman Islands into the Americas, introducing holistic planned grazing as a process of management to reverse desertification of 'brittle' grasslands by carefully planning movements of dense herds of livestock to mimic those found in nature, allowing sufficient time for the plants to fully recover before re-grazing.

Savory immigrated to the US, and with his wife Jody Butterfield founded the Center for Holistic Management in 1984. Its name was later changed to the Savory Center and later Holistic Management International. In 2009 Savory left HMI and formed the Savory Institute. Savory, Butterfield and philanthropist Sam Brown formed the Africa Centre for Holistic Management, based in Zimbabwe in 1992 on 2,520 hectares (6,200 acres) of land Savory donated for the benefit of the people of Africa as a learning/training site for holistic management.

Thousands of farmers, ranchers, pastoralists and various organizations are working globally to restore grasslands through the teaching and practice of holistic management and holistic decision making. This includes conservation projects in the US, Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Canada, and Australia in which various NGOs, government agencies and universities are practicing holistic management and its holistic planned grazing to reverse desertification using livestock as the main agent of change to restore the environment, increase ground cover, soil organic matter and water retention, replenish streams, and combat biodiversity loss.

In 2003 Australia honored Savory with the Banksia International Award "for the person doing the most for the environment on a global scale" and in 2010, Savory and the Africa Centre for Holistic Management won The Buckminster Fuller Challenge, an annual international design competition awarding $100,000 "to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity's most pressing problems."

In a 2012 address to the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, Prince Charles said:

"I have been particularly fascinated, for example, by the work of a remarkable man called Allan Savory, in Zimbabwe and other semiarid areas, who has argued for years against the prevailing expert view that it is the simple numbers of cattle that drive overgrazing and cause fertile land to become desert. On the contrary, as he has since shown so graphically, the land needs the presence of feeding animals and their droppings for the cycle to be complete, so that soils and grassland areas stay productive. Such that, if you take grazers off the land and lock them away in vast feedlots, the land dies."

His 2013 TED Talk, "How to green the desert and reverse climate change," attracted millions of views and was followed up by the release of his TED Book, The Grazing Revolution: A Radical Plan to Save the Earth. In his TED Talk Savory asks, "What are we going to do?"

"There is only one option, I'll repeat to you, only one option left to climatologists and scientists, and that is to do the unthinkable, and to use livestock, bunched and moving, as a proxy for former herds and predators, and mimic nature. There is no other alternative left to mankind."

"The number one public enemy is the cow." says Savory. "But the number one tool that can save mankind is the cow. We need every cow we can get back out on the range. It is almost criminal to have them in feedlots which are inhumane, antisocial, and environmentally and economically unsound."

He condemns the practice of slash-and-burn cultivation of forests and grasslands, saying that it "leaves the soil bare, releasing carbon, and worse than that, burning one hectare of grassland gives off more, and more damaging, pollutants than 6,000 cars. And we are burning in Africa, every single year, more than one billion hectares of grasslands, and almost nobody is talking about it."

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