Is meat carcinogenic?

Mino asks…

“A doctor who leads a cancer research foundation, Prof. Veronesi, says that meat contains carcinogens, and so should limited in consumption, or even avoided. Do you agree?”

© Alpha

There’s a lot of talk at the moment about this subject, and it’s a very big subject, because of a recent study.

However, the ancestral health community has pretty much unanimously trashed the study conclusions, e.g. here, herehere and here.

A study is never just a study, there are different types, and as always with health, there are so many interacting factors that separating cause and effect is notoriously difficult.

Most often, observational or epidemiological studies are used to show a correlation that is then hyped by the media, as they like to do. Correlation is interesting but it doesn’t prove causation, in the same way that BMW owners correlating to heart attacks doesn’t mean we should stop driving BMWs.

We use nature as one of our key guiding principles… humans have ALWAYS been hunter-gatherers, that is our natural diet, it’s what made us human. And hunter-gatherers existing today are known to be free of modern lifestyle diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc. So, any data that suggests a practice that is inherent in our 2.5 million year homo genus history is damaging, raises an eyebrow. 

There are things about meat that do relate to cancer that are worth talking about…. that is cooking and cooking methods. You definitely don’t want to burn food, and it’s much better to cook gently and at not high heat. This applies to vegetables as well as meat/fish/eggs.

Heterocyclic amines are one such adverse result of burning, which are carcinogenic. There are other effects of cooking too, but these must be offset against protection against pathogens in terms of healthiness. And of course, who want to eat raw meat? Not many.

I would advise using a slow cooker — this is the gentlest way to cook meat, and also can produce very tasty dishes with little effort, even for a big family. TRADITION is a wonderful instructor, as well as evolution… meat is traditionally cooked with onions/garlic/tomatoes and this practice is known to reduce the formation of HCAs. Evolution selects for beneficial behaviors.

Stocks are all the rage too now, and of course, these too are traditional, used with the HCA reducing methods too, and provide valuable micronutrients such as collagen and calcium.

Lower heat, use of onions etc, and stocks to provide wet rather that dry heat are all going to give benefit in terms of reducing carcinogens.

Rather than be worried about meat, our position at the next review/edit of Happy Guide is likely to shift to removing the vegetarian option altogether, because it’s basically unsound/risky to do it long-term, not something we feel comfortable recommending.

There are massive problems inherent in our modern food supply that radically need to be addressed… the rampant use of antibiotics and hormones in cattle, feedlots, giving cows unnatural diets, keeping chickens indoors and feeding them unnatural foods etc, use of pesticides and herbicides (poisons, which chelate mineral in the soil, and in your body), soil depletion, minerally poor soils, oceans polluted with mercury, PCBs and dioxins… I could go on.

If you remove animal foods from your diet, what do you replace them with? Soy is rampant now in the food supply, and is a known endocrine disruptor, although fermented soy products like tempeh are OK to include now and again.

My view is that NATURE has all the answers, and what we are doing to our food, how it is produced, has many problems. That is where we should focus, as well as a return to traditional methods of preparing foods that are healthiest, including the use of nutritious organ meats like liver and kidney occasionally in stews.

We need to remember too that a even a healthy body has cancer cells that are killed and cleaned up by a healthy immune system. Our modern world is full of chemicals off gassing from carpets and furniture, cleaning and hygiene products, fumes from industry, etc.

I posted an incredible video from Allan Savory recently on another site that shows how traditional herding over vast areas that are turning to desert, can heal climate change, stop desertification, provide food and income for people. I’ll post the video again below because it shows how mimicking nature, in combination with a natural diet, is the holistic solution. So… nature, a return to nature and if we want to heal/prevent cancer there are thousands of other places we need to look and clean up.

So in summary, I recommend sticking to the Happy Guide diet.

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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12 thoughts on “Is meat carcinogenic?

  1. Funny. Mention that you don’t eat meat and dairy, and suddenly everyone’s a dietition. When exactly in human evolution did we start eating cheese? CHEESE! possibly one of the daftest ‘foods’ known to man. Milk however, I suppose we started out clinging upside down to a buffalows udders with our teath, sucking the essential nutriants we needed to survive, while she ran with the herd. hmmm, OK I’ll give you that. I’m actually laughing now. Thanks for cheering me up Michael.
    Did you find the sick vegetarian you spoke of earlier? Did you say you hardly got out of bed in 13 years because you didn’t eat meat?! I don’t know what you’re eating now, but that seems a strange claim……….even for a charlatan (only being honest)
    RE aggression. I’m sure there are vegans/veggies, with a whole range of emotions. But I still don’t think you believe vegetables make people angry. Maybe you should make your findings known to the military. Once the army are fed on nothing but carrots and broccoli, they’ll be unstoppable.
    Kind of you to give me some nutrition tips. I have never been unable to get out of bed (apart from that time I had the flue as a teen…and when I was injured in an accident). My next big Birthday will be 60. I’m doing OK without your missinformation thanks. Who was it said: ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ ? I think they might’ve been referring to people like you.
    Maybe you and I are not of the same species. I’m lucky that I don’t have to live as a paracite on other, vulnerable animals. While you need a constant flow of fluid from a cow, while her calf (the true owner of the milk) will be either used in the same way, or killed as another food for your savage and brutal appetite. Eggs? Are hens happy being worked to death an then killed when the yield drops? They’re all female. What happens to the male chickens that are born? That’s right, minced alive. Is that non-aggressive?………You don’t care. There’s must be more to a life than working out which of the latest quack ‘health foods’ is ‘essential’.


    1. Again, you typically become aggressive, rude, and resort to playground tactics like diversion, ridicule, insults, instead of simply engaging the arguments and presenting your point of view.

      I agree about cheese, the recommendations, as explained, are my feelings and thoughts for people who don’t want to eat animals. Our guiding principles are NATURE, and TRADITION and these are powerful guiding lights in a sea of confusion about what is best to eat. SCIENCE can also help clarify things, but is inherently problematic in that it is notoriously difficult to isolate cause and effect when there are so many variables. Still, science is very useful, for example, we have learned much about PUFAs from studies. Science needs a strong framework in which to understand studies, that framework is our evolutionary heritage. As I explained, vegetarianism is doable if one can tolerate dairy, but not many can, Europeans have a better chance, or people from that genetic line, than others. Dairy foods may allow some people to get away with not eating animals directly. Veganism however, is another matter.

      “Did you say you hardly got out of bed in 13 years because you didn’t eat meat?!”

      I said I think my vegetarian diet was a factor in me becoming sick with CFS.

      “Once the army are fed on nothing but carrots and broccoli, they’ll be unstoppable.”

      Again, diversion instead of engaging the real point, that lack of DHA is known to be associated with violence and aggression, and that grains, a staple of veganism, can cause serious damage to the digestive tract, which have other spin-off effects.

      “Even vegans talk about “the vegan police.” Admit you know what I’m talking about: aggressive, rigid, on a hair trigger, and in a semi constant state of rage. That’s what happens to a human with a brain deprived of protein and fat. I had a full-blown anxiety disorder by the time I was done, and I lost most of my youth to the dull, gray nothing of depression. Rage was all I had left to feel, and feel it I did, but it was exhausting. When the tiniest task is inexplicably overwhelming, and the world is all surface, repulsive and flat, the self is a cage. No amount of will can melt it, because it’s a biological reality. Hence the fat binges, the cravings. It will only change when the brain is allowed to consume what it needs.” ~ Lierre Keith

      Anxiety and panic attacks… I hear that over and over from vegans, and ex-vegans.

      “Are hens happy being worked to death an then killed when the yield drops?” (and other remarks about cruelty)

      Why keep diverting? I already said that cruelty and health are different issues, and you keep trying to make one about the other. We first and foremost have a right to health, as does any species. A whale is not evil for eating a thousand fish in one mouthful. Some farming practices are cruel, and should be addressed, but why not deal with the issue as it is, and not make it about something else? STOP CRUELTY, I am all for that. Problem is, that consumers go for lowest price, and THAT drives cruelty, to humans as well as animals, as businesses compete with each other.


  2. I am a living, healthy person who has not eaten meat for over 30 years. I would not make a false claim, ie B12 only comes from meat. I have read arguments for and against all my life. I think killing animals is aggressive, and eating the animals is aggressive. I don’t think you actually believe eating vegetables can make someone aggressive.(why would you say something so silly?) I’ve seen (and so have you) countless people who eat meat become seriously ill, with that illness attributed to bad diet. Over the last 30 years I’ve heard stories about people getting ill, even dying, because they didn’t eat meat, and have been told many times that I will become ill. In all that time I have never seen anyone, or any evidence of anyone being made ill from not eating meat.
    There are millions of people around the world who don’t eat meat. Perhaps you can give me one example of someone’s health suffering through a lack of meat?
    Please look at my website, with a clip of me working. Am I really aggressive?


    1. Well you certainly look in great shape. Vegetarianism can work for people who can tolerate dairy, vegetarians do pretty well in studies of mortality, vegans not so well. Truth is that we don’t have the science. It could be that B12 is the major reason vegan diets fail. B12 and other B vitamins are involved in biochemical pathways involving homocysteine, a new risk factor for heart disease that seems valid to me.

      We are really kindred spirits Jonathan, our aims are the same. I have struggled with the idea of killing all my adult life… vegetarian age 19, which I credit as a big part of the reason I got sick and hardly got out of bed for 13 years. A vegan diet actually helped me be well… but it was raw fruits and veg and nuts, a diet that has a wonderful short-term record and a terrible long-term one. Short-term worked for me, but I credit the things I took OUT, like stimulants and grains, pasteurized dairy and perhaps starches as the reason I got better. I think that diet plus fish and eggs would rock, maybe some starch would be good, everyone is down on fructose at the moment which troubles me :-)

      Active B12 comes from animal foods, there are no reliable sources of vegan B12. I actually wrote about this a few years ago.

      “I don’t think you actually believe eating vegetables can make someone aggressive.(why would you say something so silly?)”

      It’s the overall diet that can create aggressive attitudes, and I am just being honest when I say that often vegans fly off the handle and rant on and be rude, out of proportion to what is happening. Lack of long-chain omega-3 is linked to violence and aggression and we know that grains especially gluten grains can potentially be a health disaster, multiple mechanism that destroy health, leaky guts, destruction of villi. My belief is that very few people are unaffected.

      I am very concerned, because the China Study, that vegan hold as their guiding light, their security and faith in their diet, is full of holes, it’s a scientific disgrace imo. It has been thoroughly debunked and Campbell shown up for his bias and data fiddling. In fact, when the data of the study are analyzed properly, meat was not associated with all-cause mortality, fish was protective, but WHEAT, +67, was the most dangerous food.

      “I’ve seen (and so have you) countless people who eat meat become seriously ill, with that illness attributed to bad diet.”

      Multiple factors are involved, but I wouldn’t be hasty to point the finger at meat, if it is quality, rather WHEAT is a major culprit, it’s effects are insidious and difficult to trace. I put my faith now in the foods we evolved eating. Fact: eating animal source foods is WHAT MADE US SMART. bone marrow, brains, shellfish, these are easily obtainable high raw fat sources that other animals had a hard time with but that homo could access with opposable thumbs. If YOUR ancestors hadn’t eaten animal foods, you, would, not, be, you. These foods don’t need killing in the sense we think of. Cockles and mussels are not the same as killing a bison or whatever. Without these high quality fat, and a good source of DHA, we would not be smart humans, prob would of become extinct long ago as many of our line did.

      “There are millions of people around the world who don’t eat meat. Perhaps you can give me one example of someone’s health suffering through a lack of meat?”

      You are using vegetarians to justify your vegan diet, it won’t wash. Veganism is, in my opinion, invalid as a diet to sustain health even in one generation, let alone over multiple. I have given many reasons before… reliance on grains — dangerous, B12, long chain omega-3, poor vitamin A conversion. Also, humans have a need for taurine, evidence of carnivory. It goes on, there is more if one cares to look.

      BTW, your paintings are amazing. I am a big art fan, something else we have in common.


    2. The pillars of veganism e,g, China Study, Ornish’s work on heart-disease etc, have very weak foundations. Please consider…

      1. Eat some cheese now and again if you can tolerate dairy, pref made from raw whole milk, esp goat milk, but emmental made from raw cow milk is available at Tesco and no doubt elsewhere. Quality yogurt and kefir are also good, again if you can tolerate dairy.
      2. Eat fermented vegetables e.g. sauerkraut.
      3. Take a high-quality B12 supplement, it aint worth the risk.
      4. No gluten grains, stick with white rice, quinoa, millet, or learn to prepare whole grains in the traditional way that removes anti-nutrients… soaking, sprouting etc can ameliorate some of the damage of grains.
      5. Eat some eggs from happy free-range chickens that can eat wild greens with omega-3 in them.
      6. Take a DHA/EPA supplement derived from algae.
      7. Don’t eat vegetable oil high in omega-6, use macadamia oil, coconut oil, and olive oil. Butter/ghee if OK with dairy. Don’t cook with olive oil, use it for salads.
      8. Don’t overdose on nuts, and favor ones lower in omega-6 like macadamia, hazelnut, pistachios, almonds. Soak nuts overnight and be sure to dry them if you want to store them, I soak and eat the next day.
      9. Don’t eat soy apart from limited amounts of fermented soy products like tempeh.
      10. Favor roots/tubers over grains as a starch source… sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, taro, cassava, squash etc.


  3. ….as for the veggie/meatie eco argument, it’s a matter of common sense. (even Neil from the Young Ones could tell ya) We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, then we eat the seed. OR, We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, we feed it to animals, then eat the animals. The second way is a lot less efficient and wasteful, needing more crops to be grown to feed the same number of people (people who can afford it) while others will go without food.


    1. I’m afraid you are leaving in a vegan dream Jonathan. That picture looks like a feedlot. I don’t approve of that either. Don’t confuse animal welfare with the meat eating argument, they are not the same thing. Look into Joel Salatin and Polyface Farm, you will see a different story. Also check out Geoff Lawton’s Zaytuna Farm in Australia, based on permaculture, very inspiring…


    2. Looking at the situation with a calculator and efficiency is a narrow view. NATURE is the answer, and on a prairie for example, herds of millions of ruminants are the natural way of things.


  4. Once again I’m upset enough to reply. I haven’t travelled the world looking for vegetarian civilizations, and have to admit I never heard of Weston Price. I do know however, that writing ‘The truth is’ in front of a statement does not make it true. I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years, and Vegan for 6, with no ill effects …so far. Perhaps I’m different to other humans, as I seem to be the only one I know that gets nothing more than a snuffle once a year, am pretty fit (for my age) without doing any particular exercise, and look (if I do say so myself) 10 years younger than my 50 something year old peers. Actually that’s not quite true, as there are a very few people I know with similar superhuman qualities…….they are the veggie and vegan ones. Plus, what’s this thing about Vit B12 only coming from animals? I used to take a B12 supplement, though I haven’t for many years. (I miraculously survived) It’s the same kind of thing with Omega. If I believed the propaganda, then it’s there for me in vegetables.(they don’t tell you that on the fish commercials!)
    I have to say I feel a lot better now. I seem to be a bit better informed than you on this subject. I’m beginning to suspect the credibility of your other posts though, which is a shame, as I realize I found them quite inspirational.
    Oh, and you’ve noticed some vegans are aggressive/angry? I have to agree with you there. Having said that, I’m not sure, but I think I once saw a non-veggie getting a bit annoyed at something……other than that, they’re all very quiet.


    1. Vegan for 6 is not enough time, typically I see 20 or 25 years of veganism destroy people’s health. I am the same as you in that I would like veganism to be true, to be our ideal diet that would sustain perfect health over generations. Alas, it is not.

      Your link about B12 is to a Vegan Society article urging vegans to take B12! If you use fortified foods, you are still taking a supplement.

      Last night I was telling someone about my struggles to come to terms with eating animal foods, with killing, she suggested I take a look at “The Meat Fix.” So I did. God bless Kindle. Same story as Lierre Keith, health disaster after over 20 years vegan. You have to remember that the body can store some nutrients, B12 is one of them, and that can delay deficiency. The body is incredible adaptable, and that in a way can create false belief in something that could in reality be slowly hurting us.

      A diet, to be valid, has to produce health OVER GENERATIONS. As I pointed out, no such vegan culture exists.

      Anger/hostility — sorry to say, you are an example of what I am talking about, why can’t we just talk like grown ups looking for the truth, present arguments etc, without the hostility? I’ll tell you why… it’s the diet. Why are vegans so militant about everything? One has to wonder about a compassion diet, that does not create compassion in the eater! In The Meat Fix, the author describes how he felt amazing calm, clear headed and grounded once he returned to eating meat. It all fits in my view.

      The Meat Fix was written by a guy whose health was in the gutter after 26 years vegan, I am not even asking you to believe me, I am asking you to read The Vegetarian Myth, and The Meat Fix, as these are both written by ex-long-term vegans. If you are so well informed (which your assertion about B12 shows not), and secure in your truth, then you will have no worries about reading the accounts of these long-term vegans.

      If one only fills their head with a one-sided argument, it’s not surprising that their beliefs will be polarized. Books for example that promote veganism like The China Study, are like listening to only one side of a debate, and I remember clearly from debates at school, how easily the mind will jump to an opinion based on a one sided argument. But look around at the critics of Campbell, and you will hear about the other side of the arguments. At the end of the day, we are all truth seekers, looking for a way to create health for ourselves and the planet. It is the TRUTH that we should stay faithful to, and one truth that is very clear to me is that many vegans health is in the gutter after 20 or 25 years.



  5. So basically you’re saying that our species has eaten meat for a very long time, and because of that, we must not act on what we have learned. Best to remain ignorant. The modern day ‘hunter gatherers’, if they are disease free (funny. I guess you’ve done a lot of research on all 4 of them) probably owe their health more to their active life style and maybe some other factors related to being out doors, rather than eating fresh meat.
    I’m not sure how I came to receive your emails, but have enjoyed reading them for the last few months. I think I will stop reading them now, as they are horse shit.


    1. Well the post is about carcinogens and the limitations of science when it comes to proving causation in nutrition. French fries are also carcinogenic… if you burn food, it happens, and also cooking of course changes the basic chemistry in other ways that are not conducive to health. Hunter-gatherer diets are not the only line of evidence suggesting humans need animal foods, and there’s a lot more than 4 modern-day hunter gatherers. If veganism was healthy, surely we would see human cultures thriving on such a diet over generations, we don’t.

      Weston Price travelled the world looking to find answers as to why the health of Americans was failing in the 1920s and his book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” is a classic. Also as I mentioned to you before on the Eckart Tolle/meat post, a good book is “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith who was a vegan for 20 years but it destroyed her health… a pattern I have seen over and over. She goes into every aspect of veganism and is a good grounding for exploring the subject.

      Eating animal foods is what made us intelligent humans in the first place… e.g. a plentiful supply of long-chain DHA. Many nutrients that are theoretically obtainable from plant foods are very poorly converted into the form we need… omega 3, vitamin A are examples. And B12 is only obtainable from animal foods. Also we now know that inflammation is at the roots of nearly all if not all of our chronic diseases, and bringing the body back into balance means the right levels of protein, carbs, fats and balance of omega-3 and 6.

      These are just a few examples, the post is not about our physical requirement for animal foods, the hunter-gatherer info was about why my eyebrows raise when someone suggests we shouldn’t eat meat.

      I have noticed that some vegans are very aggressive/angry, prob due to long-chain omega-3 deficiency, leaky guts due to excessive grain consumption, inflammation, and vitamin deficiencies. :-)

      We are in the midst of a massive interest in nutrition, and optimizing that so that we can be happy and healthy, and to me that is a much needed dialogue. Nutrition is an emerging field, science is what you do when you don’t know what you’re doing, so the fact that studies are still happening means we are far from understanding it all. In the meantime, I think it is prudent to look at “what works” in cultures known to create exceptional health as well as science, in making the best choices. For all these reasons and more, we won’t be recommending vegan or vegetarian diets.

      The Vegetarian Myth excerpt…

      “The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.

      I want a full accounting, an accounting that goes way beyond what’s dead on your plate. I’m asking about everything that died in the process, everything that was killed to get that food onto your plate. That’s the more radical question, and it’s the only question that will produce the truth. How many rivers were dammed and drained, how many prairies plowed and forests pulled down, how much topsoil turned to dust and blown into ghosts? I want to know about all the species — not just the individuals, but the entire species — the chinook, the bison, the grasshopper sparrows, the grey wolves. And I want more than just the number of dead and gone. I want them back.

      Despite what you’ve been told, and despite the earnestness of the tellers, eating soybeans isn’t going to bring them back. Ninety-eight percent of the American prairie is gone, turned into a monocrop of annual grains. Plough cropping in Canada has destroyed 99 percent of the original humus. In fact, the disappearance of topsoil “rivals global warming as an environmental threat.” When the rainforest falls to beef, progressives are outraged, aware, ready to boycott. But our attachment to the vegetarian myth leaves us uneasy, silent, and ultimately immobilized when the culprit is wheat and the victim is the prairie. We embraced as an article of faith that vegetarianism was the way to salvation, for us, for the planet. How could it be destroying either?

      We have to be willing to face the answer. What’s looming in the shadows of our ignorance and denial is a critique of civilization itself.” ~ Lierre Keith

      Highly recommend you read the whole book. A critique of civilization is totally right, we need a re-design, a HOLISTIC solution to the way we live that creates health and happiness, harmony with nature, and abundance of resources. This actually is not difficult, we’re just not focused on it. Vegetarianism/veganism does not fit into the picture of a holistic way of life that creates the best outcomes for humans and nature. Time for a rethink.


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