Organic Meat and Health - Soil Association Response
Soil Association responds to WCRF report published today, linking red meat to cancer and refers to evidence that red meat from organic and grass-fed cattle is positively beneficial in protecting against the risk of cancer
The Soil Association is concerned that a report published yesterday by the World Cancer Research Fund , which makes lifestyle recommendations for reducing the risk of cancer, draws no distinction between organic and intensively-produced meat, even though there is compelling evidence that beef from organic and grass-fed cattle has much higher levels of important anti-cancer micronutrients.
Soil Association Policy Adviser Richard Young said, “We support the World Cancer Research Fund’s message that all meat should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables, but these scientists are throwing out the baby with the bathwater by failing to recognise the major global increases taking place in organic farming and condemning all red and processed meat equally. There is compelling evidence that red meat from organic and some other grass-fed animals is positively beneficial in protecting against the risk of cancer.”
The WCRF report recommends that everyone should limit their consumption of red meat to no more than 500g of cooked (700-750g raw) red meat per week and avoid processed meat such as bacon, ham, salami, corned beef and some sausages.
However, research published by scientists at Utah State University  in the US found that beef from cattle fed grass-based diets had up to 500% more of two types of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), known as cis 9 and trans 11, in intramuscular fat than beef from animals on typically high cereal-maize diets. These CLAs are recognised as beneficial in protecting against cancer, and red meat and milk from grass-fed animals are the richest dietary sources. In contrast grain-fed beef was shown to have higher levels of other CLAs believed to be harmful.
The researchers concluded that, 'A person consuming the high CLA products [milk and red meat from grass fed animals] would have a CLA intake of about 441mg/day…which is well above the minimum intake that has been shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of cancer in animals models’.
All organic cattle in the EU have grass-based diets with levels of concentrate restricted.
Researchers in Australia have found that grass fed cattle also have higher levels of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids and lower levels of Omega-6 fatty acids , While researchers at the Jonsson Cancer Center in the US have recently shown that diets high in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in Omega-6 fatty acids lower the inflammatory response known to promote the growth of prostate cancer tumours .
Further evidence is also available suggesting that levels of other anti-oxidants such as Vitamin E and beta-carotene, also known to protect against cancer will be higher in meat from grass-fed animals.
None of this evidence has been reviewed by the WCRF in its report.
For media enquiries, please contact Victoria Record in the Soil Association press office on 0117 9874580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
 Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the prevention of Cancer: a global perspective
 Dhiman T R, Seung-Hee, N and Ure, A L, 2005. ‘Factors Affecting Conjugated Linoleic Acid in Milk and Meat’. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 45:463-482 http://www.usu.edu/trdhiman/publications/FSN-463.pdf
 Ponnampalam, E N, Mann, N J and Sinclair, A J, 2006. ‘Effect of feeding systems on omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and trans fatty acids in Australian beef cuts: potential impact on human health’. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 15: 21-29
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