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I Ate Bacon for Breakfast!

David’s breakfast 10/28/15.

And I am thinking about having a hamburger for supper too.

When news about the WHO report linking  processed meat, red meat and colorectal cancer came out this week I found myself doubting all scientists . . . and anyone associated with the  government. What next? Will they will tell me not to eat eggs?

As I said in last week’s post, science in biological systems is REALLY hard. Those questioning the WHO report are looking at causation vs correlation and the issue of dose-response. Really tough questions to be answered. The only way to really figure this out would be to conduct a very large controlled study (like 1000 people or more) with humans – managing every aspect of their life for several years. Everyone breathing the same air, doing the same work, getting the same exercise, getting the same amount of rest, and eating the same food. The only difference between the study groups (control and treatment) would be the amount of red meat/processed meat they ate each day. That type of study just won’t happen! As such, we are stuck with trying to evaluate a compilation of 800 different observational studies.

Climate science has a different problem. There is not even an option to do a controlled study (control vs treatment) as there is only one earth-climate system (n=1). The good news is that many of the individual portions of the climate system can be studied in the lab.

Scientists can measure the energy absorption of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses in the lab. They can measure these same chemicals in the atmosphere. They can then apply some well understood principles of conservation of energy and mass transfer and project the results. These fundamental principles do not change – it is only the application to the complex climate system that gets tricky.

So as an individual living on planet earth and enjoying my meat – what should I be thinking? I think I need to become more knowledgeable about the issues. I need to study the WHO meat report – not just listen to pundit’s interpretation and spin. I need to have a better understanding of the climate system and climate science. I need to know the difference between ENSO and Milankovitch. I will never be a climate scientist but it is my responsibility to study the issue.

There are many places to learn climate science. We have some recorded lectures (part 1, part 2, part 3) from our online course. NOAA has a climate education website. There are countless other high quality sources and so many ways to learn that go beyond listening to your Uncle Gordy, your best friend, or your favorite radio personality discuss the issue.

And while you are at it – add some fruit to that breakfast plate!

Always Considering Climate– David

David Schmidt MS. PE is a researcher and educator in the Department of Bioproducts and Bioysystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota and regional project coordinator for the project Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate,  a national project of the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

3 thoughts on “I Ate Bacon for Breakfast!”

  1. Should we, eat red/processed meat, egg or not? Who really are the right professionals to answer this question? I am livestock person, who advocates, among others, the enhancement of animal products including milk, meat and eggs for human consumption. Further, Government s, are investing huge money in support of livestock sector development of the livestock. Why?

    It is really very confusing to hear conflicting findings along their recommendations from different researchers/professionals. In recent years, medical doctors are advising their patients to refrain from the consumption of animal products (particularly meat, eggs even sometimes milk). Although I am livestock person, I am not really biased. But, my intention here is, to underline that, health study findings and recommendations are going too far (beyond the limit) in associating animal products with important diseases, and blaming and restricting consumption of animal products. “What really, should be/the right discipline composition to make, far reaching nutrition advices, what to eat what not”?

    “This ‘WHO report “reminded me of some activists who usually blame livestock for climate change/damage of environment: we all know that livestock do not march to damage environment /cause climate change. It is the conflicting interests of human beings (high and increasing demand for animal products) and hence, distorted government policies, which are fueling the environmental damage/climate change. If climate smart practices are used in managing livestock, enhancing livestock’s positive impacts on environment/climate, and minimizing their negative impacts , anima agriculture is indispensible, for economic growth at national level, and income increase at household level.”

    Back to the consumption of red meat………: from my understanding, generally professionals/researchers (if not all) tend to make inbox recommendations and advices. Because of different constraints (mainly financial and time), most studies/researches are not holistic and participatory to the appropriate level. Moreover, it is also important to consider “how findings of a given study are cleared, and released for public use”. Who is controlling the release of findings? Is there multidisciplinary body (e.g a mix representatives from the area of human health, animal science, nutrition, and other relevant discipline ) to follow/approve, even to be involved in a particular study in this case in human nutrition and causes of important diseases? Who should have a say?

    If professionals are not coordinated across relevant disciplines to advice the right and well evidenced lasting nutrition advices and of the like, the people and government will remain confused. Some doctors will advice their patients to refrain from consuming animal product (red meat, egg etc), and on the other hand livestock people will advice farmers to boost production of animal products for consumption. My point here is that professionals should work together to come up with shared recommendations to avoid confusion.

    Government s have also to be alert and prepared to protect their people from conflicting and confusing recommendations in any case, by putting in place efficient/functional regulatory body in this regard.

    Hadera Gebru
    Livestock Specialist Addis Ababa

  2. Hello David,
    Your blog post hurt me when I read it first. I am an ethical vegan and look at so called “meat” as a feeling and thinking creature. I meant to reply that time but I was busy.
    Today I watched a very interesting lecture about 15 msin causes of death in USA. I thought about you and your blog post.
    If you have some time please watch it. You said in your post you want to know and understand more

    Wishing you a great day, Beata

  3. I am close to 79 years old I eat eggs and bacon the one from my butchers do almost every day.I am in perfect health walk for 1 hour and over that almost every day.I mow my grass without a tractor and do my thing I need to do .

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