Meat is the subject of much scrutiny in the cancer debate, but New Zealand Professor Lynn Ferguson believes the attributed risk may not all be due to meat itself.

As well as high consumption of red meat, associated dietary and lifestyle factors are also important. Professor Ferguson of Auckland University is in Copenhagen next week, presenting to the International Congress on Meat Science and Technology. “Balancing meat with other components of a healthy diet is critical to protecting against cancer risk,” says Professor Ferguson.

“Meat is an important source of nutrients, several of which have potential anti-cancer properties. Red meat should be eaten trimmed of fat in the recommended amounts, not overcooked and with plenty of vegetables.” And that’s exactly how Kiwis are enjoying their meat.

In amounts within national and international guidelines, recent consumer research shows the majority of New Zealanders trim fat from meat. Ferguson points out beef and lamb together only contribute 8% of the energy (calories) New Zealanders derive from fat.

Cooked to medium rare is best for most cuts of beef or lamb, also in line with Professor Ferguson’s advice.

The Kiwi tradition of ‘meat and three veg’ therefore has health benefits beyond just enjoyment. A balanced eating pattern, including a variety of fruit, vegetables and other foods high in fibre, combined with regular physical activity promoting a healthy body weight, offer the best protection against cancer.

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