Which Meat Is Worst For You? Here's How The World Health Organization Group Study Breaks It Down

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Food on display at Hot Dog Happy Hour with Mo Rocca during the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival Presented By FOOD & WINE at The Standard, High Line, Biergarten & Garden on October 17, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
Source: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

As a World Health Organization subsidiary released a new study positively linking processed meat consumption and cancer today, vegetarians everywhere are giving themselves a pat on the back ... and nervously forwarding news links to their meat-eating friends. This myriad of answers sparks a dire curiosity: what kind of meat is worst for you

According to the new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, processed meats (meaning meat that's been smoked, cured, salted, fermented or altered) have the strongest connection to stomach cancer, followed by red meat and then white meat. It's not surprising news; less affirmative variations of this study have been circulating for years. But now that The Working Group has used the unmistakable wording "carcinogenic to humans", a blanket of severity has been laid across this issue. It's no longer heresy or a loose connection, it's an affirmed and verified study now. Which means: yes, you should care. 

The IARC wants the public to know that while these findings are significant, a limitation of intake should suffice. The risk for cancer increases with each 50 grams serving of processed meat. So, if you reduce your intake, you reduce your risk of developing cancer. And do keep in mind that the different meats and different cuts pose different threats. Because all meat is not created equal, here is a breakdown of the most harmful meats.

Processed Meats

The most common processed meats are bacon, sausage, and hot dogs. Two slices of bacon a day can increase your chances of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.


Red Meats


Beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton, horse and goat meat has been positively associated with prostate and pancreatic cancer.

White Meat 

While poultry might not be in the cancer hot seat in this new study, white meat eaters are still three times as likely to develop colorectal cancer than vegetarians. 

"AICR's take-home message: by eating a healthy diet, staying a healthy weight and being active, AICR estimates that half of colorectal cancers could be prevented," said the group about their findings. So do your research, limit your intake, and maybe experiment with substitutes

Images: Getty Images; jeffreyww/Flickr 

Must Reads