With barbecue season in full force and organics cropping up everywhere, one question remains to be answered: is there really such thing as healthy hot dogs or bacon? In the U.S., many of us eat pork more than other red meat. We eat a lot of it – bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, chops, pork steaks, ribs, roasts and more. But should we really be putting all this pig on our plates?
If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or animal activist, the answer is clear. But if you’re a meat eater, the answer may not be so black and white.
Despite the advertising campaign, pork is actually a red meat. Due to its light color after cooking, some consider it a white meat. But because pork contains more myoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) than chicken or fish, is a livestock product and has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and cancer, it is actually classified as a red meat.
Now that we’ve cleared that mystery up, let’s look at the benefits of eating pork.
Well, pork tastes delicious – so, not a benefit. It does give us some healthy fat and protein, if it’s not overpowered with additives, sugar and other junk.
But consider what we know about pigs. They eat just about anything, including their own feces, their own young and other dead animals.
Besides not sweating much, pigs digest their tantalizing menu of goodies more quickly than other livestock animals, resulting in less removal of toxins. Those toxins then get stored in the pig’s fatty tissues until we consume them. Still sound delicious?
What worse? According to onegreenplanet.org, more than 80% of factory-farmed pigs have pneumonia when they go to the slaughterhouse. If you aren’t exposing yourself to the pneumonia when eating the pork, you sure are taking in some of the antibiotics it was given.
Though sometimes warranted, antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in our digestive tracts. Without the healthy (good) bacteria, poor gut health can lead to many other health issues.
Plus, if you follow Old Testament scripture in the Bible, God considered the pig an unclean animal (See Leviticus 11).
So even with all this information, I have to admit that I still love the taste of pork. And you might, too.
So can processing the pork take away some of the health risks. And finally, is there a healthy hot dog out there?
Pigs to plate: does processing the pork make it healthier?
Processing pork is meant to kill harmful bacteria or parasites in the meat. But due to the pig’s makeup and lifestyle, eating processed pork can increase our risk for swine flu, trichinosis, other viruses or parasites and cancer.
Plus, whether uncured or cured, sausage, bacon and hot dogs will contain nitrites and nitrates. At least with uncured versions, the nitrates and nitrites come from more natural sources such as celery powder, instead of added, man-made sources. Nitrates and nitrites are thought to be cancer causing, so we should consume only natural sources of them, in moderation.
Finally, what’s worse is that the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) concluded that no amount of processed meat is safe, so they recommend avoiding all of it, all the time (mercola.com).
So, we can conclude that processingthis already unhealthy meat does not make it healthier. Sad, I know. I love my bacon, too.
Roping in the processed meats prognosis
What does the WCRF’s recommendation mean to us meat lovers?
Most processed meats are pork-based, but any deli meat or packaged meat and even meat from a local farm may be processed. Processedmeans that the meat has been preserved by curing, salting or smoking it, or by adding chemical preservatives to it.
Processed meats include many of our go-tos: ham, salami, pastrami, pepperoni, hot dogs and bacon, as well as some sausages and hamburgers.
So the prognosis is that we should all stop eating processed meats!
That said, I’m a realist and a meat lover. So what other choices do we have? We can:
- choose to eat the unhealthier, conventional processed meats, but much less often.
- research and find a trustworthy local source of the cleanest, most organic meat possible.
- learn to make our own paleo bacon.
- purchase more organic versions of pork products from brands such as The Piggery, Pederson’s Natural Farmsand Wellshire Farms.
- find store brands that offer uncured, organic versions made from beef instead of pork, such as Applegate 100% organic, grass-fed beef hot dogs (not their “natural” version). Note that they are still processed, but more organically and they are made from beef instead of pork.
As a society, we love bacon, ham and pork and many of us eat it daily. But to sum up the answer to ‘do healthy hot dogs or bacon truly exist’, I am sad to say, no.
However, we can choose healthierversions of them. If we eat those much less often and enjoy fresher, unprocessed meats or plant-based foods (even better) instead, our bodies will become healthier, too.
*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.