Study that links processed meat to cancer sparks local reaction

Posted at 10:26 PM, Oct 26, 2015

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Hot dogs, hams, and sausages in your fridge aren’t just food waiting to be cooked but have the potential to cause cancer, according to a study by the World Health Organization.  WHO puts processed meat in the same danger category as smoking or asbestos and says people should limit the amount of meat in their diets. However, some local meat shops and distributors are saying the study is biased and misleading.

Ranndalyn Hajeak, a registered dietitian with Spectrum Health, puts the study in perspective. She said if you’re going to eat processed meats or red meats, don’t eat more than two ounces a day, which is a serving about the size of a deck of cards.

“We say avoid processed meat for the most part pretty much all the time,” said Hajeak. She said that eating processed meat consistently raises your risk of getting colon cancer by 18%.

But local meat shops and distributors are calling the study a sham.

Whether the report will cut into the meat industry’s economic bottom like remains to be seen, but Mike Ensing, owner of Van Ball’s Prime Beef Inc. doesn’t believe the study is accurate.

“My grandpa was 102 years old when he died, and he had beef and potatoes every day,” said Ensing.

Ensing has owned and run Van Ball’s for the last 34 years and says the report won’t affect meat sales. He has nearly 70 regular customers coming in per week, and during the holiday season alone he sells about 3,000 prime ribs.

“It’s one solid piece of meat. There’s no biproducts or anything like that in it,” said Ensing.

Ensing admits there are definitely processed meats out there that are bad for you, but not in his shop. “We make them right here, so we know there’s no junk in them,” he said.

Ensing said almost all his meats, except some lunch meats, are locally produced in places like Holland and Middleville. He said the animals are raised without hormones, and his shop doesn't add fats to their sausages and hot dogs.

“They don’t have fat and stuff added to them or chemicals to preserve them,” said Ensing.

Hajeak still contends meat still puts you at risk with or without fat. “It’s not the fat content that contributes to cancer risk,” she said.

Ensing is still calling the study a sham, and at 72 years old, he said his diet of meat diet has worked for him. “ I eat it every day.”

The U.S. meat and poultry industry is a major piston in our nation’s economic engine. Published reports indicate it helps generate roughly 6% of our gross domestic product plus more than $7 billion in sales in foreign markets.