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Report on processed meats not swaying carnivores

FARGO, N.D. - It's gotten to the point where Ben Rheault no longer worries when studies tie meat to negative health consequences. "People like bacon. They're going to eat bacon if they want," said Rheault, a co-owner of Meats by John and Wayne in...

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Reuters

FARGO, N.D. – It's gotten to the point where Ben Rheault no longer worries when studies tie meat to negative health consequences.

"People like bacon. They're going to eat bacon if they want," said Rheault, a co-owner of Meats by John and Wayne in Fargo. "I know I'm not going to stop eating bacon."

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer released a report Oct. 26 that said eating processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and bacon can cause colorectal cancer, and that red meat can likely cause the cancer.

The review also said there was some connection between the consumption of red meat and pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

But local butchers and their customers were unconcerned, and even skeptical, about these findings Monday afternoon.

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"We get bombarded with these, this and that and everything will give you cancer, and it's not the first time we've heard that processed meats have been put in that group," said Austen Germolus, manager at the North Dakota State University Meat Lab. "It's kind of nonsense, in my mind."

So many variables are at work when scientists study this topic, Germolus continued. "Everyone's diet is a little different, everyone's genetics are different, so it's really hard to blame food for what makes us sick."

The report, which came out of a review of 800 studies, classified processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans" on its group one list along with tobacco and asbestos, for which there is "sufficient evidence" of cancer links.

In other words, there are similar amounts of evidence that processed meat and tobacco can cause cancer.

Each 1.8-ounce portion eaten daily (one hot dog or two slices of bacon) increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, the agency estimated.

By comparison, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of lung cancer by 86 percent.

Around dinnertime Monday, most of the customers at Rheault's shop had seen the headlines, but that didn't keep them from purchasing beef sticks, sausages and steaks.

"When stuff like this comes out, you might get people asking about it, but they're asking about it usually as they're buying it," Rheault said with a laugh.

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Sometimes customers ask about nitrates, he said. "But there's a lot more people that don't really care. There's way more people that just want to eat bacon."

His customers Monday confirmed that hypothesis.

"It probably won't curb my bacon consumption because I generally eat bacon once a month," said Tim Martin, 36. "It's not like I have it every day."

Several were fatigued by the influx of reports like this and said meat was the poison they pick.

"A lot of things these days can cause cancer, so you pick and choose what you want to indulge with," said Breann Owen, 30.

"We're all going to die sometime, so you might as well get your protein in the form of steak," said Jen Ter Doest, 26.

Would Roger Hauck, 70, ever consider dropping the processed meat?

"Not at this age," he said with a laugh, as he headed home with a couple of steaks and a summer sausage. "I've eaten a lot of meats my whole life, whether they're processed or not."

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Why? "Because it tastes good," said Nick Davis, 32, who was on his way out with a pack of beef sticks. He's confident the snack won't hurt him.

"If you don't eat it all the time, you'll be fine, that's what I figure," Davis said. "If you just have it on occasion, sure, you'll be all right."

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