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  • Joanna Injore

Processed and red meat - what's the link with cancer?

Processed and red meat and it’s link to cancer is a popular topic in the news. This article will discuss the facts based on the WRCF systematic review of the evidence and recommendations.

Let talk about types of meat...

Processed meat are generally meats that have undergo processing such as smoking, cured had salt or chemical preservatives added (see the examples below).

Red meats include all meat from mammals which also includes mince meat, chops, steaks and burgers.

types of red meat and processed meat

What about sausages?

are sausages classed as a processed meat

You may be surprised to know that sausages made from fresh pork or beef counts as your red meat.

My top tip is to check the ingredients list. If sausages have chemical preservations added like NUTRITES or NITRATES they would be considered ‘processed’.

Examples of processed sausages are:

  • Chorizo

  • Salami

  • Frankfurter

  • Bratwurst

Should I be limited red and processed meat?

Processed meat

There is strong evidence that processed meat is linked to bowel cancer.


Processed meat contains nitrites and nitrates which can form harmful compounds in the body. They also tend to be higher in salt and fat which is linked to high blood pressure and higher body weight.

Red meat

There is probable evidence that red meat is linked to bowel cancer.


Red meat contains ‘Haem’ – which give meat the red colour. Haem can damage the lining of the gut by forming harmful compounds.

How much should I eat?

how much processed meat and red meat should I eat?

Alternatives you could try are chicken, turkey, fish and plant-based sources like soya, Quorn beans and pulses.

Top tips to reduce you meat intake:

  • Include a meat-free day every week

  • Add half your portion of meat and half plant-based source (beans, lentil, pulses) to your usual meals like chill, Bolognese, shepherds pie

  • Try turkey rasher instead of bacon

  • Try out chicken or meat free sausages as an alternative

  • Include fish twice a week instead of red meat (aim for one portion of oily fish a week more info on here)

Further information:

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