Patrick Holford was on BBC Radio 2 on Wednesday, talking about red meat and cancer – you can listen again here, from about 40mins into the show).
Holford begins by talking about how modern farming has lead to unfit – and therefore higher fat – animals. He uses the example of chickens (where there is some evidence of increasing fat content). However, Holford’s meant to be talking about red meat – and, in this context, he’s completely wrong: as Juliet Kellow RD corrects Holford, “meat has actually got leaner and leaner over the years”.
Pork is now about generally about 30% leaner than is ‘traditional’, beef has got about 15% leaner. Lean beef is just 5% fat, lean pork about 4%. As Kellow argues, these are therefore not particularly high fat foods.
In terms of both pork and beef, there are good reasons why one might object to the more intensive farming techniques used. There are legitimate animal welfare concerns, but Holford explicitly excludes these – arguing that this is about health, not ethics. There are also issues of taste: in terms of pork, in particular, ‘rare breed’ animals, with a relatively high fat content, often taste better (shockingly, fat tastes nice…)
I’ll happily pay a premium for free range, rare breed pork – better for the animal, and I like the taste. These animals may be relatively fit, but they’re also pretty high in fat. Relatively traditional farming techniques may be nicer for animals, and may make tastier food, but this doesn’t mean it’ll be healthier. Of course, most of us wouldn’t want all our food choices to be dictated by what is ‘healthiest’. If you do decide on foods this way then a) I feel sorry for you and b) you should find a better source of information than Holford.
Anyway, writing this post has started me drooling. Mm, pork fat…sweet, creamy thick pork fat, with a dab of mustard and a forkful of cabbage… I think I’ll stop writing now, before I have to clean the dribble off my monitor.