Does Meat Cause Cancer? (Plus Prepping for Thanksgiving)

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.


Did you see the latest “breaking news” in the health industry on TV?


Apparently, it is a shocking revelation that deli meats, infused with chemicals and nitrates, may cause cancer.


Breaking “health news” sometimes cracks me up.



Similar to the breaking news over the “Low fat vs. Low carb diet” showdown (which one is better?!) a couple months ago, or the ‘breaking news’ that Americans are addicted to sugar…the news acts as though we’ve been living under rocks until these great revelations.


Walk down any meat aisle today in your conventional grocery store, and chances are, you are going to find a lot of funky meats in general—not only just the bacon and the sausage and deli meats the news is ranting and raving about.


Just compare these pictures alone of a pasture raised chicken egg vs. a conventional, standard (cheapo) grocery store egg:



And a picture of this Tyson chicken breast, compared to this free-range organic chicken breast from Whole Foods:




You don’t need a Master’s in Chemistry or Food Science to realize the difference.



The healthier birds, and animals to eat are those that have been humanely and naturally raised; and those that have eaten good quality fuel themselves (consider this: if you eat a chicken that ate poop pellets or was administered hormones to grow, you are technically, too, consuming poop pellets or hormones. Yum).


When people ask me about organic vs. non-organic…which to buy? Which is better?


My general rule of thumb is to tell them:


1.) For produce: Stick to buying the Dirty Dozen in organic form as much as possible (otherwise, it’s free for all)


2.) For meat: Invest your food dollars here: in good quality protein sources (best options=buying directly from farmers; second best options=shopping at local natural grocers and Whole Foods; lastly, if you’re at your mainstream grocery store=look for ‘organic’ over ‘natural’ versions of meats, and if none are available, choose leaner cuts of conventional meats);


3.) What you ‘see’ is not what you always get. In other words: “organic” sometimes sounds better than it actually is (i.e. “organic mac & cheese”? come on now)…but in actuality, “organic” is sometimes used as a marketing ploy to sound better than it actually is (check out this post on “14 things the organic industry doesn’t want you to know”)


The bottom line: if you want to “do a body good”, aim to do the best you can to choose good quality sources of fuel, realizing that food is not a game of perfect—nor do you win a badge of honor for “buying everything organic” or not,


Above all, the more you can reach for organic sources—particularly of meat—the more you avoid subjecting your own body (and gut) to the various pesticides, toxins, antibiotics, hormones, and yes, poop pellets, these food sources may have consumed.


Get this:


  • Several years ago, Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat processor and the second largest chicken producer in the U.S., admitted that it injected its chickens with antibiotics before they hatch and then labeled them as raised without antibiotics.

Conventional Chicken nowadays…

  • There are 6 FDA approved hormones (3 synthetic and 3 natural), for use in the beef industry. The 3 synthetic ones are melengestrol acetate, trenbolone acetate and zeranol and the 3 natural ones are estradiol, progesterone and testosterone. Virtually all beef in the US that is not organic meat is produced using one or more of these hormones. The hormones are used to speed the growth of the animals thus speeding production and reducing feed costs and improving ROI. However, when we consume these, there is a potential for these types of hormones to cause human reproductive and metabolic problems.


  • Eggs that advertise their omega-3 content may be defrauding the public by claiming they can reduce your risk of heart disease. The deception here is that these eggs are typically low in the animal-based omega-3 fat DHA, which is far more beneficial to you than the plant-based ALA that most omega-3 eggs contain.


  • Seventy-five years ago, cows were slaughtered at the age of four- or five-years-old. Today’s steers, however, grow so fast on the grain they are fed that they can be butchered much younger, typically when they are only 14 or 16 months. All beef cattle spend the first few months of their lives on pasture or rangeland, where they graze on forage crops such as grass or alfalfa.  But then nearly all are fattened, or as the industry likes to call it “finished,” in feedlots where they eat grain (A corn diet can also give a cow acidosis. Unlike our own highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of a rumen is neutral. Corn makes it unnaturally acidic, however, causing a kind of bovine heartburn, which in some cases can kill the animal but usually just makes it—and us—sick).



  • When it comes to fat in animal meat, if the ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats exceeds 4:1, people have more health problems (This is especially important since grain-fed beef/livestock and non-organic/range-fed chickens can have ratios that exceed 20:1 whereby grass-fed beef and range-free, pasture-raised chickens is down to about 3:1). Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of: heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, autoimmune disease.


It may suck in the moment as you pay seemingly twice as much for the meat at the check out line…but give it a shot: even for a week—particularly for your fattier cuts of meat.


If anything, if you are going to buy more conventional meats for some of your weekly supply, stick to leaner cuts for these (less room for toxins to lodge into the fat cells of these animals). Here are some general rules of thumb:



Chicken: With chicken for instance: perhaps buy 1-2 lbs. of organic chicken thighs, along with some ‘natural’ chicken breast to grill up some chicken to have on hand for the week.


Beef: If you are going to buy beef, but ‘grassfed’ seems like it may be too expensive for your taste, try Organ Meat from Grass-fed Beef, Bison or Lamb (Organ meat is more densely packed with just about every vitamin and mineral and when it comes from grass-fed sources, the fat content is also extremely healthy). In addition, ground-varieties (ground beef, ground bison, ground lamb) are generally cheaper than steaks or other cuts of meat—so perhaps give it a shot. As for your steaks, if grass-fed is not an option, then, like your chicken breasts, stick to leaner cuts of these meats.


Pork. Pork tenderloin/loin are your best bets if not buying organic.


Wild-caught fish. Generally thought to be associated with less risk of being subjected to antibiotics and PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals. Choose wild-caught varieties more often than farm-raised; however, according to my seafood man at Whole Foods, farm-raised is upping their sustainability practices to ensure more quality aqua-culture. Talk to your ‘fish guy’—and see what’s in the water.


Get it? Got it? Good.


Chances are, if you’ve never really given organic meats a try, you will not only experience the difference in taste (as in ‘better’), but notice a difference in the energy and nutrition a more-humanely raised bird or cattle gives you (quality people, quality).


It was a tough pill to initially swallow when I threw in my college-girl saving tendencies of buying $1.99 eggs for my now, $5.99-$7 Vital Farms pasture raised eggs, but quite honestly, I wouldn’t go back (rich yellowish orange yolk vs. a paleish, foamy yolk: no question).


The same goes for bacon. I love organic turkey bacon alongside my eggs in the morning—and despite the ‘breaking news’ that deli meats, sausage and bacon will ‘cause’ cancer—big reason why is because of the NITRATES in these meats (chemicals that ‘preserve’ the meats longer, and increase the sodium content as well). No alarm to give up sausage, bacon or deli meat altogether (despite the news’ claims). Reach for Wellshire Farms or Applegate bacon/turkey bacon, organic deli meats and sausages if you are going to stock up on these types of meats, and incorporate them in moderation—along with a variety of other types of protein in your day to round out your breakfast or lunch meals.


As for the upcoming holidays…meat is the centerpiece at most holiday meals!


Why not give your meat a makeover this year—and give the gift to family and loved ones of improved health and taste at the same time?


Order a pasture-raised turkey as a gift for your relatives or parents, or roast it up yourself and dazzle your audience with a new quality of dish to your feast.


Here are some retailers that sell these types of turkeys for your holiday meal:

Heritage Foods

Local Harvest 

Organic Prairie 

Grassfed Traditions


Once you have the bird in tow, here is s imple, yet delicious turkey and gravy recipe to dazzle your guests with:


Herb Crusted Turkey- Version 1


  • Turkey (allot about 2 lbs. of uncooked turkey per person)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed with a knife until powdery
  • Several bunches of fresh herbs (e.g., 1 each of thyme, sage, parsley and rosemary)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth



Remove turkey from refrigeration 1/2 hour before cooking. Preheat oven to 350 and set the oven rack in a low position. Remove the innards (neck and giblets) from the cavity of the turkey and set aside.



The neck can be roasted next to the turkey or simmered in soup. The giblets (heart, liver, gizzard) can be sautéed in a little butter or oil and eaten as a separate meal or snack. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cool water and pat dry. Combine melted butter with fennel seeds, herbs, salt and pepper. You can also add minced garlic if you like. Drizzle the melted butter over the entire turkey. You can also loosen the skin, pull it up and rub some of the butter directly onto the meat.



Add broth to roasting pan and set bird in the pan, preferably elevated on a rack, breast side up. Insert a meat thermometer straight down through the thickest part of the breast – if you have an instant read thermometer, do not leave it in the bird; insert it later to check the temperature. After an hour, check the bird.


If the skin is getting too dark on top you can cover it with aluminum foil for the remainder of the cooking time. Roast until the meat registers at 160 –165 degrees, basting occasionally with pan drippings.


As a general rule of thumb, a 12 pound turkey typically takes around 2 1/2 hours to cook. A 15-25 pound bird can take 2-3 hours and a 25-30 pound bird can take 3 – 3 1/2 hours.


Once the thermometer hits 160, remove the bird from the oven and let rest with a loose covering of foil for 20-30 minutes before carving.




  • 2 tablespoons turkey fat from pan drippings, or ghee
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 2 cups chopped cauliflower
  • pan drippings
  • 1-2 cups chicken or turkey stock
  • several sprigs fresh thyme or other herbs
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste



  • Heat fat over medium heat in sauce pan. Add onions and cook until onions start to brown. Stir in cauliflower and thyme sprigs.
  • Measure pan drippings and add enough stock to equal 2 cups of liquid. Add pan drippings/stock mixture to pan with vegetables. Simmer until cauliflower is fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove herb stems.
  • Carefully transfer mixture to Vitamix. Blend on high until smooth and creamy.
  • Return gravy to pan to reheat. Add more stock to thin to desired consistency, if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Side note: If you are just going for a roast turkey breast (not the whole turkey) try this recipe from the Primal Palate:


Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast- Version 2 (for those who don’t want to make the whole bird)




  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Drizzle olive oil over turkey breast, brush to coat.
  • Separate rosemary from stems, roughly chop and sprinkle liberally on turkey.
  • Add salt and cracked pepper to taste.
  • Place turkey in shallow roasting pan.
  • Cook turkey approximately 25 minutes per pound (turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the breast reads 170°F).
  • Periodically baste turkey with juices in the pan, especially toward the end of the cooking.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes, carve, and serve.

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