Carnivore Blinded by Science: Harvard Study Links Red Meat Consumption with Increased Risk of Death

(For those who just want today’s recipe – Fake Beef Fajitas – feel free to skip bottom of the post…but for those who want to hear about a groundbreaking study about red meat and savor the wonderful taste of a satisfying victory over a carnivore, read on!)

Oh, the sweet satisfaction of defeating an opponent! I’m talking about our friend Drew – a brilliant world renowned scientist (and red meat fanatic) – who evilly launched Operation Enduring Meat in response to my efforts to help my husband convert to a meat-free diet. Harvard School of Public Health totally helped me out here. Their research scientists recently released the results of an extensive two-decades-long study about red meat consumption. Their findings: “Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality,” and added that there is “clear evidence that regular consumption of red meat, especially processed meat, contributes substantially to premature death.” The lead author, An Pan,  a research fellow at HSPH, says: “Our study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies.” The best part about this: Drew found this study on his own – I didn’t even have to rub it in his face since Harvard did that work for me. (Thank you Harvard!)

The study is pretty fascinating. Researchers followed participants for up to 28 years and found that eating the equivalent of one hot dog or two slices of bacon per day was associated with a whopping 20% increase in death. But what about unprocessed red meat, like say a small slab of grass-fed organic beef? Eating a very small serving (about the size of a deck of cards) of unprocessed meat was associated with a 13% increased risk of mortality. That’s quite significant!

The study estimated that 9.3% of the deaths of the men they studied and 7.6% of women could have been prevented had those participants adopted a red meat-free diet. It went on to say that replacing meat with healthy protein sources lowers your mortality risk. There’s a 19% reduction if you replace meat with nuts, 10% for legumes and 14% for whole grains. (It’s also 14% for poultry, but let’s not rain on my epic vegan parade, okay?) For the record, I’ve never tried to convert Drew into being a vegan, but once he launched his meat assault, the war was on. And I’m so happy to have won this latest battle!

Do you hear that sound? That faint sound of a brainiac meat-loving scientist screaming “nooooooooo!!!” in the distance is coming from our good friend Drew… being blinded by science! Ha ha! Sweet, sweet victory.

Funny, while Drew was telling us about this study and lamenting that “red meat is pretty much horrible on all levels – Oh God NO!” he was eagerly devouring an enormous bowl of my vegan African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas. Something tells me Drew will be over at our house more often now, but probably not to secretly slip John steak anymore. Woohoo! Score another point for Team Veg and Operation Carnivore Conversion.

In honor of this study and to help Drew overcome his attachment to meat, I’m going to make him Beefless Beef Fajitas using a soy-based beef substitute from Trader Joe’s. Since my carnivore didn’t notice the difference, neither will Drew, and neither will you!


Fake Beef Fajitas

From fridge to table: about 15 minutes

Serves: 6


1 tbsp oil (if you can, use an oil that’s suited to high heat cooking, like grapeseed oil)
1 package fake beef (I used Trader Joe’s Beef-less Beef. My carnivore husband gave it a thumbs up and said “Ooo, that’s very edible! You can’t tell it’s fake in these fajitas.”)
1 large yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
1 large red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 package fajita seasoning (personally, I like to make homemade fajita sauce, but John likes the packaged version since he says it coats the fake meat better and helps fool his taste buds)
6-8 tortillas
In a large saute pan or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Slide in the onion and stir for 2 minutes, then slide in the bell pepper and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the zucchini and saute for a couple minutes to soften the zucchini. Add the mushrooms and fake beef strips, then add the package of fajita seasoning and 1/4-1/3 cup water (depending on your desired thickness of the sauce). Turn down heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the fake beef is heated through. Just before you’re ready to serve, drape a tortilla over the hot fajita mix to soften the tortilla, then spoon the fajita mix into the tortilla and serve. Enjoy!

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Categories: 15 minute dishes, Recipes


Cimeron Morrissey is an award-winning magazine writer who writes about her passions, which include travel, water sports, animal rescue and food.

Operation Carnivore Conversion

This is Operation Carnivore Conversion, an ambitious and potentially hazardous project to transform my meat-loving husband into a vegetarian. Recognizing that his diet was shared by Tyrannosauruses but not by humans who live very long, he has decided - reluctantly - to try to dramatically reduce his consumption of animal-based foods. The success of this project relies on my ability to serve inventive and tasty meals that would satisfy even a femur-gnawing caveman (and to prepare them in less than 30 minutes since I don't have much time). This is a high-risk endeavor. If my husband feels deprived or underwhelmed, he will see my arms as snack-shaped objects and/or whine me to death. Failure is not an option. Oh boy, here we go!

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