What is Processed Meat, Anyway?

Roasted Chicken

Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Sausage






There’s a new report today about how screening prevents colorectal cancer deaths – and that is very good news.

And AICR adds more good news to that – we know that limiting red meat to less than 18 oz. (cooked) per week and avoiding processed meat are proven ways to lower risk for colorectal cancer.

What do we mean by “processed meat”?

AICR/WCRF expert report and its updates defines processed meat as “meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives.” Ham, bacon, pastrami, sausages, hot dogs and luncheon meats are all considered processed meat.

It’s not yet clear exactly why these meats increase risk for colorectal cancer. It may be the added nitrites and nitrates, salt, or high temperatures used in some processing, or the heme iron in red meat.

Does this include nitrate and nitrite free turkey or chicken lunch meats and sausage? At this point we need studies that distinguish between nitrate/nitrite-free processed poultry and the typical hot dogs and luncheon meats with added nitrates and nitrites. These products are relatively new, so we need studies that make these distinctions.

So, for now, save processed meats for special occasions and choose fresh meats most of the time. The pictures above show the least processed chicken – roasted chicken – to more processed meats – chicken nuggets (added fat, salt and breading) and chicken sausage (typically added salt, fat and nitrates).

For more on how to lower risk for colorectal cancer see the latest from the AICR/WCRF expert report continuous update here.

Visit the AICR Test Kitchen for delicious recipes for chicken, fish, beef and pork.

Please share brown bag lunch ideas for sandwiches that don’t include processed meat.