Texans love nothing if not their red meat.
And their bacon, ham and sausage, not to mention hot dogs, bologna and other meats.
That’s why it seems, for many, hard to accept a new warning Monday by the World Health Organization that those very meats could raise the risk of stomach, colon and other cancers.
“I'm not a doctor or a scientist, but I’ve got a lot of customers in their late 80s and they seem to be doing just fine,” said Charlie Geren, owner of the popular Fort Worth Railhead Smokehouse that features smoked brisket, sausage, ham, turkey and more.
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“I’m sure not smart enough to give a medical opinion, but they come in for lunch every day and they are doing fine.”
New warnings came out Monday by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, lumping hot dogs, bologna and processed meats — and red meat in general — in the same category as tobacco, alcohol, sunlamps and pollution on the list of top carcinogens.
I think everything kills you so you might as well enjoy what you can.
Otto Arslanovski, owner of Our Place restaurant in Burleson
Many in the meat industry criticized the new designation, pointing out that many cancers aren’t triggered by a specific type of food.
But a group of WHO scientists in France said processed meat is “carcinogenic” to people, and there are links between that meat and colon cancer. They also labeled red meat as “probably carcinogenic” because there are links between that and pancreatic, colon and prostate cancers.
That’s not good news in Texas, where this state is the top beef exporter in the country, according to Texas’ Agriculture Department.
“Lean red meat has long been, and will continue to be an important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in a statement. “The designation of processed red meat as a carcinogen is another example of politicized science that is not grounded in reality.”
A best seller
The new warning didn’t seem to be slowing down people at the Our Place restaurant in Burleson on Monday.
Our Place’s motto, ‘Life is better with chicken fried steak,’ was in full force as customers busily celebrated that theory on no less than Texas Chicken Fried Steak Day.
“Chicken fried steak is probably the best seller here for lunch,” said Otto Arslanovsk i, owner of the restaurant. “And the chicken fried steak omelet is the best seller for breakfast.”
A bus tour traveled through North Texas Monday celebrating Chicken Fried Steak Day.
Despite the warning, Monday was busy at the restaurant.
But Arslanovski said his customers don’t have a big reputation of following all the new health warnings.
“When the bird flu thing happened [a while ago], and people said don’t eat eggs or chicken because it can kill you, we sold more eggs and chicken that month then ever,” he said.
And as a bus tour celebrating Chicken Fried Steak Day drove throughout North Texas, stopping at area restaurants, Burleson officials formally designated Monday as Chicken Fried Steak Day.
“Texas is known as the true birthplace of chicken fried steak,” the proclamation signed by Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter stated, noting that chicken fried steak is “the Lone Star State’s classic comfort food.”
“We encourage all citizens to recognize this day and share in one of the state’s most renowned dishes today and throughout the year.”
Researchers said they don’t know how much of these meats is too much but the risk grows as more of the meat is consumed.
The threat of bologna, for instance, can depend on how thick or thin it is sliced. And sausage can be dangerous because of chemicals that are released when it’s processed.
Research by the Global Burden of Disease Project suggests that 34,000 cancer deaths each year across the world can be tied to diets heavy in processed meat — compared with 1 million deaths a year linked to smoking, 600,000 a year to alcohol consumption and 200,000 a year to air pollution, The Associated Press reports.
“I think everything kills you so you might as well enjoy what you can,” Arslanovski said. “Everything in moderation is OK.
“So a chicken fried steak every few days is fine.”