Infographic: Red Meat Is Killing Us

A new study suggests some terrifying risks that come with eating just a little red meat. But red meat is an alarmingly large portion of the American diet.

Infographic: Red Meat Is Killing Us

No meal seems quite so American–or even quite so mouth-watering–as a nice thick porterhouse steak, or a hamburger straight off the grill. The only problem is that these meals appear to be killing us.


That was the recent finding of a study that showed that with each additional 3-ounce portion of red meat you eat each day, you get a 12% greater risk of dying in a given year, a 10% greater risk of cancer, and a 16% greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Let me repeat that, because it’s absolutely crazy: A 12% greater risk of dying in a given year, a 10% greater risk of cancer, and a 16% greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you just saw a bunch of meaningless words and numbers in the paragraph above, here’s the gory details laid out in one infographic. (The numbers for early death and cancer are slightly different; this is presumably because the designers used an older study.) The truly scary part is that not only is red meat dangerous, but Americans, more than virtually every country on Earth, love red meat:

Perhaps the most quietly alarming detail in the infographic above is the figures about processed meat. And it squares with the most recent study available–the same one I cited above found that the 12% risk of dying jumps to 20%. Your risk of cardiovascular disease rises to 21%, and your risk of cancer rises to 16%. That’s right: The cancer risk resulting from eating a hot dog everyday is 60% greater than from a hamburger.

The infographic then tries to posit a reason: Something called pink slime:

This is where the data is starting to tip to shaky ground: Pink slime, though it does appear in many processed meats, hasn’t been thoroughly studied for its health effects. Nonetheless, that recent study about red meat has essentially caused a collapse in the industry. Which is something of a red herring (pun intended): I suspect that when the furor about red-meat dies down, we’ll all go back to our usual ways, happy to now avoid a little pink slime where we can. Not so fast. Red meat is really the problem.

[Top image: Supermimicry/Shutterstock]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.