Americans are expected to consume approximately 54.3 pounds of red meat per person this year, an increase of half a pound over 2015. It's the first time in 10 years beef consumption has increased, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Experts point to a constellation of factors, from popular meat-friendly diets like Paleo to the revelation that saturated fat -- long cited as a big downside of red meat -- may have a less cut-and-dry effect on health than previously thought. But the biggest reason may be the cheaper price tag on U.S. beef.
"In February, a pound of uncooked ground beef retailed for $4.38, about 7 percent below a year ago, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics," Bloomberg reported.
The lower cost has allowed restaurant chains to introduce beef to more areas of their menus. As Bloomberg notes, joints like Chilis and Wendy's have added previously excluded beef to their value meals.
This is happening despite everything we know to be true about red meat consumption. Just last year, the World Health Organization went so far as to classify red meat as a 'probable carcinogen,' meaning there is some evidence that eating a lot of red meat could contribute to cancer.
The idea that red meat can be a health hazard has been an important public health finding for quite some time. Major studies have shown a diet rich in red meat can contribute to a host of maladies, yet emerging research muddies this picture, suggesting that not all saturated fat is created equal.
Still, the American Heart Association recommends eating more fish, chicken and beans because of beef's cholesterol counts. "Cholesterol and saturated fat can raise your blood cholesterol and make heart disease worse," the organization's website declares. "Chicken and fish have less saturated fat than most red meat."
The American Institute for Cancer Research suggests eating no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week and avoiding processed meats, like hot dogs, ham and salami, altogether. While the average annual per person consumption for red meat in America still falls under this 18-ounce guideline, be aware that -- like everything -- red meat should be eaten in moderation.
Despite its current and enticing price, eating red meat in excess can be costly for your health. Plus, there are some really delicious meat-free alternatives in the world that you should give your tastebuds the gift of trying. Check out some favorites below.
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