Butchers say it's 'unfair' to generalise processed meat
COAST carnivores would have been reeling with the World Health Organisation's recent revelations that eating steak, ham, salami and other processed meat was akin to smoking cigarettes.
But what about the butchers who spend hours handcrafting smallgoods, only to have their fare lumped in alongside bulk-processed product as cancer-causing?
Cotton Tree Meats co-owner Luke Dunn reckons it's an unfair call to generalise on the potential risks presented by processed meats, hams and smallgoods.
He said the process of crafting hand-made smallgoods was an art form and a far cry from mass-produced meats.
"There's so much involved in it," he said.
Take his beef and maple roasted sweet potato sausage, for example.
"We use an 85% trim, rice flour meal to bind it, ice and maple syrup for moisture and roasted sweet potatoes to add that flavour at the end," he said.
"Our kabana, we use a beef and pork mix to get the texture right and the trim has to be perfect. We're picking the best trim to make the best products.
"We put so much time into it, we spend hours every day and differentiating ourselves from that tag (of bulk production) by having the service, the quality and the knowledge."
He said customers were now far more interested in where products originated than in days gone by, which further ensured the benchmarks within the industry continued to be raised.
"Everything we do here is hand-sourced," he said.
"That's down to us knowing our farmers that we get the pigs off."
Mr Dunn said quality control was employed every step of the way, through curing, smoking and slicing, to displaying. He said: "There's a passion to it. I love creating smallgoods."
He said reports of health threats posed by meat were taken out of context and that a balanced diet was needed.
"If you're eating a kilogram of bacon a day, we all know we're going to put on weight, which becomes dangerous," he said.
"Not all processed meat is the same, just like not all bacon is the same."
Capelli Foods chef Michael Hehir said he didn't expect the reports of health risks would impact much on people's dining habits.
"People aren't going to stop eating steak or bacon because of some cancer-causing thing," he said.
"People are definitely much more conscious of what they're eating now but we won't see much effect (from the WHO report)."
Coast nutritionist Natasha Brown said processed meats and meat with nitrates and nitrites - anything added to prolong shelf life - all posed health risks, as well as charcoaled meats.
"Gourmet stuff is probably a bit safer in that they don't want things to have such a long shelf life," she said.
Ms Brown said there was a chance we could see some short-term impacts on meat consumption habits, but she didn't expect those to last.
"Sunday bacon and eggs won't do too much harm but if you're not doing much exercise, the more fat you've got closer to your heart," she said. "Anything that promotes health, I'm all for."