"How Americans eat red and processed meat: An analysis of the contribution of 13 different food groups"

Sarah M Frank, Lindsey Smith Taillie, Lindsay Jaacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Dietary patterns characterised by high intake of red and processed meat are associated with detrimental health and environmental outcomes. To better understand how Americans consume red and processed meat, this study examined the food groups that are the greatest contributors to red and processed meat intake in US diets. Design: Cross-sectional analysis of total red and processed meat, unprocessed red meat and processed meat using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2015-2016 and 2017-2018). Items containing red or processed meat were classified into thirteen mutually exclusive food groups. For highly consumed food groups (≥10 % of meat intake), contribution to meat intake was further assessed by source, sex, income and education. Setting: Nationally representative sample of the US population. Participants: Teens (aged 12-19 years) and adults (aged ≥20 years) who reported meat consumption (n 8178). Results: Meat mixed dishes (18·6 % (95 % CI 16·2, 20·9)), burgers (17·3 % (95 % CI 15·3, 19·3)) and beef excluding ground (17·0 % (95 % CI 13·8, 20·1)) were the top contributors to unprocessed red meat intake. For processed meat, four food groups made up about four-fifths of total intake: cold cuts and cured meats (37·7 % (95 % CI 34·6, 40·8)), sausages and frankfurters (20·3 % (95 % CI 18·6, 22·0)), bacon (14·0 % (95 % CI 12·3, 15·6)) and pizza (10·1 % (95 % CI 8·7, 11·5)). Fast-food restaurants were the top source for burgers and pizza, whereas stores were the top source for all other highly consumed food groups. Few differences were seen in patterns of intake by sociodemographic characteristics. Conclusions: No single food group accounts for a majority of meat intake in the USA. Many behaviour change opportunities for healthier, more sustainable substitutions exist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1406-1415
Number of pages26
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number5
Early online date21 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2022


  • animal-source foods;
  • food behaviors;
  • diet surveys;
  • environment and public health


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