If you’re wondering what huffing diesel exhaust from a big rig and eating brats have in common, wonder no more, my friends.
Both are supposedly on a level playing field when it comes to their cancer-causing potential, according to a recently released World Health Organization report. Seems a little extreme.
That’s why we’re putting the kibosh on the fear-mongering by not only digging into the report, itself — specifically unveiled by the W.H.O’s International Agency for Research on Cancer — but calling upon Chicago’s most reliable sausage connoisseurs for backup.
The organization’s cancer agency specifically looked at red and processed meat in its study, citing that researchers found, “Sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” (Editors’s note: colorectal = “starting in the colon or rectum”).
While it is widely known that eating too much red or processed meat can be potentially harmful to your health — Psst, remember pink slime? —the report doesn’t stop there.
It specifically classifies the meats as “Group 1” carcinogens. Meaning, according to these scientists, enjoying a nice honey baked ham might be just as dangerous to your health as, say…flooding your body with vehicle emissions or contracting Hepatitis C.
That’s why we reached out to one of Chicago’s most well-known German sausage makers, Nathan Sears, executive chef at Logan Square’s The Radler, a badass Bavarian restaurant and beer hall located in Lincoln Square.
So, we want to know, Nathan, should we really reconsider our Sunday tailgate fare, or is this just another health “warning” that will be retracted next year?
Q: As a veteran sausage maker who’s trained with some of the best chefs in town on how to smoke meats to perfection, we assume you regularly chow down on this stuff. Do you plan on cutting back now that the WHO has come out with these claims?
“I have absolutely no plans to slow down. Science has claimed that both chocolate and wine have been toxic in the past, and now it claims that they’re actually good for you. It’s all always in flux…
Unfortunately, we live in a world where someone is always looking for a fight. But fortunately, for those of us who don’t buy into everything we hear, we also live in a world where sausage will always remain king at The Radler, no matter what anyone has to say about it.”
Q. We’ve heard you use locally sourced ingredients at The Radler to make fresh sausages. Think this is a better option for those of us who refuse to give up processed red meat?
“I definitely think finding restaurants that cure and smoke sausages in-house is always the best option —especially if knowing where your meat comes from is important to you. … It’s a pretty good rule of thumb that chefs focusing their effort and skill on curing great meat on-site are going to know what they’re doing when it comes to selecting the best meat possible. For example, we use whole, locally sourced animal cuts when making our sausages here at The Radler. Everything on our menu is made with pasture-raised Berkshire meat and the best spices out there — it’s an art!”
Q: Q. Do you think these claims will have any impact on your business, or the sausage industry in general?
“That’s just it; they’re claims. I don’t think they will negatively impact our business at all. People love sausage, and again, I think everyone knows how fickle these kinds of health warnings can be.
The facts are: We live in Chicago, we serve Chicagoans, and sausage isn’t going anywhere. Curing meat is a craft I love. Our restaurant is going to continue serving what the people want, and we’re going to do so at a very high quality.”
Well, there you have it, folks.
What’s our verdict?
Bring on the “potential harmful health effects” of eating sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, bacon and jerky.
For us Chicagoans, it can’t be any more unsafe than accidentally exiting the Eisenhower Expressway at Austin Boulevard around 3 a.m. on a Sunday. Are we right?