Lunch meats—also known as cold cuts, luncheon meats, cooked meats, sliced meats, cold meats and deli meats—are precooked or cured meat, often sausages or meat loaves, that are sliced and served cold or hot on sandwiches or on party trays. They can be bought pre-sliced in vacuum packs at a supermarket or grocery store, or they can be purchased at a delicatessen or deli counter, where they might be sliced to order. Unsliced, canned lunch meats are sold under brands such as Spam and Treet.
Most pre-sliced lunch meats are higher in fat, nitrates, and sodium than those that are sliced to order, as a larger exposed surface requires stronger preservatives. As a result, processed meats significantly contribute to incidence of heart disease and diabetes, even more so than red meat.
A prospective study following 448,568 people across Europe showed a positive association between processed meat consumption and mortality, due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Similarly, a prospective study in United States following half a million people concluded a similar association with death and increased processed meat consumption. The World Cancer Research Fund International guidelines on cancer prevention recommend avoiding all processed meats.
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In Commonwealth countries, luncheon meat specifically refers to products that can include mechanically reclaimed meat and offal. In these countries, the terms "cold meats", "cooked meats", "deli meats", or "sliced meats" are used, instead.
In Guatemala, a lunch meat is a traditional dish eaten in November. It is eaten the first and second day of the month to celebrate El día de Todos los Santos (All Saints' Day) and El día de Todos los Difuntos (All Souls' Day). The two types are red and white.
The product got more popular after investigation what it contains. E.g. LUNCHEON MEAT TULIP (made in Denmark) is not made of 70% of meat as expected (base on country standard), but contains 18% of pork meat, 39% of chicken mechanically separated meat, 18% of pork mechanically separated meat.