The Maine Meat butcher shop in Kittery wasn’t open on Monday when the World Health Organization issued a report that labeled bacon, sausages, hot dogs and all processed meats as carcinogenic, putting them in the same category as cigarettes and asbestos.

“The first customer who walked in the door on (Tuesday) said, ‘Give me one of those ‘cancer sandwiches.’ It was quite comical,” said Jarrod Spangler, co-owner of the butcher shop with his fiancee, Shannon Hill. “I had made a smoked ham for the deli sandwiches that we make.”

The customer was joking, but Spangler said while some customers had extra questions, most were not concerned about the report. He said it didn’t reveal anything other than what is already known – don’t eat too much processed meat.

And Spangler said all processed meat is not created equal. The meat he sells comes exclusively from local farms, and even the processed meat, such as sausages, has far fewer preservatives than packaged meat at a grocery store, he said.

Rick Binet, who was shopping at The Farm Stand butcher shop in South Portland, which also sells locally sourced food, said the reaction to the WHO report was overblown.

“Everyone is freaking out about bacon,” Binet said. He said it’s true bacon is not health food, but a lot of food is not nutritious and can be harmful if consumed in large quantities.

Janet Houghton of Cape Elizabeth, also shopping at The Farm Stand, said it didn’t seem like the report was breaking any new ground.

“We have known for a long time that processed foods are not very good for you. These are scare tactics. Eat sensibly,” Houghton said. She said she cut way back on eating red meat a few years ago, and now eats it about twice per month. She’s replaced red meat in her diet with more seafood, poultry, fruits and vegetables.

Chorizo and other sausages are on display in the butcher’s case at The Farm Stand in South Portland on Tuesday – tasty ingredients in a heated debate over a report that condemned processed meats.

Chorizo and other sausages are on display in the butcher’s case at The Farm Stand in South Portland on Tuesday – tasty ingredients in a heated debate over a report that condemned processed meats. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

The WHO report places processed meat in the same cancer risk category as asbestos and cigarettes. The report also says consumption of red meat such as hamburger and steak also is possibly carcinogenic. The report says eating 1.8 ounces of processed meat daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, while eating 3.5 ounces of red meat every day raises the risk by 17 percent.

Karen Schilling, oncology dietitian at Maine Medical Center, said people shouldn’t view eating a hot dog as equivalent to smoking a cigarette. For one, scientists don’t have the same data on eating processed meats as they do for cigarette smokers, she said.

“It’s a bad analogy,” Schilling said. “You don’t eat hot dogs and bacon four to five times a day for 20 years, like smokers who are smoking cigarettes.”

Schilling also said that without knowing what else people were eating, it’s hard to draw sweeping conclusions from the report.

“Is it the red meat, or that people who eat a lot of red meat are not eating a lot of other healthy food that’s good for them?” she said.

Still, Schilling said a focus on nutrition is a good thing, and that if people eat better as a result, that’s a positive.

The WHO report did not make dietary recommendations, but Schilling advises eating no more than one red meat meal per week, and processed meat only on rare occasions.

Red meat consumption in the United States has declined since 1970, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, from about 100 pounds per capita annually to 71 pounds per year in 2012.

David Ordway, vice president of Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, which in addition to its dairy operation also makes hot dogs and other meats, said how the meat is processed is important. The WHO did not differentiate between locally sourced food that’s becoming more popular, especially in Maine, and packaged food found in grocery stores that’s loaded with preservatives.

PORTLAND, ME - OCTOBER 27: Ben Slayton, co-owner of The Farm Stand in South Portland, breaks down a lamb with butcher Jen Huggins Tuesday, October 27, 2015. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)

Ben Slayton, co-owner of The Farm Stand in South Portland, breaks down a lamb with butcher Jen Huggins on Tuesday. He says all of the store’s meat is grass-fed. Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Ordway said Pineland Farms hot dogs, for instance, are not made with nitrates, which are a known carcinogen, but with celery juice and sea salt as preservatives.

“It’s important to eat a balanced diet, with various forms of proteins,” Ordway said. “There are nutritional benefits to eating red meat.”

Ben Slayton, one of the owners of The Farm Stand, said most of the sausages they make have salt, seasonings and no other preservatives, and are frozen if not sold within two days after being butchered. Their meat is all grass-fed and locally sourced, he said. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, grass-fed beef is a healthier choice because it has less total fat, contains more heart-healthy fatty acids and has more antioxidant vitamins than corn-fed beef.

“If it makes people think about what they’re eating, and where their food is coming from, and how this affects their health, then this can be helpful,” said Slayton, who was slicing up a lamb into portions on Tuesday.