An association between processed and red meat consumption and total mortality has been reported by epidemiological studies; however, there are many controversial reports regarding the association between meat consumption and CVD and IHD mortality. The present meta-analysis was carried out to summarise the evidence from prospective cohort studies on the association between consumption of meat (total, red, white and processed) and all-cause, CVD and IHD mortality. Cohort studies were identified by searching the PubMed and ISI Web of Knowledge databases. Risk estimates for the highest v. the lowest consumption category and dose-response meta-analysis were calculated using a random-effects model. Heterogeneity among the studies was also evaluated. A total of thirteen cohort studies were identified (1 674 272 individuals). Subjects in the highest category of processed meat consumption had 22 and 18 % higher risk of mortality from any cause and CVD, respectively. Red meat consumption was found to be associated with a 16 % higher risk of CVD mortality, while no association was found for total and white meat consumption. In the dose-response meta-analysis, an increase of 50 g/d in processed meat intake was found to be positively associated with all-cause and CVD mortality, while an increase of 100 g/d in red meat intake was found to be positively associated with CVD mortality. No significant associations were observed between consumption of any type of meat and IHD mortality. The results of the present meta-analysis indicate that processed meat consumption could increase the risk of mortality from any cause and CVD, while red meat consumption is positively but weakly associated with CVD mortality. These results should be interpreted with caution due to the high heterogeneity observed in most of the analyses as well as the possibility of residual confounding.