This title came from a brief segment of a chapter out of the book, ‘‘. If you haven’t read this book yet, you really should. I decided to incorporate this title into a post for several reasons. Often when talking with folks about switching to more nourishing real foods, meat in particular, the topic of cost comes up. I am well aware of the state of our economy and the rising cost of food, and I am no stranger to trying to feed a large family on a tight budget. However, cheap food is cheap for a reason. And, by the way, have you also noticed that our nation’s health epidemic is increasingly getting worse? (how much is your health worth to you?) What I notice with people that are trying to cut costs in their food budgets, is that they’ll go for the cheaper sale cuts of meat, or simply consume less or no meat at all. Seems sensible, right? Let me dig a little deeper into why this practice is not a good idea, even if you are saving money on your food budget.
Let’s start out by discussing what factory farmed meats actually are, those are the cheap cuts of bargain meat that you are getting on sale at your local chain grocery store. First off, factory raised animals are kept in confinement in order to produce the highest output at the lowest cost. This practice requires the use of antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease and pestilence exacerbated by these crowded living conditions. Additionally, antibiotics are used to stimulate livestock growth by killing intestinal bacteria. These animals are bred solely to make a profit and are not raised in such a way that creates a healthy quality animal meant for human consumption. Convenience and money are the driving force behind most of today’s food production with meat being no exception. Do you ever question how the cheap meat you are buying is so darn cheap to begin with? And just how is it at Thanksgiving time that so many turkeys can be given away for free if you spend enough at your local Acme, Giant or Genuardis? We simply do not question these kinds of things because we all want to save a dime.
Let’s take a closer look at how chicken’s are raised, in this clip from ‘Food Inc.’, and how mass producing/raising actually effects the health of the animals. Then consider if this is really the kind of food you want to be consuming.
The first time I saw this movie, I was rather disturbed and disheartened. I felt sick that our world has come to this end. That we really don’t care about living beings, animals or people, it’s all about power, money and control. However, for the average American citizen it’s simply about survival. We are no longer in touch with what our ancestors once were, the reality of the farm, what’s it’s like to raise a chicken or a cow, what they really should be fed and so on. Or even to hunt down our own food like our hunter/gatherer ancestors. We just don’t know and we just don’t even care anymore. It’s too far removed from our reality. Well I’d like to raise some awareness about what a pasture raised animal is and why it really is worth paying the extra money to purchase one over a grocery store cut of meat or bird.
Pasture raised animals take time to raise well. A chicken that is raised in 45-49 days is a compromised chicken on many levels as you saw they couldn’t even support their own weight. That’s not healthy – we shouldn’t want to eat that. Nature’s way is best, animals are meant to be raised in the open fresh air, not confined in barns with no sun or ability to move freely. Let alone crowded together like the ones we saw in the video. Sunshine equals nutrients which equals health. Freedom to roam means exercise which produces serotonin, healthy joints, bones, muscles which, again, equals health. Pastured chickens also have higher levels of essential nutrients in their meat and eggs, they have up to six times the levels of vitamin D. When you think about it which animal would you prefer to eat, the sickly chicken with sores barely able to walk a few feet without collapsing needing drugs to keep it from further illness, OR one that has been raised on pasture happily frolicking in the sunshine eating bugs and grubs with no need for drugs because it’s already naturally healthy. Just imagine that picture the next time you purchase a chicken, then think about the long term picture. You are getting way more bang for your buck in buying the healthy more nutrient dense bird, your own health will not be compromised which means more energy for you, the ability to work well, with no illness, Dr’s visits, medications or time away from work. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, ‘you can pay the farmer now, or you can pay the Dr. later’ (and that could include a shrink too!) Not to mention your Dr. won’t likely be able to truly heal you just placate your symptoms with some drug or other. This may all sound a bit dramatic to some, I certainly don’t think so, unfortunately this is the world we live in.
Looking at the evidence, pasture raised animals have a superior nutrient profile to that of their factory farmed counterparts. Not to mention, they are free of drugs and hormones which do indeed get passed on to you, the consumer when you eat this meat. Growth hormones have been proven capable of surviving the cooking and digestion processes. It is highly likely that the meat of ‘growth enhanced’ animals can disrupt hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer. There are also concerns regarding the environmental impacts of hormone residues in cow manure, which can contaminate surface and ground water. In Europe, hormones are not allowed in cattle production and this has been in effect since 1988. They also do not import beef from the US. Sometimes I think I should move to Europe. Either that, or I was born in the wrong century.
When cattle are fed grains, corn, and soy instead of eating grass they end up losing the all important omega – 3 fatty acids. The meat from grass-fed animals retain health promoting fats such as omega 3′s and CLA. CLA is a potent defense against cancer. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid and is critical as well in boosting overall health. We consume far too many omega 6′s in our modern diet and this often comes from feedlot animals. This factor alone is responsible for much of our health crisis. Our brains are much happier when fed a diet more balance in the omega 3′s and 6′s, closer to a 4:1 or 1:1 ratio would be ideal. These days the ratio is often way out of balance simply due to the over consumption of grains (but that’s a whole other topic for another day.) You also are not getting anywhere near the amount of vitamins and minerals in grain-fed animals as you would in grass fed. It’s also important to note that cows are not meant to consume grains, they are ruminants, designed to eat grass. The grain feeding actually changes the very chemistry of the cow’s stomach, creating a more acidic environment and causing digestive problems. (For more on the health benefits of grass-fed meats check out this article. ) But don’t let me convince you, I’ll leave it to the man himself who founded Polyface Farms and starred in the movie ‘Food Inc.’, Joel Salatin. (who, by the way, I had the privilege of hearing speak at the Wise Traditions conference this past fall.) Be sure to find any of his videos on You Tube and watch and be prepared to learn and be dazzled! (I always am!)
Do we actually need to eat meat?
Lastly, I’d just like to discuss the fact that often times people will try to cut meat out of their diet or consume a lot less and replace it with grains and legumes just to save a buck. I don’t think that is the best idea either, though it could be doable from time to time. And often, folks in gaining knowledge of just how bad factory farmed meats are will turn vegetarian. That’s not necessary either, though very understandable. Ounce for ounce healthy animal protein packs far more nutrition than any plant food. Not to mention protein is essential for normal growth, the formation of hormones, for the process of blood clotting and for the formation of milk during lactation. Protein helps to regulate the acid-alkaline balance of tissues and blood. Animal protein is our only source of complete protein, all of the essential amino acids, and many considered ‘nonessential’, are present in animal products. The body must ingest all the essential amino acids in order to use any of them, this cannot be done by consuming a plant only diet. Our primitive ancestors subsisted on a diet composed largely of meat and fat, supplemented by vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts. Studies of their remains reveal that they had excellent bone structure, heavy musculature and flawless teeth. Through Dr. Price’s studies it was found through a survey of 1040 dentists and their wives that those who had the fewest problems and diseases had the most protein in their diets. Inadequate protein intake leads to loss of myocardial muscle and may therefore contribute to coronary heart disease. It’s important to consume protein with fats since it cannot be properly utilized otherwise. (so no low fat low/no protein diets). A diet devoid or low in animal proteins can lead to mineral deficiencies as well. Man’s best source of zinc is animal products, and usable vitamin b12 occurs only in animal products. Ultimately we can see that animal products are important sources of bodybuilding elements in the diet. This is why it is crucial to not exclude them from our diets, even if they cost more than grains. I’d happily pay the price any day for a steak over a bowl of pasta. One will leave me feeling satiated and nourished while the other will make me feel lousy! You will be surprised how satisfying a few ounces of meat paired with good fats will be. Additionally, when you eat protein paired with fats you will be less hungry, whereas that bowl of pasta or grains will leave you hungry and cause you to eat sooner and maybe even more often (not to mention feel like garbage). So in conclusion, if you have to eliminate things from your diet to save on your food budget, ditch the empty foods. The snacks, the processed foods the pasta, the carb rich stuff and save your pennies for high quality grass fed pastured raised meats that will ensure your overall health remains, well, healthy!
This post contributed to Real Food Wednesdays.