9 Tips for Real Food Newbies

When I first started this blog, one of my good friends asked me to write a post about how to get started with eating real food (also known as the paleo diet). It took me almost a year, but I finally did it! Yay!

Switching from the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) to eating real, nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods is hard. It can be extremely challenging to change our habits and ditch the “you must eat 6-8 servings of whole grains a day” mindset that has been ingrained into our psyches for decades.

And as you probably already know, the idea that “food” made in a factory is better for us than food found in nature is just plain WRONG. That’s why myself (and hundreds of thousands of others) have been able to thrive on a diet of real food. And while giving up “healthy” whole grains, pasteurized dairy, and other processed foods may sound kind of insane and incredibly inconvenient at first, it’s actually SUPER simple.

I absolutely LOVE this cute info-graphic from Real Food Liz, which breaks down the concept of eating real food perfectly.

Nutrition-in-100-words_v4

Pretty cool, right? What I like about this way of eating is that it just makes sense. No gimmicks, nonsense, sales tactics, or false promises. Just real information for real people.

But because the paleo “diet” isn’t a quick fix or easy solution, it does require some time, work, and commitment (especially in the beginning). Here’s some tips on how to make the transition towards better health easier.


9 Tips for Real Food Newbies

  • Tip #1: Start slow. Committing to a complete overhaul of your eating habits is a huge shift to make. And if you’re confident in your ability to do that all at once, awesome!

    I didn’t have the discipline to switch to real food overnight. Instead, it was a process that took about 6 months for me to make and really stick with. I started by just going gluten free, then grain free, and finally dairy and legume free (but have since added some raw dairy back into my diet).

    If you’re comfortable with making a 180-degree switch to real food as fast as possible, that’s GREAT! But if not, don’t feel bad about doing it in stages.

  • Tip #2: Focus on what you CAN eat, not what you CAN’T. At first, paleo can seem more like a long list of “don’ts” rather than a new and exciting way of eating.

    Try not to get overwhelmed by all of the things that are suddenly off limits. Because even though it may not seem like it at first, the list of foods that are okay to eat is a pretty darn extensive. And if you need help finding creative ways to make real food-friendly meals, click here for a list of my favorite healthy cookbooks!

    General rule of thumb: If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!

    General rule of thumb: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!

  • Tip #3: Don’t stress. Stressing over food choices (or anything) is arguably just as harmful as a poor diet.

    Try not to worry too much about what is and isn’t okay to eat at first. The longer you eat real food and educate yourself on its benefits, the easier it will be to make nourishing and healthy choices. And after awhile, it will become second nature.

  • Tip #4: Pay attention to your body. Your body will undergo a lot of changes as you start feeding it differently.

    Pay attention to how this new way of eating affects you. Do you have more energy? Are you less susceptible to getting sick? Has your mood improved? These subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) positive changes will make your new lifestyle all the more rewarding and easier to stick to.

  • Tip #5: Don’t get discouraged. You may not see/feel changes right away. And especially if you make the transition slowly (which is totally OK), you may not get the results you want as quickly as you’d like.

    When I started eating real food, the changes I noticed were subtle, yet encouraging. And it wasn’t until I went “all in” with a strict 30 days of paleo that I felt/saw changes that were truly remarkable.

    If experiencing change is taking time, don’t panic. Stick with it! And if you start to really feel frustrated with your lack of progress, consider seeing a trustworthy medical practitioner to help you along in your journey.

  • Tip #6: Use resources. There are SO many wonderful resources out there (books, foods, gadgets, etc.) aimed at getting YOU healthy. I made a list of my favorites a few weeks ago — click here to see it!

  • Tip #7: Look at ingredients, not calories. This is a tough one for a lot of people, and it takes time to stop obsessing over how many grams of fat are in coconut milk or how many carbs are in a banana.

    While calories do matter, they’re not nearly as important as the ingredients in our food. And when we eat the right foods (that don’t contain cheap chemical colorings, appetite stimulants, fillers, preservatives, etc.), we allow the body to naturally regulate how much food it needs and when to stop eating.

  • Tip #8: Join a challenge group. For many of us, it helps to have support and encouragement from others when making a major lifestyle switch. That’s why it can be very beneficial to join a challenge group that comes with built-in support when making the shift towards real food.

    I can’t recommend 21 Day Sugar Detox program enough. If you’re someone who struggles with sugar and processed carb cravings (like I did), this program might be a great option for you.

    Click on the banner below for more information on the program and how to get started!

    Balanced Bites

  • Tip #9: Don’t beat yourself up. You WILL make mistakes. It’s going to happen. Don’t be too hard on yourself when it does.

    Instead, try to understand the factors that led to you eating [insert unhealthy food here] and think about how to better prepare yourself next time. And if all it comes down to is that you, as an adult, chose to eat something that wasn’t necessarily the best thing for you, who cares! Accept it and move on.

Thanks so much for reading! Anything you’d like to add to the list? Feel free to share a tip or story from your real food experience in the comments section below!

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.

Why Coca-Cola’s Fairlife Milk Isn’t so Fair

Image taken from Fairlife.com

Image courtesy of Fairlife.com


When my husband mentioned that Coca-Cola had broken into the milk business (during a long drive up to Nor-Cal to visit family for Thanksgiving), I was intrigued. Coke is making milk? It seemed pretty strange.

I immediately started researching, spending the remainder of our drive scouring the web for information about Coke’s new milk product called Fairlife (launching early 2015).

What I found was a mess of misleading and deceptive marketing — all wrapped up in a pretty package that’s advertised as “purely nutritious” milk. But it’s not — not even close.

Not because it’s made by Coca-Cola. And not even because of their controversial pin-up advertisements. I’ll get to all of Fairlife’s flaws (and there are many) in a minute. But first, let’s talk about what Fairlife is.


What is Fairlife?

Fairlife is a lactose-free “super milk” that contains 50% more protein, 30% more calcium, and 50% less sugar than regular milk.

Even though this hot new product (a joint venture between Coca-Cola and Select Milk Producers), won’t be available in most stores until early 2015, it’s already making headlines nationwide. According to this article from Business Week,

Unlike soda, the U.S. milk industry remains highly fragmented with few recognizable brand names. In fact, store-brand milk accounts for almost one-third of milk sales, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. With Fairlife, Coca-Cola is looking to use its marketing prowess to change that — creating the “Coke” of milks.

Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, expects Fairlife to “rain money” once it’s established in the marketplace. “We’ll charge twice as much for it as the milk we’re used to buying in a jug,” Douglas said.

Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures (the largest raw-milk dairy in the United States) isn’t quite buying it. “It’s a dead-end venture,” he said. “Our core consumer wants unprocessed, whole, delicious, easy-to-digest full-fat raw milk from a farmer they know and trust.”

I tend to agree with him.

Not just because I’m a fan of Organic Pastures, but mainly because I get kind of annoyed whenever a big, powerful company tries to trick people into thinking that something they have created is better than what nature has already perfected (whole, raw, organic milk from happy cows that live outside and eat grass).


5 Reasons Why I Won’t Be Drinking Fairlife

Let’s get one thing straight. Companies are certainly free to sell whatever they want. And I am by no means on a mission to turn people away from a product just because I don’t like it.

But once I really started looking into Fairlife and the claims attached to their products (via their website and from speaking with a Fairlife representative on the phone), I felt that some light needed to be shed on their extremely misleading marketing messages.

Because it doesn’t strike me as fair to manipulate consumers with good intentions into buying something that they think is healthy (when its really anything but) — especially at twice the price of regular milk!

Here’s why Coca-Cola’s Fairlife Milk is anything but fair:

  • #1: It’s not innovative — it’s Frankenmilk. Fairlife prides itself on being at the cutting edge of milk-making with their “innovative” filtration process. From their website:

    Our milk flows through soft filters so that we can concentrate the good stuff – like protein and calcium – and filter out the fat and sugars. That allows us to bottle only delicious, nutrient-rich milk – with no added protein powders or synthetic junk.

    This video further explains how their filtration process works:


    All of this will probably sound really good to a lot of people, which is part of the reason why it irks me so much. Everything in nature is put together for a reason. And the naturally occurring nutritional components in the foods we eat work synergistically to provide us with whole foods that are healthful, nourishing, and safe to eat.

    When we start deconstructing these foods, picking and choosing what to leave in and what to take out, we open the door for problems to occur. Numerous studies have proven parts of certain foods to be harmful when consumed in isolation (without the same vitamins, minerals, fats, etc. found in their natural food form).

    For example, T. Colin Campbell proved in The China Study that the milk protein casein caused cancer in rats. But the milk protein whey (conveniently left out of The China Study) appears to be effective in protecting against cancer.

    I’m certainly NOT claiming that drinking Fairlife will cause any kind of sickness or disease. But when it comes to deciding what components should and shouldn’t be in milk, I think we’re better off trusting nature over Coca-Cola.

  • #2: Factory farming is not sexy. It takes a lot of guts to try and manipulate folks into thinking that factory farming is cool and progressive (as opposed to cruel, inhumane, bad for the environment, unhealthy, etc.) but that’s just what Fairlife does in this video…




    Showing the words “we believe in better farming” next to a picture of an adorable calf trapped inside of a cage is a total joke — one that I don’t think many people will fall for.

  • #3: Fairlife’s FAQsyikes. Some of these literally made me LOL. This one was my favorite:

    fairlife
    If cows could talk, I seriously doubt they would tell you that they prefer the “luxury” of an artificially lighted indoor feed lot to to being outside on fresh pasture — but that’s just me.

    UPDATE (2/9/15): Fairlife has since removed this FAQ from their website, but has NOT changed their farming practices.

  • #4: Highly pasteurized does not equal healthy. Milk is at its best in a natural, raw, unpasteurized state.

    Pasteurization exists to destroy dangerous germs found in the milk of cows that are raised irresponsibly in feed lots. Although pasteurization does destroy the bad stuff, it messes with milk’s nutrient profile and wipes out much of the beneficial bacteria found in milk. For this reason, many people who can’t digest pasteurized milk are able to tolerate raw milk with no problems.

    Fairlife takes this unnatural process one step further and pasteurizes their milk at an even higher temperature than ordinary milk. This process (advertised as another one of those progressive, cutting-edge innovations) is said to give Fairlife a longer shelf life than average milk.

  • #5: “From Grass to Glass” — really? This probably won’t come as a surprise, but Fairlife’s cows do not eat grass or spend ANY time on pasture throughout their entire lives (a Fairlife rep confirmed this for me over the phone).

    Image courtesy of Fairlife.com

    Image courtesy of Fairlife.com


    So why do they use this phrase to describe the their milk? Good question.

    Fairlife’s “from grass to glass” promise really has nothing to do with grass. Instead, it’s a phrase used to describe their process of growing their own crops for their cows. According to the Fairlife rep I spoke with, the company grows a mixture of GMO corn, soy, alfalfa, and grains that is used to feed their cows.

    From grass to glass? Not quite. But it has a nice ring to it and will surely catch people’s attention.


    The Bottom Line

    The people behind Fairlife are smart. They know what people want. And these days, more and more people want to eat real food that was raised responsibly, ethically, and healthfully. This is a good thing.

    But what bothers me the most about Fairlife isn’t that their milk comes from cows that are housed indoors, fed grains and GMOs, and given antibiotics. And I don’t really give a hoot that their Frankenmilk is ultra-pasteurized.

    What really irritates me is how Fairlife is taking advantage of the “real food” movement by selling people on the idea of transparency, simple ingredients, better farming practices, etc.

    But that’s all it is — an idea.

    Failife isn’t selling milk. They’re selling consumers all kinds of happy, feel-good terms without actually delivering any of them. Seems pretty unfair if you ask me!

    What’s your opinion of Fairlife? Did you find their methods of marketing as disturbing as I did? Let me know with a comment!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Eggs

pasteurized eggs

A few weeks ago, Farmer Paul created a facebook post that generated quite a bit of attention, both good and bad.

In the post, Paul shared his annoyance with a carton of eggs he had seen at Albertsons. On the carton, the words “pasteurized eggs” were placed directly over a large, colorful image of fresh grass and sunshine.

Don’t see what the big deal is?

Think about it this way. Do you think the hens who laid those eggs are out roaming free on pasture, pecking for bugs and fresh vegetation?

Not even close.

But do you think that many people will see those eggs, immediately fixate on the picture, and buy them thinking that they’re getting “pasture-raised” eggs?

Yes — for sure.

I can’t tell you how many people come to us wanting “pasteurized” eggs/meat, thinking that pasteurized means pasture-raised. And not knowing the difference isn’t a matter of mental constitution, as one facebook user commented. With all of the label games companies are playing these days, it can be extremely difficult to know what’s what (especially for those who are relatively new to the whole real food thing).

Not only are labels severely misguided, but so are many basic facts about eggs in general. And since I don’t really like being lied to and wasting money on fancy labels and “facts” that make about as much sense as Britney Spears’ decision to shave her head, I feel compelled to speak up about the many marketing schemes, misinformation, and lies associated with eggs.

Of course, it isn’t my job to tell you what kind of eggs to buy. But given the vast amount of public confusion on the topic, I do want to help you discover the truth so that you can decide for yourself what is (and what isn’t) worth spending extra money on.

So without further ado, here are 10 surprising things you didn’t know about eggs.

1) Brown eggs aren’t any healthier than white ones.

White eggs can be extremely nutritious just as brown eggs can be extremely non-nutritious (depending on the hen’s feed and living conditions). The ONLY determining factor in the color of the egg is the breed of the chicken.

*Interesting fact — you can tell what color a hen’s eggs will be by the color of her earlobes. For instance, a hen with white earlobes will lay white eggs, while a hen with red earlobes will lay brown eggs, etc.

2) Free-range/Cage-free doesn’t mean much.

These meaningless, feel-good terms really get my blood boiling.

Why?

Because they’re a total joke.

To see what I mean, check out this picture of an unspecified “free-range” chicken farm that we recently posted to the Primal Pastures Instagram account.

freerangechickens

Even though these chickens are living inside of a grow house packed full of 30,000 birds, they can still be classified as “free-range” if they’re given ACCESS to the outdoors. Access time is not specified and it doesn’t matter whether or not the birds ever actually go outside on fresh pasture (providing the grow house isn’t surrounded by dirt, which they typically are).

The definition of “cage-free” is even more laughable. According to the USDA,

This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.

Hmmm…sounds pretty much identical to the way conventional chickens are always raised — in an enclosed building with access to food and water. Definitely not an “upgrade” that’s worth an extra buck or three at the supermarket.

3)…Neither does Organic.

The Organic label certifies that the hens were fed an organic feed, free of unnatural fertilizers or pesticides — but that’s about all it’s good for.

Organic chickens can (and almost always are) crammed together in grow houses and never allowed the opportunity to go outside to act like chickens and peck for bugs and grass.

4) All eggs are hormone-free.

This would be a convincing selling point for eggs, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s illegal for poultry to be given hormones in the U.S.

In fact, egg labels that brag about their “hormone-free” status are required to follow that claim with a statement that says, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones”.

5) Vegetarian-fed isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Chickens are NOT vegetarians. They’re omnivores — just like us!

And when left to their own devices in the wild, chickens get plenty of creature protein in their diets (usually from bugs and sometimes from the remains of deceased animals).

While the “vegetarian-fed” label does ensure that the hens weren’t fed animal by-products, it also guarantees that they weren’t raised outside on grass. Because if they were, there’s no way they wouldn’t be chowing down on insects on a regular basis.

6) Dirty eggs? No problem.

At Primal Pastures, we frequently sell eggs lightly spotted with dirt and/or grass. It may seem gross to some, but there’s a reason for it.

All eggs come out with a natural protective coating called a “bloom”. The bloom seals the pores of the eggshell and protects the egg from harmful bacteria and moisture loss.

Most major commercial egg operations wash their eggs, stripping them of this natural protective barrier. Not only are these eggs washed, but often bleached (pretty troubling considering how porous egg shells are without the bloom) so that the consumer can take home a very pretty (but extremely unnatural) egg that’s more susceptible to salmonella and other pathogens.

Some conventional eggs are re-coated with mineral oil or wax in an effort to replicate the bloom. But let’s be honest — when have man-made interventions ever worked as well as the real deal?

7) Pastured eggs don’t need to be refrigerated.

Because of their bloom, unwashed pastured eggs can be safely kept out of the refrigerator for up to 3 months!

But the law does require all retailed eggs to be refrigerated (even pastured, unwashed ones) and I wouldn’t advise putting most eggs anywhere other than the fridge — unless you raised them yourself or know and trust your farmer.

8) Pastured eggs are healthier.

Eggs that come from pasture-raised hens contain 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta-carotene, and 4-6 times more Vitamin D than standard store-bought eggs (even if they’re Organic and/or free-range).

9) Watch for these 4 things.

  • Yolk color. While the color of the yolk does matter (vibrant orange yolks are generally considered to be more nutritious while pale yellow ones are thought to be the product of unhealthy hens), it isn’t everything. Egg yolk color can be easily manipulated with certain foods and additives, something that many commercial egg operations know and have been taking advantage of for years.

    In contrast, healthy pastured egg yolk colors can vary greatly depending on the season and other environmental and lifestyle factors. If you’re interested in learning more about the determining factors involved in yolk color, this article from Modern Farmer offers some incredibly interesting commentary on the subject.

  • Shell strength. Healthy, pastured hens should produce eggshells that are more firm and tougher to crack than conventional eggs.

    Since pasture-raised hens consume a diet naturally rich in important eggshell-boosting minerals (calcium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese), it makes sense that taking in these nutrients would result in tougher, more durable eggshells.

  • Yolk firmness. The yolks of pastured hens are generally more stable, tougher to break, and “stand up” better than their conventional counterparts.

  • Taste. Pastured eggs taste BETTER — plain and simple.

By themselves, the factors listed above don’t mean a whole lot. A broken egg yolk doesn’t always mean that your egg isn’t healthy, and a vibrant orange yolk doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

Almost all of these elements can be manipulated by producers, but usually not all at once. If you’re getting eggs from a trusted source that meets all of the requirements listed above most of the time, you’re probably in good hands.

10) Pasteurized eggs aren’t healthy.

In case I haven’t already picked on the egg company from the beginning of this post enough, I’ll go ahead and top it off — not for the sole purpose of bashing them (I doubt this post will put any kind of dent in their sales), but simply to educate and inform.

The company defines their pasteurization process as a “gentle warm water bath” that heats the egg “to the exact temperature needed to destroy all bacteria” within the egg.

The idea of killing all of the bacteria in eggs for safety reasons sounds nice, but completely neglects the innate defense mechanisms that eggs are naturally equipped with (like the bloom).

The pasteurization process also wipes out all the good bacteria within the egg (some bacteria is necessary for proper digestion) and could also have a negative impact on the egg’s vitamin and mineral content.

There’s one thing that pasteurization and the other misconceptions listed above all have in common. They’re products of a culture that continues to (unsuccessfully) try to out-do what nature has already perfected.

So instead of working against nature (and failing) doesn’t it make more sense to work with it in order to achieve optimal results — from a nutritional, humane, and environmental standpoint?

We think so. That’s why our hens spend their days running around outside, on fresh grass, foraging for bugs and worms (and they lay nutritious and delicious eggs that prove it)!

But you don’t have to get eggs from us in order to reap these benefits! EatWild.com is an excellent resource for finding local, sustainable egg and meat farms (but be sure to also do your own research on whatever farm you buy from). You may also want to consider raising your own backyard hens — a practice that’s becoming increasingly popular these days.

Whatever you decide to do, please don’t buy free-range eggs from the store. Seriously. There’s better things to waste your money on! 😉

Was any of this information news to you? Disagree with any of the points listed above? Let me know with a comment!

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The Top 8 (Mostly) Paleo Destinations in Austin, TX

Austin, TX is considered by many to be the paleo capitol of the world. And I’d have to agree with them. Austin is home to a number of yummy paleo eateries as well as the popular yearly convention, Paleo FX. So yeah, it’s a pretty paleo-d out place.

It also happens to be where my immediate family has lived for the past 8 years. So lucky for Farmer Jeff and me, we get to visit this incredible city quite often. And during our most recent trip to Austin, we discovered more amazing real food destinations than ever before!

I wanted to share some of these paleo hot spots with y’all, so that if you ever do get the opportunity to visit the paleo promised land, you’ll know where to go. Now, I’m sure there are many additional wonderful real-foodie approved establishments that didn’t make this list. And if you know of any, PLEASE let me know in comment section. I’m always looking for new restaurants to try when I’m in the area. So without further ado, here are the top (mostly) paleo destinations in ATX (in no particular order).


Picnik Austin

picnik2

If you haven’t already heard of Picnik Austin, you’re most likely either a) new to the paleo scene or b) living under a rock. But seriously, this place is worth checking out. It’s 100% paleo and 100% awesome.

I love Picnik for their amazing paleo treats and drinks, but they also have delicious pre-made lunches prepared with farm fresh, garbage-free ingredients that they source locally.

My favorite drink from Picnik is The Yeti. It’s made of iced coffee, MCT oil, chocolate Primal Fuel, and maple syrup. I like it so much that I’ve never even been able to stray from it and order anything else. Jeff got the Strawberry Banana Bliss (coconut water, frozen strawberries, frozen banana, and vanilla Primal Fuel) and we split the Butter Blondie (almond flour, grass-fed butter, dairy-free & soy-free chocolate chunks, and coconut sugar). SO SO good! In addition to their tasty treats, the atmosphere of this place is bursting with laid-back coolness — definitely an Austin “must” for the real food enthusiast.

picnik


Live Soda Kombucha

A few days before our trip, I saw a tweet from Live Soda promoting their factory tours and immediately shot them an email. I was promptly responded to by the wonderful Alicia Ward, their Director of Marketing, who ended up giving us the tour when we visited.

During the tour, Alicia showed us the brewing and bottling process, let us sample their plain kombucha (so yummy even without flavoring), and told us all about the company and their kombucha-making practices. We were super impressed with their commitment to making the most pure, tasty, health-promoting kombucha on the market!

livesoda

Everyone at Live Soda was so kind and welcoming — they even sent us home with some super cool Live Soda goodies! After touring their facilities, I have an even greater respect for this company. Plus, their products are reeeeally good. Seriously. If you haven’t tried them yet, you probably should.

We even got to meet the Live Soda founder Trevor Ross! Such a nice guy with an incredible story.

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My parents’ fridge was stocked with Live Soda for the remainder of our visit…they loved us for it!

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Jack Allen’s Kitchen

jackallens

Jack Allen’s Kitchen is fairly new to the Austin area but has quickly become one of my go-to’s for their delicious happy hour and drinks. But that isn’t even the best thing about Jack Allen’s — this place is extremely dedicated to supporting and sourcing from local farms and providing guests with super fresh and unique dishes. Here’s what they have to say on their website:

Local in source, Texan in Spirit not only in the kitchen, but in the community, is what Jack Allen’s Kitchen is all about. Executive chef and owner Jack Gilmore, along with partner Tom Kamm set out to provide Central Texas with fresh, locally sourced food that puts smiles on faces while simultaneously giving back to those who need it most.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen isn’t technically a “paleo” restaurant, but plenty of the items on their menu are. My go-to is the Bacon-Wrapped Texas Quail with Jalapeno Jam and Green Fig Salad.

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I was also a huge fan of their soup of the day, a delicious coconut chicken blend.

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And since we were celebrating mine and my grandpa’s birthdays, they brought each of us a dessert of our choice! I got the Flourless Chocolate Cake mmmmm! Yummers.

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Wholly Cow Burgers

Although we didn’t make it to Wholly Cow on this most recent trip to Austin, it’s usually one of our staples.

Wholly Cow sources local, pastured, grass-fed, beyond organic beef as well as locally-grown organic produce when in season. Yeahawesome.

They also have an amazing burger called The Fit Cross which consists of a hamburger patty, bacon, grilled onions, tomato, lettuce and pickles all sandwiched between 2 portabella mushroom caps. Don’t you wish every burger joint had one of these? I kinda do. But then again, it’s what makes Wholly Cow so gosh darn special.

Photo cred: Zagat.com

Photo cred: Zagat.com


HG Sply Co.

Okay, this restaurant/bar is actually located about 3 hours away from Austin in the cute little community of Greenville in Dallas. But I couldn’t not include it. And it’s totally worth the sidetrip — promise!

choosing a drink from their super funky and unique selection of cocktails was a challenge. Eventually, I went with the Double Under, which consisted of beet infused Dolce Vida Organic Tequila, fresh lime, and rosemary syrup — best alcoholic beverage I’ve had in my life. Hands down.

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Deciding on what do get for dinner wasn’t much easier. But I ended up getting one of their signature bowls called The Hunted. It came with Duck confit, sweet potato hash, spicy broccoli and bacon. Great choice by me. Loved it!

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For dessert, we had the Paleo Cookie which was topped with with bacon, dairy-free ice cream and candied pecans. See..I told you this place was worthy of a side trip! 😉

HG


Lick Honest Ice Cream

Jeff and I stumbled upon Lick completely by chance, and I’m so glad that we did! I was sold on this place after checking out their unique assortment of ice cream flavors, including staples like Dark Chocolate with Olive Oil & Sea Salt, Too Hot Chocolate, Goat Cheese, Thyme, & Honey, and many others (including some that vary by season).

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And after reading up on the values behind their “honest ice creams”, I knew I’d be a customer for life. Lick is committed to using real, pure, crap-free ingredients sourced from local farms. The milk and cream they source is non-homogenized and pasteurized at a low temperature. I loved this paragraph from their website…

All of the milk and cream used to make our ice creams comes from a local dairy and as for everything else, we know where every ingredient originates. We know each of the farmers and food artisans we source from. We adore our local farmers, visiting them frequently to personally pick up fresh ingredients weekly from their farms or market stands. Watching the cows graze at their leisure in the beautiful Central Texas pastures never fails to bring smiles to our faces. As small local business owners, we have the pleasure of witnessing our milk and cream as it journeys from the cow to your scoop.

Jeff and I ended up sharing a bowl of Pecans & Cream, Milk & Cookies, and Roasted Beets & Fresh Mint. Can’t wait to go back and try more of their fun, fresh flavors!

lick


Searsucker

On our last night in Austin, we were on the hunt for a decently priced but tasty happy hour joint. Searsucker met all of those requirements and more — easily the best happy hour I’ve been to…maybe ever.

Again, not all of their items were paleo, but plenty of real food options here. I started the evening off with the Jale Berry (strawberry jalepeno tequila, lime, and agave) and Jeff got the Leopard’s Tail (apricot whiskey, all spice, lime, orgeat, pineapple, and bitters).

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Next, we split some Duck Fat Fries with Prosciutto Dust along with the Eggs & Bacon “Tender Belly” + Hollandaise (in case you’re wondering, I didn’t eat the bread).

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We also ordered the Farm Bird Lollipops and another round of drinks. I think we made it out of there for under $45 — very well worth it considering their high quality food & drinks and fun atmosphere!

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Whole Foods HQ

This list wouldn’t have been complete without the Whole Foods capitol of the world, which happens to be located in the heart of downtown Austin — definitely a must-visit! From their website:

Located just blocks from where Whole Foods Market began as a small neighborhood grocery store over 30 years ago, the flagship store at the corner of Sixth Street and Lamar Boulevard is one of the largest, at 80,000 square feet. Though much bigger in size, the store retains the charm and accessibility of our first location, with an intimate, village-style layout and passionate, attentive Team Members eager to assist our guests.

wholefoods

Now I’m going to turn this over to you. Ever been to any of these places? If so, what did you think? Did I forget anything? Let me know with a comment!

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Grass-Fed Beef (And What to Do Instead)

feedlotcows

I know what you’re thinking.

“You guys SELL grass-fed beef, and now you’re telling us not to buy it!? What’s going on here?”

Hear me out — I’ll make my point soon. But first, let me clear up some of the confusion that this post’s title has probably already caused.

Cows are indeed supposed to eat grass — not the genetically modified corn/soy/grain mixture they’re given in feed lots. Grass-fed beef contains 2-5 times more omega-3s and 2-3 times more Conjugated Linoleic Acid (a polyunsaturated fat that’s high in antioxidants and protects against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer).

In addition, the extraordinarily higher antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content of grass-fed beef compared to grain-fed beef isn’t anything to scoff at. According to Chris Kresser,

Grass-fed beef also contains significantly more of the antioxidants vitamin E, glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase than grain-fed beef. These antioxidants play an important role in protecting our cells from oxidation, especially delicate fats in the cell membrane such as omega-3 and omega-6.

Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene also work together synergistically to protect the meat itself from damage during the journey from butcher to plate.

Sadly, grains aren’t the only harmful substance fed to factory farmed cows. It isn’t uncommon for cows in feedlots to also be given candy (often jumbled up with the wrappers), stale pastries, rotten potatoes, and other harmful industrial products that are extremely damaging to the health of the animals (and the humans who eat them).

Cows fed grain-based diets are also known to develop unnaturally acidic gut conditions — an environment that has allowed E. coli O157:H7 to thrive (and kill those who consume it in the form of under-cooked hamburger). Researchers have demonstrated that when cattle were abruptly switched from a high grain diet to a forage-based diet, total E. coli populations declined 1000-fold within 5 days.

You probably already know all of this. And that’s why you’re most likely already buying grass-fed meat from the supermarket.

So why the confusing title? Because grass-fed beef isn’t always exclusively grass-fed.

In fact, you might be paying upwards of $4 extra per pound for beef that’s not a whole lot better than the stuff that comes from feedlots.

The Grass-Fed Fallacy

Almost all cows raised in the U.S. were grass-fed at some point, but only a small percentage of the beef produced in the U.S. is actually grass-finished. The overwhelming majority of cows that were once grazed on pasture are sent to a feedlot to be fattened up with grains and synthetic growth hormones for the last portion of their short lives.

Companies who label their meat as grass-fed should know this, as the USDA standard for grass-fed beef demands that “grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal.”

While the “lifetime” part of the standard is good, there’s another part of this sentence that deserves a closer look — “and forage.”

Although forage (hay) is technically grass, it’s grass that’s been cut, dried, and stored for an indefinite period of time before being used as cattle feed. Some would argue that grass and forage are one and the same, but that just isn’t the case. Imagine if (instead of consuming fresh, whole vegetables) you only ate veggies in a dried-up powder form for the duration of your life. Do you think you’d be as healthy? Heck no! Forage is definitely a step up from grain, but it can’t compete with a natural diet of fresh grass.

And since forage-fed cows aren’t required to consume a single blade of fresh grass for their entire lives, the’re often kept in feedlot-like conditions — not exactly what consumers picture when they think of “grass-fed” cows.

Primal Pastures Cows

What Grass-Fed SHOULD mean (Primal Pastures cows)

But it gets worse — there’s another loophole in the USDA’s standard that should cause us to further question how healthy “grass-fed” beef really is. As pointed out by David Maren of Tendergrass Farms in his guest post on Mark’s Daily Apple,

One of the problems with the USDA definition for grass fed beef is that it has a loophole that allows for the use of grain “to ensure the animal’s well being at all times during adverse environmental or physical conditions.” One local grass fed beef company here in Virginia once disclosed to me that they have an internal policy with regard to this loophole that allows their farmers to feed up to 2% of the animal’s weight in grain per day during the winter months. Assuming that their cows weigh about 1000 pounds and given the fact that there are about 5 “winter months” in this part of the country, their policy would allow for each grass fed cow to be fed about 1.5 tons of grain per year. Amazingly, it can still be marketed as “grass fed beef.”

Sketchy practices such as these are more of the norm than the exception when it comes to the “grass-fed” beef market. And even when grass-fed beef is actually grass-fed, the standard says nothing about a number of additional factors that have a dramatic impact on the cow’s health. Things like…

  • Hormone & antibiotic intake. Unless also labeled organic, it’s perfectly permissible for grass-fed cows to be given antibiotics to prevent infection and synthetic hormones to promote faster growth.

  • Quality of life. The USDA standard requires that grass-fed cows must “have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.” Hmmm. Sounds a bit like the “cage-free” scam, which requires that chickens have “access” to the outdoors, which (for most large scale operations), means opening a window in the feed house for a few hours out of the day. My point is, there’s plenty of room for deceptive interpretation in this sentence.

  • Toxin Exposure. Even if grass-fed cows ARE actually eating grass, that grass is probably being treated with herbicides and fertilizers on a pretty consistent basis. YUCK.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Organic Shmorganic.

The organic label does matter, but not as much as one might assume. Though the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) prohibits the use of hormones and antibiotics in organic animals and ensures that the animals’ feed has not been treated with pesticides or harsh chemicals (both of which are absolutely important), it misses other critical markers of health.

For one, it’s acceptable for organic cows to live in feedlots. The fact that the NOP does not allow organic cows’ time in the feedlot to exceed 120 days is of little consequence, as most non-organic cows are also grazed on pasture for the first part of their lives and are then moved to feedlots for about the same amount of time to be fattened up before slaughter.

Cows labeled organic aren’t always fed a natural diet of grass that’s necessitated by their species. And more often than not, organic cows are raised on corn, soy, and other grain mumbo jumbo. And by now, we’re all familiar with why that’s a BIG no-no!


Moral of The Story

Labels can be tricky. Even the term “pasture-raised” (often thought of as the final word when it comes to completely natural, beyond organic meat & one of the ways we describe how we raise our meat at Primal Pastures), doesn’t always mean what you think it does.

Because there’s no legal definition of the term, pretty much anyone can claim to produce “pasture-raised” beef (even if it’s really anything but) and suffer no consequences for the misinformation.

With all labels (grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised, etc.) most companies and industries will jump through any loophole they can if it means making things easier and more cost-effective on their end, making it extremely difficult for the consumer to make smart decisions.

We’ve been lied to, deceived, and scammed into spending our hard-earned dollars on products that aren’t what we think they are.

This issue extends much further than grass-fed beef, which is only one symptom of the dishonesty and greed that has dictated the direction of our country’s food system for far too long — but that’s a topic for another day.

Fortunately, there’s something we can all do about it. It’s up to US to vote with our forks (and knives) by making educated decisions about what we eat and where our food comes from.

This means finding your local farmer, doing the research, asking the right questions, and visiting the source of your food if necessary in order to ensure that the beef you’re buying was fed organic grass, never given hormones or antibiotics, and lived a happy life on the pasture with plenty of room to roam.

There’s nothing worse than spending big bucks on fancy labels and empty promises. Most small, local farms know and understand this and are more than willing to go above and beyond to reassure their customers of the natural, ethical, and sustainable nature of their farming practices.

At Primal Pastures, we offer detailed information on the living conditions of our animals, daily phone/email support, farm tours, and ways to make buying good meat affordable.

Buying meat in bulk is definitely the most affordable (and fun) way to go. But it can also be super intimidating — mostly because it’s hard to know how much freezer space you’ll need in order to store your meat.

That’s why we just launched an amazing deal to make buying quality meat even MORE simple, efficient, and cost-effective for our neighbors in So-Cal. It involves a brand new deep freezer, free delivery, and a lot of high quality meat at an affordable price (click here for more info on the deal).

If you aren’t in So-Cal and can’t buy from us, don’t worry! Head over to EatWild.com to find a sustainable, beyond organic farm near you (but remember to do your own research as well).

Have questions or comments? Be sure to let me know your thoughts on the information presented in this post in the comment section below!

The China Study Fallacy (And Why I Stopped Being a Vegetarian)

thechinastudy

People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.

This bold statement (along with many others) made by T. Colin Campbell in The China Study has influenced many into ditching meat and other animal-derived foods and instead adopting a diet consisting entirely and exclusively of plant-based foods.

Often thought of as the “final word” on the scientific superiority of veganism, the evidence presented in The China Study seems so compelling that many intelligent minds have fallen prey to it and completely re-vamped their outlook on food and nutrition as a result of it.

But under scrutiny, the information laid out as facts in The China Study shatters — into tiny, pathetic, protein-deficient pieces. I’ll explain why later — but first, it’s story time! (Feel free to skip ahead to the next section if you’re not interested).


6 Meatless Months

During my sophomore year of college, I decided to give up meat — a decision that was heavily influenced by a combination of my co-workers at Trader Joe’s (devout China Study fans), terrifying PETA videos, my ongoing battle to try any and every diet that might help me lose 10 pounds, and sheer curiosity.

At the time, I was so positive that I was doing the best thing possible for my body composition, overall health, and humanity as a whole by giving up meat. When people asked me how it was going, I automatically began thoughtlessly raving about how amazing it was to be a vegetarian. I ignored the digestive troubles, worsening acne symptoms, and weight gain that my new lifestyle had perpetuated.

It wasn’t until I went on a camping trip at the beach with my family that I ever considered the notion that my new meat-free diet could be doing me more harm than good.

After spending a day feeling incredibly self-conscious and insecure in my swimsuit at the beach, it was time for dinner — and burgers were on the menu.

My “burger” consisted of a bun with re-fried beans inside.

It was terrible. But it didn’t have any unhealthy, cancer-causing, artery-clogging red meat…so I was good, right? Despite everything I had been told about how “healthy” my new lifestyle was, something about what I was eating in that moment just seemed so terribly WRONG.

I paid close attention as my cousin’s wife ate ONLY the hamburger patties accompanied by some veggies — the complete opposite of what I was doing. Her dinner wasn’t the only thing about us that was different. She was slim and toned, I was thick and pudgy. She had loads of energy, I was constantly feeling sluggish. The list went on and on.

“How can this be?” I thought to myself. It just didn’t add up to everything I thought I knew about nutrition.

A few months after the trip, it started to become more and more clear that the vegetarian thing just wasn’t working for me. After taking some hints from my body and realizing that there ARE alternatives to the inhumane and unnatural factory farming practices that I was so opposed to (something that the author of The China Study completely fails to address), I ended my short stent as a vegetarian — and boy, am I glad that I did!

*Important Note — There are vegetarians and vegans out there who go about their lifestyles in a much healthier and whole food-based way than I did at the time. The purpose of this post is not to belittle or criticize any particular way of eating, but instead to expose the inaccuracies in a book that has (and continues to) influence many to adopt a plant-based diet under the false pretense that animal-based foods cause chronic disease.


My Beef With The Vegan Bible

Just hearing the title The China Study, you’d think that the book would focus almost entirely on… The China Study.

But it doesn’t.

Only one chapter of the book (39 of 350 pages) actually focuses on the China-Cornell-Oxford Project — a large observational study conducted throughout the 1980s in rural China.

And even within that one teensy little chapter, author T. Colin Campbell makes some serious sins of omission in his interpretation of the study’s original data. Nutritional experts Loren Cordain, Chris Masterjohn and Denise Minger (just to name a few) have all succeeded in shedding light on these these discrepancies (and there are many) in separate and comprehensive critiques of The China Study.

The resounding message of this chapter of the book can be summed up in the following quote from Campbell (also mentioned above):

People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.

But the evidence taken from the actual China-Cornell-Oxford Project tells a different story. In what is widely considered to be the most comprehensive and meticulously researched smackdown of The China Study out there (seriously, stop reading this and head over to her post if you’re really interested in this stuff), Minger pulled out the top 5 counties from The China Study with the lowest animal protein intake per year and stacked them up against the top 5 counties with the highest animal protein intake per year.

Though she admits that these graphs alone aren’t enough to draw confident conclusions from, they should still show stark contrast in support of Campbell’s claims. Here’s what they showed instead:

animal_protein_intake

death_from_all_cancers

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Additional graphs included in her critique compare rates of stroke, diabetes, and a myriad of cancers in nearly vegan vs. meat-eating counties. All show similar results — the counties that consumed the most meat were no worse off (and were often even more healthy) than the counties that consumed less than one gram of animal protein per day on average.

Campbell also fails to give any credit to Tuoli, a county that ate 45% of their diet as fat and 134 grams of animal protein each day (twice as much as the average American). Yet according to the raw data, they were generally much healthier and suffered lower rates of cancer and heart disease than many of the counties that were nearly vegan.

Instead of demonstrating a direct causal relationship between animal consumption and chronic disease (there isn’t one), Campbell added another variable (cholesterol) into the mix in order to justify his vegan ideals. He reported that:

Plasma cholesterol in the 90-170 milligrams per deciliter range is positively associated with most cancer mortality rates. Plasma cholesterol is positively associated with animal protein intake and inversely associated with plant protein intake.

But there’s a lot more to the story. According to Minger,

Campbell never took the critical step of accounting for other disease-causing variables that tend to cluster with higher-cholesterol counties in the China Study—variables like schistosomiasis infection, industrial work hazards, increased hepatitis B infection, and other non-nutritional factors spurring chronic conditions. Areas with lower cholesterol, by contrast, tended to have fewer non-dietary risk factors, giving them an automatic advantage for preventing most cancers and heart disease. (The health threats in the lower-cholesterol areas were more related to poor living conditions, leading to greater rates of tuberculosis, pneumonia, intestinal obstruction, and so forth.)

Even if the correlations with cholesterol did remain after adjusting for these risk factors, it takes a profound leap in logic to link animal products with disease by way of blood cholesterol when the animal products themselves don’t correlate with those diseases. If all three of these variables rose in unison, then hypotheses about animal foods raising disease risk via cholesterol could be justified.


And then there’s the rats.

Campbell also pushes his vegan agenda through a series of experiments he conducted with rats in which he proves that casein, an incomplete protein found in milk, promotes cancer growth in rats.

In order to prove this, Campbell first poisoned his rats with aflatoxin (a mold-related contaminant often found in peanut butter). The poisoned rats given a 20% casein diet all developed cancer or cancer-like lesions, while the rats fed a 5% casein diet did not. Campbell said that casein “proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed.”

Based on these results, Campbell somehow concluded that ALL forms of animal protein promote cancer growth. In every circumstance. Period. This claim, however, hinges on the following far-fetched and unproven assumptions (as pointed out by Minger):

  1. The casein-cancer mechanism behaves the same way in humans as in lab rats.

  2. Casein promotes cancer not just when isolated, but also when occurring in its natural food form (in a matrix of other milk substances like whey, bioactive peptides, conjugated linoleic acid, minerals, and vitamins, some of which appear to have anti-cancer properties).

  3. There are no differences between casein and other types of animal protein that could impose different effects on cancer growth/tumorigenesis.

You see — whole, unprocessed foods work in synergy to fight against disease and provide us with nutrients. When used in isolation, they don’t always have the same beneficial effects.

Whey, the other major protein found in milk, appears to have qualities that protect against cancer. But instead of including whey (or any other animal-based protein) in his experiments, it was more convenient for Campbell to stop with casein.

Chris Masterjohn also speaks to the faults of Campbell’s casein conclusions in his critique of the book:

What powdered, isolated casein does to rats tells us little about what traditionally consumed forms of milk will do to humans and tells us nothing that we can generalize to all “animal nutrients.” Furthermore, Campbell fails to address the problems of vitamin A depletion from excess isolated protein, unsupported by the nutrient-dense fats which accompany protein foods in nature.

It’s also important to note that, although they didn’t develop liver cancer, the rats that were fed less casein were anything but healthy. As stated by Liz Wolfe in Eat The Yolks,

What Campbell failed to state in his book — although the evidence was present in his own research — is that these rats experienced tissue damage and liver cell death. They may not have developed liver cancer, but they still suffered major health problems.

…like cell death. Not good!


But your family sells meat! Of course you don’t want us to be vegans!

This is true. I would be lying if I claimed to support veganism in any way, shape, or form. And there’s no denying the numerous health & environmental benefits of consuming healthy, humanely raised, pastured animals. But all seriousness, I wouldn’t be telling you these things if:

a) I didn’t believe them myself.
b) I didn’t practice these things myself.
c) There wasn’t substantial evidence to support my beliefs/opinions.

Every creature in the animal kingdom is classified as an herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore. They are what they are because of the nutritional needs required by their species and their innate desire to eat certain foods.

The same rationale applies to humans. Why would we have the immense need for nutrients that are extremely bioavailable in meat if we weren’t meant to eat it? It also doesn’t strike me as fair to blame relatively modern diseases on foods that our ancestors have been enjoying since the beginning of time in excellent health. Just my two cents!

But don’t take my word for it. Check out what all of these really smart people have to say about the benefits of eating meat:

What are your thoughts on The China Study? Are you loving life as a carnivore or are you set on being an herbivore? Whatever your stance is, tell me about it with a comment!

Why Buying Meat in Bulk Makes “Cents”


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We all want meat that comes from animals that were raised humanely, lived in their natural habitats, fed natural feed, never given antibiotics or hormones, and processed responsibly (click here to find out why all of this matters). But these kinds of meats can be expensive — especially for those who are feeding entire families.

Fortunately, there are ways to make feeding your family natural & properly raised meats completely affordable. Farmer Paul shared his ideas on how to do this in a recent email. His top 3 tips to stretch your food budget BIG TIME went something like this:

1. Buy a deep freezer and purchase in bulk
2. Buy a deep freezer and purchase in bulk
3. Buy a deep freezer and purchase in bulk

When we talk about buying meat in bulk from a farm, we’re taking about purchasing a whole, 1/2, or 1/4 of an animal (beef, hog, lamb, etc.). I know — it sounds intense. When I first learned about the whole animal share buying stuff, I couldn’t help but imagine somehow trying to stuff an entire whole cow into my freezer.

But animal shares are nothing like that. The meat still looks exactly like the meat you usually get — packaged separately according to the cut. The only difference is the amount of it that you’ll be getting at once, which will be a lot more than you’re used to (hence the need for a deep freezer — you’ll be surprised how quickly it pays for itself)!

Think about some of the things you’re already buying in bulk.

I can think of a few…toilet paper, coffee, coconut oil, etc (you know, the necessities). Why do we do this? Because buying in bulk is always cheaper. And this same principle holds true for meat!

By purchasing a 1/4, 1/2, or full animal share, your price per pound will be significantly less than if you were to purchase that same amount of meat over time in smaller amounts — savings that equate to over two thousand dollars on one whole beef! (Primal Pastures bases pricing on “packaged weight,” as opposed to “hanging weight” or even “live weight” which most farms charge for. By paying for packaged weight, you’re ONLY paying for what goes into your freezer — read more about our bulk meat plans by clicking here).

The best part about buying meat in bulk? You and your family will be eating the best, most nutrient-dense, toxin-free meat available — and you’ll still be able to pay for your kids to go to college.


Other Benefits of Buying Animal Shares

In addition to saving on cost, animal shares also offer the following additional benefits:

  • You get it all! Your beef share will come with everything from ground beef to fillet mignon. You’ll expand your culinary prowess by cooking/trying different cuts of meat and organs that you may have never been exposed to otherwise. Who knows — you might even find a new favorite! Acclaimed butcher Tom Mylan says, “If you’re going to kill an animal, then it only seems polite to use the whole thing.” Buying in bulk allows you to do just that.

  • Your connection to your food will be enriched. Buying from a local farm (and especially buying in bulk) will deepen your understanding of how the animal was raised, who raised it, and how it was processed. Your relationship with your meat will become more transparent and less opaque.

  • You get to make the big decisions. Want more ground beef? You’ve got it! Don’t care for chuck steak? No problem. Often times, farms will allow you to make these sorts of choices when buying an animal share.


Unleash the Possibilities…

Now that we’ve gone over the basics, take a minute to consider this little scenario taken from Farmer Paul’s email…

Imagine yourself on a normal night in the kitchen trying to figure out what to cook for dinner. After striking out in the refrigerator and pantry you examine the freezer only to find some frozen peas and a T.V. dinner (from your pre-paleo days, of course). Just before giving in to the urge of going out for a meal of factory farmed pink slime-burgers cooked in soy bean oil, you remember that you did the smartest thing of your entire life and purchased a split a half share of of a pasture raised cow and a half share of primal hog with a friend, then bought a whole lamb for yourself — and it’s all out in the deep freezer waiting for you. You wander out to be delighted by the difficult but beautiful choice between Pasture Raised Beef Rib eye, Filet Mignon, the best Pork Chops in the world, 50/50 Lamb/Beef Sliders, New York Steak, Pork Shoulder, and the list goes on. and on. and on. Good luck with that!

meat freezer

Sounds nice, right? We think so. Every day, more and more people are catching on to the advantages of buying meat in bulk. But despite the long term savings, this can be a daunting option for some people. And if you can’t afford to jump in and get on board with the animal share thing right now, that’s okay! But it’s nice to have it as an option, right?

Head over to EatWild.com to find a local farm that sells animal shares, and get ready to reap the delicious benefits of your investment!

5 Reasons to Eat Pastured Meat

eatpasturedmeats

I was raised on conventional meat. As a kid, I lived for dinosaur-shaped chicken fritters (who thinks of this stuff?) and 39 cent cheeseburger Wednesdays at McDonalds.

This madness went on for quite some time. Until (long story short) I found paleo and my family started Primal Pastures.

Since then, I’ve ditched the fritters and cheeseburgers and have committed to eating high quality, pasture-raised, beyond organic meats — MOST of the time (I don’t feel bad about sometimes eating out at restaurants that don’t use quality meats. Perfection has never been my goal).

But I do realize that not everyone lives and works on a meat farm. And accessing high quality meat isn’t always easy (check out this video from Real Food Liz for tips on finding – and paying for – good meat). Yet we’ve all heard that pastured meat is better — meat that comes from animals that are raised responsibly and humanely, in their natural habitat, eating grass, with plenty of space to roam.

It’s a nice mental picture (much better than envisioning the CAFO alternative). And we all feel better about ourselves when we eat this type of meat. But why exactly is this better than the conventional, factory farmed stuff? After all, it does take a bit of extra effort (and sometimes extra cash) to acquire it. And if you’re anything like me, you want to be sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck!

In my opinion, if you’re going to be spending your hard-earned dollars and time on high-quality anything, it should be meat. Not organic produce and not even lululemon swag (though it’s a close second) — MEAT. Here’s why:

  • REASON #1: You won’t be ingesting harmful toxins. Pasture-raised animals are not given hormones, antibiotics, or any other type of drug. “Who cares if my hamburger was once fed antibiotics?” you might say. “That stuff doesn’t affect me.” If only that were the case.

    In reality, the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are becoming increasingly difficult to treat in humans. I referenced the statement below in a recent post all about chicken, and I’m going to do it again here. This applies to ALL types of livestock that are fed antibiotics.

    According to CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations:

    Many of the bacteria found on livestock (such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter) can cause food-borne disease in humans. Furthermore, recent evidence strongly suggests that some methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and uropathogenic E. coli infections may also be caused by animal sources. These pathogens collectively cause tens of millions of infections and many thousands of hospitalizations and deaths every year.

    The potentially harmful effects of added hormones are just as scary. Nearly all animals in conventional feedlots in the U.S. are given a combination of 6 anabolic steroids (3 natural and 3 synthetic).

    Measurable levels of all of these hormones are found at slaughter in the muscle, fat, liver, kidneys and other organ meats of the animals they were given to. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set “acceptable daily intakes” for each of these drugs. But due to the embarrassingly large research gap on the topic, these standards are virtually meaningless.

  • REASON #2: Better source of fat. Remember those toxins we just went over? Much of that nasty stuff ends up getting stored in the fat of the animal. And because of their unnatural diets and lifestyle, factory farmed animals usually have more fat than their pastured counterparts.

    If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I’m all about eating quality sources of healthy fat (read more about my stance on fat here). But when it comes to eating conventional meat, you’re better off choosing the lean cuts. This isn’t true for pastured meats which contain extremely beneficial and nutrient-dense sources of fat.

  • REASON #3: More vitamins and minerals. The nutritional profiles of pastured meats are ALWAYS more robust than their CAFO counterparts (Think about how much better/healthier you feel when you eat real food — the same is true for animals when they’re eating natural diets!). Although specific vitamin and mineral levels vary for each animal, pastured meats generally contain more of the following:

    • Vitamin E
    • Vitamin C
    • Beta-carotene
    • Omega-3
    • B Vitamins
    • Magnesium
    • Calcium
    • And much more!

  • REASON #4: More humane & responsible. We’ve all heard the factory farming horror stories. And they’re no exaggeration. CAFO animals are crammed tightly together, fed a constant stream of antibiotics to prevent infection, left to trudge around in their own feces, fed unnatural feed, and processed inappropriately.

    Not only are these practices grossly inhumane — they’re also terrible for the environment. According to Cornell University ecology professor David Pimentel, it takes roughly 284 gallons of oil to make the fertilizer to grow the corn to feed just one feedlot steer during his short life (14 to 16 months, on average).

    That’s. A. Lot. Of. Oil. — and if it weren’t for the $50 billion + that the government has poured into the corn industry, corn wouldn’t even come close to being an economical choice for feedlot operators.

    On “top” of all of this, crops like corn, soy, and wheat have also created a major topsoil problem. Because of their shallow roots, these crops use up the surface layer of soil much more quickly than it can be restored by earth’s natural processes. This causes all sorts of problems for the environment, including increased greenhouse gas emissions, mineral-depleted soil, flooding, and polluted runoff.

    These issues do not exist with pastured livestock (not fed corn or soy). When animals are rotationally grazed on perennial pastures with roots that extend deep below the surface in addition to the more shallow ones, the land is able to heal itself naturally and topsoil nutrients are consistently replenished.

  • REASON #5: It tastes better! The difference in taste of pastured vs. conventional meat is unreal. Our customers rave about it all the time. Natural and responsibly raised meat really is the real deal, folks! If nothing else, do it for your taste buds.

What’s your take on meat? Is it worth it to get the good stuff? If so, why? Let me know in the comment section!

Why Time Magazine Says “Eat Butter”

eatbutterftp

“Scientists labeled fat the enemy. They were wrong.” This quote (placed directly above a delicious looking swirl of butter) recently graced the cover of TIME Magazine – a stark contrast to the 1984 cover of TIME, which showed a sad face constructed of eggs and bacon.

This controversial cover has sent many into a frenzy. Some are ecstatic at the thought of being able to eat real butter, egg yolks, and bacon once again – free of guilt. Others (like me) have already emailed and text messaged pictures of the cover to family and friends who all thought my “fat doesn’t make you fat or sick” stance was a bunch of quack (they have to believe me now, right!?). But many are still skeptical.

Whether you’re a fat lover or hater, it’s worth delving a bit deeper into this issue to discover the truth about this dietary staple turned public enemy #1 of the last four decades.

Left: 1984, Right: 2014

Left: 1984, Right: 2014



How Fat Became the Enemy

The article in TIME places a large amount of the responsibility for America’s saturated fat hysteria on a scientist named Ancel Keys. The Wall Street Journal Agrees, stating in a recent article titled The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease that Keys pushed his way to the top of the nutrition world through “sheer force of will,” and that he was guilty of, “relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks.”

Keys’ pushy antics came at a time when heart disease was responsible for nearly half of all deaths in the United States. And after President Eisenhower’s heart attack in 1955, people were seriously spooked. The nation was ready to place the blame on something, and Mr. Keys knew it.

According to TIME,

Keys had an explanation. He posited that high levels of cholesterol–a waxy, fatlike substance present in some foods as well as naturally occurring in the body–would clog arteries, leading to heart disease. He had a solution as well. Since fat intake raised LDL cholesterol, he reasoned that reducing fat in the diet could reduce the risk of heart attacks. (LDL cholesterol levels are considered a marker for heart disease, while high HDL cholesterol seems to be cardioprotective.) In the 1950s and ’60s, Keys sought to flesh out that hypothesis, traveling around the world to gather data about diet and cardiovascular disease. His landmark Seven Countries Study found that people who ate a diet low in saturated fat had lower levels of heart disease. The Western diet, heavy on meat and dairy, correlated with high rates of heart disease.

The Seven Countries Study was ultimately responsible for the 1984 cover of TIME Magazine (shown above) that kickstarted America’s fear of fat. It was also the driving force behind the American Heart Association’s decision to begin advising Americans (for the first time ever) to cut down on saturated fat. The USDA also created their dietary guidelines (The Food Pyramid and now My Plate) for Americans based on Keys’ findings.

It wasn’t long before the American people started listening and responding in the worst of ways. We began ditching nutritious yolks for egg whites, buying turkey bacon (don’t even get me started on turkey bacon) over regular bacon, and choosing margarine over butter. The list goes on and on.

But times have changed. And new (more legit, advanced, and higher budget) studies are disproving Keys’ work — which had some serious flaws to begin with. As stated in the article,

He cherry-picked his data, leaving out countries like France and West Germany that had high-fat diets but low rates of heart disease. Keys highlighted the Greek island of Crete, where almost no cheese or meat was eaten and people lived to an old age with clear arteries. But Keys visited Crete in the years following World War II, when the island was still recovering from German occupation and the diet was artificially lean. Even more confusing, Greeks on the neighboring isle of Corfu ate far less saturated fat than Cretans yet had much higher rates of heart disease.

As a result of this twisted information, we as a nation have been living in fear of red meat, coconut oil, and all sorts of other natural, unprocessed, real food sources of fat that our bodies need and crave. Nearly four decades following our nation’s massive shift from a fat and protein based diet to one rooted in refined carbohydrates, Americans are sicker then ever. Type 2 Diabetes has increased 166% from 1980 to 2012, over a third of the country is obese, and cardiovascular disease remains the nation’s #1 killer.

IMPORTANT SIDENOTE: While the butter on TIME’s cover serves as an excellent attention-grabber (representing a much larger message of encouraging individuals to dump their fat-phobic attitudes), it’s also important to remember that not all butter is necessarily healthy. And not all sources of fat are created equal.

This is a subject for another post. But for now, check out this article by Diane Sanfilippo (complete with PDF Guide!) titled Fats: Which to Eat and Which to Ditch.

Why Fat is Your Friend

Keys based his research on the notion that saturated fats raise cholesterol and that elevated cholesterol levels cause heart disease. But it’s actually much more complex than that. There is evidence suggesting that saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood. However, it raises both HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol). HDL is considered to be cardioprotective and removes the LDL cholesterol that can accumulate on arterial walls.

There are two types of LDL cholesterol particles: small, dense ones and large, fluffy ones. The light and fluffy ones appear to be harmless while the dense, small LDL particles have been linked to heart disease. Can you guess which type of particle saturated fat is responsible for raising? Yup — the large, fluffy ones.

It’s the refined carbohydrates (like whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, etc. – basically everything that has been marketed to us as “healthy” for the last 4 decades) that actually raise the levels of small, dense LDL particles, potentially contributing to heart disease. For more info on why wheat and other grains are destroying your health, click here.

Aside from the fact that fat does not actually harm us, there also many benefits to consuming whole, unprocessed sources of saturated fat. This article on Tim Ferriss’s blog (author of The 4 Hour Workweek), written by Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Dan Eades (two of the top obesity treatment doctors in the country) points to all of the major benefits of consuming saturated fats. Here they are, paraphrased and summarized for easier mental digestion:

  • Improved Cardiovascular Risk Factors – Saturated Fat reduces the levels of a substance called lipoprotein that correlates strongly with risk for heart disease (there are currently NO medications capable of lowering this substance). It also raises “good” HDL levels (as noted above) and has been shown to promote weight loss.

  • Stronger Bones – Mary Enig, Ph.D. (one of the foremost research experts in dietary fats) believes there’s a case to be made for having as much as 50% of the fats in your diet as saturated fats to promote bone mass – a recommendation that is supported by the fact that the vast majority of women who are told to avoid saturated fat and to selectively use vegetable oils instead are faced with a loss in bone mass and the threat of osteoporosis.

  • Improved Liver Health – Medical research has shown that adding saturated fat to the diet encourages the liver cells to dump their fat content — a critical first step in halting middle-body fat storage. Saturated fat has also been shown to protect the liver from the toxic insults of alcohol and medications.

  • Healthy Lungs – The airspaces of the lungs need to be coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant (the fat content of which is 100% saturated fatty acids) in order to function properly. When the body low in saturated fat and exceeding in other fats, faulty surfactant is made – potentially leading to breathing difficulties and collapse of the airspaces.

  • Healthy Brain – Many people are now familiar with the importance of the highly unsaturated essential fatty acids found in cold-water fish (EPA and DHA) for normal brain and nerve function. But the majority of the fatty acids in the brain are actually saturated! A diet that skimps on healthy saturated fats robs your brain of the raw materials it needs to function optimally.

  • Proper Nerve Signaling – Certain saturated fats (particularly those found in butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil) function directly as signaling messengers that influence the metabolism. Without the correct signals to tell the organs and glands what to do, the job doesn’t get done (or gets done improperly).

  • Strong immune system – Without sufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells, their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders (such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi) is seriously compromised. The saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (myristic acid and lauric acid) play key roles in immune health.

Read the full article here.

Despite the rapidly increasing amount of research that continues to debunk the “fat will kill you and make you fat” myth, this message is still deeply ingrained into our psyches. And reversing this false conception (along with all of the 100 calorie snack packs and nonfat yogurt that came with it) is going to take some time.

But that doesn’t mean you need to wait for the rest of the world to wake up before you start eating the yolks (from pastured eggs of course) and regularly enjoying nice, juicy cut of grass-fed sirloin – without the self-inflicted guilt trip.

For more information on the saturated fat myth, check out the articles below:

And for even more myth-busting health information, check out my article, 7 “Healthy” Habits That are Killing You Slowly.

Primal Chicken 101 – The Answer to the Tragedy of Factory Farmed Poultry

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The principle of this so-called animal science is derived from the industrial version of efficiency. The designers of animal factories appear to have had in mind the example of concentration camps or prisons, the aim of which is to house and feed the greatest numbers in the smallest space at the least expense of money, labor, and attention. To subject innocent creatures to such treatment has long been recognized as heartless. Animal factories make an economic virtue of heartlessness toward domestic animals, to which we humans owe instead a large debt of respect and gratitude.
—Wendell Berry, Stupidity in Concentration

The factory farmed poultry industry is worse off than any other CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) in America. 7 billion chickens are processed for consumption every year in the United States alone. At any given time, up to 40,000 birds are crammed tightly into a single shed resulting in disease, increased susceptibility to infection, immobility, sleep deprivation, and frustration.

These chickens are pumped full of grains (never getting the chance to enjoy their natural diet of bugs and grass) for their entire lives and grow so abnormally large that their legs often give out and break under the extreme load. They’re fed a constant stream of preventative antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection and are kept in artificially lighted sheds for 20 hours each day to keep them awake and eating for unnatural amounts of time.

But wait – it gets worse.

The USDA will soon allow for chickens to be shipped to China to be processed (killed, gutted, and prepared for human consumption) – and then shipped back to the states to be sold to you and your family in stores. According to this article from Nation of Change,

This arrangement is especially disturbing given China’s subpar food safety record and the fact that there are no plans to station on-site USDA inspectors at Chinese plants. Also, American consumers won’t know which brands of chicken are processed in China because there’s no requirement to label it as such.

As horrific and hazardous as it is, this news really isn’t all that surprising. For decades, we as a nation have turned a blind eye to the way that chickens are “farmed” right here in the United States. And we’re about to do the same in regards to how they’re prepared for us to consume.

So How Does This Affect Me?

If the conditions described above weren’t enough to convince you of just how terrible the chicken industry really is, please continue on.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, chicken has caused more food borne illness outbreaks, hospitalizations, and deaths between 1998 and 2010 than any other meat in the American food supply.

In addition, the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms is contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are becoming increasingly difficult to treat in humans. According to the CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations,

Many of the bacteria found on livestock (such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter) can cause food-borne disease in humans. Furthermore, recent evidence strongly suggests that some methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and uropathogenic E. coli infections may also be caused by animal sources. These pathogens collectively cause tens of millions of infections and many thousands of hospitalizations and deaths every year.


What Am I Supposed To Do? Become a Vegetarian?

When I first learned the truth about how chickens (and other meats) are raised and produced, my first instinct was to become a vegetarian. So about 6 years ago, I did just that – for 6 (long) months. It obviously didn’t work for me (I’ll try to get a post out soon about my experience with vegetarianism and why I started eating meat again).

Personal anecdotes aside, there are many reasons why I don’t believe that vegetarianism is the answer to this widespread problem. Here’s a few of them:

  1. The majority of people are not going to stop eating meat (no matter how many scare tactics PETA throws at us).
  2. Meat is an excellent source of protein, rich in a multitude of vitamins and minerals.
  3. There is a better way. More on this below!

The solution, rotational grazing for pastured poultry, offers numerous benefits to farmer, the consumer, and the environment. Rotational grazing implements the key principle of biomimicry, in which the farm uses nature as a template for farm method design.

This is not a new concept. Every species of livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, chicken, ducks, and turkeys) all rotate in the wild. They move to fresh green pasture, eat and soil the area, and then move on (only to return once the manure has been absorbed into the soil and plant/insect life has returned). Nomadic populations were also rotational grazers. They used herding animals to move their cattle and sheep from pasture to pasture, forcing them to constantly move their camp to accommodate the livestock.

The environmental benefits of rotational grazing are not to be understated. Rotationally grazed animals dramatically decrease soil erosion potential, require minimal pesticides and fertilizers, and decrease the amount of barnyard runoff. Pasturing livestock in a rotationally grazed system reduces the amount of nitrates and pesticides leaching into groundwater and also cuts down on the contamination of streams and lakes.

All About Pastured Poultry (And the Health Benefits Associated With It)

Sometimes chickens escape, but they never wander too far from their Salatin Pen, fully equipped with fresh water and Organic, non-GMO, soy-free supplemental feed.

Sometimes chickens escape, but they never wander too far from their Salatin Pen, fully equipped with fresh water and Organic, non-GMO, soy-free supplemental feed.


Primal Pastures implements a modern-day style of rotational grazing developed by Joel Salatin (American farmer, lecturer, and author) that allows chickens to be chickens, foraging and pecking for grass and bugs in their natural habitat (chickens are NOT vegetarians, contrary to what companies who play up the “vegetarian-fed” angle would like you to believe).

By using a 12’x10’x2’ tall floorless “chicken tractor” (like the one pictured above) that is rotated every day to fresh pasture, farms like ours can take full advantage of rotational grazing for poultry while providing massive benefits over the industrial system, including:

  • Natural habitat (grass)
  • Natural flock size (75-90 birds per flock, same as nature)
  • Natural distance to feed/water
  • Reduced feed costs (20% pasture consumption)
  • Environmental benefits
  • Protection from heat/predation
  • 1/3 of the Cholesterol of factory raised chicken
  • 1/4 of the Saturated Fat (toxins in factory-farmed chickens accumulate in the fat)
  • 2/3 more Vitamin A
  • 2 times more Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • 7 times more Beta Carotene

In addition to their natural diet of bugs and grass, Primal Pastures chickens are also supplemented with organic, non-GMO, soy-free feed. This healthy diet combined with plenty of sunshine, fresh pasture, and space to move around produces chickens far more nutritious and delicious than anything available in stores.

Hey, you with the short attention span – read this!

If you’ve barely scanned over this post (like most people do on the internet) take a few seconds to read over the summarizing points below before wandering off to facebook or peopleofwalmart.com:

  • The industrialized poultry industry is worse off (and more risky) than any other factory farming operation in the United States.
  • Poultry factory farming practices are inhumane and present a slew of hazards to the animals, environment, and the consumer.
  • The USDA will soon allow for chickens to be exported to China for processing and shipped back to the U.S. for human consumption, presenting a host of additional health risks to those who consume it.
  • Vegetarianism is not a realistic answer to this problem.
  • Rotationally grazed (pastured) chickens are able to pick and forage for bugs and grass just like they do in nature.
  • Pastured poultry is better for the animals, the land, and the consumer.
  • Pastured poultry contains two thirds more Vitamin A, two times more Omega-3, and 7 times more Beta Carotene.
  • Eating pastured poultry ensures that you will not be supporting inhumane farming practices or consuming meat riddled with antibiotics and toxins.
  • Pastured chicken tastes BETTER!

Check out Eat Wild to find out how to get your hands on some delicious pastured poultry from a farmer near you. And here’s one more picture of happy, healthy chickens for good measure. Enjoy!

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