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.
- 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.
- 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
- B Vitamins
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!