Until a few months ago, I was blissfully unaware of where meat comes from.
I wanted to preserve my naivete because, hell, meat is so damn delicious. I knew cattle conditions were terrible, fish populations were being depleted, and chickens were suffering. But because I didn’t know the specifics, I could still eat in peace.
But then I started reading.
I haven’t bought hemp sandals or started juicing beets. I don’t bully meat eaters or feel self-righteous. Instead, I feel more empowered.
I’m able to make smarter decisions about what I put in my body and how I fuel my day. You don’t have to read all the books and reports.
Just give me five minutes. This is why you should care.
You Absorb What Animals Eat
Ready for some straight talk?
You’re putting that meat in your body. Your cells are breaking that shit down and absorbing it.
We forget this basic human process. Our bodies perform metabolic alchemy while we sit at our computers all day. It’s thoughtless, effortless, and completely forgettable. And that’s exactly the reason why we should pay attention.
If we don’t think about it critically, it’s easy to forget. Everything you put in your body affects how we think, feel, and perform. When you start analyzing what you’re chewing up and swallowing, your food quality becomes paramount.
I’m not going to coddle you. The hormones and antibiotics in farm-raised meats can cause long-term consequences like heart disease, chronic inflammation, cancer, and dementia – but, moreover, there are also some very real and immediate consequences.
Shit-quality food is killing your mood, immune system, and focus. You’re getting sleepy just reading this.
Remember that bacon burger you had at lunch? Yeah, that has everything do with it.
Your Meat Is Not As Nutritious As You Think
Usually, when a cow eats delicious, beta-carotene-rich grass, those nutrients are happily transferred to your body as you digest a T-bone steak. But cheap beef is fed on a diet of soy and corn.
This high-calorie diet means they produce higher-fat, lower-nutrient meat. When we eat them, we absorb what they ate.
That’s the circle of life, son.
By the pound this product may weigh the same, but farm-raised meat doesn’t pack the same nourishing punch. Your cheap meat isn’t nearly as nutritious as you thought.
As Philip Lymbery and Isabel Oakeshott report in Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat, the difference in omega-3 levels is shocking:
“Compared with factory-farmed produce, pasture-reared beef is on average 2.7 times higher in omega 3s; higher-welfare chicken is from 20 percent to five times higher; meat from higher-welfare pigs is 40 percent higher; free-range eggs are 30 percent higher; and milk from pasture-raised cows is 100 percent higher.”
Vitamin E and Beta-Carotene
Lymbery and Oakeshott also found a shocking disparity in vitamin E and beta-carotene levels, two powerful antioxidants.
Free-range eggs can have up to double the amount of vitamin E, and nearly three times as much beta-carotene
Free-range pigs average 60 percent more vitamin E
Higher-welfare milk and butter have 180 percent more beta-carotene
Grass-fed products are higher in beta-carotene (Vitamin A), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and omega-3 fatty acids, which all help keep cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure in check. Grass-fed products are also significantly lower in fat, cholesterol and calories. Better yet, grass-fed is virtually free from the threat of E. coli. –The Epoch Times
Consider the Superbugs
Plus, there are the hormones and antibiotics. Low doses of these medicines are infused into farm feed. It helps the animals mature faster. It also fights disease.
Considering they are housed in overcrowded, windowless barns standing in their own feces, this is thus necessary. You, in turn, absorb those medicines, resulting in antibiotic resistance and the prevalence of “superbugs” – E.Coli and Salmonella strains that are impervious to our antibiotics.
In 2011, drug makers sold nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics for livestock — the largest amount yet recorded and about 80 percent of all reported antibiotic sales that year. The drugs [humans] need to stay well are being used to produce cheaper meat.
The numbers are really upsetting.
[Tweet “More than 50 percent of factory-farmed meat is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”]
Here are some graphs. Don’t toss your cookies:
Graphs courtesy of the Environmental Working Group. See the full report here.
Higher welfare for animals means fewer diseases. In the UK, Lymbery reports, “Over 18 percent of caged flocks tested positive for salmonella enteritidis, the most common strain causing food poisoning, compared with less than three percent of non-caged flocks.
The largest flocks, of 30,000 or more, were seven times more likely to carry salmonella than the smallest flocks of 3,000 hens or less.”
But there’s hope. Lymbery writes, “Now almost 50 percent of laying hens are either free-range or organic, and salmonella rates have plummeted to 0.25 percent since the 1980s.”
Don’t put your immunity at risk. You can choose pasture-raised, free-range, hormone-free, and grass-fed.
You might pay a little bit more on the front end, but you’ll save on doctor visits, sick days, and stomach cramps.
Better Meat is Better Fuel
Because higher-quality meat contains more essential vitamins and minerals, you’ll have more sustained energy and fuel from each serving. That’s something cheap, high-fat meat can’t promise.
Case and point: the debilitating food coma/brain fog after that fast food sandwich. And did you think you were eating lean with your white meat chicken breast? Not so fast.
The Times reports a typical supermarket chicken today contains almost three times more fat and a third less protein than a typical chicken in 1970.
“[Factory-farmed] chickens are no longer a protein-rich food, but a fat-rich food. The explanation is simple, namely that they are fed largely on cereals.”
–Professor Michael Crawford, Director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition
Choose free-range, cruelty-free chicken and you’ll have a much higher protein-to-fat ratio. Replace your meat at lunch with sustainably-raised meat: it’s the difference between mid-afternoon slump and mid-afternoon beast mode.
Cheap Meat is Ruining the Planet
You’ve heard this before I’m sure. But let’s be real. The food choices we make have a direct effect not only on our bodies, but our whole motherflippin’ planet.
You could read volumes of sickening stats on meat production and climate change. (Methane and nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Cow farts. The danger is real.) But I’ll just give you one.
According to the CMAB, as of 2011 the dairy farms in California alone house a total of 1.75 million cows. They generate more excrement than the entire human population of the UK. Sustainably-farmed, grass-fed beef does not.
The global expansion of livestock production is one of the primary causes of climate change responsible for almost a fifth of emissions produced by human activity. –The Economist
Your Money Matters
I’m not telling you not to eat meat. I’m telling you to eat better meat.
It will cost you more money. But it is also more nutritious, globally sustainable, and fuels you longer. Plus, don’t underestimate the power of your dollar. The way you spend your money matters.
Did you know that Wal-Mart now sells organic milk? Think Wal-Mart cares about hormones in your morning coffee? They don’t. But you started caring. And so they had to meet consumer demands.
Start demanding better meat. The supply will follow.
Care about where your food is coming from because the higher quality your food, the better you’ll feel, the more resources your body will have, and the more satisfying your meal will be.
Factory-farmed meat has fewer nutrients, higher fat content, and lower protein density.
Factory-farmed meat contains hormones and antibiotics that are weakening your immune defenses and making you more susceptible to long-term illness and superbugs.
Sustainable meat has more nutrients, providing long-lasting energy, and immunity-boosting vitamins and omega acids.
Factory-farmed meat is polluting the earth like crazy. That’s depressing and gross.
Don’t underestimate your power as a consumer. Choosing to spend your money on sustainable products will help change the market.
Where meat comes from matters, folks!
A Review of Antibiotic Use in Food Animals: Perspective, Policy, and Potential
Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat
Compassion in World Farming Report, 2012
Mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from beef production in western Canada – Evaluation using farm-based life cycle assessment, Animal Feed Science, April 2011
How Cows (Grass-Fed Only) Could Save the Planet, Time Magazine, Jan 2010