You’ve made it! Does it feel like you’ve just completed a marathon? I want to commend you for sticking with me to the end. All of this information is not exactly “light.” I hope that you aren’t terribly overwhelmed, but if you are, pick up my ebook, A Primer for Nourishing & Healthy Recipes to Replace Unhealthy Food Products.” Transitioning away from processed food doesn’t have to be terribly overwhelming when you take baby steps!
And please, feel free to contact me at kelly (at) domesticbydesign (dot) com with any questions. Tomorrow, I’ll have a vlog with answers to questions and concerns. So tune in!
I have seen it written that the average American consumes 200 lbs of beef in one year. I’m not sure how accurate this is, but that is a lot of meat! That averages roughly 1/2 lb a day. Unfortunately, the majority of meat consumed is not exactly healthy due to what they are fed and their living conditions, antibiotics used, hormones administered, and nitrates used to cure the meat.
We’ve already touched on the fact that cows are herbivores in step 10 about consuming raw milk. Cows that are fed a consistent diet of grain often end up sick and die earlier than those consuming the diet their bodies were intended to eat.
Here’s the nitty gritty of it: Meat (and milk) sold in the stores is usually from cows in confinement. This means that they are forced to sit, stand, and sleep in a small (often about 17 feet worth per cow) area with many (think hundreds) of cows. This is disgusting and is part of the reason why sickness abounds, hence the (constant) need for antibiotics.
In addition, the GMO grain diet that confined cattle are fed is very bad for their digestive systems. In a nutshell, it is very difficult for them to digest and it can lead to rumenitis, which simply means that the rumen cannot digest nutrients nearly as efficiently as it should. It ulcerates, causing bacteria to seep through the walls to the liver, causing an abcsess of the liver. 15-30% of feedlot cattle have abscessed livers. This is not to say that cows that are fed non-GMO grain from time to time are going to end up sick.
Cattle that are allowed to freely graze on grass have “a healthier fatty acid profile, including an omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio twice as high as grain-fed beef, and significantly increased cancer-fighting antioxidants. In addition to having more “good” cholesterol-neutral fats and less “bad” cholesterol-increasing fats, the overall fat content of grass-fed meat is much, much lower. On top of all that, grass-fed meat also has significantly higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E.”
Enough about cows…what about chicken? Chickens are omnivores. They thrive on grasses and bugs! Those bugs that annoy us are tasty treats for these guys. Chickens will thrive in following after a cow’s footsteps and eating where they’ve been. Grain fed poultry is not ideal.
The use of antibiotics in meat is so rampant, that according to one article, 20 million pounds are used in cattle per year! The reason this is alarming is due to the fact that residue from the antibiotics can be found in the meat, which we consume. Look at this alarming information:
“When researchers tested ground chicken, turkey, beef, and pork bought in supermarkets, they found that 20 percent of them contained Salmonella. Even worse, 84 percent of the contaminated samples were resistant to at least one antibiotic and more than half were resistant to at least three.“
The rampant use of antibiotics is not good for our guts or for the fighting of infection (which is what they are there for!). In addition to killing bad bacteria, all the good bacteria is also killed. Not only that, but they are used so often that our bodies are developing resistance to them. This is why MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is so dangerous.
“In addition, it has to be noted that the contemporaneous use of growth promoting hormones and veterinary therapeutics drugs increases the prevalence of undesirable risidues in edible tissues of bovines.”
The above quote is from the European Commission in their study, “Assessment of Potential Risks to Human Health from Hormone Residues in Bovine Meat and Meat Products.” Since 1988, all beef from America has been banned from being imported to Europe, and any meat from animals treated with hormones from the US and Canada is also banned.
It is believed that residue from these hormones is in the meat and therefore, we consume it. The possibility for disrupting our natural hormone balance is very real. Perhaps this is why so many young girls are beginning puberty so much earlier and the incidences of cancer have skyrocketed over the past several years.
There are conflicting sides to this issue, but we have chosen to err on the side of caution. You can read a great article about this issue here.
Nitrates & Nitrites
Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds found in plants during photosynthesis and when in contact with specific bacteria, nitrate is converted to nitrite. Meats can be cured using these nitrates or by chemical compounds such as sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite.
The purposes for using nitrates/nitrites in meat include “improved” color, longer shelf life, and protection against bad bacteria (such as botulism). Let’s not forget that it also changes the flavor, making meat “tastier.” Have you ever had farm fresh bacon that has no added nitrates? It tastes a lot different!
However, using nitrates isn’t all that’s necessary in the preserving process of the meat industry to achieve the ends for which they’re aiming. Salt, which has been used for centuries to cure meat, is still used. Once salt is added, then sugar is added to lessen the potency of the salty taste. Spices are added, and then the meat is often smoked. So, most deli meat has been incredibly processed before it arrives at your table. And most would say, it is rather tasty, too.
The only problem is that numerous studies have shown that these chemicals are very harmful to our health. In fact, in the 1970s, they were nearly banned until the meat industry lobbied to keep them legal6. Several studies have shown nitrates and nitrites to be cancer-causing due to how our body digests them. “This ingredient is a metabolic precursor to highly carcinogenic nitrosamines — potent cancer-causing chemicals that accelerate the formation and growth of cancer cells throughout the body5.”
Let me also point out that this topic (like most others in the manual!) is controversial. Depending on who you talk with, there will be differing opinions. Lastly, I want to point out that pregnant women are advised not to eat meat with added nitrates in it. Why? I have read that nitrates have been shown to decrease the bloods ability to carry oxygen to the baby, especially under four months gestation age7. Whether this is accurate or not, I’m unsure. But one thing I personally do believe is that much more crosses the placenta than many people believe8. So I am very, very particular about what goes into my body during pregnancy. Nitrates are one thing I avoid anyway, but especially during pregnancy.
So where do I find good meat?
The best bet for finding high quality meat that has not been treated with any of the above things is to buy locally. Check out Eat Wild, a site that has information about where to find meat, state by state. This is an excellent resource! For the past three years, we have bought one quarter of a cow to put in our freezer. This is much more economical, I know where my meat is coming from, and I know exactly how the cows are raised. There is a large cost up front, but since it’s the only meat I buy throughout the year, it all pans out in the end and is actually more economical.
You can also visit your local farmer’s market in the spring, summer, and fall and ask around. Many farmers that sell meat are present. Word of mouth is also a great tool!
Of course, your local health food store will more than likely have better-for-you meat. Be careful to read labels though, because often times the animals are fed diets that are not compatible with how they were designed to eat. This could be a great place to buy Deli meat. I highly recommend the brand Applegate Farms, as they function with integrity and sustainable practices. It will be more expensive than traditional deli-meat, but again, it’s a trade off for your health.
A word about the cost of high quality meat: we buy a quarter of a cow each year. Beyond this, we consume chicken very sparingly due to the high cost of it. We are okay with limiting it. We consume a good amount of beans and grains that are high in protein.