Not all meat is created equal: is your meat ruining your health?

Probably the most imporant thing to spend your money on is clean meat. What is clean meat? Many of you may not be aware that all conventional meat is terrible for your health. I know you’ve seen grass-fed beef at the grocery stores, as well as organic meat, and you may wonder why it’s so much more expensive than conventional meat – and whether or not it is even better for you (hint: yes it is). You may not realize that this meat is so much better for your health, especially if you eat meat on a daily basis. It’s more expensive because of the way the animal is raised prior to packaging. Think about it: factory farmed animals are crammed by the millions into small spaces, fed genetically modified corn and soy, given antibiotics to fight off infections (more on this to come), and slaughtered and processed by the millions which leads to a cheap price on the packaged meat at the grocery store (because they use cheap feed, and cheap methods for processing). Whatever that animal previously ate, you are eating by eating the meat of said animal. I am going to discuss a few reasons why it’s important to spend the few extra dollars per pound on higher quality meat – not only for the sake of your health but for the sake of the animals’ well-being before it’s killed and also for the sake of our environment.

  1. You are eating antibiotics when you consume conventional meat: More than 80% of antibiotics in the year 2011 were fed to livestock in factory farms (NY Times Article by David Kessler). The animals are fed these drugs in order to keep them “healthy” in conditions that would otherwise make them sick. You may think this is good for us: that these drugs are protecting us from disease from the animals, when in reality, this is contributing to the rise of superbugs: deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  2. Eating conventional EGGS and CHICKEN can cause acne. The Western diet, which is usually high in meat and meat products such as eggs, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, increases insulin and inflammation in the body (Charles Bollmann, MD). Non-organic eggs, especially, come from poultry that is often fed hormones which will disrupt the hormonal activity in the body. The antibiotics that are also fed to these animals eventually makes its way into our system when we eat the animal/egg and this interferes with the balance of bacteria in our intestines. Intestinal bacteria plays a huge role in acne. While all people are different in their reactions to foods, if you are suffering from acne take a good look at your daily diet and decide if perhaps what you are eating is the culprit. Switch to organic!
  3. You are supporting the awful treatment of animals when you consume conventional meat: I really can’t go into much detail here because it’s truly heartbreaking. If you knew the treatment of the animals in factory farms you would not be able to eat the meat that comes from this. It’s hard to be a vegetarian, I know, I tried it for two months and couldn’t do it any longer because I started to feel very fatigued, weak, and just never satisfied from a meal which is why I now promote and live a mostly paleo-based lifestyle. You do not have to be a vegetarian but you also do not have to buy or support the meat of factory farmers! The animals in these conditions, pigs for example, are kept tightly packed in cages because it cuts costs. This causes severe distress to the animals as well as cause infection from sores and ulcers that may occur from the tightly packed spaces. This is an awful way to live – and another reason not to purchase conventional meat. Veal calves are also abused and forced to wear heavy chains to keep them from becoming overactive in their stalls. They are also kept in total darkness – which just seems absurd and abusive! Chickens are forced into small cages, similar to pigs, as well as the egg-laying hens. As little as 0.6 square feet of space per hen – which is smaller than a regular sized piece of paper! All you have to do is start buying better quality eggs – cage free AT THE LEAST! But even that’s not enough. I know it seems expensive but the only way to stop factory farming and this terrible treatment of the animals is if we vote with our dollars. Another disturbing fact: 82% of U.S. Dairies practice something called ‘tail docking’ – which is removing the tails of livestock by burning or constricting the tail with an elastic band. This causes pain (obviously), distress, and infection, and this has been outlawed by many countries, e.g., New Zealand. California is the only state in the United States where this is illegal.
  4. No antibiotics/hormones, grass-fed, organic, is HEALTHIER. As though this wasn’t already obvious, grass-fed beef and chickens that are either organic or pasture raised are much healthier for you (hint: no antibiotics given to the animals). Grass-fed beef comes from a cow who has grazed in a pasture year-round rather than eating processed food/corn/soy most of its life. This improves the quality of the beef, making it richer in omega-3 fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene and CLA (beneficial fatty acid). The cholesterol content of grass-fed beef is also lower than the cholesterol of beef from factory farms – 22-39%. This undoubtedly contributes to your total cholesterol intake. 500-800 milligrams of CLA is what you will be getting from a 4 ounce serving of grass-fed beef in comparison to non-grassfed. CLA is conjugated linoleum acid – it’s associated with immune and inflammatory system support, improved bone mass, improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart attack, and maintenance of lean body mass. The omega-3 fat content of grassfed beef is due to the wide variety of crops that are planted in pastures – which is where the animal is grazing. These are all reasons to spend the extra few dollars and always buy grass-fed beef as you are getting much more health benefits, all while supporting the farmers who practice cruelty-free livestock farming.
  5. Grass-fed meat is not the same as grain-fed. I want to reiterate this. Grain-fed meat will look similar and perhaps taste somewhat similar (though I disagree with the latter), it’s not healthier. These are two completely different meats. Factory farmed meat, aka grain fed, has the wrong fatty acids, contains obesity-causing hormones, and usually has mycotoxins which is a nasty biotoxin formed by mold in cattle food and meat processing. Following my paleo/primal lifestyle will only work for you if you are purchasing clean meat – so you simply must start putting in a few extra dollars and cut costs elsewhere so that you can buy this type of meat. The cow will not make nutritious meat if it’s not fed the proper ingredients. Feeding cattle junk food will turn them into junk food! Think about it…if the animal is living off of cheap, processed crap, its meat will turn into crap and you are then eating said meat/crap! 
  6. BETTER FOR THE WORLD. Eating grass-fed, purchasing pasture raised/NOT factory farmed meat is better for the economy and environment. Factory farming is awful for the environment because of the way the animals are raised, fed, and treated. With over 9 billion animals raised and slaughtered each year for human consumption in the United States alone, modern animal agriculture puts a huge strain on natural resources like land, water, fossil fuel. These circumstances are also contributing to climate change. In the US alone, factory farms generate more than 1 million tons of manure PER DAY. Factory farms store animal waste in huge lagoons, as big as several football fields, which are prone to leaking and spilling. In 2011 a hog farm in Illinois spilled 200,000 gallons of manure into a creek which killed over 100,000 fish! According to the USDA, animal waste can contaminate water supplies and omit harmful gasses into the atmosphere when over-applied to land (which factory farmers do). The demand for livestock pasture is a driver of deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that 70% of land formerly supporting Amazon rainforests has been turned over to grazing (Farmsanctuary.org ). So once again, you are voting with your dollars as well as improving your health/cholesterol/appearance, quality of life for the animal, and helping the environment (or at the very least not harming the environment) when you you purchase grass-fed beef or pasture raised animals.

I hope this blog has at least opened your eyes to the fact that we all must get together and start to change the way animals are treated and harvested and stop supporting factory farmed meat. This includes all large company meat brands such as Tyson, Smithfield Foods Inc (world’s largest pork producer), ConAgra (owners of the Butterball brand), Pilgram’s Pride (undercover investigations showed workers violently throwing and stomping on chickens to kill them-major supplier for KFC restaurant), and Domino’s Pizza. AVOID THOSE BRANDS. One way to ensure the meat you are buying is NOT factory farmed is to shop LOCAL or at Whole Foods! Whole Foods has very strict standards regarding the meat they sell – a rating system of steps 1-5, with 5+ being the best (think pasture raised, happy animal 🙂 ).

SUMMARY

Spend the few extra dollars and ensure the meat you are buying is quality meat, otherwise, you are ingesting the awful things that animal ingested, as well as supporting mistreatment and abuse of animals. Choose labels that say NO ANTIBIOTICS (hormones are technically prohibited by the FDA although they are still probably used), grass-fed, organic (USDA organic stamp means the animal hasn’t consumed any genetically modified corn or soy which is important for our health,  as well as ensuring no antibiotics were used), pasture-raised, etc. Stop buying meat because it’s cheap – if it’s cheap, that means it’s not good for your health. Sorry, but it’s true. Your health will vastly improve if you make these changes.

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