Something I have been meaning to get to recently, but just haven’t had in the forefront of my mind until now. Since we are trying to attain optimal health and “look-good-naked” status, [wink] it makes sense to consider not only what you are eating, but where it came from and how it was grown or raised.
Not only is factory farming cruel and dirty, but it raises sick animals by feeding them cheap grains and feed, and it commoditizes our food making it lower quality, sacrificing our health for their bottom line ($$$).
Only healthy happy animals make happy healthy Paleo food for us!
Yes it does matter. Just as you would (or should) choose organic pesticide free fruits and vegetables, locally and sustainably grown, you should also ask “where did this animal come from? How was it raised? What did my food eat before I ate it?”
Residues that accumulate as a result of the factory farming system (pesticides, antibiotics) are fat-soluble, and stored in the animal’s fatty tissues. Consuming the fat from these animals causes us to accumulate these toxins as well. These toxins are also dose-dependent, meaning the more you consume, the more your health is at risk.
Bacon, for example, is one of the fattiest cuts. Bacon from the factory farming system contains some of the highest doses of these toxins. In addition, pigs are arguably the most abused, poorly fed, sick animals in the factory farming system. Therefore, to enjoy bacon and maintain your long-term health in the Paleo context, it should always come from local farms that allow their pigs free range pasture, with a diet free from grains or other commodity feeds.
The fatty acid ratio in factory farmed animals is also pretty bad. There is a total lack of omega-3 fatty acids, which are needed to balance out the omega-6 content. The omega-6 content also sky-rockets from grain-feeding, making the nutrient profile even uglier.
Grain fed animals also suffer many of the same health problems as people who follow the Standard American Diet. Being fed a steady diet of mostly grains results in systemic inflammation, intramuscular fat accumulation, poor nutrient profile, and sick animals who are shipped off to slaughter just before becoming ill or dead from it.
What should my food eat?
Your food should eat what would normally be available to it in the wild. For cows, that’s wild grasses. But, to say grass-fed cows eat grass isn’t telling the entire story. It’s more accurate to say they eat graminoids, which comprise hundreds of different species of sedges (found in wild marshes and grasslands; a famous sedge includes papyrus), rushes (a small but plucky family of herbaceous and rhizomatous plants), and true grasses (cereals, lawn grass, bamboo, grassland grass – the type of grass that produces the leaves Walt Whitman writes about). And that’s just the graminoid. Cows will also nibble on shrubs, clovers, and random leaves if they can get to them. Basically, they’ll eat whatever’s in reach, green, and leafy. Legally, grass-fed cows may also eat cereal grain crops in the “pre-grain stage,” hay, silage, and non-grain crop byproducts
You need to be careful, though, because sometimes beef may say “pastured” on the label, even though many pastures contain supplemented feed bins with grains. The same goes for chickens. Chickens and eggs will often be labeled as “free range” or “vegetarian fed” or some such nonsense. Chickens are not vegetarians, and should eat grubs and bugs to make the healthiest tastiest eggs and chicken wings for us Paleoists!
Grass fed beef is higher in necessary B-vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin K, and trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, and selenium. Studies show that grass feeding results in higher levels of CLA, a healthy naturally occurring trans fat. Grass fed dairy also has more of the beneficial trans fats. Grass fed beef has plenty of healthy fats, distributed more evenly throughout the animal’s subcutaneous tissue, where it belongs (Fat accumulation in muscle tissue is not a sign of a healthy animal).
Grass-fed truly shines in the micronutrient profile for one reason. Grass-fed cows get more nutritious food. Remember: they aren’t munching on monoculture lawn cuttings (let alone soy and corn). They’re eating a wide variety of (often wild) grasses, sedges, rushes, shrubs, and herbs, each with its own nutrient profile.
Plus, it just tastes better!
The clearly superior version of beef, chicken, eggs, or pork comes from grass-fed and finished, or pastured and free-range-fed. Animals that are raised by ranchers committed to providing excellent stewardship of both soil quality (for our food’s food quality), and animal quality. Plus it’s the more responsible thing to do. I know I feel better eating animals that were treated with care, and were happy and healthy up until slaughter, and the point where it became food to sustain me as a healthy animal.
YUM I am hungry.
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