Here at Simple Life, Abundant Life, I want to provide you with a simple resource to understanding why so many people are choosing to give up products of today’s conventional food system. I used to think ‘food is food’ and that a zucchini bought at the supermarket is no different from a zucchini bought at a Farmer’s market or grown in your own backyard. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Today we will explore the issues surrounding conventional (and even organic) meat.
You Are What You Eat
When buying meat, most people do not put much thought into the diet of the animal they are about to consume. I used to think it was pure ridiculousness that someone would spend more money on organic or grass-fed meats when the conventional meat in the store was so much cheaper and tasted fine. Our grandparent’s generation did not have to worry about this. In the days before the meat industry was so industrialized, cows roamed pastures on small farms and ranches, chickens pecked around eating seeds and insects and whatever else they could find on the land, and pigs foraged the land eating pastured grasses, roots, and small insects. All of these animals had space to roam around in the wild and to soak up the rays of the warm sun.
The Current Reality
Eventually, along came big industry and the government subsidization of corn and, all of a sudden, cows who are ruminant by nature are being force-fed corn and soy and other questionable items while standing ankle-deep in their own manure. Chickens are crammed into buildings and fed corn and soy. Cows, chicken, and pigs are also fed rendered animal by-products, or in other words, industrial waste. In this way the industry can fatten the animals quickly and mass produce meat for public consumption all while meeting the public demand for low prices.
Because these animals are not meant to digest the large amounts of grains they are given and because of the insanitary living conditions, they often become sick. The sick animals are then given antibiotics. Did you know that about 80% of the antibiotics prescribed in the United States are given to the animals that we eat? This over-use of antibiotics is believed to be one of the main factors in the new strains of drug-resistant bacteria that are making people sick. Source
As if not enough sunshine, crammed living quarters, inappropriate feed, and over-use of antibiotics are not enough of a reason to question the safety of today’s conventional meat, we must also consider GMOs. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. The corn and soy that these animals are eating are most likely modified at the genetic level to make them more resistant to herbicides and some of them are modified to make their own pesticide. Yes, that’s right. The actual food is a pesticide. This means when a bug tries to eat it, the bug dies. Yet, it’s supposedly safe for us and our children to eat. Even if we are avoiding GMO foods at the grocery store, chances are we are still consuming large quantities of GMOs in our conventional meat, eggs, and dairy.
Is Organic Any Better?
Meats that are USDA certified organic mean that the animals are not fed GMO feed and the animals have not been given certain antibiotics and hormones. This is definitely a step up from non-organic meat. But is it enough? These animals are still fed diets that they were not created to digest, do not get enough sun, and are raised in crowded feed lots. Nutritionally, meat from conventional and organic companies contains an unhealthy amount of Omega 6s in relation to Omega 3s. (For more information on the importance of a proper balance of Omega 6s and Omega 3s read here.)
What Should We Do and Why Should We Care
When God created man he put us in charge of the land. In Matthew chapter 10 we find out that God cares even for the sparrow. If God cares even for the tiny sparrow, then I’m sure he cares for our cattle and our chickens and, yes, us humans! I believe that it is our job to be good stewards of our land and animals and health. Even though our intention is to eat these animals, we can still care for them and provide them with a healthy environment. Certainly today’s meat industry is a far cry from this. On the other hand, animals that are raised on pastured lands and allowed to roam and forage and soak up vitamin d through the sun are happy animals. These happy, healthy animals produce meat for us that are high in heart-healthy Omega 3s, vitamins, and other nutrients that are void in conventional meat. (source)
But I Can’t Afford Grass-Fed Meat
I know how stressful it is to know what is best for your family and not have the means to provide it for them. Grass-fed meat is more expensive. There is no way around this fact. Some ways that we have cut costs is by reducing the amount of meat we eat, finding recipes that can stretch a pound of ground beef a long way, and buying in bulk. We also do not have cable, I do not have a smart phone, and we cloth diaper. These are ways we have been able to cut costs in order to afford more nutritious, sustainable meat.
When we do have to buy conventional meat, we try to buy meat with the lowest amount of fat possible, since most toxins are stored in the fat. In healthy, pastured animals, that fat is actually good for us!
The most important part, my friends, is to not stress about it. Do the best you can do to feed your family and don’t let worry steal your joy!
Where Can I Find Grass-fed Meat?
Eatwild.com has a great database that will help you find local and sustainable farms near you. Grass-fed meat is becoming more popular and you can also find it in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. It is $5.99/lb here. At my local farmer’s market, I have seen ground beef range from $5/lb to $7.50/lb.
What about you? What concerns you the most about the conventional meat industry? How does your family cut costs in order to spend more money on groceries? Do you think it is worth the extra money to buy meat that is raised on pastures? I would love to hear your thoughts!