Can red meat in your diet really improve your health?
If so, does it matter what kind of red meat you eat?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve written several brief articles for ETR touching on these questions and raising the issue of large-scale, conventional farming vs. sustainable, natural farming practices.
These articles obviously struck a chord with our readers, as we received a lot of comments on them. Some readers wrote to express dissatisfaction with my “inaccuracies.” Others wrote to verify what I had written. I was also contacted by ranchers and veterinarians on both sides of the fence.
A fine gentleman from Canada even wrote to tell me that my language was too “flamboyant.”
Today, I’d like to address the subject more completely and clearly.
To the vegetarians who suggested we tell our readers to avoid meat altogether: If you choose to avoid meat for moral or spiritual reasons, I support your decision. But when it comes to health, a diet without meat is usually not the wisest choice. In “The Doctor’s Heart Cure”, Dr. Al Sears writes …
“If you are a vegetarian, start to think about eating meat again. Studies found that 78% of vegetarians on a vegan diet have sky-high homocysteine levels and are deficient in Vitamin B12, putting them at risk of sudden heart death. Vegetarians [also] tend to develop severe deficiencies of Coenzyme Q10.”
Animal products provide the highest quality complete protein, containing all 8 essential amino acids. So a diet that includes a moderate amount of meat is better for your health than a diet without it.
But it’s even more important to eat the right kind of meat.
Cattle raised in large-scale farming operations live under crowded, stressful conditions, unable to get the exercise they need. To increase their weight, they are fed large amounts of grain, and their diets are supplemented with “feedstuff.” Without getting into the unpleasant details, it’s safe to say that the things in “feedstuff” would not normally be in a cow’s diet.
Feeding cows grain essentially creates obese animals. The meat from these cows can have as much as 50% fat content. And, not only that, the fat composition is distorted, with as much as a 20:1 ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3s. The optimal ratio in the human diet is 1:1.
Because of their living conditions, lack of exercise, and unnatural diet, these animals are prone to illness and disease. To keep them from getting sick, farmers administer antibiotics. In fact, 70% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. go into our food supply, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. These drugs, which contribute to the development of new strains of “superbugs,” enter your body when you eat meat from these animals.
You might know that cows are dusted and sprayed with pesticides to keep the flies away, but you might be surprised to learn that pesticides are also injected INTO them. Many cows are given shots of chemicals designed to work within their systems to ward off pests. These animals also consume two of the most heavily polluted crops (soybeans and corn). It should come as no surprise that conventionally raised beef ranks first and second in overall herbicide and pesticide contamination.
Keep in mind that nobody wants healthier animals than farmers do. Modern farming is a high-volume, low-margin business. The bottom line depends on animals that are not sick or injured and that reach their predicted weight.
But while modern farming practices do work to keep the animals alive and growing quickly, these same practices can have disastrous implications concerning the healthfulness of products from those animals. Meat from the grocery store might be cheap and convenient, but you’ll end up paying for it many times over when it comes to your own health.
That’s why choosing the RIGHT meat is critical.
And the right meat comes from naturally raised cows that live low-stress lives and spend their days foraging in pastures of grass. Not only is the meat from these cows unadulterated by modern farming practices, it has more nutritional benefits.
There are two simple criteria that can help you make good decisions about your diet, including whether and what kind of meat to eat.
1. Mimic the diet of your ancestors.
This first one is easy. We may have more comfortable living quarters, but, genetically speaking, we are identical to our ancestors. Our biochemistry has worked the same way for thousands of years, so it’s only logical that we burn the same fuel.
Studies of our hunter-gatherer ancestors show that more than half of their diet came from animal foods – good fats and high-quality protein. They also ate seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and berries, and the occasional egg that they could steal from a nest. Those who lived near the water also ate fish and shellfish.
They did NOT eat anything made with processed ingredients, chemicals, preservatives, and artificial flavors – and neither should you.
2. Eat natural, unadulterated foods.
This second criterion applies to your entire diet, but especially to meat. Whether you eat grass-fed meat or conventional meat is more important than whether you eat organic fruit and vegetables. And while the focus of this article is on beef, you should make the same distinction when choosing poultry and other animal products.
Eating right doesn’t have to mean sacrifice and denial. So don’t be afraid to throw a steak on the grill. Just be sure it’s the right kind of steak. When you choose products from pasture-raised animals, not only are you eating a meal that is nutritious and delicious, you are also eating just as nature intended.