Health benefits of humanely raised meat
While many have learned to avoid “red meat”, the truth is that the meat itself is really not the issue. The real problem is what is used in the production of meat, such as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) and carcinogenic preservatives such as sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. Even worse are the diets that these poor animals are fed and the filthy conditions in which they are reared. Humanely raised red meat is a different animal altogether.
For example, cows are not meant to eat corn and grain. Cows are supposed to have access to pasture because they were created to eat grass. The cheese made from grass-fed cows’ milk is a much deeper yellow due to the higher vitamin A content, and it contains colostrum, a source of remarkable health. Meanwhile, when cows are fed grain they become ill and must be injected with dangerous antibiotics that normally end up in the meat and milk.
These hormones are made even more dangerous during the high-temperature pasteurization and cooking processes.
Factory meat and big agribusiness
If people chose their spouses the way agribusiness raises their animals, we would want to marry the fattest person we could find because it would mean a lower price per pound. However, our ancestors hunted, consumed (and married) only the healthiest, toughest and leanest animals, because those were the only ones that would survive in the wild. While 99% of meat is now factory raised, fortunately a handful of small farms continue to raise their meat in very natural conditions.
This section examines the health benefits of the three most popular types of humanely raised red meat that come from such farms.
Grass-fed beef contains the proper Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio. This means that grass-fed beef contains up to 20 times the amount of Omega-3 per serving when compared to grain-fed beef. Grass-fed meat cooks 40% faster so it is easily overcooked, hence the reputation of being “gamier”. When cooked properly however it is arguably much more flavorful than grain fed beef.
Grass-fed meat not only contains up to 100 fewer calories per 6 ounce portion than conventional beef, but it actually helps cure rather than promote cancer. This is because it contains one of the most potent anti-cancer compounds known: CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Grass fed beef also contains protein, iron, zinc and lots of B vitamins.
Even commercially raised lamb (sheep that are less than one year old) tend to be raised more humanely than beef, so while it’s a better choice at the grocer or restaurant, big business will still cut corners on lamb if possible. Although lamb is high in saturated fat, the gravy can easily be de-fatted by putting it in the freezer until the fat layer hardens on top where it can be removed (about 10-15 minutes).
New Zealand lamb is generally considered the highest quality, but locally raised is normally a better alternative. Lamb contains tryptophan, protein, zinc, iron and B-vitamins. Grass-fed lamb also contains CLA and high levels of Omega-3.
This author once heard a butcher joke that people often requested “free range” pork. He said “Trust me, you do not want free-range pork — pigs will eat anything in sight!” However there are certainly more humane treatments available than the typical corporate hog experiences.
Humanely-raised pigs are fed organic grain along with being grass-fed. Factory raised pork is reared in such poor conditions that the workers themselves are now becoming very ill. However, given that pigs are the only animals besides humans to get atherosclerosis, the consumption of even organic pork may be questionable.
Pork does have many health benefits as it is one of the best sources of B-Vitamins and contains lots of minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron and phosphorous.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
In the old days it was understood that you should always know your butcher, otherwise you might not know what you were eating. Nowadays people seem content to allow enormous factories to torture animals, inject them with poisons, slaughter them inhumanely (producing adrenaline that further contaminates the meat), preserve them with cancer-causing substances, and leave behind toxic waste sites, all just to save a buck. This “out of sight, out of mind” mentality is justified by consumers because they need “to put food on the table”.
A preferable way to get your meat is directly from the people that humanely raise it, through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In addition to buying meat, if you have questions about the animal, how to cook a particular cut or you wish to share a recipe, they welcome your call at your CSA farm. With CSA there are no middle-men, there are no misunderstood labels, there is no compromise of quality and CSA farmers won’t lobby the USDA to allow toxic sewer sludge to be called “organic”. CSA meat is either hand-delivered or shipped once weekly, year round.
Your local farmers market is likely another great source of humanely raised meat.