I’m from a family that includes practitioners of most current diet trends – vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, paleo, and of course, the I’ll-eat-anything-that’s-not-nailed-down crowd. Our family dinners are a sight to behold. We have to explain to guests why there are three different pans of lasagna.
The meat eaters want meat in their lasagna – end of story.
The vegetarians and vegans will not share because the vegans want rice noodles…and artificial cheese. The vegetarians aren’t down for the fake cheese.
The raw vegans are in the corner pointing and laughing…and eating oatmeal with raw-vocado toast.
The paleo crowd ate at home.
Despite the different tastes, meals are still prepared with the healthiest choices in mind. (Except when my youngest sister, Melissa, a vegetarian, and the Butter Queen of East Tucson, gets in a mood.)
My mister is a big meat-eater. Our kids call him ‘King Carnivore, the Man of Meat.’ Seriously. My siblings called our house the ‘House of Meat’ and would always ask if dinner was meat with a side of meat.
Welcome to my life.
After years of hard to control hypertension, the mister’s kidneys failed last spring. I’ve always been a picky shopper, but now that he’s a renal patient with dialysis three times a week, I’ve gotten even more selective on the foods I buy, trying to maintain the balance of high protein, low sodium, and low phosphorus.
It ain’t easy. There are so many things he’s ‘encouraged’ to avoid – chocolate, cheese, yogurt, milk, beans, nuts, pancakes, biscuits, oranges, bananas – the list goes on and is incredibly long.
I try to shop and cook according to his dietary limitations, but please tell me why…WHY did the nutritionist at the dialysis center say he could eat all the lean meats he wanted?
Trips to the supermarket just turned into “Whatever Dennis Wants Day.”
To make my life BEARABLE, I search for articles enforcing (and validating) the meals I prepare so he won’t whine.
I did a double take when I came across the article below from To-Table.com. In these times of evil overlords Monsanto and Bayer, all things GMO-related, morbid obesity, and a steady yearly increase in the number of gastrointestinal ailments affecting the population, it’s a real eye-opener.
Look in any weekly sales ad from your local supermarket and you’re bound to see “grain-fed” somewhere near the meat items. Watch television long enough, there will be a commercial where you’ll hear the words “grain-fed.”
This is supposed to be a good thing, right?. Livestock and fish eating the same healthy things we do.
Only…not so much.
Essentially, the article says grain-fed is not the best way to raise livestock, it’s the cheapest. It’s also subsidized. So much so, the smaller farmers raising grass-fed only livestock cannot compete.
We’re inundated with meat that is good for business, but bad for the independent farmer, bad for the environment and not the healthiest option for us.
Reading the article triggered a memory, and not a good one.
When I first moved to California in the early 80s, I lived with an aunt and uncle on their small ranch in Perris, about sixty-five miles from Los Angeles. After retiring from their municipal jobs in LA, they wanted to “go back to the old ways”, so they bought some land and had a few head of every animal imaginable. This included about three dozen pigs. (And quails, which I had never seen before. They’re noisy.)
Uncle Barney fed his livestock early every morning and could be at the stables for hours. One morning, though, I saw him rushing back to the house after only being gone a few minutes. Without a word, he ran into the den and called his brother – another small ranch owner who lived nearby. Minutes later, Uncle Floyd shows up…with Mario, one of the local vets. They all rush back down to the stables.
Here’s where it gets gross.
Dying to know the problem, Aunt Gena grabs my hand and says, “Let’s go see what’s going on!”
I declined. Except for the horses, I didn’t do the farm-life thing. There’s a story behind that…for another time.
However, I find out later the pigs were being fed dry shrimp coated in meal flour and wheat flour. Four of the sows had recently had litters. This dry feed evidently made the pigs blood-thirsty and ALL the pigs, mothers included, ate the piglets.
Told you it was gross. And that’s just one of the reasons I do not eat pork.
So now. The cupboards are bare at the House of Meat and it’s time to shop for King Carnivore. But the article below in blaring inside my brain. What do I do?
There are not a lot of options. Better food choices is a start, but it isn’t cheap. My sisters do not buy meat and spend nearly as much on groceries as I do because of the cost of fresh produce and juices, especially if they are organic.
Choosing the right store can make a big difference.
We live in an area where all the major grocery chains are well represented, but not everyone is that fortunate. I know people who choose to travel outside of their area in search of healthier food choices. Not everyone can do that and are left with the less than healthy items on the shelves at the corner store.
Read the article and make a plan. If you don’t mind grain fed meat and all that comes with it, you’re all set. But, if you do, make better choices. Select the grass-fed beef over the grain-fed chicken. Most days, they cost the same anyway. ASK the store for grass-fed meat. Read the back of the flash frozen fish package. If it came from CHINA, leave it there and head over to the fresh fish counter. Choose the produce grown locally. Substitute one or two meals a week with vegetarian or vegan entrees. It won’t kill you…I promise. But not doing something proactive about the foods you eat? Do you want to take that chance?
Grass-fed vs. Grain-fed
Because meat from grass-fed animals is lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals, it is also lower in calories. (Fat has 9 calories per gram, compared with only 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates. The greater the fat content, the greater the number of calories.) As an example, a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer. If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower or change in your eating habits. If everything else in your diet remains constant, you’ll lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans *(who eat meat) switched to grass-fed meat, our national epidemic of obesity might diminish.
Grass-fed meat is better for human health than grain-fed meat in ten different ways, according to the most comprehensive analysis to date. The 2009 study was a joint effort between the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina. Compared with grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef was:
- Lower in total fat
- Higher in beta-carotene
- Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
- Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
- Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
- Higher in total omega-3s
- A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
- Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
- Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
- Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease
“Cattle (like sheep, deer, and other grazing animals) are endowed with the ability to convert grasses, which we humans cannot digest, into flesh that we are able to digest. They can do this because unlike humans, who possess only one stomach, they are ruminants, which is to say that they possess a rumen, a 45 or so gallon fermentation tank in which resident bacteria convert cellulose into protein and fats.
In today’s feedlots, however, cows fed corn and other grains are eating food that humans can eat, and they are quite inefficiently converting it into meat. Since it takes anywhere from 7 to 16 pounds of grain to make a pound of feedlot beef, we actually get far less food out than we put in. It’s a protein factory in reverse.
How has a system that is so wasteful come to be? Feedlots and other CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) are not the inevitable product of agricultural progress, nor are they the result of market forces. They are instead the result of public policies that massively favor large-scale feedlots to the detriment of family farms.
From 1997 to 2005, for example, taxpayer-subsidized grain prices saved feedlots and other CAFOs about $35 billion. This subsidy is so large that it reduced the price CAFOs pay for animal feed to a tiny fraction of what it would otherwise have been. Cattle operations that raise animals exclusively on pasture land, however, derive no benefit from the subsidy.
Under current farm policies, switching a cow from grass to corn makes economic sense, but it is still profoundly disturbing to the animal’s digestive system. It can actually kill a steer if not done gradually and if the animal is not continually fed antibiotics.
According to David Pimentel, a Cornell ecologist who specializes in agriculture and energy, the corn we feed our feedlot cattle accounts for a staggering amount of fossil fuel energy. Growing the corn used to feed livestock takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil. Because of this dependence on petroleum, Pimentel says, a typical steer will in effect consume 284 gallons of oil in his lifetime.” The Food Revolution Network, The Truth about Grassfed Beef, 12-19-2012.
(Text bolded by blogger for emphasis.)