We all know Michael Pollan’s famous statement “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” And it is truly the omnivore’s dilemma: should I eat meat? What kind? How much? Everyone will have to come to their own conclusions based on your unique body’s constitution, dietary needs, and moral values. But there’s one thing we can agree on: When it comes to animal products, quality truly counts. Meat can be a nutrient-rich part of your diet, or a source of disease.
The old adage “you are what you eat” isn’t entirely true - you are what your food eats. This is why we are huge proponents of the health benefits of pastured animal products: grass-fed beef that roams on pasture and chickens (and their eggs) that graze in a field on bugs and grubs. Organic isn’t good enough – this just means they have access to the outdoors, but may never use it, and are fed organic feed, which is not a part of their natural diet and changes the nutritional composition of the meat.
Why pasture-raised meat is the best choice:
1. Pastured meat contains more nutrients. Studies have found that the levels of antioxidants, vitamins, omega 3's and other fatty acids, trace minerals, and vitamins are high in animals raised on pasture. These healthy fats like omega 3's and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) help to reduce inflammation and improve immunity. Remember: fat doesn’t make you fat. It’s all about the quality of the fat you’re consuming. Having the proper ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 changes how the body responds to stress, but most people eating a Western diet consume far too many omega 6's, increasing inflammation and chronic stress on the body. Healthy levels of CLA improve brain function and help maintain a healthy weight.
2. It’s free of the bad stuff. Pastured animals don’t need the hormones or antibiotics used by industrial agribusiness. Cows are ruminants, meaning that they are born to eat grass. Chicken forage the ground for seeds, grains, insects and worms. When farmers feed them genetically modified corn and other grains not natural to their diet, they get sick, leading to heavy antibiotic use that ends up on your plate. This also means that pasture-raised animals are less likely to have “superbugs” that have become resistant to the antibiotics given to them, so it’s better from a food safety perspective, too.
3. Raising animals on pasture is better for the entire ecosystem. Not only are the animals living a happier, less stressed life where they can roam and eat naturally, the environment is also better protected when it's not being forced to constrain and bend due to overuse. Grazing animals can feed the soil with nutrients and bacteria through their manure, stimulating an important cycle of growth that doesn't rely on artificial stimulants but on sunshine, rain and grass.
Let’s be clear – this doesn’t mean bacon and eggs for breakfast, sliced lunch meats on a sandwich and a burger for dinner all day, every day just because they’re from responsibly-raised animals. Animal products need to be balanced with a diet rich in vegetables and other whole foods. Our weekly menu was designed with this key take-away in mind and over the next few weeks we will be adjusting our selections to include more omnivore options to choose from.
Eating real food means eating plants and animals that are raised the way nature intended. Not only does food taste better when raised this way, it is also more nutritious and better for the environment. While every body is unique, with different nutritional needs at different points in time, we believe eating pasture-raised meat is the first and most important step in being a responsible omnivore.