Friday, April 30, 2010

Modern Hunter-Gatherer, Part 1

It is clear to me due to my food changes, I am becoming a "Modern" Hunter-Gatherer. It is no longer possible for me to go to the grocery store to purchase much healthy food. Instead I must continually "hunt" in an increasingly-wider area for sources of reliable and sustainable healthy foods, and I must "gather" them whenever and wherever opportunity permits.

For a long time, I have been struggling to understand what all the many food additives really are, and how harmful each is to the human body. It has been a real epiphany for me to finally realize I don’t have any reason to know and understand them!

If a food is not a single-food item (such as carrots, onions, or chicken) but comes in a box with other stuff added to it, I simply do not buy it. Do you see any labels on celery, apples, or pork chops listing all the ingredients? No, because they are Real Food and do not need additives to improve the bottom line for some manufacturer. If something is called a food, but requires a label to tell me what all has been added, it isn’t real food. So, if it has a label, I just don’t buy it.

That’s the simple part, but it sure makes finding something healthy to eat a big problem.

Eating health-providing foods from plants and animals means I first need to check out the current terms to understand what they really mean. This post will cover livestock animals... meats like beef, lamb, and pork. I’ll cover chickens, turkeys and eggs in a few days in another post, and fruits and vegetables in a third post soon.


Some terms I hear are ‘grass-fed’, ‘grain-finished’, ‘grass-finished’, ‘pastured’, ‘no antibiotics’, ‘no growth hormones’, ‘no synthetic hormones’, ‘free range’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’… and who knows how many others. Some terms are required by the USDA, while others are mere marketing terms/strategies.

Free Range
USDA Standards for
“Free Range, Free Roaming and Pasture Raised simply means that the cattle, sheep and swine shall have had continuous and unconfined access to pasture throughout their life cycle, and shall never have been confined to a feedlot.”

Do you notice it doesn’t say what they have been fed, such as allowed to be in a mal-nourished pasture but fed grains and gummy bears? Or in a huge shed containing 100,000 chickens and just one small hatchway door always open to the outside? (The guidelines do not describe ‘pasture’ nor do they describe ‘feedlot’.)

USDA Standard for Grass-Fed defines livestock feeding regimen as raised on grass, green or range pasture, or forage throughout their life cycle with only limited supplemental grain feeding allowed. Grass fed is further defined as being 80% or more of the primary energy source throughout the animal’s life cycle.

USDA Hormone Claims Standards
The terms ‘hormone’, ‘growth stimulant’, ‘implant’, and ‘growth promotant’ are used interchangeably. No supplemental hormones means the livestock have never received supplemental hormones from birth. No hormones administered during finishing only means the livestock received no supplemental hormones during the finishing period but may have received them earlier.

My Personal Choice
Since finally there is so much scientific evidence that grass-fed beef is nutritiously better than grain-fed, I will stick to grass-fed. Grass-fed meat gives you from two to six times more of a type of "good" fat called "omega-3 fatty acids."

The big reason why grass-fed animals have more omega-3’s than grain-fed animals is that omega-3’s are formed in the green leaves of plants. 60% of the fat in grass is a type of omega-3 fatty acid called
alpha-linolenic acid or LNA.

The meat and milk from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called "
conjugated linoleic acid" or CLA. When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their milk and meat contain as much as five times more CLA than the same products from animals fed conventional diets.

CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer. Meat from grass-fed animals is also higher in vitamin E, which is needed in conjunction with natural Vitamin A in order for us to absorb and utilize Vitamin D3.

The prevalent practice in factory farming is to feed previously pastured cattle with corn, soy, and/or gummy bears* six weeks or more before slaughter. Because cattle are sold per pound weight, the animal then yields a better price. However, they cannot be called grass fed if this is the practice. Bovine growth hormone (BGH) is sometimes also injected to make the cattle bigger, and when we eat the BGH injected cattle, we, in fact, are eating BGH.

Let me put it another way: they feed grains and other junk foods to cattle to make them fat, and then highly tout “grain-finished” beef as healthier for us. I read that just 2 weeks of being fed grain totally destroys the good fatty acids in cattle. Cattle were not designed by Nature to eat grains, and I’ll post more about that another time.

Hunting for Meat

Hunting for grass-fed meat is a problem where I live. There is not a single grocery store or health foods store within 75 miles in any direction who carries any. I know the local farmer’s markets have a couple of vendors who have grass-fed beef, chickens and lamb, but the markets aren’t open yet (at the time I am composing this). One vendor sells and highly praises "
grain-finished”, saying it gives better marbling to steaks. So what he’s really saying is the grain-finishing makes the cattle fat. Guess what grains (even whole grains) do to us?

One health food store 65 miles away carries Coleman Natural and Coleman Organic chickens. Their labels say “NO Antibiotics, NO Added Hormones, NO Preservatives…EVER. Always Vegetarian Fed.” Frankly, that doesn’t tell me much. Besides, they had a major recall not long ago. How will I know if the chicken is high in Omega-3 from grass, or if it is high in Omega-6 because it was fed vegetarian grain and soy products instead of vegetarian grass and forage?

I did find some USDA certified grass-fed beef and lamb in Roanoke on my way home last week. One package was ground beef, and I did a test...

I know cats and dogs fare much better on raw meats rather than the cereal grains in bagged chow, but it’s not possible on my income. Nonetheless, I did a test with my 2 cats (cats are obligate carnivores). I gave each of them a tablespoon of raw grass-fed ground beef and a tablespoon of raw conventional ground beef my sister had just purchased. Neither one would eat the conventional beef! I didn’t like my bite of my sister’s cooked hamburger patty from it either. But the grass-fed patty I ate… Oh, MY!!

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