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Healthy Meats to Buy: Why Conventional Is So Bad + Where to Buy Grass-Finished looks at why it’s so important to eat pasture-raised animal products. This article also provides resources so you can start making better choices this week.
I discuss dairy products as well as meat products in this post.
Conventional meat and dairy are products of confined animal feeding lots.
In this article, we uncover the evils of this industry, the related health dangers of the foods produced — and the not-too-difficult alternatives! What to buy instead … 🙂
All consumers need to know what conventional dairy and meat cows eat … and what we’re supporting when we eat conventional dairy and meat.
This article is written to Americans. We can be lazy and do what’s convenient … but now, amazingly and thankfully, there are finally convenient grass-finished meats that almost anyone can access.
Why people eat conventional meat and dairy
Kids are great. They are great at saying the truth in a pointed way, cornering the real question like a coyote its prey, no mercy, no concept of what’s appropriate. Just, give me the answer because what you’re saying doesn’t add up.
Years ago, my kids asked me why people eat conventional U.S.-made cheese, ice cream, yogurt, milk and butter when the cows these products come from are raised in confined animal feeding operations (referred to as CAFO), and are fed genetically modified grain.
Here are the answers most people give to this question or their consciences:
- “We don’t do this very often.”
- “It’s a special treat.”
- “I don’t want to offend anyone.”
- “I don’t want to come off as radical.”
- “We can’t get organic food where we live.”
- “We were in that neighborhood.”
- “Organic is too expensive.”
- “It tastes so good.”
The most common excuses for eating conventional dairy products and meat are quite honestly cop-outs and bad excuses. They are lies we tell ourselves as we delay doing what is right.
Stop buying conventional dairy & meat
Every time a consumer chooses a conventional cheese, ice cream, butter, yogurt or meat, they are supporting one farm and not supporting another kind of farm. Every time.
Why do we not care more?
Why does some gourmet cheese or ice cream with good branding sway us to compromise?
Why do we allow ourselves to stay addicted to processed foods?
Most people don’t know this, but: Conventional dairy is almost always genetically modified.
No matter how cute the font on the packaging, how gourmet the product, if it’s American, and it’s not organic or stringently sustainable, then we are supporting genetic modification, plus more …
Healthy Meats to Buy: Local vs. Organic
2 kinds of family farms
In most medium size American cities you can find one or many family-owned local dairies.
The people who own them might be lovely people. But they are feeding their cows GM grain.
Down the street, or way across town, or maybe 100 miles away, is another family, very likely struggling to make ends meet, feeding their animals on pasture or grain they’ve grown themselves, grain that isn’t GM.
Choose the non-GM farmer every time.
Choose not because the first family is bad but because his choice, that whole system, is egregious.
The only reason our current system supports Monsanto and its hoodlums so well is because more consumers don’t care.
BUY ORGANIC. CHOOSE ORGANIC. And here’s where I’ll be really inflammatory: CHOOSE ORGANIC OVER LOCAL.
Why to choose organic over local, if you have to make that choice
Years ago, Ruth Reichl, the then-editor of Gourmet Magazine, exhorted her readers to buy local over organic, if put in a position to choose.
I disagree for so many reasons.
First of all, in many cities throughout our country these two categories are not mutually exclusive.
You can buy organic + local dairy, produce and meat — no problem. Just a little effort is required in finding the farm, connecting with the producer. We’ll talk more about this.
More and more co-ops and local markets, as well as online co-op businesses, are connecting consumers to grass-finished producers.
Secondly, if you are in a city with zero organic meat, milk or produce, the real issue she was hitting on was the fossil fuels required to truck food across the nation. This is an excellent concern and certainly one about which I care.
However, we must weigh the evils and decide what small victories to win first if we are going to win overall.
If we buy conventional local dairy there are a couple benefits:
- less pollution from trucks and planes transporting the goods, less petroleum used
- a local family is being supported, which is great for loving thy neighbor and keeping money from one’s own community within that community
I would never diminish those benefits. Buying and eating locally is important.
But what if what we’re buying is bad for our bodies, bad for the environment and bad for our moral edification?
As in, we’re lying to ourselves that something is good and not noticing the greater evil lurking in our neighborhood and very own kitchen!
Healthy meats to buy: Look up farms or ship
If you must choose between these two values, and you need to buy organic produce or dairy from somewhere other than within your hometown, chances are: there is a farm within your state at least that is sustainably raising their meat or milk.
If not, you can have these quality products shipped to you from another American state!
How + where to buy grass-finished
Need a great company from which to order? I’ve researched this topic a lot — and can give my full and enthusiastic recommendation for Cooks Venture. I simply love their husbandry practices, mission statement and free shipping! 😉 Find all their meats here.
In most cases, we do not need to buy zucchini from Mexico or pears from Argentina. We can reduce our carbon footprint by at least staying within our country, supporting the American economy, supporting the closest farmer to our home who is trying to live rightly, instead of not looking at the issues honestly.
How to budget for sustainable meat and dairy
Not to get too personal, but let’s face it: Americans love buying superfluous stuff, fancy stereo systems, phones, cars, clothes.
We could spend more on food, less on snack junk food, impulse buys, beer and football and more on the right preventative medicine and sustainably-sourced food.
I can hear so many Americans saying they can’t afford to eat organic.
What is more accurate is that they weren’t raised in a culture where they know how to deprive themselves of the above-mentioned optional purchases in order to prioritize purchasing organic food.
While there are poor people in our country who truly can’t afford more expensive animal products, most Americans could redistribute their budget to make it work.
Culturally many are prevented from understanding the importance or knowing how to implement the change.
But is that you? It’s more often the case that Americans make excuses.
Pain is a great motivator. The sicker we get, the more we’ll start to listen. And the more changes we’ll be willing to make in the way of preventative medicine and in an effort to heal.
Healthy meats to buy: Omega 3s and 6s in red meat
Regarding our health and grass-fed food consumption, functional medicine doctor Chris Kresser says,
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in our tissue is crucial to health. Too much omega-6 in relation to omega-3 has been shown to be a factor in everything from depression and arthritis to heart disease and diabetes. There isn’t a modern disease out there that isn’t influenced by this ratio. (source)
Hear this: Feedlot cattle produce meat and milk that has 20 times the omega-6 ratio to grass-finished.
This is the beef and dairy fat that causes heart disease.
Whereas, as you may know, grass-finished products are comparable to salmon in their omega 3:6 fatty acid profile.
Conventional beef also conveys xenoestrogens into our bodies, synthetic compounds that alter hormone levels. (Please, pregnant women and teenagers: avoid conventional meat products. “Grass-fed” meat is usually estrogenic as well, and should be avoided.)
The pork industry
According to Chris Kerston of Chaffin Orchards, who spoke at the 2012 Weston A. Price Foundation conference, the pork industry is completely centralized, which means that from the time they are born until the time the meat is wrapped and packaged, ready to ship to grocery markets, the animals never see sunlight.
They are housed in giant warehouses, shackled by an already corrupt farming system. To go back, or fix this system, will take a long time.
Why the beef industry is easier to affect
The cattle industry, he says, actually has more hope in some ways because many calves are grass and udder fed until they are 6 months old. At that point, conventional farming sends them to barren feed lots.
If there is enough demand from consumers, the farmers and landowners who send their cattle to that fate, can have other more sustainable options — such as co-op farms or selling directly to the public.
Cooks Venture is one such company from whom I’ve started buying. They have amazing animal ethics and delicious meat. With free shipping to your doorstep. So for cities that are cut off from any sustainable products, here’s a company to support while also feeding your body what it should be eating.
Cooks Venture will soon offer grass-finished pork as well.
What about “Grass-fed”
As mentioned briefly above, there’s a new labeling that’s dishonest and not accurate: “Grass-fed”.
All “grass-fed” means is: the cows were on grass at some point in their lives. These animals are still transferred to feed lots and fed feed that makes their meat and fat estrogenic.
I can’t eat “grass-fed” meat without getting cramps. Can you believe that?
It’s shocking and wrong that labeling can be so misleading.
We must choose meat that’s pasture-raised AND grass-finished. Grass-finished means that the cows are on grass until they’re slaughtered. They are not fattened up with grains (like soy and corn) at the end.
What feedlot animals eat
Kerston’s own experience working for a conventional feedlot is what changed his life and practices. He tells us what the average feedlot feeds their cattle. Truths of these ingredients should indeed wake us up from any and all compromise, or delay of change. The ingredients in daily cattle feed, all to get the price down, include the following:
…erythomycin… testosterone, estadiol benzoate, sodium bicarbonate, poloxaline, propionic acid, chicken manure, cattle manure, chocolate, stale pastries, cement dust, molasses, candy, urea, hooves, feathers, meat scraps (but not from ruminants, as that has now been banned due to BSE/madcow), fish meal, pasta, peanut skins, brewery wastes, cardboard, corn silage, GMO grains, and various pesticides.
You see above that the first ingredient is an antibiotic? “70% of US antibiotic production is fed to livestock,” says Kerston.
Healthy Meats to Buy: Organic vs. Pasture Raised Chicken
I’ll share a bit more about Cooks Venture for those of you interested.
I started ordering from Cooks Venture for chicken. We already have an amazing grass-finished beef farmer locally that we’ve been buying from for years.
But I haven’t liked the local chickens sold in our valley because they’re fed GM grain, as well as being on pasture. So I was just buying organic chicken, as I know many of you do.
But my conscience has told me for years to keep looking, and I finally found Cooks Venture for pasture raised birds:
Cooks Venture’s slow-growing, heirloom chickens spend their days on the pasture and in the forests of Northwest Arkansas. These birds forage for insects, dust bath, and perch all day long, every day; how chickens would naturally live.
All farmed birds are fed some supplemental feed. Cooks Venture grows their own Non-GMO feed.
We love the homegrown texture of this meat and that it comes conveniently in the mail. I’ve researched this company A LOT, so if you’d like to learn anything else about the farm or their meat, please feel free to ask in the Comments section below, and I’m happy to share.
Find Cooks Venture meat here. They’ll also soon offer lamb, pork and wild seafood.
Where to buy healthy dairy
In the Willamette Valley, it’s not hard to find pasture-raised dairy from local farmers. I buy our cream from a raw milk farmer.
But I’ve also found Straus Family Creamery cream is excellent, and it’s available at many local markets. I find mine at Market of Choice.
Look for Straus or similar companies at natural food stores. Or try to connect with local farmers at farmers’ markets, through word of mouth with friends or on websites like these:
Remember that not all raw milk is worth buying. As the Straus company shows, sometimes organic pasteurized cream is better than raw if the husbandry principles are better.
Ideally look for A2A2 breeds, non-GM sprouted feed, the use of no antibiotics ever and pasture-raised as signs of quality and care. If your farmer talks about being a grass farmer, regenerative systems and natural capturing of carbon, all the better.
I do, also, buy international cheeses at times, from countries that have outlawed genetic modification. After years of testing cheeses, I’ve found France’s cheeses to be the only completely reliable ones. Look for brie, aged sheep’s milk blue, Gruyere and other aged French cheeses.
Good and bad meats in the media
To view an entertaining, quick movie short, watch, “The Meatrix.”
This clever movie will motivate you to put down the Tillamook cheese block at Costco or the supposedly gourmet ice cream sold at your local market.
It will show you the delusion we live in, the wool that’s been pulled over our eyes.
Stop everything; see reality for what it is.
Don’t buy conventional American dairy products. Look for grass-fed, preferably grass-finished/pasture-raised or “better than organic” products, from small farms you actually know reject all GM feed options.
Having owned a restaurant …
It’s almost always nice to be gracious, to give someone the benefit of the doubt.
But after you’ve lived and worked in the food and restaurant industry, you quickly realize that the opportunities to compromise are linked to one’s success.
Many businesses feel they can’t survive if they don’t create or use GM dairy or meat.
The truth is that they may fail. But they still need to be brave, stop compromising, raise their prices if necessary and offer the only moral option.
Perpetuating a corrupt and unhealthy system is the alternative.
Green washing and the rBST-free label
One common marketing trick from about 10 years ago has been very successful. It perpetuates the wool-in-sheep’s-clothing dairy industry: the label “rBST-free.”
Many consciences have been assuaged by that phrase. When consumers read rBST-free, they feel their milk or cheese no longer has growth hormones, antibiotics or comes from GM feedlots.
A few years ago, during a holiday gathering, a relative said to me over his breakfast cereal, “Look, we buy organic milk, too.” He showed me his Trader Joe’s conventional low-fat milk with the sticker on it that said, rBST-free.
He didn’t want to hear otherwise, so I didn’t try to argue, but that milk was not organic.
The rBST growth hormone is just one villain in a mega-enterprise of pollutants in our dairy.
Taking out one growth hormone because it managed to be vilified is good. But, what’s left behind is still trash milk: milk that comes from cows that are fed in feedlots huge masses of corn and antibiotics.
What is important, though, about this success is revealed in this statement in 2006, “Two of New England’s largest dairies recently began ridding their bottled milk of artificial growth hormones to keep up with consumers’ growing demands for organic milk.” (source, emphasis mine)
Consumer demand affects suppliers’ choices!
More sustainable farmers everyday
According to NPR, “A decade ago, there were fewer than 50 grass-fed cattle operations in the U.S. Now there are thousands.”
This is what consumer dollars can do, literally change the world we live in, the America we live in.
Farming is what first started this country. According to Almanzo Wilder’s father in the iconic book, Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, farming is what made this country great. I have to agree.
But if that’s the case, the number of heroic farmers growing in this country need our support. Local farmers buying GM feed do not need our support. They need to change their ways.
Farmers pasturing their animals, rotating them to fresh grass, have leaner animals. That means that their food takes longer to grow and costs more to produce, but also that their food gives them more pleasure and pride to produce.
Healthy meats to buy conclusion
The cows are truly happy. The meat is healthy.
We needn’t worry about things like fat and cholesterol when cows are eating what they’re meant to eat.
Please make a change today. Buy only organic or completely sustainably-raised dairy and meat products. Reorganize your budget if necessary. Don’t say to yourself, it’s gourmet, so it’s probably okay. It’s not okay. That company is trying to save a dime; so they’re using conventional dairy or meat. No more. Organic or better than organic, every time.
And guess what? I think humans are happier when they buy better food! 🙂
We must care, and our health benefits
The world can be a beautiful place. But there are evils, and we must be wise; we must care.
We need to create and sustain the beauty we desire. Smile and take pride in the farms and restaurants you are supporting. If you love a restaurant but now realize they’ve been green-washing their menu (which most are), reconsider supporting them, and kindly request they improve their sourcing.
As needed, eat at home more — so you can use the ingredients that are best.