Meat: The Real Thing
The chances are extremely high that you have never seen a factory farm, and there’s a very good reason for that: it’s not pretty. The factories are trying to keep you away from the torturous conditions that don't look much like a green hills-blue sky “farm” you might imagine. The good news is that those places still exist, and there are lots of choices when it comes to buying and eating the best animal proteins – the ones that our ancestors ate.
A short history of meat-eating
African fossils suggest that humans have been eating animals for at least 2 million years, and starting about 12,000 years ago began domesticating livestock like goats, pigs, cows and chickens. Goat is still the most consumed meat in the world. But agriculture gave way to agribusiness, family farms to factory farms, and (when talking about cows) grassfed to grainfed.
What's wrong with factory farms?
1. It’s bad for the animals Most of the beef, pork and chicken in America’s grocery stores come from these industrialized factories, where they are either fed unnatural diets, never see the sun, are pumped with hormones to speed their growth rate, and endure a host of antibiotics to prevent mass disease among the dirty, crowded conditions. About 80% of all antibiotics in America are given to livestock, and as bacteria becomes more and more resistant to them, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
2. It’s bad for the environment About 18% of greenhouse emissions are byproducts of factory farms - more than cars, planes and trains combined. This is due to cow methane emissions and all the fossil fuel usage in growing and transporting tons of grains, hauled in from other locations. Many big farms also collect massive amounts of waste into liquid manure lagoons, which sometimes leak into groundwater supplies, pollute the air, and deplete soil nutrients.
3. It’s unhealthy to eat factory farm animals When cows are forced to eat corn and other grains, candy factory waste products, and even dead animal parts, it strains their digestive process, and results in fat, sick and unhealthy animals. Their bodies aren’t adapted to the new diet and environment, and then consumers end up with a bad product. You get fattier meat, less Omega-3s, and less vitamins. Not to mention hormone- and antibiotic-pumped flesh.
So what is real meat?
Real meat comes from animals living a more-or-less natural life, eating their natural diet. Cows eat grass. They are ruminants, just like goat, bison and deer, and are happy wandering around eating grass, magically converting grass into meat. Grassfed cows aren’t really “fed” at all - they eat whenever they want. Not only does pasture-raised beef taste better, it is more healthful for you. It is typically lower in fat, contains more CLA, more Omega-3s, has a better Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio, and more vitamin A and E and antioxidants like beta-carotene.
It’s the same story for almost every kind of domesticated animal product out there; pork, poultry, dairy, eggs - they all contain more Omega-3s, vitamins and antioxidants than their industrial counterparts. Pastured wins every time.
Even Realer Meat
Now, you could say that modern cows and chickens aren’t traditional foods, even when raised naturally, because of how genetically different they are to their wild ancestors. That’s why undomesticated (wild) animals, like deer (venison), wild-caught fish and shellfish, and wild boar are great options to incorporate into your diet, and can be found in many markets and butcheries (or out in the wild).