The topic of eating meat is one that I have struggled with for a long time. I have always dreamed of being the vegan-yogi-health-nut who can live off of Brussels sprouts and “good vibes” alone. Then again, I pine in the middle of the night for a fresh rack of lamb smothered in a spicy vinegar sauce. There was a period in high school where I eliminated red meat from my diet and lived off of primarily fish. I went to the doctor for a check-up and when I told my doctor about my frequent stomach aches she told me that I needed to add meat back into my diet at least twice a week. "You're just not a no-meat kind of girl, Jani" she said to me with a chuckle. I would be lying if I said I didn't cry a little as my raw, vegan, insta-honey dreams drifted out the window; that night I drowned my sorrows in a lamb kebab.
My decision was made for me in terms of diet but thats not where the story ends. I can't be a vegan but I still really needed to be the healthiest meat eater I can possibly be. You see, there are still A LOT of reasons to pay attention to the amount of meat you are consuming and where it is coming.
Here’s the deal, the American meat industry is a wreck. It’s cruel. It’s dirty. It’s unnatural. But please do not misunderstand me, I am no PETA advocate, I love steak on my plate and leather in my closet. I live for ribs, rabbit fur coats, and cashmere. My only purpose for this article is to inform you and thus give you the ability to make better choices for your health, your lifestyle, and your family. And a long term goal, as always, is to initiate consumer-pressured change in the food industry. What it always comes back to is, they will not sell it if we will not buy it. In that sense, we, the consumer, the “you”, have A LOT, of power, and we, as in all of “us” consumers together, have ALL of the power.
*Steps off of soapbox*
So let’s talk meat.
I have 3 main issues with red meat... especially beef.
1. Saturated fat causes heart problems.
Red meat is extremely high in saturated fat. Saturated fat builds up in your arteries and causes them to harden inducing a common disorder called atherosclerosis. Short term effects of atherosclerosis include high blood pressure as the plaque builds up in your arteries causing your heart to beat faster to push the proper amount of blood to you vital organs. Long term effects of Atherosclerosis include heart attacks, strokes, and a number of other cardiovascular issues.
2. Meat has a lot of unrevealed Ingredients.
Industrially raised animals are ripe with disease due to the unsanitary and unnatural conditions the animals are raised in. Industrial farms keep cows in pens in close quarters, with limited fresh air, and often the inability to walk and run (did you know cows run, I bet you've never seen one run in the U.S.). The presence of disease and bacteria cause farmers to pump the animals with antibiotics and pesticides. The fact of the matter is that many of the diseases and bacteria they are combatting could be eliminated by giving the animals room to exercise, fresh air, and pens to live in that were not overly contaminated with fecal matter. Another unintended ingredient to discuss is the presence of hormones. Cows especially are pumped with hormones to make them produce more milk and more meat. Scientists disagree about the effects of these hormones in humans but it does not take a genius to look at the obesity problems across America to ask, “If the hormones make the cows fat, will they make us fat too?”. Hormones are also linked to early sexual and physical development in young women and intolerance to dairy products. A final unrevealed ingredient to discuss are all of the various chemicals added to processed meat products: products like Chicken Nuggets, Hot Dogs, Hamburgers. These processed meats are laced with a variety of chemicals to disinfect, dye, and disintegrate the product. All of these chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, bad bacteria, and more, we ingest.
One must remember that we too are living organisms. Despite our ability to blog, twerk, and alleviate world hunger, we are basic living organisms who are susceptible to the effects of all of the toxins and microbes that we come into contact with - which is reason enough to care about the toxins, microbes, hormones, antibiotics, diseases, and by-product that ends up in your food.
3. Environmental Sustainability.
If a list of all of the nasty ingredients you are ingesting in the form of industrial meat isn’t enough to make you question your affinity for bbq, let’s talk about the practical problems that a global meat obsession has for our environment. Animal agriculture has proved to be a main contributor of carbon dioxide and methane to our environment and directly contributes to the overall warming of the globe. We have already begun to see the effects of global warming but somehow the popular narrative has insisted that the major cause is car emissions instead of pointing to the various human habits of production that are threatening life on Earth. A single cow produces about 234 lbs of methane per year. According to Google (via a PBS report), there are about 1.5 BILLION cows in the world. methane is greenhouse gas that is over 20 times more harmful to our environment than carbon dioxide. You do the math. Hint: There are a lot of zeros.
Cow farming also contributes to the clearing of our forests. Farmers, especially in developing countries, destroy forests so that cows have a place to graze. The soil is depleted within a few years and the farmers are forced to clear another forest. Besides the greenhouse gases and the destruction of our forest, there is also the issue of pesticides and hormones that are a crucial part of animal agriculture. It’s bad enough that humans ingest these products, but there is also the issue of the creation of superbugs and resistant strains of bacteria that are unintended consequences of industrial animal farming. All of these things and more destroy the natural balance and disrupt our environment. A simple reduction in the amount of meat that people eat could make a huge difference. I am not saying that your reduction of five steaks a week to two will save the polar bears or prevent a viral zombie outbreak... but I'm not saying it won't either.
So cheers to my vegetarians, my vegans, my pescatarians (kind of, we’ll address y’all later), and to my people on the rightly guided path.
But to the meat lovers, to the bloodthirsty, to the protein-fiend-people like me... let’s talk about how we can protect our bodies while still eating what we love.
1. Buy Smart
Opt for beef from cows that are grass fed instead of grain fed as grass is closer to their natural diet. Grass fed beef has omega oils! Corn fed beef does not.
Opt for animals that are not kept in cages, “free range”. Animals that are allowed to exercise and have access to fresh air and clean food do not get sick as often, and thus require less antibiotics.
Say no to rBGH and rBST - the shorthand name for the controversial hormones, Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin. Both of these hormones are banned in most of the rest of the world. Would you willingly take hormones everyday that encourage you to gain weight and produce milk? The answer is no, but you are regularly eating meat from an animal that has been pumped with artificial hormones its whole life.
And hint: if the meat/dairy product does not say “No rBGH/rBGST”, then please read the label as, “Yes lots and lots of rBGH/rBST”
2. Cleanse regularly
If you are going to eat meat regularly, take time to cleanse and support your system by eating foods that can rid your body of the toxins that the meat introduces to your system.
Eat plenty of green vegetables and make cruciferous vegetables a staple that accompanies all of your beefy meals.
3. Mix it up.
Try not to eat beef more than two times per week
Introduce free-range, hormone free lamb into your diet.
Try red meat alternatives like goat, venison, and bison.
Of all of the cliches in the world, there are few more accurate than, “You are what you eat.” Do you want to be a cramped, sickly, pumped with pesticide, overweight from hormones, tense from anxiety, covered in fecal-matter, barely alive cow?
Yea, I didn't think so. Me either.