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The importance of compassionately raised farm animals first plagued my thoughts about fifteen years ago. For a college psychology paper I extensively researched slaughterhouses in an effort to examine the effects such knowledge would have on my diet. "Freshman psyche reared its ugly head" (quote from the movie Clueless) as I searched to determine whether cravings and the primal drive to eat meat would overpower the graphic pictures that haunted my thoughts. The result: I became a vegetarian for a few years. Images of the slaughterhouses (to include the morose former prison inmates and desperate for work immigrants that made up the vast majority of laborers) disturbed me to the point I was losing sleep, but in my heart I always knew I was more omnivore than herbivore.
A powerful urge to procreate overwhelmed me as I approached my thirtieth birthday. At that time I made the decision to start eating meat once again (mind you I hadn’t been the strictest vegetarian, but guilt did consume me each time I made the conscious choice to indulge in animal flesh); I resolved myself to the fact that incorporating meat back into my diet would give my future children the best nutritional start I knew to give them. In the beginning I had to push the unsavory thoughts of animal treatment to the back of my mind, but with time enjoying meat became possible. Of course it didn’t hurt that as I made this transition I had moved to Alaska and was surrounded by the freshest seafood and hunted game one can imagine. As I said before……. Paleo Paradise….. I just had no idea what the primal diet was back then!!!
Civilized, somewhat educated, compassionate yet wanting and needing diverse protein options - my struggles with this dilemma continued to plague me until I discovered the world of organic and primal eating.
Is buying pasture raised meat going to be more expensive? Yes! But, the alternative outweighs the cost. Big chain grocery stores don’t tell you where their animals come from, they don’t’ disclose the diet of the animals, they don’t mention the health of the animals and whether the animals have been given growth hormones or have been treated with antibiotics, and they certainly don’t describe the living conditions of the animals prior to slaughter. Going primal introduced me to the wonderful world of purchasing meat directly from farmers. It is not as difficult as you might think!
- Most farmer's markets have meat vendors. Talk to the vendors at your local market. Ask about their ranching/farming practices. The meat at the market tends to be higher, but as a regular customer looking to purchase larger portions quite often vendors are open to more cost effective options. The meat may not be "organic"; it can be difficult to obtain such a rating from the USDA, but many small farms use organic practices. Just ask!
- As I mentioned in What Should I Eat? Trip to Courthouse Farmer's Market go to www.localharvest.org . Plug in your zip code and discover all of the small, local, farms near your community. Many of them offer online ordering/phone ordering where you establish a pick up location. If you have the time, use trips to the farms as learning experiences for your children.
- If you're really pressed for time and need a truly convenient delivery option (right to your doorstep) I have used and recommend these online sources:
- In a pinch, Whole Foods does offer a meat selection with a grading system. Level 1- Level 5. Level 1- the animals are given a vegetarian diet. . . all the way up to Level 5- where the animals sleep with the farmers and get a nightly massage. This is going to be a more expensive option, but I have purchased level 5 small whole chickens for about $10.00!
Krista . . . I love animals and all, but this is outside of my budget. . .
Let me try to convince you. . . Here is an added benefit of eating grass-fed beef. It has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus it is considered leaner and cooks faster than conventionally raised cattle. Cuts of meat with the bone still attached are generally less expensive, as are tougher cuts (which you can slow cook/pressure cook to solve that issue). Ground beef that has a higher fat percentage is also generally cheaper. If you're looking to cut fat intake go 50/50 with leaner packages.
As for the poultry we are expected to purchase at the grocery store, most of them come from chickens that are crammed into tiny cages for their entire lives, living in their own filth and given antibiotic feed that contain chemicals and hormones -and even more disturbing than antibiotics and hormones- they can also be fed parts of other chickens! Ever wonder why some mainstream chicken companies proudly promote a vegetarian diet? Scary. Search for pasture raised chickens from the sources I mentioned above! At the very least ensure the chickens you consume and serve your family have a vegetarian fed, no hormone, no antibiotic label on the packaging. When I first started to make the primal transition I purchased Purdue chicken products, because this company is starting to make an effort. Read their labels!
Organic eggs are very accessible at your typical grocery store and only cost about a dollar or so more for a dozen than your conventional eggs. Most often these eggs are labeled "Cage-Free". This is a good start. The eggs come from hens that are generally given the latitude to roam freely inside a factory and are given a vegetarian/antibiotic free diet. That does not mean they will EVER spend a moment of their lives outside, however. I purchase poultry and eggs that are specifically labeled pasture-raised, which means the birds live in open air pens. I like to think the eggs I scramble in the morning come from a little hen outside pecking away at insects. So what's in it for you (other than feeling good about yourself)? Eggs from pasture raised chickens are considered nutritionally superior, and they are _rarely_ plagued with salmonella.
I still haven't convinced you? Read this article Burger King Promises 100% Cage-Free Eggs and Pork by 2017 . Burger King isn't exactly known as a pillar of health. This article demonstrates how animal health is becoming mainstream.
Still not ready to start transitioning? Rent/stream the documentary Food, Inc. You will NEVER eat certain foods from certain companies EVER AGAIN. GUARANTEED! Warning. This film contains GRAPHIC images. I was unable to watch certain portions.
This journey may be too costly to fit into some budgets, but each small step can benefit your health and your soul!
Reminders to save money:
- Buy in bulk
- Purchase cuts with bone and skin still attached (skinless, boneless cuts are typically more expensive)
- Purchase tougher cuts (use a slow cooker/pressure cooker to remedy)
- Have a vegetarian night. Eggs and veggies for dinner!
- Embrace the leftover. Reconstitute your meat.
- Try organic whey or vegan protein powders. I'm always posting recipes on my Facebook page Cave Princess. Sneak in your protein in creative ways!
- Manage portions. Do you really need a side of beef? Eat half for dinner; throw some in your eggs for breakfast or lunch!
1 c almond flour
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 T cocoa powder
Stevia (liquid or powder) to taste
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz. filtered water
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
8 oz berry organic baby food (don't be scared; these taste great in the recipe)
Mix. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees!
Please stop by Cave Princess for more ideas!