by Dr. Parker
With the recent end to Elk-hunting season, I thought it would be apropos to talk about meat this month. The hunters out there already know that wild game is the best kind of meat. But when it comes to grocery-bought meat, you might want to reconsider some of your purchases.
Well, I’ll answer that with another question. Would you rather eat meat from a healthy animal or a sick and diseased animal?
I thought so. And unfortunately, I have some bad news for you; most of America’s farm animals are unhealthy. Large-scale farms are more interested in quantity instead of quality, so they take shortcuts that jeopardize the health of our livestock. They feed livestock unnatural diets like corn, bread, candy, and hormones because it fattens the animal faster. Then, farmers will pump the animal with antibiotics and medicines to mask their unhealthiness.
All those antibiotics, hormones, and inflammatory markers stay in the animal’s body when slaughtered. And when you eat meat or drink milk from that animal, all that junk can cause havoc in your own body.
So, even though meat carries a lot of nutritional value, I contend that most of those benefits are overshadowed by all the unhealthy stuff that contaminates your store-bought meat. If you want to get health benefits from the animals you eat, the animals themselves must be healthy, too.
Thankfully, not all the meat in grocery stores comes from unhealthy animals. For instance, Whole Foods in Jackson does a great job sourcing animal products from local, regeneratively raised livestock. I also like the Bovine & Swine products found in many local stores.
But if you’re on the road or can’t find the meat items you’re looking for, try buying animal products with these tips in mind:
- Buy from a local farmer (check out tetonslowfood.org for a list of local meat producers in the area)
- Look for words like “humanely-raised,” “regeneratively-raised,” “grass-fed and grass-finished,” etc.
- Think about what “humanely-raised” means for different animals. Here are a couple of guidelines:
- Cows: pasture-raised, grazing on prairie grasses (aka grass-fed and grass-finished)
- Chickens: free to peck at grubs, insects, and food scraps (>8ft2 of land per bird)
- Goats: free to graze on grasses, twigs, leaves, and food scraps
If you’re not entirely convinced to spend the extra money on a healthy, humanely raised animal product, here are some other things to consider regarding meat consumption:
Even though raising livestock is often vilified as bad for the environment, it does not have to be. We know how to raise livestock in a highly productive yet sustainable and regenerative way. Unfortunately, products from regenerative farms tend to have a higher price tag than their corn-fed, industrially raised counterparts. This is misleading, though, because the actual cost of industrial animal products is much higher than the price tag.
For example, corn is a water-hungry crop. It has been shown that industrial farming often results in wasted water, soil depletion, and environmental degradation. However, these costly effects are not factored into the price of corn-fed cows because we artificially reduce the price of factory-farmed meat products through subsidies and grants. When you factor in farmer subsidies, land value, water usage, shipping costs, processing costs, and healthcare expenses (for both the humans and the livestock), the cost of that corn-fed animal product goes way up. Conversely, when you buy healthy and locally sourced animal products, almost all the costs are factored into the price. The price tag and the real cost of healthy animals are basically equal.
So, the next time you reach for the “cheaper” meat option, consider the real cost of that food, not just the price tag. Paying a higher price for meat will reduce your consumption (which may be healthier for you), and it tells the world that you prefer healthy animals over cheap animals. As a result, healthy animals may become more affordable.
Better yet, maybe you don’t have to worry about buying meat from the store because you filled your freezer with wild game this year. I hope so!
Until next time, Jackson. Stay young and eat hearty!
Dr. Parker Hewes
If you are dealing with some nagging issues that you just need a little help with, give Dr. Parker a call. He specializes in sports injuries throughout the arms, legs, and back.