How to Opt for Healthy Animal Protein Sources
As you’re browsing the meat refrigerator at your local grocery store, it’s hard to identify any discernible differences between the various meats. But when it comes to quality, there is a dramatic difference between the meats, determined by the conditions in which the animal was raised.
Stated simply, the quality of the animal’s life determines the quality of the meat that it produces. Just think of a human who lives an unhealthy lifestyle; that unhealthy lifestyle is reflected in their body condition. The same principle applies to animals who produce dairy products, eggs and the animals who are slaughtered for meat.
The way in which an animal is raised, including the food that it eats, its general health, activity level and general health all impact the quality of meat. The same can also be said for dairy products.
The healthiest meats and dairy products, such as butter, come from animals who have been raised in a humane, natural pasture environment where they’re free to run and swim. They should be fed a natural, high-quality diet — the foods that the animal would consume in a natural, wild environment.
Also, the animal should not be exposed to antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other chemicals that enter the animal’s body and ‘contaminate’ the meat, per se.
The meat that’s produced by animals who have been raised in these ideal conditions are typically marked with designations such as:
- ‘free range;’
- ‘sustainable;’ and
- ‘wild caught.’
Now, these meats tend to be markedly more expensive than lower quality meats, which are produced in a standard factory farming environment. In these cases, the animal spends its entire life enclosed in a pen, never setting foot in a field or pasture. They’re typically pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, which are present in the meat that they produce. And they’re provided with low-quality foods that are actually manufacturing byproducts — the ‘leftovers’ from food production facilities that aren’t fit for human consumption.
These factory farms aren’t just a bad place for the animals; they also have an adverse impact on the environment. In particular, each animal must eat a significantly larger quantity than they would eat in the wild since the quality of the food provided is so poor. This results in a much higher rate of consumption per pound of meat that’s produced. (In fact, many environmental proponents argue that meat is extremely damaging in a world with a rapidly growing population, as it takes many, many more pounds of food to produce a single pound of meat. Some have quoted ratios as dramatic as 50 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat.)
Industrial farming facilities are also known for poor health standards, as the animals are often unwell and workers are exposed to dirty, unhealthy conditions. For instance, many factory farms administer antibiotics on a routine basis because the animals have chronic infections due to a poor immune system (due to a sub-optimal diet, stress, etc.) and due to poor living conditions, such as standing in feces for long periods of time, which results in chronic skin and foot/hoof infections. These antibiotics are passed on to you when you consume the meat.
When you break down the facts on factory farming, it’s easy to see how it’s unhealthy for you, the consumer, the animals and the environment.
For an individual who’s looking to live a healthy, fit lifestyle, opt for organic, grass-fed and pastured meats, as they’re significantly healthier, with more protein, vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid. In fact, when you opt for organic meats, you can opt for a fattier cut as you’ll enjoy the benefits of ‘healthy fats.’
If you’re forced to purchase factory-farmed meats, it’s best to purchase the leanest possible cuts and drain away all fat as many contaminants become concentrated in the fat. So by opting for a lean cut with all visible fat removed, this will limit the amount of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other unhealthy contaminants that you ingest.
Just like the animals that produce your meat, your health is largely determined by what you ingest! So opt for healthy, organic meats, dairy and eggs to ensure you enjoy optimal health benefits, while limiting exposure to potentially harmful contaminants.