When the topic of organic food comes up, most people think of fruit, vegetables, and perhaps dairy, but almost always fail to consider meat. This is an unfortunate mistake because meat from conventionally raised livestock comes with significant risk.
You Are What You Eat
Each of the trillions of cells that we’re made of are created from the nutrients we eat. While a healthy diet will support optimal cell function, a poor diet will promote cell malfunction and lead to disease. As the saying goes, we are what we eat!
This applies to animals as well. If forced to eat poor quality food, they’ll likely become sick and develop disease. By eating meat from these unhealthy animals, you’re relying on a poor source of nutrition and are consuming the toxic chemicals that made them sick. They’ll eventually make you sick as well. In other words, you are what your food ate! This is an important concept to keep in mind throughout the rest of the article.
Are Farmers Smarter Than Nature?
Understanding that livestock will do best on the diet they naturally eat in the wild is nothing more than common sense. Despite this, conventional farmers don’t even come close to raising their livestock in this fashion.
Based on millions of years of evolution, cattle and sheep eat grass while chickens and pigs primarily eat insects and plants. However, conventional farmers choose to ignore the significance of evolution and force their livestock to eat grain. In many cases, livestock are kept in enclosed buildings, and because they don’t have access to natural pastures, grain is all they eat.
How well do you think your health would hold up if you ate nothing but grass your entire life? It wouldn’t hold up at all! Because these animals are forced to eat foods that they’re not evolved to process, their health doesn’t hold up either.
Grain Quality Translates Into Meat Quality
As with most conventional crops, the grain fed to livestock is heavily sprayed with pesticides and other toxic chemicals. This causes health problems for the animals that eat the grain, and also for us when we eat the meat of these animals.
In addition to the chemicals, the conventional grain will probably have low nutrient levels. Based on all the consequences of the grain only diet, it’s highly unlikely that the livestock will receive the nutrition they need to support good health and this further compounds the risk of sickness and disease.
Furthermore, the grain that conventional farmers feed their livestock is often very poor in quality. In many cases, farmers save money by purchasing grain that failed inspection for human consumption, usually because of mold growth. Ironically, by eating meat from the animals that eat this grain, humans are exposed to the mold toxins anyway.
In general, the meat from purely grain fed livestock is not very nutritious, especially if the grain is of poor quality. The potential for the meat to contain toxins makes it a health risk as well.
Would You Like a Side of Antibiotics With That?
It’s clearly a big problem for a farmer to have sick livestock. The connection between unhealthy livestock and the grain only diet should be a matter of common sense. But instead of choosing to improve livestock health through a better diet, conventional farmers compensate by feeding their livestock grain that’s laced with antibiotics. How convenient.
Antibiotics originate from toxins produced by fungi. Although this may surprise you, it shouldn’t. After all, the phrase anti biotic literally means anti life. Antibiotics kill without discrimination, and as a result, good bacteria is killed along with the bad. This can easily lead to intestinal imbalance and destroy your health. Because antibiotics are toxins and enter your blood stream, they can also cause unwanted problems anywhere in your body.
In many cases, livestock are raised under such poor conditions that antibiotics just aren’t enough to keep them healthy. They become infected by parasites and develop cancer, glandular swelling, infectious arthritis, pneumonia, and other serious health issues. What’s most frightening is that the FDA allows the meat from these sick animals to be passed along to your plate as long as any relevant tumors or lesions are removed. Do you really want to eat the meat of a cancerous animals?
How About Some Newspaper and Cardboard?
Many conventional farmers are completely overcome with a greed based mentality. As such, they focus on efficiency and strive for quantity at the cost of quality. In exchange for easier profit, they’re sacrificing the health of their livestock, and more importantly, the health of the people who consume their meat.
To further reduce the cost of the already inexpensive grain, some farmers use fillers such as sawdust, cement dust, cardboard, newspaper, and sewage. Sounds tasty, doesn’t it? Before you answer, consider the fact that you may already be eating some of these fillers if you eat conventionally raised meat!
The use of these fillers provides the greedy farmer with another significant advantage that increases the incentive even further. In addition to reducing costs, the fillers also cause the livestock to gain weight. Because most farmers are paid by the pound for their livestock, this is an amazing deal. They not only save money on feed, but are also rewarded with additional profit. As you can probably imagine, only a farmer with the purest intentions would pass on this opportunity.
Hormones are Also on the Menu
For some farmers, the use of cheap grain and filler isn’t enough. To further accelerate growth, they feed synthetic hormones to their livestock.
Synthetic hormones are often associated with cancer. Furthermore, hormones can be very powerful in small concentrations and have a significant effect on our day to day function. It doesn’t take much to disrupt our delicate and complex hormonal balance, and when it does go out of balance, our health will often deteriorate significantly. Remember, if you eat an animal that was fed synthetic hormones, you’re eating the hormones as well.
Apparently, nature just isn’t fast enough for the business minded farmer. With the use of grains, fillers, antibiotics, and hormones, conventional farmers are able to bring a steer to full size in less than a year and a half. Under natural conditions, it would take 4 or 5 years! These animals are basically being transformed into mutants. Is that what you want to have on your plate every day?
A Quick Note About Dairy
Although this article is about meat, I want to quickly mention a related concern about dairy. Some farmers use a hormone called recombinant bovine growth hormone which is specifically designed to increase the lactation period of cattle. In fact, it nearly doubles it. As with other synthetic hormones, rBGH is linked to cancer and can disrupt normal hormone balance.
Producing milk is a physiologically demanding process for cattle. Their bodies are simply not evolved to handle the amount of milk production that’s possible with rBGH. As a result, their utters often become inflamed and infected which causes puss to be secreted into the milk. How does that make a nice thick milk mustache sound?
The cattle that are injected with rBGH are literally milked to death and typically die after approximately two years.
Some of the horror stories associated with conventionally raised livestock are enough to turn a meat lover into a vegetarian. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. As omnivores, eating animal meat is part of our evolution. Although vegetarians and vegans may argue this point, meat is quite simply a basic part of our natural diet. But this certainly doesn’t justify the inhumane ways that some farmers maintain their livestock.
In many cases, conventionally raised livestock are kept indoors where they get absolutely no exposure to sunlight, are so crowded that they can barely move, and are forced to live in their own feces. This merely scratches the surface of how bad the living conditions can be for these animals. This significantly impacts the health of the animal and the nutritional quality of it’s meat, but more importantly, it’s cruel, inhumane, and absolutely unnecessary.
Any time you buy meat or dairy that comes from conventionally raised livestock, keep in mind that you may be supporting these cruel and inhumane practices.
The Alternative – Buying Quality Meat
The good news is that there are plenty of healthy and humane alternatives to the meat that comes from conventionally raised livestock.
Although organic certification is a fairly reliable marker of high quality fruits and vegetables, that’s not entirely the case with meat. While organic meat is free of hormones, drugs, and other chemicals, it may still come from a predominately grain fed animal. Even though the grain must be organic, it still compromises the health of the animal and the quality of it’s meat. Furthermore, people who are sensitive to grains can also be sensitive to meat that comes from grain fed animals.
The absolute best way to buy meat is to find a local farmer that raises livestock according to their natural diets, under humane conditions, and follows organic farming practices. Don’t be overly concerned with organic certification. Local farmers often have too small of an operation to justify the expense, and by overlooking this, you may be missing out on an excellent resource.
Below are some guidelines on what to look for when evaluating a potential source of meat.
Beef and Lamb
Cattle and sheep naturally eat grass. As such, you should buy beef and lamb from farms that allow their livestock to roam freely on grass pastures. Meat from a pasture raised livestock is often referred to as “grass fed.” Verify that pesticides and other chemicals aren’t used on the pastures and that the animals are not treated with antibiotics or hormones. Some organic minded farmers will use antibiotics on rare occasion when an animal absolutely needs it. You’ll have to decide for yourself if this is acceptable or not.
Some organic farmers “finish” their livestock with grain. This means the animal was raised on grass pastures, but was fed grain for a brief period before slaughter to increase the flavor and marbling of the meat. Personally, I think this is completely unnecessary and think purely grass fed beef and lamb taste excellent, but once again, it’s your choice.
Chicken and Pork
Chickens and pigs have much more variety in their diet than cattle and sheep. Chickens eat mostly insects and plants while pigs will eat just about anything. Because these animals eat more than just grass, their meat is often referred to as “free range.” This means they’re free to roam the pastures of the farm and are free to choose what they eat.
I’m not sure if chickens and pigs eat grain in the wild. My guess is that they don’t, but it seems to be quite acceptable and common for organic farmers to supplement the diet of their chickens and pigs with grain. What’s important is that the animals have the freedom to roam the pasture and consume the natural food it provides.
As with cattle and sheep, you want to make sure the pastures are free of chemicals and that the animals are not exposed to drugs or hormones.