It's our very last week on the challenge, and the focus this week is on meat: why you need it, how to choose it and how to prepare it well.
Traditionally, animals were raised under natural, healthful conditions. They were fed their natural diet, given plenty of room to roam and the result of these practices meant that their meat, milk and eggs were dense in wholesome fats and vitamins.
After World War II, the face of American farms changed. In an effort to modernize, farming lost its intimacy and a critical connection to the earth. The results of concentrated animal feeding operations were disastrous - for animals, for human health and for the environment.
While some have championed the solution of veganism as an answer to the negative ramifications of industrial animal farming there is a better alternative: choose to eat ethically, sustainably and traditionally. Animal foods like meat, enjoy a rich heritage and are also rich in nutrients, some of which cannot be found in notable amounts in plant foods, namely vitamin D, vitamin B12, DHA and EPA. Meat, eggs, milk and cheese have a place.
The Meaning of Grass-fed. "Grass-fed" or "Grass-finished" are terms that apply to ruminant animals (bison, cattle, goats, sheep etc) who are fed exclusively on their natural diet: grass. Grass-feeding drastically improves the nature of the fats present in the animals meat - improving their conjugated linoleic acid content (read more about CLA, Disease and Diet ) and improving the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids.
Furthermore, the incidence of e. coli (O157:H7) infection in grass-fed animals is .0004 of what it is among grain-fed, confined animals - meaning that the risk of contracting e coli from grass-fed meat is virtually nonexistent, especially when compared to conventionally raised animals. (Read more: 10 Reasons to eat red meat ).
Note that most cattle begin their lives on grass and raised naturally prior to being moved from open range to confined feedlots. For this reason, unless you're purchasing directly from a source you know and trust, you should always ask your butcher if the meat was grass-finished which means it was not, in anyway, finished on grain. (Read more: Grass-finished vs. CAFO)
What if, no matter what, you want to stick to vegetarianism? When Weston Price, DDS traveled the world in the early part of the 20th century - investigating the traditional diets of native peoples who had not yet been touched by the effects of industrialization and refinement of their foods, he was unable to find a truly healthy, vegetarian society. Traditional peoples, world-wide always consumed some form of animal food and while some cultures eschew meat, they still enjoy other animal foods: eggs, milk, yogurts and cheeses.
If you are a vegetarian and the idea of eating meat is unappealing, but you're interested in making a change, please read the Vegetarian Tour of the Weston A Price Foundation's website. If you're still not convinced, simply take great care to consume wholesome, nutrient-dense fats and properly prepared plant foods. Include pastured eggs as well as the milk, yogurt and cheeses from grass-fed goats, cows or sheep.
Keep in mind that grass-finished meats - due to the difference in fat compared to conventional beef - need to be prepared differently. Roasts and stews benefit from a long, slow cooking while steaks and burgers should be cooked quickly and never served well-done. Don't forget to learn how to pan-fry a great steak.
Today's assignment is to track down a source of grass-finished beef, bison or lamb. You can find it from online sources or check out your farmers market or even Local Harvest for a source near you. Then make yourself a nice, big juicy steak or pot roast or burger.