Tip #5 – Consume meats from grassfed beef and pastured poultry, and eat the fat along with the meat.
That’s right, saturated animal fat is good for you, if the animals were raised on pasture. Meat and fat from pastured beeves, chickens and lambs is more nutrient dense and more satisfying to hunger. You’ll pay a little more for it, but you’ll eat a lot less because your hunger will be satisfied with a smaller portion. You’ll also not ingest the chemicals and drugs that are in the feedlot animals (antibiotics, steroid hormones, ractopamine, color enhancers, etc.).
Fat from grassfed animals has the right ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is 1:1 or 2:1. At a ratio of 4:1, we begin to experience health consequences. In feedlot meats, this ratio can be 20:1. For more information read this article by Chris Masterjohn.
Healthful fat from grassfed animals also has conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a very important fatty acid that can protect against high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, muscle degeneration, osteoporosis, inflammation, food allergies and sensitivities, and certain cancers. Wow, we all need more of that!
Animals in feedlots don’t have CLA because they are fed grain and other things that are not part of their normal diet. Even if an animal eats grass for most of its life, and then eats grain just before slaughter (called “grain finishing” to add marbling), the CLA disappears within about 10 days of grain finishing (grain finishing is typically 120 to 180 days).
Vitamins A, D and K are present in greater abundance in the fat of grassfed animals. The precursors for these vitamins are found in grass and insects, which the herbivore efficiently converts to the vitamins themselves. Omnivores like us cannot efficiently convert these precursors to vitamins. For example, our bodies are able to convert only about 3% of the carotenoids that we consume in vegetables to vitamin A. On the other hand, we are able to absorb 80% of the vitamin A in animal fat! That’s why it’s so important to include animal fats in our diet. Omnivores (that’s us) need more of the vitamin A end product than the beta-carotene precursor. Herbivores do the conversion for us, and then we consume the vitamins that are stored in their fats.
If herbivores eat what they’re supposed to eat, and omnivores eat what they’re supposed to eat, everything works out quite nicely. Pastured animals are healthy. That is why they don’t need antibiotics to stay alive.
Poor diet, hormones and antibiotics result in poor quality meats and fats, which may translate to poor health and nutrient deficiency in humans.
Grassfed animals provide healthful protein and fat. Chicken fat (schmaltz), beef tallow and lard can be used for cooking since they are saturated fats, which are stable at high temperatures – unlike vegetable oils such as olive oil, which should only be used for low temperature cooking or for dressing salads.
Meats labeled “organic” are not the same as “100% grassfed” or “pastured”. If you shop in the supermarket, be sure to look for “100% grassfed” beef, and “pastured” chickens and eggs. But better yet, know your farmer and visit the farm to see for yourself. Sometimes “no antibiotics” will be on a label, yet the animals are given a different class of drug that is not an antibiotic, but serves the function of keeping the animals from becoming ill while they eat foods they’re not meant to eat.
Pastured chickens, both egg layers and meat birds, are moved often. This gives them a clean environment and a new place to forage for insects, worms, grass, and small rodents. The nutritional profile of the fat of pastured chickens is similar to that of pastured beef – the right balance of omega-6 and omega-3, CLA, and fat soluble vitamins A, D and K.
Some sustainable farmers deliver their products to certain local grocers and restaurants that offer grassfed meats, pastured poultry, and local, sustainably raised produce on their menus. For a list of these grocers and restaurants in your area, contact your Local Chapter Leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation, who can be found here.
Grocers and retailers who carry Polyface products can be found here.
And restaurants who feature Polyface meats on their menus can be found here.
Next time we’ll talk more about eggs.