So you've done well on your New Year's Resolution, Whole 30 or Keto diet, but as you've become more conscious about your nutrition and your food choices, you're starting to wonder about that grassfed beef, pastured chicken, or pastured pork that you keep hearing about.
You're thinking about drinking the Pasture Raised Kool-Aid, but you're not quite sure what flavor it is. We've had several such conversations over the last few weeks with aspiring food conscious folks, so you're not alone!
What is pasture raised meat?
First, let me say that "pasture raised" is not an official or regulated label.
This term is already being watered down by big agri-business in an effort to market their products to you as ours. I've even heard a story from other pasture based farmer that they were approached by a large company wanting to come out to their farm to take pictures to use in the marketing for the big company's industrial chicken, but that company had no intention of actually purchasing their chicken from that farm (don't worry - that farmer told them where they could "stick" their photo shoot).
Pasture raised meats is based on an idea... and an attitude.
Think of a farm. The scenic view of chickens pecking at the ground as cows lounge around in the mid day shade... A farm in which the animals are treated respectfully, and live a life in which they're allowed to express themselves throughout their development and engage in activities like, walking around, play, and actual relaxation.
Think of a farm that doesn't make you feel guilty about eating a steak dinner... one that you don't feel like you have to close your eyes or turn away from when you see a video of the animals there.
For the pasture based farmers it's also about a focus on healing the land over time - a regenerative attitude. We see the earth as a finite resource, and as a giant living organism. Most capitalist (aka-industrial) agricultural practices see the land as a resource to exploit and subsequently abandon - and when we run out of natural fertilizers or nutrients, well, then just spray it with synthetic chemicals to make up the difference.
How do you know for sure how your food is being raised on a pastoral based farm?
Many pasture raised farmers (Gober Grass Fed Farms included) encourage their customers to visit, offer scheduled farm tours, and regularly post videos and photos of the farm, animals, and events. As a whole, pasture based farmers will work to empower you as a consumer to make your own educated decision based on what you've seen with your own eyes.
So you've seen how the production is different, what makes pasture raised meat a superior food choice?
As our modern food production system has evolved, we have developed ever more productive plants, using ever less productive soil. The fruits from these plants have been decreasing in nutritional value throughout this time.
A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. (Source: Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?)
The way your food is grown materially changes the composition of that food.
Industrial agriculture started feeding commercial crops to animals because it was cost effective. But what's happened over time is that as the nutritional value of the plants we grow has gotten poorer and poorer, so has the nutritional value of the meat we consume.
And this substantially affects how your food tastes, the texture, how much you consume, and subconsciously, how you choose your next meal.
How does this apply to your food choices?
Have you ever seen the eat this, not that charts? Our bodies don't crave chocolate, or fried chicken. Our bodies crave raw vitamins and minerals. We need calcium, and salt, and magnesium, and vitamin C... and, over time, we use our diet to actually train our body to apply these physiological needs in the form of cravings.
When we eat pasture raised meat, we're consuming so much more than chicken.
When chickens have the ability to peck bugs out of the ground, or pluck the leaves off of clover, they pick up phytonutrients from that food item. Those phytonutrients are then stored in the chicken's (or pig's or cow's) muscle and fat tissues, and passed along to us when we consume that meat.
We've been eating processed pasta for so long, that we don't even realize that what we're really craving is fiber, not "carbs", and that a spaghetti squash is a much bigger payoff for this nutrient.
When you start choosing to consume grass fed beef or pasture raised pork or real fruits and vegetables over processed foods like potato chips, pasta, and fake cheese: You will feel full faster. You will stay fuller, longer. You will feel better. And, over time, you will recondition what your body craves.
You are not what you eat - you are what you eat eats.
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