For people transitioning to a Paleo diet from the standard American diet, using the principles outlined in Topic 1 of this lesson is 95% of the battle and should yield significant results alone. As mentioned before, as people begin to pay more attention to their diet, they also begin to learn more about the differences in food quality and sourcing. Ok, I should be eating a steak and veggies instead of McDonald’s, but wow, what’s the difference between a Grass-Fed ribeye and conventionally raised ribeye? What is a “pasture-raised” chicken?
For proteins, we believe the gold standard of quality for ruminant animals (or herbivores aka cattle, bison, sheep, deer, etc -- animals that subsist solely on plants) is a 100% grass-fed diet. This allows the animal to subsist solely on the diet nature intended for it. Unfortunately, due to the industrialization of meat in America, a majority of cattle, for example, are raised on corn/grain. Research has proven that from a nutrition standpoint, 100% grass-fed beef has better nutrients than conventionally raised beef: higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acid, higher amounts of other beneficial fatty acids such as CLAs, and generally less calories as grass-fed meat tends to have less marbling than conventionally raised. The same can be said for any ruminant animal vs. its conventionally raised counterpart (eatwild.com).
More important than the nutritional impact for humans is the environmental impact. Properly managing grass-fed cows and raising poultry and pork on pasture utilizes significantly less resources than raising conventionally farmed animals in the industrial meat complex that exists today. For example, grass-fed cows can roam on pasture helping manage the grass growth with their feeding, helping aerate the soil with their hooves, and fertilizing the fields with their waste. This all helps conserve soil, prevent erosion, and boost carbon sequestration (FAO, 2009). Also, grass-fed cows tend to have better PH balances in their guts due to their natural diet and, therefore, live longer and get sick less often (Maple Hill Creamery). All this lessens the amount of chemical and resource-heavy inputs such as synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, and antibiotics. This type of proper management is a key tenet of the regenerative agriculture movement and goes against the common misconception that eating meat is damaging to the environment. That is only true if you’re talking about the industrial meat machine that exists today. Being mindful of your meat sources, via the regenerative agricultural practices we outlined above, can actually improve your health and the health of the planet.
When shopping for meat, we advocate that consumers look for certification from 3rd party organizations such as GAP (Global Animal Partnership), Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Approved, and the Marine Stewardship Council (seafood).