Making Sense of Meat Labels

I am a proud meat eater, but I am also a big believer in raising and killing animals as humanely as possible.  Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what I’m buying though, because there are all sorts of different labels, and some are misleading.  I’d like to help you all make sense of what you’re buying, so that you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Organic

Meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs labeled “organic” by the USDA come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

Why buy organic meat?  Because animals raised commercially in factory farms suffer.  Chickens raised commercially, for example, are crammed in small cages and fed hormones, steroids, and antibiotics, none of which I would ever want in my body!  Commercial chickens also contain traces of cancer-causing arsenic, which is completed approved by our government.  Don’t believe me?  Click Here.  So even though organic meat is more expensive, just think of the purchase as an investment in your long-term health.  Another reason to buy organic is also it tastes better!  Try it for yourself.  When animals are raised well I bet you’ll taste the difference.

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Natural

Beware, “natural” does not mean organic.  Only foods labeled “organic” meet the USDA’s organic standards.

Free Range

Animals living “free range” are raised in an open air or free-roaming environment, however, only poultry labeled “free range” meet the USDA’s standards of “free range,” not eggs.  For poultry, the animals are required by the government to have outdoor access for “an undetermined period each day.”  No other meat labeled “free range” have actually been regulated by the USDA or any other governing agency.  If you wish to determine whether your meat is free range, the best thing to do is contact the individual manufacturer.

Grass-Fed

“Grass-fed” cattle, bison, goats and sheep have eaten nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grass or grass-type hay from birth, according to the American Grassfed Association.  Only if poultry and pigs have had grass as a large part of their diets are they considered “grass-fed.”  The USDA currently is reviewing its guidelines on grass-fed marketing claims.

Marine Stewardship Council

This independent global nonprofit council promotes sustainable fishing practices to “ensure that the catch of marine resources are at the level compatible with long-term sustainable yield, while maintaining the marine environment’s bio-diversity, productivity and ecological processes.”

Back to Basics

Words to live by, literally…
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Today I wanted to take a look at the difference between our modern diet and the way we ate as hunter-gatherers.  Our modern diet looks nothing like what our ancestors ate.  Americans consume way more sugar, salt, unnatural flavors, and chemicals.  In fact, even if you handed your great-great grandmother a brightly packaged box of Oreos, she probably wouldn’t even know what to make of it, let alone it eat it.

Below is some information on how our diet has changed.  Most of us need to curb our sugar and salt intake and the consumption of processed foods.  To do this, add in lots of whole foods (like vegetables and fruits), which will crowd out the quantity of foods we shouldn’t be eating.

Hunter-Gatherer Diet:                                       Contemporary Diet:

Carbohydrates:
>100 species veggies & fruit                               < 10 species veggies & fruit
>100 grams of fiber daily                                    < 20 grams of fiber daily
>Roots, legumes, berries                                    Sugars, sweeteners, grains

Protein and Fat:
 Game meats –deer, bison                               Feedlot cattle & poultry
 High Protein/high cholesterol                           Half the % of protein/high cholesterol
 More omega-3 fatty acids                                More omega-6 fatty acids

Vitamins and Minerals:
 Much less sodium                                            Much more sodium
Much more potassium                                      Much less potassium
1.5-5 x levels of vitamins                                  Lost in processing & storage

2002 Fred Peshkow MD, FACC