Nutritional and dietary fads seem to shift daily, but one thing is for sure: eating a diet that includes an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, carbohydrates and adequate amounts of protein remains evergreen good advice. And despite what your favorite Instagram influencer might say, a healthy diet can also contain moderate amounts of well-sourced and thoughtfully prepared meat and animal products. We’ve broken down the most important points for you to know when deciding whether or not to eat meat, and how to find the good stuff if you decide to consume.
DECIPHERING THE STUDIES
There are a multitude of studies pointing to both the pros and cons of eating meat. In fact, there are so many conflicting studies out there that it’s difficult to determine whether eating meat is truly bad for your health. But what we do know for sure is that for those who enjoy it, eating red or white meat in moderate amounts does have a place in a well-balanced diet. As for whether red meat raises your risk for heart disease, diabetes and different types of cancers, the reality is that more studies are needed to draw definitive conclusions, as existing studies make associations with the consumption of meat and disease in the body without taking into account several other factors at play. To that end, there are studies showing that eating meat in conservative amounts can actually benefit your health, and it is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, niacin and selenium.
Indeed, for generally healthy individuals, the protein provided by a serving of red or white meat can provide several benefits, including reduced hunger, a boosted metabolism and increased muscle mass. High-protein diets can also promote bone health. Additionally, the type of iron contained in meat and animal products can be easier for the body to absorb. The trick is being thoughtful about meat consumption in some very specific ways.
Photos courtesy of Casad Family Farms
GENERAL MEAT-EATING GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW
Choose unprocessed meat products and try to avoid cooking at high heat, which has shown a correlation to increased rates of cancer. Treat meat like an indulgence, and only consume it conservatively.
If your diet is full of unprocessed, plant-based foods, your risk of disease goes down dramatically, setting the stage for worry-free meat consumption on the side. Filling your plate with a colorful array of vegetables first is a great habit to build.
Select meat from small, local farms that practice organic and regenerative land management. Purchase only grass-fed beef, as it will be higher in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants than grain-fed cattle.
ADDRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL AND ETHICAL CONCERNS
In recent years, meat-eating has gotten a bad rap due to the environmental implications and questionable ethics of large-scale livestock farms. These massive operations have been criticized for their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, pollution and water shortages. Additionally, due to crowding, real concerns exist regarding the health and welfare of animals. But just because these factory farms operate unethically doesn’t mean all meat farmers do. Farms like Casad Family Farms in Madras, Oregon, work with the Savory Institute to ensure its animals are raised and meat is processed using regenerative land practices. And those producers that are accredited with UVE’s Ecological Outcome Verification program are those that have been trained and vetted to ensure that ecological health, animal welfare, biological diversity and personal and social well-being are at the forefront of their operations. For anyone concerned over the meat industry’s ecological impact and ethics, having this verification program to check suppliers against is a real breakthrough.
Photos courtesy of Casad Family Farms
HOW TO GET THE GOOD STUFF
Your first and easiest port of call for ethical animal products will likely be your local farmers market. You can get to know suppliers personally, and ask them (nicely!) about their practices. You can also check out local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes in your region to have products delivered directly to your door. For example, Casad Family Farms offers their Direct Delivery Meat Box program, which allows consumers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California to have a selection of farm goods delivered to them on a weekly basis. For those living in other parts of the country, the Savory Institute-certified REP Provisions offers a selection of meat-, poultry- and bone broth-based subscription boxes with flexible shipping schedules.
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