Ethical Meat vs. Meat Hype: A Look at "All Natural", "Grass-Fed" and Other Half-Truths

189 Comments

supercow09

“This is no fairy story and no joke; the meat will be shoveled into carts and the man who did the shoveling will not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one.”
— Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

Total post read time: 6 minutes.

I have become fascinated by meat in the last several months, after both experimenting with vegetarianism and tracking health data.

The catalysts for my newfound carnivore enthusiasm were two-fold: reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and getting to know local butchers in the San Francisco area. I’ve come to realize that, if conscious eating — knowing where your food comes from and how it’s both raised and killed or harvested — is the key to ethical eating, labels are the new battleground for your mind and dollars…

Marketing departments are excellent at inventing terms that don’t hold companies accountable, as non-enforceable claims (referred to as “puffery” in the business) don’t result in lawsuits. Hair “volumizers”, “age-defying” x-9 cream factor, and “all natural” meat, oh my!

I recently picked up an unusual magazine at the Ferry Building farmer’s market in SF: Meatpaper: Your Journal of Meat Culture. In Issue Six, there was a fantastic overview of label terms — the good, the bad, and the ugly — in an article entitled “It’s a Jungle Out There: What do meat labels mean?”

Please find it below, along with sample labels, reprinted with permission. Comments within brackets are mine.

It’s a Jungle Out There – by Marissa Guggiana

Meat is the only product in the United States that comes with a government seal of approval. Sinclair’s 1905 novel about the grotesqueries of the meat industry inspired outrage and led to the 1906 Federal Meat Inspection Act. The inspection label (or “bug”, as it is paradoxically referred to by industry folk) was, until recent history, the only label that mattered, promising third-party supervision of the production of an inherently high-risk, high-stakes product.

Today, a new generation of meat labels makes much more ambitious promises. Far beyond simply assuring that meat is sans rat, today’s labels seek to answer consumer concern over animal husbandry practices, like animals’ living conditions and diets. With new worries about food-borne pathogens like E. coli, and new focus on food’s provenance, just about everyone involved in meat, from the federal government to farmers, processors, non-profits, and chain supermarkets, is trying to convey its priorities, and find room on the package to do it.

Some of the claims are backed by USDA authority and have concrete definitions, dutifully recorded in the federal register; some are monitored by animal-interest or environmental groups; some are created by businesses themselves, which employ private auditors to guarantee compliance with their criteria.

Here is a survey of only some of the dozens of assurances your meat makes; hopefully, it will help to clarify.


ALL NATURAL
This means meat that is minimally processed with no artificial or synthetic products. It is not regulated, however, so anyone can put it on their package. This claim has no clout.

COOL (Country of Origin Labeling)
USDA regulated. It states where meat was raised, slaughtered, and processed (and if this means multiple countries, as in the case of some ground meat, they should all be listed).

GRASS FED
USDA regulated. It means, very narrowly, that animals eat grass. According to the USDA definition, “grass-fed” animals can also be fed grain, and can be raised on grass in confinement, as long as they have access to pasture.

[As documented in The Omnivore's Dilemma and elsewhere, "access" can be -- and often is -- nothing more than a facility with a door to a small outdoor area. Livestock is transferred to this facility after they have been conditioned to remain indoors in a facility with no such exit. Get to know your local butcher or rancher and get to know your meat.]

FREE RANGE
This means strictly that the animal has some access to outdoors. There is no regulation for use of this term, except in the case of chickens raised for consumption. “Pasture-raised” is a more meaningful term concerning the animal’s welfare.

ORGANIC
USDA and third-party certified. This certification means that livestock wasn’t treated with hormones or antibiotics and was fed a pesticide-free diet.

VEGETARIAN FED
Refers only to an animal’s diet and does not guarantee the animal was pastured or raised humanely.

AIR CHILLED
This article addresses the treatment of living animals. Producers and retailers may also make claims about how the animal is handled between slaughter and purchase. Meat may be wet or dry-aged, frozen, and packaged in various ways.

HUMANELY RAISED; CERTIFIED HUMANE
Many ranches now choose to undergo an audit by third parties such as Animal Welfare Association and Humane Farmed to high-light their extra care. This type of label wards against practices like overcrowding, castrating, early weaning, and denying animals access to pasture. It measures the entire life cycle in terms of animal health and well-being.

OTHER LABEL ITEMS:

BIODYNAMIC

This pre-organic standard treats the whole ranching operation as an interrelated whole. While some meats are technically organic, a biodynamic farm assures the meat also came from a healthy, self-sustaining system.

LOCAL
Producers who take part in this affidavit program state in writing that the animals were raised within 20 miles. This label is not certified [or confirmed] by a third party, such as the USDA or a labeling certifier.

Related and Suggested Posts:
How to “Peel” Hard-boiled Eggs without Peeling (video)
The Science of Fat-Loss: Why a Calorie Isn’t Always a Calorie
Real Life Extension: Caloric Restriction or Intermittent Fasting?
Krill Oil 48x Better Than Fish Oil?

Posted on: February 17, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

189 comments on “Ethical Meat vs. Meat Hype: A Look at "All Natural", "Grass-Fed" and Other Half-Truths

  1. Tim, I agree that one of your best activities is getting to know your local butcher, and make sure they are pretty knowledgeable about what they are selling. I like getting my questions answered by them. For your fruits and vegetables its also good to pay attention to which country they come from since different countries have different standards for pesticides. Its pretty sad how bad food labels are manipulated. The good part is that the consumer is a lot more educated than they used to be. Now if we can lift this dumb ban in California over producing raw almonds (even though you can eat raw fish) that would be a good move.

    Like

  2. As an american now living in Brazil, I’m amazed at how much better grass fed beef tastes. The difference in the meat here is very pronounced and you’ll notice that the flavor overall is much different, it’s a stronger flavor and varies quite a bit from cut to cut so that you can choose which cuts you eat not just based on their tenderness but in the different flavors they have, it’s also extremely lean compared to American beef. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of beef I think you are missing out if you’ve never been to Brazil or Argentina(even more so) to try their beef, and no going to the Brazilian or Argentine restaurant at your local mall doesn’t count.

    Like

  3. Great article Tim. Most of the “healthy” things people eat are crap.

    When are you going to try a pure raw food diet? That just sounds like a Tim Ferriss thing to be doing.

    Like

  4. Thanks tim! We did quite a bit of research in our local area to find a trust worthy local butcher that sources locally farmed ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ meat. conscious of food miles as well. we managed to find 2 such butchers within a 15km of our house, and feel much better for it.
    D

    Like

  5. It is perhaps valuable to note that the (appropriate) practice of Kosher law also carries with it a long and detailed list of raising, slaughtering, and handling standards that make it popular choice for MANY health and environmentally-conscious Jews and non-Jews alike.

    Like

  6. It comes down to marketing with these labels. They are a direct response to current fads. The same is true for labels on other products that claim a connection to other diets (Adkins) or who offer fat or sugar free products such as cookies. There is a bit of deception in each case. In the case of meat or poultry, it’s particulary important for regulations to be sound.

    Pollan’s most recent book was correct in saying that we are best served by eating mostly plants and limiting our overall intake of food. It’s also true that food is one of the treasures of life and we should enjoy it.

    Like

  7. This is precicely why I’ve taken up the practice of buying meat directly from the farm. I sourced out great providers of longhorn steer and bison, bought a freezer, and purchased my meat in 1/4 carcass quantities. It is working out fabulously. And because I am 100% confident in the providence and handling of my meat, I have no problems with eating carpaccio or tartar.

    Thanks for the enlightening post. A few of those murky terms were even more meaningless than I though…

    Cheers,
    Adam

    Like

  8. Hey Tim,

    What is your opinion on vegetarianism/veganism? I tried following the diet on your blog for about a month, then turned vegetarian (not sure if as a direct result of your diet :-). I don’t miss meat and it feels healtier.

    What are your experiences? Also sport-wise, since I’m performance-interested and heard animal products are bad for physical performance (source: “The Thrive Diet”, nice read also).

    Like

  9. Good info, but I think I tend to subscribe to the “not care” camp. I grew up on a farm, have seen meat processed, etc. And I don’t care. I’ll continue to buy meat at the grocer, or via the county fair, or from the livestock our farm sends to the stockyards. I’ll order steaks and burgers and whatnot from any restaurant in the US. Sure, I’ll tend to stick towards leaner meats when I can, but all in all the whole “labeling” movement seems to mostly be scaremongering by the veggie crowd. Sigh….

    Like

  10. Hi Tim,

    I was under the impression “air chilled” was related to the process after slaughter, rather than an interesting visual of battery chickens under an air-conditioner.

    “The air-chilling process, common in Western Europe for more than 45 years, is still fairly new in the United States. It refers to a specific method used to cool chickens after slaughtering. Most chickens in this country are processed by being immersed in ice water. By contrast, air-chilling cools chickens by blasting them with cold air.” – Carolyn Jung – San Jose Mercury News, March 26, 2008 (Courtesy of http://www.projo.com/food)

    Like

  11. This is very timely, I’m in the middle of a 30 day vegetarian challenge and have discovered it’s really not that hard to achieve. I don’t eat red meat outside of the challenge but these labels make me cringe. I can only imagine the horror stories of chicken – part of me does not want to know LOL

    I’d love to see more posts on your veggie venture!

    Like

  12. I stopped eating meat and all animal products (including dairy and eggs) almost 4 months ago. Before this I was eating meat 3 meals per day. There is tremendous peace of mind knowing that generally speaking, the food you eat won’t kill or harm you, and of course, you are not exploiting animals to feed yourself. I was a serious carnivore my entire life but going vegan was not as hard as some people might think. As for sports and workout performance, I exercise hard 7 days per week, including 3 days per week of weight training. You have to pay attention to how you feed yourself, but this is no different than when you eat meat – you can be undernourished no matter what your diet is. There is plenty of protein from many non-animal sources (legumes, soy, nuts, etc.) – it makes a lot of sense to go vegan if you are concerned about the quality and health issues behind consuming animal products. You should try it!

    – Leo

    Like

  13. I raise pastured poultry and eggs, and the fact is, everyone is approaching the issue backwards. The first thing to find out is, “Who has the best stuff, and how good is it?” If the best is good enough, the next issue is, “How can I get stuff like that in my neck of the woods?” Instead, the focus is on the kind of stuff that’s already flowing through supermarkets and health-food chains, which means it’s from high-volume producers. Wrong place to start.

    Top quality in meat and eggs requires thoughtful, sympathetic handling at every stage. You can taste the level of care — it’s better than any label. Stupid tricks like giving a flock of hens a tiny, barren yard won’t make the eggs taste any better, while raising them with low-density methods on a green pasture will.

    The other Achilles heel is that the good stuff is expensive. My eggs go for $5 a dozen, but in a city supermarket, they’d have to go for $10. Lots of people prefer factory-farmed eggs with a feel-good label to that kind of price.

    Like

  14. If you are interested in further reading. I would suggest The Jungle, the book you quoted. It was a great read.I originally found it through Fast Food Nation.

    If you are interested in the talking to butchers approach, I would also recommend The Confessions of a Butcher: Eating Steak on a Hamburger Budget by John Smith. J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly did a great review if you only have a few minutes.

    http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2009/02/14/confessions-of-a-butcher-eating-steak-on-a-hamburger-budget/

    Cheers,

    Jeremiah

    Like

  15. Hi Tim,
    Thanks for trying to care.
    I’ve been a vegan for 32 years.
    I love it when my meat eating friends at least look at how the animal was
    treated and try and make the most human and healthiest choice.
    Aside from the inhumane slaughter and raising conditions-going vegan is the best thing you can do for our Greenhouse gas issues.
    United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions than automobiles. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.
    Anyway-whatever you do, it’s great you are experimenting!
    Sara

    Like

  16. The lies and half-truths perpetrated by food manufacturers are astounding. What’s even more astounding is that people (literally) buy into it. For example, the term “organic”. It has been so overused to make it nearly meaningless. What is healthy about a pop-tart that is “organic”? Is it nominally better for you than a regular pop tart? Maybe, but certainly not as much as the marketers would have you believe. Mark Sisson did a great post about his awhile back. It is one of my favorites:

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/organic-green-junk-food/

    He’s also touched on the meat issue recently…
    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/everything-but-the-squeal/

    Thanks for the great material, Tim. Keep up the great work.

    Like

  17. Thanks for throwing light on this issue, Tim.

    I believe the only way to be assured that animals are raised and killed healthily and humanely is to know the farmer personally.

    I stopped buying meat for several years until I could find a–relatively–local farmer who could provide the assurance I need.

    New Yorkers: Sap Bush Hollow Farm sells TRULY grass-fed beef, pork, chickens and turkeys. The animals are humanely raised and slaughtered at the farm.

    Check them out at http://www.sapbush.com/

    The farm is run by 3 generations of the Hayes Family. Adele and Jim Hayes have been instrumental in creating New York State’s humane mobile slaughter units.

    Transport is horrifically inhumane and traumatic for animals that are often deprived of food and water and suffer untreated injuries as they are moved long distances for slaughter.

    I believe Sap Bush Hollow is the only farm in NY that’s USDA certified to slaughter on location.

    Shannon Hayes, Adele and Jim’s daughter is a gifted writer and author of The Grassfed Gourmet.

    Like

  18. I’m not sure how much this has taken off in the US, but here in the UK, what started as “Organic Vegetable Box” delivery schemes has turned into a fantastic way to delegate good food choices to not experts, specifically the producers themselves.

    For me, I cannot recommend Riverford enough. I put in a few hours of research, and tried a few schemes to find this one, but now I have, I no longer worry about where my food comes from, because I really trust them to provide fantastic, and ethical, food. They produce nearly all of it themselves, and have almost faultless processes.

    I’d recommend you have a look at http://www.riverford.co.uk/ and watch the 3 minute 30 video. It’s been one of my best outsourcing successes yet.

    Like

  19. Great post and great topic. I’m all for people doing research and buying consciously. But part of buying consciously is also considering the whole. What about ethics?

    Do a quick google search on vegetarianism and you’ll find some interesting things to ponder.

    “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
    Pythagoras

    “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
    Thomas Edison

    “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
    Albert Einstein

    “The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”
    Leonardo da Vinci

    Like

  20. Ha! Like Bleicke, I also followed your slow-carb diet for a time and then became vegetarian. I think I felt guilty from eating all of those animals :)

    Like

  21. Hi Tim,

    What I have found is that in order lead an active life and to function optimally; I and my clients must move and work-out.

    When you work-out intensley we must take in high grade protein (amino acids) to repair the tore down muscle fibers. The goal is to alter the calories, and macro nutrients so that the muscles grow back bigger, and stronger; thus raising BMR and resulting in less fat.

    What I have found at the age of 44 (in June) is that a combination of live (mono diet) food days; in conjuction with high quality, unprocessed proteins is not only effective at muscle hypertrophy, but we can also get our organs and blood profile in line as well.

    [Darin, I'll check it out. Please do not the comment rules, however. Thanks!]

    Keep rockin and being the change in the world;

    darin (aka The Chicago Kid)

    Like

  22. Another good read on nutrition is the “Paleo Diet.” The basic principle is that human dietary needs developed over millions of years of evolution and adaptation. As such, we are primarily suited to eating lean meats and vegetables and fruits as our ancestors did for millions of years. The modern diet filled with lots of whole grains and milks and cheeses is greatly out of line with our genetically programmed diet, and have only been around a few thousand years which is not enough time to have evolutionarily adapted. I think the proof is in the pudding on that one, the high prevalence of lactose intolerance, osteoporosis, and adult acne can often be directly related to grains and dairy products. Despite the big hubbub about calcium in milk, it is actually net acidic, and hence a net calcium loser!

    I think it behooves one to become a connoisseur of meat though. Beef should be 100% grass fed and finished. Corn and grain are not natural to the cow diet. Especially corn with petroleum fertilizers and pestilent dumped on it. One of the reasons liver has disappeared from grocery shelves is that the high volumes of corn most cows are fed makes their liver so acidic as to be a health hazard.

    One thing that warms my heart is that Bison (aka American Buffalo) seems to be making a comeback. If you live in the LA area there is a great Bison ranch with 100% grass fed meat that always shows up at the Santa Monica farmers market.

    Like

  23. Before taking on a living food/raw food diet 5 years ago, I had gotten to the point of eating only grass-fed Argentinian beef at the corner store adjacent to a real Argentinian joint in Chicago. I argued about the benefits of grass fed with my Nebraska friend who had just been given a full (grain-fed) steer as a gift from his father. He had no time for my arguments on the benefits of grass fed. Looks like some of the grass fed claims can be mangled, based on the post. Living food is the only food with bio-electricity and live enzymes. Get a measure of your bio-electrical charge and you will be surprised. Top line is 650, my best at the height of my living food regimen was 90. A physics-based approach to health trumps a chemistry-based approach, in my five-year experience. Lost 20 lbs on a 180lb frame. People thought I was a waif. I felt best in my life. Felt like my electrons were spinning at a higher rate than before. Very little exercise needed (but recommended, of course). Digested meat actually slows the blood flow in the body. We want expressways, not country roads for blood streams. Meat eaters have long, straight intestines. Humans have long curvy intestines like vegetarian animals. You’ve heard all that. I feel better in spirit, mind, body and emotions as a living/raw food eater. I can eat a steak at times, but I feel awful for 24 hours and have to rehab from it.

    Like

  24. Definitely a very needed post. Hard to find a good resource on meats and what to look for when shopping. Sadly real meat from well reared animals is usually very expensive but we only short change ourselves buying the cheap stuff……The real problem comes when eating out as we have no idea as to what quality of meat we are being served, thankfully more and more places are serving up farm assured or organic meats and they say so on the menu. Any how thanks for the post Tim, definitely a keeper in my bookmarks for regular reference…..

    Like

  25. I’ve always had the opinion that if you can’t watch the animal die and be processed, you shouldn’t be eating it.

    Aside from the ethical nonsense, we’re going to see a shift away from a lot of meat just due to economical reasons.

    First, if we do end up with some sort of carbon tax, it might also be applied to cow farts. Sounds funny at first, but the sheer amount of methane a single cow can produce is astounding. Harnessing that energy has been done and should scale out, but that’s another story.

    Second, we need to start looking at EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested). How much energy does it take to process 1 kCal of beef vs. 1 kCal of Soybean (Tofu)? The spread is going to continue to increase, and in order to have simply affordable food, people will start looking towards plant-based protein.

    Third (and this is related to the previous point), how much water is being used per kCal of protein? The spread between plant and animal protein in this regard is astounding, and as the cost of water rises (holy crap just you wait) people will once again have an economic incentive to buy plant-based protein.

    If we ever get to a cap and trade system, or even water futures (it’s coming), the spread will widen further as people making plants can sell credits to people making meat. So that yummy fillet mignon helped to subsidize some hippie’s tofu salad.

    Like

  26. Hey Tim, nice to see you are taking an interest in this. This in only the tip of the iceberg imo. Labeling laws in this country need a wholesale change of direction. It’s one thing to put marketing ‘puffery’ on a product claim (which I think most people are used to and automatically discount), it’s another thing to claim artificial ingredients as ‘natural’ (msg for eg.), trans-fat as ‘zero’ when it’s not, and as you point out (and TOD pointed out) ‘grass feed’ as ‘access to pasture and fed a bit of grass’!

    You should also read Nina Planck’s book (http://www.ninaplanck.com/) on real food (if you haven’t already). She makes a great case for eating natural fats. In fact, she gets a bit into the whole ‘cholesterol’ mess – should we be worried, shouldn’t we be worried?

    The advent of industrial agriculture is, imho, a classic example of market failure as a significant proportion of the cost (degraded individual health from eating processed and cheap foods) is not borne by the manufacturer. If they were making widgets and the widgets didn’t work properly, we’d return them. Instead they’ve convinced us they do work, and if they don’t, well, there’s a pill for that.

    Like

  27. I admire and respect anyone that is vegetarian or vegan, but this is not something I aspire to be. I enjoy a nice steak (especially the Rib Eye @ SW Steakhouse at the Wynn in Vegas), I also like chicken and fish. Hell, I like meat in general, I don’t discriminate. But, my diet is balanced and I eat many fruits and veggies as well.

    With any food I buy, I always try to buy organic, no-antibiotic, no-hormone, no-pesticide, no-preservative (whole) foods whether it be milk, meat, fruits, nuts, or veggies. Regardless of the food being meat or veggie, I think proper raising and harvesting is important. Food today is so bastardized it is a bit disgusting. Walk through the freezer aisle in a Kroger, Publix, or Albertson’s and you will find more chemicals than real food in some cases.

    By the way, I agree with Clark Valberg in Kosher being a great way to go for all people, not just Jewish folks.

    Like

  28. We are omnivores, so avoiding meat entirely is not always the answer. I have tried vegetarian diets and for me it doesn’t work – and yes, I researched carefully. I like to get my nutrients from my food, not pills, and a vegan diet especially requires supplements. I cannot give up eggs or fish, but I do long periods of time without red meat or even chicken as I am a fan of tofu. Everyone has different requirements – some can do vegan, some vegetarian of different levels, and some quite carnivorous. The main thing to remember is that we eat TOO much of it – not that we eat it at all. Anyone who goes on about the cruelty of EATING an animal is missing the “cruelty” of nature. Watch a hawk eat a squirrel and you get the picture. What we DO need to be deeply concerned about is how the animal we eat is raised and cared for. This list was really helpful, and I really didn’t think about hunting down a good butcher. I am willing to pay more for meat, since I know I don’t need to eat as much of it, if it is from an animal that was raised humanely. Do we remember Sunday roasts? The reason it was special was because beef was EXPENSIVE! You didn’t eat it every day! Chicken, maybe, beef, no.

    It’s all about perspective and perception. Nature eats meat. There is nothing inherently evil in it. We don’t need quadruple decker hamburgers! But the Sunday roast is not a bad thing. We could cut down the herds to 1/10the the size they are now and STILL have too much!

    Okay – thanks for letting me get on my soapbox! Great list, Tim, thanks!

    Like

      • Yes, eating meat seems natural. I am a vegetarian for 18 years now, one week at a time…. And it’s the present day conditions and the at animals that are treated that stop me from eating (and therefore supporting) such organizations. If you’re going to go out with a bow and arrow, and do everything after that to eat meat, technically THAT is natural….

        Like

  29. Kosher? Have you seen an animal being slaughtered kosher?

    It’s an atrocity. Nothing against Jews (one religion is as stupid as any other), but if you have to eat animals, please try to kill them in one shot. Not let them bleed to death upside down hanging from one leg.

    Like

    • Kosher law requires eat animal be killed with a knife sharp enough to kill the animal in one strike.

      Where are you getting your information? Did you see this being done?

      Like

  30. Ah, one of my favorite topics :) Sara (and others) already touched on this – meat production in the US makes a *huge* impact on the environment. In my home state of North Carolina, there are more pigs then people! The Eastern part of our state is notorious for polluted groundwater because of it, and it smells awful to drive through there. My stepfather does research for the EPA on emissions from animals (yes, cow farts).

    I have gone back and forth on eating meat all my life; as a child, I never wanted to eat it and for now I have officially stopped – but I struggle with my son’s diet (he doesn’t really care for it either but I know he needs protein to grow). Plus, I realize that man (mostly men) evolved eating meat for survival. But the fact is, we don’t really need meat to survive anymore, do we?

    I also absolutely hate to see any food go in the trash. By some estimates, Americans throw away *half* of their food. That’s just disgusting. I have a tendency to make really small meals for myself, eat whatever my son didn’t eat, then have a snack if I am still hungry. And yes, I will eat meat before I’ll let it go in trash, but I really still can’t stomach red meat at all. It’s just not in my makeup to eat…blood. Blech :P.

    Anyway, I look very forward to your experiments with vegetarianism!

    Like

  31. Tim, are you still “experimenting” with a vegetarian diet? Looks like a lot of us are very curious…

    I became a vegetarian just over a year ago and within a week decided to become mostly vegan. By making beans/tofu/nuts my source of protein, I’ve really simplified the cooking/eating process. I can get fiber and protein from the beans (most people don’t get enough fiber with from the grains they eat), so I don’t have to eat nearly as much to get the nutrients I need.

    As one who has always dealt with hypo-glycemia, I’ve been thrilled to find that plant-sources of protein are better at maintaining a steady blood-sugar level for me. I’ve heard it’s a more stable protein from animal protein. Have you heard this?

    Julia–As a vegan I don’t need supplements. We do very well just eating a balanced and varied whole-foods diet and our family doctors have assured me we’re doing great.

    Like

    • @Noell and All,

      I have found that an omnivore diet including lean, ethically-sourced, animal protein is best for me. For purposes of athletic performance, phytoestrogen avoidance, and bio-availability, I have found vegan/vegetarian diets to be problematic or inconvenient. For simply maintaining caloric load, I have also found vegetarian diets to be difficult unless you eat a lot of starch, which I do not due to the fat gain that generally accompanies such eating.

      Vegetarianism works for millions of people, and I’m all for each person finding their best diet. For me, looking at blood tests, performance, and everything else (I am OCD with the data, as you all know), this is a diet including lean animal protein.

      Hope that helps!

      Just my 2 cents and my personal experience,

      Tim

      Like

  32. American Grassfed has a third party certified program that addresses confinement, hormones, antibiotics and animal welfare in it’s standards. We have a trademarked logo to look for as well. Ask your rancher/farmer or butcher if the product they have is certified by AGA.

    Like

  33. A good read is “The China Study”, this is eating habits and patterns of millions of people around the world studied over 25 years. The most in depth research on food and removing the labels I have ever seen or read.

    Like

  34. Waddled over here via Twitter.

    I rarely eat meat, and usually only that bought from a local butcher I’ve discussed certain issues with.

    As an Australian, I have the option of eating kangaroo meat. Kangaroos are much easier to breed/grow than cattle/sheep etc (they require less space, less water), are native to our habitat and cause less damage with their tootsies (we have no native animals with hooves, our topsoil doesn’t like them), and don’t produce the excessive amounts of methane that “traditional” meat animals do. The flesh itself is high in iron, ridiculously low in fat and also has something in it that helps lower cholesterol (don’t quote me, it’s something like that).

    All in all, if our nation can get over eating Skippy, it’s a damn good choice. Do you have any ‘native’ meats or similar to choose from?

    Like

  35. @noell I could not agree more… also I will say that there is starch, and there is starch… brown rice for example is an excellent food for me, and anytime I eat mostly brown rice, I tend to lose weight very regularly… in fact I do brown rice “fasts” from time to time and this works brilliantly for me, both in terms of weight loss as well as clarity.
    I think many vegetarians have atrocious diets featuring massive amounts of cheese, but vegans who are committed tend to eat very well in comparison. I completely agree about the blood sugar balance when eating plant-based proteins and quality whole grains – this is no doubt due to the increased fiber in the protein sources we use versus ovo lacto vegetarians and regular meat eaters who find protein mostly from animal sources with little fiber to go along.
    As for supplements, I take an organic vegetarian multivitamin daily – mainly to maintain my B12 levels that are hard to get as a vegan – but so what? I have no problem with this. Going vegan I was able to cure my acid reflux disease, so taking organic B12 supplements is way better than taking 20-40mg of pharmaceuticals every day, trust me.

    Like

  36. I should clarify that curing my acid reflux took more precise study of food chemistry – it was not just a magical thing that happened when I went vegan. But going vegan was an incredibly important first step. I could not be happier with the decision – and in fact, I am thrilled about the culinary expansion that I undertook as a result. When you are vegan you have to be very creative and thoughtful about feeding yourself, so this has opened my eyes to foods I would have easily ignored when I ate animal products.
    I think a good balanced diet with lean meats and good fiber/vegetables is probably great for most. The problem that I see is that “good” omnivore diets are difficult to sustain. Obviously if you do this, you should be very selective about where your meat comes from to avoid buying from factory farms that destroy the environment and seriously mistreat and exploit animals in the process. But if you can do this and maintain good balance, more power to you!
    For me, going vegan has been the best health decision I’ve ever made – both in terms of how I feel, as well as quantitative results (lower weight, much lower resting heart rate, etc.).

    Like

  37. I am an avid cyclist (I commute 27 miles / 45 km per day on my road bike and I mountain bicycle most weekends. I also do resistance training and core workouts several days per week. At 43 years old, I’m in the best shape of my life. On my daily bicycle commute it is extremely rare that I get passed by other cyclists; it’s usually me who is doing the passing, even those guys with the race team garb, and I have great endurance. In the gym I’m one of those guys who gets asked questions about how to build bigger muscles…So, how do I do it?

    Protein, protein, protein… You gotta have protein and meat is one of the easiest ways to get it. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most environmentally, economically and potentially unhealthy ways to get it. To produce a pound of beef protein takes about 16 pounds of grain protein and around 2500 gallons of water. When you explore the economics of this protein conversion you quickly understand why there are so many subsidies (paid by taxes) involved in farming. On the environmental front, recall a few years back, there was a huge problem with spinach. It turned out that all of the cattle feces from the neighboring factory farm was leaching into the ground water and then being used to irrigate the spinach. Additionally, cattle are one of the principal producers of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas. Then, on the health front, the cholesterol and fat in meat, even in the organic, grass-fed… animals is a major problem for human health (which brings us back to the economic front, as we all pay higher taxes to support the health care of the nation). Additionally, as those cattle eat all that grain, unless it’s organic grain, they’re concentrating all those chemical pesticides and fertilizers in their flesh, not to mention all the hormones and antibiotics they’re fed.

    I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life and vegan-ish for the past 3 (on the rare instance, I’ll eat some cheese.) As a vegetarian athlete I’ve tried to ensure I get lots of high-quality protein in the most economically, environmentally and healthy ways. One of the best sources of protein on the planet turns out to be hemp seeds. Yes, ‘pot’ is good food! (Actually, hemp seeds come from a plant with almost no THC, and the seed is THC-Free. (If you’re wondering how that’s possible, think of the dog analogy: A great dane and a toy poodle are both dogs, but they have very different characteristics. In the same way, the hemp used for food and the hemp used for ‘getting stoned’ are both hemp, but have very different characteristics.))

    Hemp seeds are very high in protein (second only to soy), but with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in an ideal proportion and without the estrogen components found in soy. Hemp is currently illegal to grow in the USA (because the government doesn’t recognize the difference between food hemp and ‘pot’,) but Canada and some eastern European countries grow it. Hemp nuts (the seed minus the shell) and hemp protein powders are easy and tasty, and high in fiber.

    The USDA recommended daily amount of protein is 0.5g per pound of body weight. A body builder should get between 0.8g and 1.2g per pound of body weight each day. Most people should probably get somewhere between 0.5g and 0.8g per pound of body weight each day.

    Like

  38. I always get a laugh when I read labels that tout “Vegetarian-Fed” animals – particularly in the case of chickens. Chickens, like humans, are natural omnivores. You’re not doing anyone any favours by forcing them to be vegetarians.

    Like

  39. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 12 years; since I was 14. It’s extremely easy to eat a high-protein diet these days compared to just a decade ago. One product example would be Tofurkey brand sausages (http://www.tofurky.com/products/sausages.htm). Try them and then compare their nutritional facts to regular bratwurst. http://www.johnsonville.com/home/nutrition-info.html vs http://www.tofurkey.com/products/sausages_si_info.htm. They taste better and are dramatically better for you. (Especially your conscience, if you have one.)

    I lift weights 5 days a week and look like a typical muscley “meathead”. People are always shocked when I tell them I’m a strict vegetarian and don’t even eat eggs. (The egg industry is even crueler than the meat industry). All I can do is laugh off their ignorance or else I’d be constantly depressed due to the futility of it all.

    I’ve found there’s no use in trying to educate people on the subject of vegetarianism. The level of cognitive dissonance it gives people is breathtaking. Of course, you know as well as I do what choice most people make when confronted with cognitive dissonance.

    If you really want to know what vegetarianism is all about, watch “Earthlings”. http://www.vimeo.com/1753971 If you can’t stand to watch the whole thing, think about what that means. How can you support something with your money and daily dietary and fashion choices if you can’t even bear to watch what you’re supporting? No doubt, the cognitive dissonance for almost all who watch “Earthlings” will lead not to a change in choices and behavior, but to more rationalization and apologist rhetoric.

    The ironic part of it all is how ridiculously easy it is to become vegetarian if one can get past the social conditioning they’ve been subjected to since they were introduced to solid foods. Therein lies the real struggle. Are you strong enough to choose something different than everyone else? Are you strong enough to not cower when someone says incredulously “You don’t eat meat?!” Unfortunately, most people that try vegetarianism find themselves to be among the weak.

    Wherever you personally fit in to the meat, egg, seafood and fashion machine, always remember one thing –
    “You have dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the distance of miles, there is complicity.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

    Like

  40. Hi,
    I have literally just finished reading The Omnivores Dilemma – for those of you who ‘don’t care’, it is a great read – you may begin to care – even if only for the sake of your own health. As I am a New Zealander, the concept of the corn fed animal is alien to me as all our beef is grass reared, and it has struck me on more than one occasion when I have read various american diet and nutrition books that sooo much of the diet they recommend consists of highly processed food; e.g powdered egg white, processed turkey meat, texturised vegetable protein, and various synthetic protein powders and bars to name a few. I’m planning a trip via the States next year – please tell me you eat real food over there you guys! Lynda.

    Like

  41. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” are the kinds of books that are life changing. Whatever these two books may prompt you to do in terms of your diet – vegetarian, vegan, whatever – they certainly change the way you look at nutrition and what you put in your mouth. That’s fantastic no matter the route you choose.

    Kathy Freston’s “Quantum Wellness” also presents an interesting take on all of this. She really delves into the spiritual and holistic side of pursuing a vegetarian/vegan path. It’s worth a read for some really thought provoking nuggets.

    I’ve also heard that “The China Study” is a must read. Anyone had a look at it?

    Like

  42. China Study is nice: you get lots of statistical data (I won’t call it “proof” because all my meat-eating friends think it must be fake) on how most chronical diseases, like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are directly related to animal protein.

    Unfortunately, the actual advice in the China Study is only a few pages long and can be summarized with “eat only plants in their natural state”.

    I recommend “The Thrive Diet” for healthy, vegan recipes and a vegan look on health food. It’s a “advanced monkey diet” book, but it’s great to read and I still found it helpful, though I didn’t make much of the recipes.

    Like

  43. Tim,
    Here are some more great reads on this topic

    The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

    The Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

    I’m a happy omnivore, very respectful of individuals making informed choices about what they eat and why. Thanks for a another great post!

    Like

  44. Got to recommend the vegetarian thing. I am life long meat eater but last month decided to support a vegan visitor to our home by not eating meat during her stay.

    She was here a month and left last week. I don’t think I will ever eat meat again. I have lost 8lbs, feel healthier and fitter and I am more positive about life in general.

    I am now looking at veganism, juicing and a raw food diet.

    So thanks for reaffirming my decision Tim, and thanks to Hettie, aged 16, who taught a 44 year old grumpy old man a new way to look at food.

    Like

  45. I forgot to add, and I don’t think anyone mentioned yet, the high correlation between red meat consumption and certain kinds of cancer (usually bowel, colon, etc.) I believe most of this is attributed to the high amounts of processing…there’s a lot to read out there about this, here is just one example:

    bhttp://health.usnews.com/usnews/health/healthday/071211/high-meat-consumption-linked-to-heightened-cancer-risk.htm

    I also realize that general lifestyle choices (such as smoking) may be related to high (processed, fast) meat consumption. I certainly do think Tim is right to stick with eating “ethically sourced” meat if it’s the cards for you. I really like this post about a great pig farm in Iowa:

    http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/006090the_meat_we_eat.php

    Like

  46. Even if you decide you HAVE to eat meat, will you at least consider not buying animal products for clothing, furniture, etc?

    If you watch the documentary, Earthlings, you’ll understand that much of the animal products we buy are not simply “by-products.”

    Surely, there’s no reason we HAVE to wear/use animal products?

    Like

  47. I am vegetarian but my dogs are not. Getting to know an actual farmer or co-op is probably the only way to be certain of what is being sold. Like any product, find a craftsman proud of his or her work and eager to talk about it.

    Mass food in America is so cheap, eat less meat of a better quality and all parties (including animals) are better for it. Living in Iowa, we have some of the dirtiest water in the nation due to factory farms, yet I get a regular delivery of true grass fed meat and eggs from happy free range chickens.

    By the way, anyone looking for homemade dog diets check out dogaware.com

    Like

  48. I am in no affiliation with this brand but I just had a steak from “Laura’s Natural” no antibiotics, all natural, beef. It tasted significantly better than some of the other steaks I have had lately, I was very surprised.

    I certainly think that there is a lot of significance to all the labels, I just wish I knew which ones to trust.

    Like

  49. The Omnivores Dilemma was a great read, I recommend it to anyone who has any type of interest in their health (read: everyone). Another one of Michael Pollan’s books, In Defense of Food, also touches on some of this.

    I think all of this comes down to the fact that most people are lazy and do not want have to work to figure out what is bad food, good food and the best food. Even without all of the “low fat” “no carb” labels, omnivores have an incredibly difficult time determining what is the best for them to eat. “Industrial Food”, as Pollan put it, markets to this laziness at the expense of it’s consumers health.

    This is a post I wrote after reading both of these books and is similar in theme to this one. http://tinyurl.com/cqt95r

    Like

  50. As an American expat Here in Taiwan, you can buy special chickens termed “mountain chicken” this means that they are free ranged somewhere in the countryside and not raised in factory coops. They taste a lot better and a lot more lean, almost like duck meat.

    Does anyone know what all this steroid enhanced beef in the states does to your health long term? It is ironic that the united states has more hospitals and sick that most any other country. Perhaps it is true “you are what you eat”!

    Like

  51. Thanks for your answer, Tim!

    I agree that it is a bit inconvenient at first to become vegan, but that is mostly just during the learning-curve or when staying with relatives. I would expect that learning to change what you eat takes about the same amount of time as it does to find out where you can find the most ethical sources of meat.

    BTW, quinoa is another great power house for protein.

    Like

  52. @Gyan I have hemp seeds in my cupboard as well. Getting protein to the mouth is different than getting protein to the cells through the small intestines. Protein in its most bio-available form is what the cells want. Turns out animal protein is acidic, and the stomach environment is alkaline. The body draws calcium out of the bones in order to convert the acidic protein into alkaline protein. What’s left? Also, large bits of animal protein actually can pass through the intestines into the blood stream where the white blood cells attack the supposedly good animal protein as an enemy substance. Turns out that plant based protein has no such impact. One my good days, I soak sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and flax seed overnight, rinse, add water, blend, filter and enjoy nature’s best balance of protein, carbs, fats, all of which have bio-electricity to turn the switch back on. There is no inflammation in the gut (leaky gut), and I feel full for 3-4 hours. Living food has 10x the nutritional value of raw, and 80x the nutritional value of cooked food, even vegetarian cooked food. We want the experience of cooking something. Why not get the benefits of making it alive then eat it. It is amazing.
    @Generic, been there too with the social issues. Recently though, one of my wife’s friends shared the bombshell that she was going vegetarian and canceling her weekly milk delivery. The friend calls my wife weekly for support and encouragement.

    Like

  53. How great that people want to know as much about their food and where it comes from as possible. Current labels can be confusing, but consumers shouldn’t dismiss all labels out-of-hand. Animal Welfare Approved is a label worth searching out. The Animal Welfare Approved program and food label promote the well-being of animals and the sustainability of humane family farms. We unite conscientious consumers with farmers who raise their animals with compassion. Animal Welfare Approved was recently lauded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals as having the highest animal welfare standards of all third-party certifiers.

    You can find profiles of our farmers, read our standards, and find out where to buy Animal Welfare Approved products on our website, http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org. We encourage you to sign up for the mailing list, too, and stay informed about the issues, like the recent decision by the FDA not to require labeling of meat from genetically engineered animals.

    Like

  54. This post has definitely opened my eyes. Thanks Tim. Being a Meatatarian, I didn’t even consider that there could be farms like Applegate that treat animals in a humane way. Thanks goodness for them. I think there will be a shift in all of us very shortly on the way we look at farming.

    Like

  55. A good option is to buy a big freezer, find a small local beef grower you like and buy a whole beast: you’ll get good clean grass fed beef for a few months at a good price.

    Like

  56. You should take a look at the book “Maker’s Diet” it goes into the whole grass-fed discussion. By the way, there is grass fed and grass finished. Many grass fed cattle are fed grass most of the time but are fed corn at the end of the process (finish) process.
    What I thought was interesting in the book is how it talked about how our bodies are designed to eat both fruits and vegetables and meat … the way our teeth are set up, the way our stomach digests food, etc.
    Also, the way a cow’s digestive system is set up is to eat grass-like material, and that when a cow eats something else, that the physical makeup of the beef is different.
    The conclusion in a nutshell is that if you eat beef from a cow that is properly raised the way it’s system was designed, the beef will actually be good for you! If you eat beef from a cow not properly raised there will be a cascading effect (negatively) on our bodies.

    Like

  57. Tim, you should check out this website http://www.bullmoosehunting.com/BMHS/Home.html I found about this place on urbandaddy.com. It seems like to me if you want real, non-hormone, wild free animal meat this is the place to get and eat it. I moved to Sac and can’t get to SF anytime soon, so let me know if you’ve been to this place or if you go. I’d like to know what you think. And thanks for your blog, I find it a good start to my day:)

    Like

  58. I’m with you on the need for meat, Tim. My body has let me know that I am an omnivore. Being a classic protein type, I thrive on animal proteins. Carbs tend to slow me down and clog up the system. I am such a Jack Sprat that I do not tolerate beef or pork very well. I try to satisfy the need for darker meat by eating darker meat poultry and seafood.

    Ethically, I try to take the view of our ancestors. I strive to give thanks for the life that has been sacrificed so that I may live another day. I also strive to only eat as much as my body needs.

    A great resource for finding out if you are a protein or carb type is Paul Chek’s new Chek Connect site at https://www.chekconnect.com/. Just click the “Calculate Your Chi” button. You can also find this test in his book, “How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy.”

    Like

  59. Very interesting!
    I,for one,am a moderate carnivore but I find that what works for me is somewhat of a lacto-ovo diet with lots of fat.
    But yes,it is very important to know the rancher or butcher because that will say a lot,regardless of the labels.

    Like

  60. It is worth repeating…. “The China Study” is written for the practical, skeptical, thinking person who realizes that something is wrong with the way we are eating and wants to take action.

    It is true that he does not spend a lot of time telling the reader what they should do…. he go into great detail to explain what the Chinese do NOT do, and why that makes them successful.

    As Americans we tend toward solutions to problems that involve doing. We often fail when the solution involves refraining from doing.

    Like

  61. Is it worth mentioning that eating “ethically” is, for the most part, an upscale luxury? I would suppose that an exception to that generalization would be a vegetarian who thrives on bean sprouts and dull food without end, but I would suggest that such a diet would be more motivated by the high of moral superiority than deadened taste buds.

    We all know that beautifully handcrafted furniture brings us more satisfaction than the particle board crap from Ikea which one must self assemble, wasting an otherwise fine Saturday afternoon. Alas, I must be content with this decor, because I can’t afford the thrill of an antiques auction at Sotheby’s.

    I guess, on balance, I would prefer that a chicken, for example, led a happy and unconstrained existance before its head was chopped off to provide me with a tasty drumstick. The reality, however, is that when middle class people like me go to the grocery, our purchasing decisions are motivated by what’s on sale in the poultry department, much more than an interest in some tiresome debate about whether during its life the chicken lived the lifestyle of a rich and famous chicken.

    It’s fine to want to do the right thing, and it’s fine to DO the right thing when you can afford it. The problem, of course, is that while the well-to-do among us can debate the issue, the planet has over six billion people on it, who need to eat lunch NOW!

    Dadoo

    Like

    • I’m working class and i manage to eat healthy delicious vegetarian food everyday. there is a lot more to plant foods than “dull food and bean sprouts”. you get a lot more creative when you’re no longer stuck in the meat and three veg crutch. check out vegweb.com, all plant food recipes submitted by the everyday people and they’re a lot more interesting that what i ate as an omni. btw most of india is strictly vegetarian and it’s a third world country, i figure that if millions of people below the poverty line can maintain a vege diet so can I.

      Like

  62. This is a really interesting post and something close to my heart. After being a vegetarian since teenage years last year I made a very hard decision to eat meat based on health grounds. I too have read the omnivores dilemma amongst many articles when I was trying to come to terms with my very personal choice. For me key was understanding where the meat I eat comes from, the husbandary of the animal, its food stuffs and if the farm uses medication (spef antibiotics) as a matter of course. My personal choice coincided with research I was undertaking for a organic food co-op I voulnteer with. I’m UK based and found an excellent farm with fully traceable meat.

    One year on and I am now in sync with my new nutrition strategy. I feel much better and many people comment that I look much better. Vegetarianism and Veganism works for many and I have great respect for people who live with such strong ethics. It did not work for me, my body type is such that animal based protein combined with a small amount of unrefiend carbs provides my optimumn health. Eating this way has also made me feel more in sync with eating patterns before multinational corporations took over. I seek out farms that have animals as part of there overall farming system, balancing the cycle of life and death that comes with eating meat.

    Like

  63. I think a simple way to eat responsibly is to patronize your local farmer’s market! Lots of plant-based foods, a little meat and you can ask the merchant where it came from. Chances are that if they made it to the farmer’s market, then it’s close and by definition fresh.
    It accomplishes lots of things: supports local community, sometimes family-owned farms, mostly guarantees freshness and you can see the seller, just like going to the butcher.

    Support the local, family-owned farm! Chances are you’ll eat better as well.

    Like

  64. @dadoo , you are right that “ethically” produced meat (if there is such a thing) is much more expensive than the run of the mill stuff. Where I believe you are wrong is that vegetarians (and by extension vegans like me I guess) have numb taste buds! In reality your taste buds are numbed by animal fat and salt used to cure meat – try sticking to a vegan diet for about 90 days and then you will realize how great non-animal food actually tastes.
    Also, if you are budget conscious, you should consider a vegan diet – you can feed yourself quite well as a vegan for far less unless you are willing to eat very low quality meats, which terrible for your health.

    Like

  65. I became a vegetarian in my teen years for one reason: to force myself to eat a broader range of vegetables, since I was always very picky with them. I found vegetarianism intriguing and I really began enjoying a lot of the foods/food prep that I discovered through it. Of course, now I enjoy eating meat even more :)

    Like

  66. Produce can be pricey, but beans and rice are really cheap; eating vegan isn’t necessarily expensive. The guy who said animals are his friends, though, clearly never met a chicken. ;-)

    Like

  67. Hey Tim, great post.

    I didn’t have the chance to read all of the comments so I’m unsure if anyone else brought up the book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. It’s a great read on the over consumption of protein (amongst other things) in the US and the many advantages to going vegan.

    Like

  68. Vegan Libre wrote:
    “There is tremendous peace of mind knowing that generally speaking, the food you eat won’t kill or harm you,”

    Tell that to the people who died from Salmonella-tained peanut butter. Yeah, I know, you said “generally speaking”.

    I am all for anyone who wants to be vegetarian, vegan or a Pastafarian. Just don’t try and re-create me into your image, just I will not do to you.

    To the person who posted the inquiry “we don’t have to wear leather” and such, no, we don’t. But if animals are being killed for food, it seems a waste to just “toss” the rest of the carcass and “by products”, doesn’t it?

    There is a place for all of God’s creatures…right next to the mashed potatoes.

    Like

  69. Tim,

    I’m surprised you even considered vegetarianism after all your praise for Dr. Eades, and all the overwhelming data that shows the the lack of amino acids a vegetarian diet includes. Not to mention all the anthropological, archeological, and genetical studies suggesting that, other than very high intensity athletes, we should be eating as a paleolithic human. Good to see you’re back on the meat.

    A few years ago, I started eating purely meat and leafy vegetables, with some fruit. The change in my blood work along with my physique is simply shocking.

    Cheers

    Like

  70. Meat and Global Warming

    Believe it or not, 18 PERCENT of all global warming-causing emissions come from livestock. That’s more than ALL the cars, trucks, boats, airplanes and trains in the world.

    How do I know this?

    The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published these numbers in a 2007 report after thorough research.

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.htm

    The reasons for this are endless. Please educate yourself for the sake of the world your children will inhabit.

    Thank you.
    Be Veg! Go Green! Save our Planet!

    Like

  71. Kosher food methods? Didn’t you aficionados hear about the scandal at the huge national kosher AgriProcessors in Postville, OH last May? Rats. Cockroaches. Sick animals. Ripping the tracheas out of live cows’ throats. Tearing into conscious cows’ throats with meat hooks. Arrghh. They finally shut this place down and put the Prez in jail, although he was shut down for hiring illegals.
    .

    Like

  72. Isn’t it interesting how many comments are posted on any nutrition blog post?

    Having seen some wonderfully outlandish stuff in these commments about foods containing “bio-electricity”, and the stomach having an “alkaline environment”, I do despair of people’s ever being able to improve their diet.

    (I’ll leave the “bio-electricity” one alone, since I don’t even know where to begin with that. I will point out, though, that the stomach digests food by secretions of powerful acids – mainly hydrochloric acid – and the pH level is generally in the range of 1 to 2.5, so it’s about as far away from being alkaline as you could physically get. I learned this in high school biology, and I presume most other people did, too. I can understand that they might have forgotten, but it’s not difficult to check before writing about it.)

    Just to avoid this kind of pseudo-science clouding your mind, can I suggest that, before reading any of the recommended books on nutrition, people check out “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre? It’s a great read that helps non-professional scientists to tune up their Bullshit Detector – a very handy tool that I use almost every day. He has a great website too. It will probably help people to take some of those more wacky claims, backed up by non-existent or twisted scientific evidence, with a pinch of salt.

    Also – another thumbs-up here for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall!

    Like

  73. Please consider reading my article on my website about animal rights to consider whether it is moral to eat animals, from a Rawlsian perspective. This is not your ordinary animal rights argument and I think it will appeal to the unconventional thinkers who love this site — and to Tim.

    Julie Hilden

    Like

  74. @Jeremy, congratulations on improving your blood work by eating pure meat and leafy vegetables, and sticking to it. As a vegan I also avoid complex carbohydrates because they are just bad regardless of diet. Simple carbohydrates on the other hand are essential to eat if you exercise because your muscles actually burn carbohydrates (see any sports nutrition book for data on this), so I eat plenty of these.

    I want to point out that soy beans are considered a complete protein by the likes of the FDA consisting of essential amino acids (source: Wikipedia), and therefore make a fine substitute for meat nutritionally speaking. There is also plenty of evidence of long-standing cultures that sourced their protein primarily from soy, such as the Javanese (think Tempeh).

    I agree that for the most part our ancestors ate animals, but remember that they killed them up close and personal, rather than buying their products from the butcher case and dairy section. As for dairy, well, modern humans are the only animals out there who continue to consume the milk of other animals after they are weaned off their own mothers – so this is far from natural.

    Our distant ancestors did not harvest other mammals for their milk – this is relatively new (going back a few thousand years at most).

    So let’s be clear on how different modern omnivore diets are to what our distant ancestors ate. Therefore I would argue it’s not unreasonable to replace meat with soy, since the meat we consume today is almost nothing like the meat our distant ancestors consumed.

    Like

  75. @Bryan Smith

    Sure, the UN is never biased. But even so, that might be true if “global warming” were an actual event and not just cyclical changes in an ecosystem that predates Man by billions of years. I mean…record cold this year? Where’s the global warming? Or the promised ‘new ice age’ predicted in the 1970’s (I remember the reports).

    Oh, wait. I am sorry, I forgot. It’s not “global warming” anymore. It’s “climate change”.

    Science cannot even predict the weather in 3 weeks, but we trust, as absolute fact, scientists who say that “global warming” (even if true) is no doubt man-made and will never reverse itself and will destroy the planet and harm little puppies?

    Please.

    ###

    From Tim: Please play nice, kids. Debate is fine, but if the posts get too personal, they won’t pass moderation.

    Thanks for contributing!

    Like

  76. In the U.S., I think there are some people like Tim who have regimens & metabolisms that result in being and staying fit most of the time. But there’s another category of people who are constantly having a hard time keeping from being overweight and also feel tired and not their best most of the time. Tim writes a lot about his personal experience, so some of his advice might not work perfectly for the second group of people. I’d like to point out something that I’ve found in my experience:

    Digestion of meat and bread causes your body to create lots of mucus and acid. The unhealthy mucus is all through your digestion tract and it is basically just a thick, sticky ooze that slows down the process and traps stuff and generally clogs you up. The acid is produced to break down the difficult-to-digest meat. 1) This requires a lot of energy from your body and results in feeling lethargic, and 2) Your body becomes acidic which makes it very vulnerable to sickness and disease.

    With my body, I’ve found that primarily eating fruits and vegetables is the key. I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat meat only a once or twice per month usually. I do love fish, and I eat sushi regularly. Also, having alkaline blood (rather than acidic) has resulted in me going several years at a time without getting sick at all. Everybody should test their pH; most will find that they are way more acidic than a healthy body should be. With proper pH and hydration, I’ve found that headaches, colds, and 99% of any health problems simply disappear.

    Like

  77. Tim, I was thinking about the blood tests and data you researched. Like you, I am swayed by research–but most regular vegetarians don’t eat the way most of us here are talking about, so I would expect your data and research is skewed by vegetarians whose diets consist of a large amount of cheese and pasta and potatoes.

    The research you need to look at (unless you already have?) is to compare a diet based on whole foods…beans, tofu, brown rice, steel-cut or old-fashioned oats, quinoa, nuts and seeds, fresh vegetables, etc. Since only a very small percentage of us vegetarians eat that way, I highly doubt you were seeing research on this type of diet.

    And since eating this ways solves an enormous amount of micro- and macro-problems, it is right in line with your philosophy of getting the greatest amount of outcome for the smallest amount of input.

    @Dadoo–I only discovered flavor when I walked away from cream, cheese, and animal meat and turned instead to the many rich herbs and spices that grow on plants. My husband, who hasn’t made the choice to become a full vegetarian, prefers my vegan food over our old favorite restaurants. It’s so much more flavorful.

    Like

  78. Dear all,

    Let’s be careful when painting “meat” with such a broad brush. 100% grass-fed, pastured animal products do not necessarily contribute to global warming, instead they can contribute to sustainable mixed farming that beats the socks off of monoculture fertilizer-reliant farming practices (which are indirectly encouraged by vegetarianism).

    Furthermore the protein and fat in grass-fed animal products are of completely different quality than grain-fed/industrialized meat. Any study comparing meat consumption to disease is mostly worthless without carefully controlling and defining the quality of meat consumed, which of course is never done.

    Meat consumption is here to stay, if only because significant portions of the Earth’s surface cannot grow vegetables but can be be used for livestock. Based upon that fact, by buying local, grass-fed animal products only, you 1) support local farmers 2) encourage sustainable animal husbandry 3) get unimpeachably healthy protein/fat into your body 4) reduce food miles and food monoculture.

    Where I live, to get adequate fat and protein year round on a vegetarian diet, I would have to rely on foods shipped across the country and world, and probably would have to rely on industrially processed foods (vegetable oils, soy products). Furthermore the high carbohydrate content of a vegetarian diet is questionable at best and extremely unhealthy at worst for those of us who are genetically-speaking not very adaptable to grain/carb-based diets. (I would argue that’s most of the human population)

    Therefore I believe that eating the highest quality meat is a MORE ethically sound choice than vegetarianism – it is a positive action that encourages a revival of healthy farming and eating practices, whereas vegetarianism strikes me as a negative or non-action that amounts to sticking one’s head in the sand. To draw an analogy, if you are against our car-centric culture, can you effect change more by never stepping foot in a motor vehicle again, or by participating in and encouraging things like car-sharing and public transportation?

    Thanks.

    Like

  79. Dear Tim,
    I hope everyone reading this article will also read “Diet For A New America” by John Robbins. Certainly some other options discussed are better than others (organic’s better than non-organic, for example), but eating any animal product (flesh, eggs, milk products) is awful for our health, our planet, the animals who are being killed or kept in horrific conditions (and eventually killed), and other humans on the planet who are starving.
    Production of animal products is a huge polluter of water, land, and air. Robbins’ meticulously researched book goes into the facts about all of the above in detail. It is horrible for our health. And research will show that many of the best athletes that ever lived were vegetarian and/or vegan (no animal products at all). In fact, athletic performance will improve the most from being a raw food vegan, specifically as Dr. Douglas Graham describes in his book, “The 80-10-10 Diet.” Dr. Graham trains many pro and Olympic athletes.
    Many people seem to care more about what they think their taste buds like (vegan food can taste just as good or better) than they care about our planet, their health and longevity, animals, and other people (including children) who are starving. (If people gave up meat-eating, it would free up resources to feed all the starving people on our planet.) Other people are just uneducated about it. Which can be easy because there are people out there who promote diets, claiming they are healthy, when they are not. (I.e. Atkins Diet.)
    It’s possible (and much more likely) to have all you want (optimal athletic performance, optimal health, longevity, tons of energy) on a vegan diet (no flesh, no eggs, no milk products, etc.)
    Thanks.

    Like