We are now 9 days (only 9 days?!?) into our locavore challenge. I must admit, I am having trouble. In fact I am flat out a cheater. I love the Farmer’s Market for fruits and vegetables and I even enjoy the shopping experience. However, my downfall comes in the form of animal products, specifically meat and diary. I enjoy meat. I feel full, energized and satisfied after meat. Local meat is proving to be an issue. The few places I have found with local meat charge double or triple what I can buy outsourced meat for at my local grocery. My intern budget just cannot accommodate the expense. Also, there remains the question if local meat stays local or is it sent out of the county to be processed? Suppliers tend to be a little shady about where they process their products. My final challenge is my boyfriend. He could be a serious contender for “Carnivore of the Year” if such a thing existed. Upon hearing about our little challenge for the first time, he immediately stated, “I am not participating.”
Since we have already established that I am a cheater here is my compromise. I will buy grass-fed, non-antibiotic injected meat. At least this is healthier for me and better for the environment, even if it is not local.
I was surprised in my research to find that grass-fed beef has so many health benefits over its factory farmed counterpart. Grass fed beef is lower in fat and calories and higher in vitamins and minerals. The meat is 2 to 4 times higher in Omega 3 fatty acids which lower your risk of cancer, high blood pressure and certain mental conditions. In addition, grass-fed beef contains Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA, which is a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in beef. Research shows that CLA may play a major role in reducing cancer risk and reducing tumor growth. Also, grass-fed beef is higher in Vitamin E, which is important in reducing heart disease, cancer, and has anti-aging properties. Finally, factory farms are breeding grounds for bacteria, especially the antibiotic resistant types. Grass-fed beef greatly reduces the occurrence of Staph and E-coli infections in the animals and thus the risk of the bacteria being transmitted to humans.
The environmental health benefits are substantial as well. Pasture grazed livestock reduce pollution by naturally distributing their manure so it is easily reabsorbed into the soil adding nutrients. Similarly, pasturing livestock eliminates the need for holding ponds filled with animal excrement, a huge source of air and water pollution. Because the cows do the harvesting, by eating, instead of mechanical farm equipment, fossil fuel usage is reduced. The need to transport animal feed from one farm to another is another pollution source eliminated in the process. Finally, pasture land, unlike dirt feedlots, actually absorb green house gases from the air and deposit it into the soil, injecting valuable nutrients.
While grass-fed is still pricier than than the factory farmed beef, Whole Foods has some good specials ($5/pound), so with a little planning and freezing this can be the start of a healthier lifestyle for myself, the planet, and my carnivorous boyfriend.
(health fact source: eatwild.com)