Back when humanity’s most serious dietary problem was the chance of ending up as lunch for a ferocious carnivore, our diet consisted of fruits, vegetables and grains. We weren’t ferocious enough to be great hunters, but we were smart enough to be great scavengers. When a strong carnivore such as a cheetah had killed its prey and eaten its fill, we would step in and feast on the leftovers. The occasional feed of meat was a real treat – it didn’t happen at every meal.
As man progressed, we learned to kill our own beasts. But armed with only the crudest weapons, success came only occasionally. Our diet still consisted largely of fruit, vegies and grains, with meat an irregular supplement. As time went on we became masters at hunting and meat became a staple in the diet but along with all the other vegetable goodies nature could provide.
It is only in the last fifty years or so that we have developed the capability and the wealth to dine on meat whenever we like. Now the average family in the developed world eats meat at least twice a day. But not only has the quantity of meat we devour changed, so has the quality of the meat. No more wild animals roaming the untamed wilderness – much of today’s meat is processed, manufactured, and contains many hormones, chemicals, additives and pesticide residues.
There are 1.28 billion cattle in the world – one for every four of us. Apart from the dietary ramifications of eating meat, the production and keeping of these docile bovines is straining the planet’s resources.
Cows are also inefficient converters of vegetation into meat. The production of 1kg of beef requires the cow to eat 16kg of grain and soy feed. In pigs the ratio is 6:1 and chickens 3:1. This equates to livestock consuming more than a third of all the world’s grain.
Economically, eating this type of meat does not work. In terms of health, eating meat has been linked to some horrendous diseases including Mad Cow disease. Nobody knows what causes this disease, whether it is a virus, bacteria or small protein. But what is suspected is animal husbandry. In the late eighties, cows, pigs and chickens were fed meat meal, which is off-cuts from butchers and abattoirs. There is suspicion that this is what may have caused Mad Cow disease. Cattle are no longer given the meat meal, but pigs and poultry continue to be fed it.
Other diseases such as heart disease, stroke and arteriosclerosis have also been linked to meat eating, especially red meat. I don’t think the meat is the problem but how much we eat and of what type and quality. Processed meats such as ham, bacon, devon and so on are just that – processed. I do not recommend any. The food additives that are used to preserve these meats are needed because without them there would be many deaths from the growth of toxic micro-organisms in the meat. But I also believe these additives should be avoided. The preservatives are: potassium nitrite (249), sodium nitrite (250), sodium nitrate (251) and potassium nitrate (252). The nitrites and nitrates may cause anaemia. This may cause difficulty in breathing, dizziness or headaches. These foods should not be given to infants or young children, as they are more susceptible to these effects. These additives also are capable of reacting in the stomach with substances called amines to form nitrosamines, which are potentially carcinogenic (cancer forming).
Organic farming practices need to be adopted for cows, poultry and pigs. Biodynamic red meat and organic free range chickens are what they are termed. These animals are bred the old-fashioned way. The meat is free from drugs, steroids and other chemicals. Back in 1998 when I first wrote Changing Habits Changing Lives, I only knew of two places in which to buy these meat products as the demand was not as high as it is currently. Today I can go to my local markets and find 3-4 places to buy my fresh meat, as more people are becoming aware of the importance of choosing biodynamic meat for not only their health, but that of the environment too.
However I have noticed more and more types of meats are becoming available such as kangaroo, goat, turkey and offal. These are still basically wild meats which aren’t tampered with. Let’s hope they stay that way.
We are all individuals and I do not believe that genetically all of us should be vegetarians – although I do believe that some people can live a long and healthy life without meat and definitely without animal products. History has shown us that our ancestors ate meat. So eating good quality meat is not detrimental to your health. It is all in the circle of life, as long as it is not abused. What is of concern for your health is the quality and quantity of meat that is consumed.
So what role should meat play in a healthy, balanced diet and how much is too much?
Contrary to popular belief, good quality, fresh meats and fish are an excellent source of nutrition. They are rich in vitamins, amino acids, nourishing fats, many minerals and other nutrients which we humans need on a daily basis. If you compare the amount of vitamins in meat, fish or poultry to grains, it is actually the animal products which are top of the list. Let’s have a look at a few of them and their richest sources:
Vitamin B1: pork and offal
Vitamin B2: eggs, meat, poultry and fish
Vitamin B3: meat and poultry
Vitamin B5: meats and liver
Vitamin B6: meat, poultry, fish and eggs
Vitamin B12: meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk
Biotin: liver and eggs
Vitamin A: liver, eggs, fish and butter
Vitamin D: liver, fermented fish liver oils, eggs and fish
Folic Acid: by far the richest source is liver. Then green leafy vegetables, although they can be harder to digest.
Vitamin K2: offal, full fat dairy (cheese, butter, cream etc), animal fats and egg yolks.
So you can see from the above list how important it is to begin eating all parts of the animal – keep the bones and eat the fat, meat and offal because they are so incredibly nutrient dense and offal is also cheap to buy.
I also encourage you to buy cuts with the bones intact. Stockpile the bones and keep them in your freezer to make beautiful bone broths. Bone broths are so incredibly nourishing and a wonderful nutritional and digestive remedy. As you cook the meats in water with their bones intact, a lot of the nutrients get extracted into the water. Use the stock or broths for making stews, soups, spaghetti sauces or simply drinking plain with the addition of the Changing Habits Seaweed Salt, lemon, herbs or spices for additional flavour.
We have plenty of recipes for how to use and make bone broth, and how to incorporate offal meats into your diet in our latest Changing Habits Recipe Book – a flip chart style book filled with 150 healthy, delicious and easy to follow recipes.
I believe that you should include a variety of protein sources into your daily diet. A typical week of dinner meals could go something like this (and use the leftovers for breakfast or lunch the following day with salad or cooked vegetables):
Monday – Organic free-range chicken
Tuesday – Organic free-range eggs
Wednesday – Seafood or a vegetarian meal
Thursday – Biodynamic organic beef, goat, lamb or offal
Friday – Fish, seafood or a vegetarian meal
Saturday – Biodynamic organic goat, duck or turkey
Sunday – Biodynamic organic lamb or offal
And finally, when you do serve a meat or fish dish, make sure you eat it with a fresh salad and vegetables. There’s a good reason for this. Imagine if you left a piece of steak in the sun for a few hours – it would be putrid and stinking! Your stomach is hot (about 38 degrees Celsius) and meat takes a long time to digest. If it sits in your stomach for any length of time, it will putrefy – what a revolting thought! But fresh salad and vegetables contains live enzymes, which speed up the digestive process, breaking the meat down quickly and avoiding digestive health problems. So avoid the breads and pastas and whip up a nice salad whenever you eat red meat, chicken or fish. And always eat more of the salad than there is of the meat, not by weight but by volume.
1 Find out where your closest biodynamic butcher is.
2 Ask whether they add any preservatives, hormones or additives to the meat and where it is grown and slaughtered. Is it grain, grass-fed, organic, ethical etc.
3 Have variety in all the quality proteins and eat them in moderation.
We are all individuals, so the amount of meat eaten every day is individual. If you follow the guidelines I’ve set out, you will be on your way to better health.
Happy Changing Habits,