If you’ve been around the blog for a hot minute, you’ll probably know that I was plant-based for a good 4+ years. Great way to start a post about meat, right? Just trust me. When I started my plant-based journey, it was with the intention of dealing with other issues in my body. And somewhere along the way, I grew to appreciate the fact that I wasn’t eating meat. So when I finally decided to add it back into my diet for health reasons, I did so with a lot of caution and even more research.
Today’s post is an accumulation of what I’ve learned via my own research, my personal journey as well as a recent conversation with Cody Hopkins of Grass Roots Coop. If you haven’t listened to his episode of the WSS podcast, be sure to check it out. But without further ado, let’s dig into the deets. We’ve got some learning and leveling up to do!
What are we defining as meat quality?
There are a lot of cuts of meat. But when it comes to quality, it’s important to look at the taste and how it’s actually impacting your body.
What’s actually in your meat?
THIS is the major focus of today’s post because it’s something I don’t think gets talked about enough. We don’t often consider the life meat had before it lands on our plate which means we don’t often think about the things we’re eating without our knowledge. One of the things Cody shares in today’s episode is how often animals are loaded up on GMO grains. And for many who add pasture-raised as a label, they aren’t given access to fresh pasture in a way that encourages them to eat it. So they have a nice title but without the follow-through.
How do I know I’m getting the best quality?
The biggest thing is knowing the farm your meat is coming from. Farmers’ markets are a great option for getting to know your local farmer. Personally, we buy a majority of our meat from Grass Roots Coop and have for a while now. It’s why I partnered with them today to bring more education to the WSS community.
When we buy meat from our traditional grocery stores, we have very limited access to how it was processed. Being able to track meat to a farmer means we have first-hand knowledge of exactly what we’re potentially exposing ourselves to. And if you’re like myself and so many others I know who have come to find the hormonal health or other health issues arise, changing your diet to complement your health goals can make a major difference.
Better quality meat means getting higher nutrients which can impact your overall health on numerous levels. Pasture-raised, forested and grass-fed & finished beef have higher healthy omegas that are needed for brain health. They are also less like to be packed with inflammatory ingredients which can wreak havoc on our gut health (1).
How do I shop for better quality on a budget?
I get it. It’s a conversation I have with friends and family all the time. I don’t think any of us walk around thinking: yes, I would LOVE to not take care of my body. But how do I do it in an affordable way? So here are my suggestions if you’re ready to make major changes but need to do it with a budget in mind:
– find a local farmer: yes, this takes some digging. However, it’s probably the most cost effective way to do it if you aren’t in a financial position to buy in bulk.
– rotate in solid plant based proteins and make meat more of an investment item
– buy-in with a friend. If you’re looking to buy online and opt for the convenience, consider split a subscription or order with a friend to maximize on savings.
Why does it matter? How is bad meat impacting my health?
In prep for today’s blog post, I went back through some of the books that have educated me over the years as I’ve dived into healing my own body. *See the list at the bottom of the post if you want to dive in as well* The traditional American diet is packed with loads of inflammatory foods. It’s what makes them something we crave more and more of. Kelly Leveque, Max Lugavere and so many other thought leaders in the wellness space have educated on the fact that our food is designed to make us crave more. Whether it’s the sugar hidden in our meals or the higher carb concentration we’ve grown to reach for, we become addicted to the blood sugar spikes and carb cravings.
But it’s also what’s slowly killing us. Think of it like a small virus. You are exposed in a small amount to things that maybe aren’t perfect or best for your body but it’s fine. You have one bite or one small meal. And then that goes into years of it. We’re no longer recovering from one moment of less than stellar quality. We’re exposing ourselves daily.
When our bodies go from the oops I have a cut and it’s inflamed kind of inflammation to holy crap my entire body is inflamed, the issues kick in. Everything from heart disease to cancer to loads of autoimmune diseases have been linked to inflammation (1).
Meat is one of the places we often forget to clean up in our diets because we think: oh I’ll just change the sauce. Or oh I’ll just bake that instead of frying it. But we’re still not removing our exposure to the inflammatory things our meat has eaten before it gets to our plates. Additionally, there are certain nutrients that our bodies don’t produce naturally. Omega 3 & 6 fats are essential for brain health but something we primarily get through food (2). Upping our quality of meat means that we are taking a stance at protecting our minds & bodies long term. We are choosing to invest in ourselves.
What are the physical changes you’ve noticed by switching your meat quality?It’s far easier to manage my hormones and my mental health when I’m eating the right way. Brain fog, fatigue, muscle aches, acne are all caused by inflammation. I’m an active human. It’s incredibly important to me to be able to perform at the highest level professionally. This means I have to be able to recover quickly after a workout, have a brain that can catch things at lightning speed, and am managing my mental health in a way that helps me stay intuned with my intuition. When I’m less than stellar with all the things in my diet, I find my body has NO shame in letting me know. You’ll see breakouts on my skin when I’ve eaten something (typically without my knowledge) that my body isn’t loving. If I’ve been traveling for an extended time but decided to get slack on the food prep, I’m sluggish. It takes me WAY longer to recover from intense workouts.
What are my best options for buying meat online?There are quite a few places in the market. And depending on the coast you’re shopping, your price will definitely range. I know a lot of West coast influencers chat about Bellcampo. However, you’re going to be paying West coast prices because that’s what they need to charge to make their ends meet. Personally, we made the switch to GRC for a few reasons with our meat quality.
Why Grass Roots Coop?Flexibility – I wanted to be able to stock up as needed and adjust depending on our tastes. While I’m all for having a stockpile in the freezer, I’d much rather keep a reasonable portion on hand. This means I’m making sure I’m consistently engaging with what is going on my plate. And in the chance of a Hurricane (the 2 year anniversary of Hurricane Michael was this week), we aren’t losing thousands of dollars of food with a power outage. Supporting Small – hearing Cody share the story of how they help make it possible for farmers to actually make a livelihood is amazing. So definitely the episode a listen. I’ve had the privilege of creating more food content online this year and finding larger organizations that are being intentional with supporting the smaller groups. This means I get to make an impact but I also don’t have to do as much research which saves me time. Time-Saving – Prior to 2020, my number 1 priority was figuring out how to maximize my time. And while I have no doubt I’ll be on that path again soon, GRC is great for making it easy to get high-quality meat that supports living a healthy lifestyle without me driving an hour+ to the health foods store. Intentionally Investing In My Health – When I went plant-based, I became a label reading machine. I learned everything I never knew I needed to know about dairy. And then when I found out I had other sensitivities and health issues, it became an even more intense habit. I had a choice: I could take a pill that was hiding the issues or I could get honest with what I was eating and heal myself. I chose the latter. Eating pasture-raised meat means I’m setting myself up for my best life. I’m able to holistically manage my hormones. I can spend most of my days without acne because my skin, gut, and body are thriving. I’ve chosen to eat in a way that honors my body, my goals, and the environment.
What are the different types of high quality meat?Pasture Raised Poultry – Ideally, the poultry are given access to fresh, new pasture daily. For GRC, this means moving their full pen rather than housing chickens in a coop with outside access. Many choose not to leave their “hole” even when provided it. Grass Fed & Finished Beef – This means that they are fed grass for the entirety of their lives. Some store labels will say grass fed but that doesn’t mean it’s the majority of their diet as they are often switched to grains to fatten them up. GFGF is the most readily available option if you’re looking to test the waters in stores. Just be sure to double-check your labels for fine print. I’ve seen some sneaky things lately. Forested Pork – These pigs spend their entire life outdoors with a majority of it in the forest. This means their flavor profile is different depending on where it’s sourced from as the pigs will eat whatever nuts, berries, seeds and the like they have access to in their particular terrain.
Why can’t I find this at my grocery store?
I think the easiest answer is it’s expensive. High-quality meat is still considered a luxury item for a lot of households. So the market in the traditional grocery store just doesn’t exist. Again, you might find it at a health food store. Maybe. But your best bet is to hop online and start looking.
Does GRC Fit The Plant Paradox Standard?No. If you haven’t read The Plant Paradox yet, I’d highly encourage it. There are SO many diets out there. It’s personally taken me several years and a lot of trial & error to find the right combo for myself. So while I don’t follow the lectin-free lifestyle, I am always looking to be mindful about how I’m exposing my body to lectins. Prior to my conversation with Cody, I personally don’t think I understood the full scope of pasture raised meat. Is it possible to get chicken that is totally corn, soy & grain free? Yes. But it’s hella expensive, takes a long time and is hard to do. GRC does offer corn free options? Yes. But if you’re looking for something TOTALLY free of grains, you’ll need to do another google search.
Alrighty friends! I hope today’s post gave you an intro to stepping up your meat game. Be sure to check out today’s podcast episode where we go into more info on sustainability, how changing farming styles can support your environment & community as well as what you need to know about buying meat in stores. Until next time friends. Xoxo, Savvy
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