You Are What You Eat – And What You Eat Eats, Too
For many people, it’s bewildering to keep pace with the latest studies on eating healthy while trying to avoid a diet that relies too much on products from the tail end of a long industrial food chain.
Many people simplify the issue by following the advice, “You are what you eat.” That’s good as far as it goes. It keeps people eating more vegetables and less processed food from a box.
But, of course, there is more. For example, an increasing number of studies have emerged in recent years that show locally-sourced food provides many benefits.
Michigan State University lists some of them. Locally-sourced food tends to have more flavor and nutrients. Buying local also supports the local environment while reducing the risk of food contamination by cutting down the number of steps from the farm to your table.
And then there’s this idea, which started with noted author Michael Pollan, who often writes about food in the United States. He wrote years ago in the New York Times: “We are what we eat, it is often said, but of course that is only part of the story. We are what we eat eats too.”
Not exactly poetry. But it drives home a critical point.
There is a reason some companies go beyond just locally raising cattle. They also, like Acabonac Farms, feed livestock using natural grass. Not only that, the cattle range free and forage for their food rather than standing in a feed lot.
Additionally, they never are given sub-therapeutic antibiotics, growth hormones or steroids. Why do all this when it’s not as “efficient” as mammoth operations where cattle eat corn and grain? Because science shows grass-fed beef is better. Better for cattle with more humane treatment. Better for consumers by providing leaner, healthier beef. It doesn’t require an advanced degree in biochemistry to know it’s best not to ingest antibiotics and hormones while eating dinner.
That’s one of the points Pollan, who now is a professor at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, made years ago.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
Unlike local cattle farms, the word “farm” doesn’t really apply to where most beef originates. Pollan called them “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.” It’s a billion-dollar industry. It’s also made mass production of beef as streamlined as possible.
That’s good for business, but maybe not so much for consumers.
One main issue is what cattle are fed. Pollan pointed out that a cow grazing on grass “is at least doing what he has been splendidly molded by evolution to do.” He also called the relationship between cows and grass an underappreciated wonder of nature.
That’s because cows – as well as other grazing animals – have an advanced ability to convert grass into quality protein.
The reason the cattle industry feeds cattle hormones and loads of corn and grain is to get them to grow faster. That’s made beef affordable for almost everyone and made the cattle industry profitable. But it’s also led to people questioning what exactly they are eating.
And it’s not just Pollan. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently released its findings on issues with large cattle operations. They range from environmental damage to – you guessed it – the use of intensive corn and grain diets to fatten cattle before slaughter.
Also, a study published in the Nutritional Journal found grass-fed beef is better than corn-fed beef in many areas:
● A better lipid profile, meaning less ingredients that elevate cholesterol levels
● Higher in precursors for Vitamin A
● Higher in precursors for Vitamin E
● Higher in cancer-fighting antioxidants
● Lower in fat content
The study also noted a correlation between positive lipid and antioxidant results and cattle grazing on grass.
Taken together, it’s clear that smart consumers should look at not just what they eat, but how their food itself was fed. Questions such as those will certainly lead people to consider locally-grown, grass-fed beef.