As more people are connecting the dots between diet and health, not just personal health, but also the health of the planet, what we eat – and how our food is produced – is becoming increasingly politicized.
I personally believe that eating a diet high in nutritious foods while cutting out those foods that can cause harm to our bodies over time is the best thing to do, and Paleo offers this approach.
The Paleo diet is based on the way humans used to eat thousands of years ago. It is often referred to as the hunter-gatherer diet, as you should be able to source everything you eat from the land or by hunting.
Red meat is arguably one of the most controversial foods in the modern human diet, especially since conflicting information has been shared over the years. There has been much confusion about the health benefits that could be gained from red meat, and people were mistakenly told that red meat was bad for their health and the environment
That being said, there are a variety of reasons why you might want to eat less, or no meat at all (from animal welfare to religious reasons), and whilst meat is a staple in Paleo meal plans, it is possible to follow the Paleo diet without it being the most predominant option on your plate - you just need to be more of a gatherer than a hunter.
A well formulated Paleo diet includes fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. Perhaps even more importantly, there will always be huge benefits gained from cutting out foods like wheat, other grains, and processed sugars.
One of the biggest differences between the diets of modern and ancient man the quality of the food. This demonstrates that, in terms of protein and food consumption, quality is far more important than quantity.
Commercial livestock production stresses the land. However, with proper methodologies, raising cattle can actually be beneficial in preserving ecosystems, producing food from inedible sources, restoring soil fertility, and recycling plant nutrients.
The Paleo diet emphasizes food quality and ethical farming practices as much as it does the types of food to consume. Pastured and grass-fed proteins are recommended as they are an investment in both the environment and present and future physical well-being. As the demand for sustainable animal protein grows, agricultural boards and organizations can provide more research and education to ranchers to reduce their use of water, pesticides, and feed grain.
The Benefits of Well-Raised Meat
Most pasture land is not arable and is often unfit for crop farming. Goats, pigs, chickens, cows, and many other animals can thrive on marginal land that is unsuitable for vegetable or grain production. Pasturing ruminants on this land is adding to the net food supply, because it’s using land that otherwise is unable be used to produce food. The resources put into food for factory-farmed cows could, instead be used to grow food for humans as opposed to inefficiently growing food for livestock.
Grass on a pasture contributes little to the environmental destruction created by large mono-cropped fields. The corn and soy for the animals come from industrial grain farms that destroy local ecosystems, leak pesticides into the air and water, and require mass quantities of ecologically dangerous fertilizers.
Industrial agriculture strips land of nutrients and degrades the soil. Since 1960, the US has lost half of its topsoil, and 90% of agricultural land is losing topsoil at an unsustainable rate. On the contrary, grazing cows on pasture improves soil quality and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Pasture-raised meat takes a much smaller toll on fresh water supplies. Agriculture is responsible for 85% of water use in North America. Conventionally raising animal protein requires 100 times more water, per calorie, than plant protein. This is mostly due to the water required to grow feed for the animals. Very little of this amount is water consumed by the animals themselves. When animals are pastured there is no need for excessive water to grow the corn and soy to feed the animals.
Pastured cows do eat some forage, but for the most part, the grass is already in the pasture and doesn’t need to be trucked anywhere. This dramatically cuts down on fossil fuel use. Modern factory farming practices employ excessive use of fossil fuels transportation alone. After being grown, corn or soy destined for feed has to be trucked out to a feed manufacturer. Here it is processed and the transported via truck, again, to the feedlots. This is clearly not optimal for fossil fuel utilization, greenhouse gas emissions and the planet.
Waste, Greenhouse Gases and Methane
Feedlots produce excessive amounts of waste, manure and biohazardous materials. These often carry dangerous pathogens thanks to the crowded and unsanitary conditions that the cows live in. weather related conditions, blockages and floods can result in this unsanitary product streaming into rivers, polluting the surrounding environment and creating possible health hazards. An example of this is the large “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico created by the pollution from toxic manure from factory farms.
Cows that eat their biologically appropriate diet (grass) produce manure which in turn fertilizes the grass that they eat. This eliminates the need for dangerous industrial fertilizers, and reduces the risk of a flood of feces-borne E. Coli into the surrounding environment.
While methane doesn't linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. Environmentally-friendly food should produce as little methane as possible. Pastured cows and other ruminants do produce methane as a by-product of fermenting the fiber in their diet. The more fibrous plant material they eat, the more methane they produce. Superficially this could imply that grass-fed meat is worse for the planet. On deeper investigation it becomes evident that grazing actually sequesters carbon in the soil, reducing the net climate impact of grass-fed cows.
In fact, growing industrial feed and trucking it across the country produces significantly more greenhouse gas than the cows themselves. Pasturing and ethically raising cattle can actually have a positive net impact on the environment.
Antibiotics and Steroids
Both antibiotics and steroids are used in conventionally farmed animals to promote growth and pre-emptively prevent illness. Use of low-dose antibiotics as growth promoters provides ideal conditions for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to proliferate. These can then be passed on to humans. Pastured animals are raised using ethical and more organic philosophies. Antibiotic resistance is a much smaller issue, as antibiotics are used only if an animal gets sick.
Pete’s Paleo takes great pride in sourcing humanely, ethically and naturally raised animals and produce from local farms who care as much about the food the produce as you do about the food you choose to eat.
If you are looking to reduce your meat consumption, Pete’s Paleo offers the vegetable options in meal sized portions too
All meals are created from seasonal, sustainable, nourishing ingredients, deliciously crafted and prepared with love, delivered right to your door to be ready when you are – no apron required.
Non-Meat Protein Sources
If you are choosing to reduce your meat consumption, along with choosing better meat, there are a many Paleo options to supplement your protein intake. A few unconventional alternatives, that you may or may not have previously considered include:
One of the toughest aspects when choosing to reduce meat intake is getting sufficient protein (nuts only offer so much protein and it’s best not to overeat nuts due to their high phytic acid content and how easy they are to overeat).
Eggs play a large part in regular Paleo diets already as they are delicious, easy and fast to cook. An easy and filling breakfast option is a couple of boiled eggs with an avocado.
This green algae has a 62% amino acid content, containing all essential amino acid and is considered a complete protein. Plus, it contains minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll and almost too much to mention in just one bullet point! It has beta-carotene (vitamin A), C, E, K, B1, B2, B6, B12, niacin, pantothenic acid, RNA, DNA, folic acid, biotin, choline, and inositol; just to name a few. It is best taken on an empty stomach at least 20 minutes before other food.
This cheesy-tasting topping also contains all the essential amino acids. Nutritional yeast is a great source of B vitamins, high in minerals, protein, and helps the liver breaks down fats. Furthermore, it is good plant source of glutathione and chromium. Add a few tablespoons in water or a smoothie or on your salad.
Most seaweed is at least 50% protein. Sea greens are rich in minerals, specifically iodine.
Examples include, kelp, kombu, arame, wakame, nori, and dulse. You can get powdered kelp and add it to smoothies, soups, and salads, or make entire meals out of it.
Though to many, this fruit smells really bad, it is definitely worth it. Durians are a great source of protein and contain high levels of tryptophan.
Tip: While many people find durians to be stinky, freezing them helps mitigate the smell.
These little seeds pack 30 grams of protein per tablespoon! Hemp seeds contain many minerals, along with all 9 essential amino acids and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
No matter what types of proteins you choose to fill your plate, eating organically raised plants and pasture-based animals from local sources, while avoiding hyper-palatable overly processed foods that have undergone much manipulation and traveled long distances to get to your plate is the most healthful way to live. This is the heart of the Paleo diet
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com