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A new study is generating a lot of buzz in health circles. While I’m still working on my educational classes (which will go into great detail about general nutrition as well as foods like dairy, meat, grains, and produce), I felt compelled to comment on this study considering all the attention it’s getting.

This was a cohort study which analysed the intake of over 100,000 individuals. The results of the study concluded that those who consumed the most red meat were more likely to die 20% sooner than those who consumed less red meat. The authors of the study concluded:

“Our study adds more evidence to the health risks of eating high amounts of red meat, which has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers in other studies”.

Well, there you have it folks, time for me to chuck out all the beef I have in the freezer!

Okay, not quite. Let’s get into the details here. As I mentioned, this was a cohort study, so it was purely observational, and it checked in with participants (via a questionnaire) every 4 years to analyze their diet and general health (and whether or not they died). The end result, as stated, showed that the more red meat you ate, the more likely you were to see an early grave. Does this sound familiar? Why yes, I talked a lot about cohort studies in my article Will Ditching Meat Save You From Disease?. Here are some basic questions that the study fails to address:

What kind of meat was consumed?
Pastured? Organic? Conventional? Burger King?
What was consumed along with the red meat?
What was the health-related lifestyle of these individuals like?

Without these being properly answered, how can it come to the conclusion that it was the meat?  What if the red meat eaters consumed white bread and vegetable oil along with their steak? That would increase their risk of heart disease and cancer. If these same individuals drank a soda at each meal, that would increase their risk of diabetes and obesity. All of these factors will increase the risk for mortality. So hey, where’s the beef?

Ben Coomber sifted through the full study and made some fantastic bullet-points:

  • The people that consumed the least amount of meat did the most exercise, so there was a correlation that the people already looking after themselves presented less disease risk and thus ate less red meat anyway
  • Smoking in the high meat group was almost double
  • % rate of current diabetes was almost double in high meat group
  • The people that consumed the least meat actually had higher cholesterol levels
  • More “healthy” participants consumed a multi-vitamin
  • High bad meat consumers drank 1.5x more alcohol
  • High bad meat consumers consumed nearly 1/2 as much fish indicating 80% lower levels of omega 3 fats
  • Both men and women with high processed meat intake were less likely to exercise, more likely to smoke, have more body fat, eat more calories good and bad in general, eat less fruit and vegetables and drink more, a catch 22 bad lifestyle making you more prone to disease
  • The study showed a correlation that red meat consumption is declining in general, but we are seeing higher rates of disease, so is it the red meat or a multitude of factors that is effecting the rate of disease?
  • So in light of the above the study focused on red meat but reported the people eating the most red meat also had all the other lifestyle factors that lead to disease in the bag!
  • If you consume more processed meat like hot dogs you will be at a high risk of disease
  • The review understands that one of the two pooled studies didn’t differentiate between red meat and processed meat….. epic fail!
  • They appreciate that cuts of meat were hard to quantify and left room for error in terms of things like ham, red meat, rate of processing as it was up to the participant to quantify and tick a box … Hmmm
  • They were unable to assess the impact of fat content in the meat and disease correlation as there were too many variables
  • People consuming processed meats have higher chance of impaired insulin response – a key marker of diseases like diabetes linked to a multitude of other diseases
  • The link to red meat and cancer ACTUALLY seems to come from high temperature cooking which causes carcinogenic materials to be released! So it’s not just red meat but how we cook it
  • The conclusion they made: replace red and processed meat with fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc – so what they are really saying is be healthier. No mention of all the other lifestyle factors that they correlated like exercise, smoking etc etc

Considering all these caveats. would you attach your name to this study? Would you support the conclusions of this study? I’d be embarrassed to associate myself with it, personally, and I’m amazed that these researchers can actually stand by this turd.

It’s poor studies like this that have a dramatic effect on the dietary choices of the public. It only serves to misinform them, and in 20 or 30 years, we’ll hear that the research was wrong all  along. It is very unfortunate that people have to suffer because of bad research.

To get a humorous look at what’s wrong with cohort studies, click here.

  Most of the time, when one either tries to plan a healthy meal for themselves or their family, or is given a healthy recipe in some popular fitness/health/food magazine or website, focus is   given almost entirely to numbers. Numbers like grams of fat, calories, cholesterol, and fiber seem to dominate people’s minds when looking for a healthy meal. There’s a major problem in this equation, however: it’s just not healthy!

Say what?

Yes indeed, there is more (much, much, much more) to healthy eating than numbers. The number one thing to consider, is quality. As a health coach, I never pay attention to the numbers; instead I read the ingredients to see if there is anything in that specific food that will be harmful to me. Of course, it’s best to just plain avoid anything in a package, but that doesn’t happen over night and some people just plain aren’t interested in making everything themselves.

Why quality is paramount

Let’s make this real simple and go straight to the recipe. Here is a recipe I found on Eating Well Magazine’s website. It’s low in calories and supposedly heart healthy and good for diabetics and those looking to lose weight.

Here is Eating Well’s version of this recipe:

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Chive Sauce


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)

Low in total fat, low in calories, low in sodium, and simple ingredients; what on earth could be wrong here? Let’s start straight from the top.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Firstly, I am seeing no suggestions are far as buying organic goes. But just to give Eating Well a small leg to stand on, I’ll assume that they actively encourage their readers to buy organic products. What’s the big deal? Well, for one there are no synthetic ingredients that are known to be cancerous. Secondly, there have been a number of studies showing that pesticides are triggers for a number of diseases.

You can drink all the skim milk you want, but if it’s got growth hormones, then you’re increasing your chances of getting cancer, and the lack of vitamin A & D (which are found in the fat) isn’t good either since they help protect against cancer (and a number of other pathologies). Lastly, cholesterol is needed for the body to help synthesize vitamin D, so even if one is consuming other foods that may be rich in vitamin D, you still want the dietary cholesterol to help keep your body from being deficient.

Goodness, this is just one single ingredient. Can you imagine what the big picture is? Well then, let’s continue.

As mentioned previously, reduced-fat dairy products are refined foods. If it’s pasteurized, the nutrient content will be minimized and the homogenization will increase the chances of heart disease. Even if it’s organic, reduced-fat products are nutritionally useless, and they can even lead to weight gain, as studies have shown.

It’s safe to assume that the animal products that are used in this recipe also don’t come from pastured animals. You see, most farm animals are kept in barns with minimal access to the outside and they are fed not their natural diet of grass (cows) or bugs and plants (chickens) but soybeans and corn (and it gets even worse when you purchase them from a conventional grocery store). Pastured animal products are naturally lower in fat and cholesterol, have a higher nutritional profile that includes the wonderful omega 3 fatty acids.

Lastly, the chicken stock used here is worthless. Even gourmet chicken stock that has added gelatin can not compare to the long-boil bone broth it originates from. Bone broths have been a nourishing tradition of a variety of healthy cultures for generations. Rich in gelatin, fat soluble vitamins, and a host of minerals, these broths have true healing properties that help to reduce bad bacteria in the gut and actually help to improve digestion.

Let’s get it on!

Now let me show you how to do this right:


  • 4 boneless, chicken breasts, (about 1 pound)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 tablespoon raw grass-fed butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 14oz home-made chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup whole, raw sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lacto-fermented Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch)

What’s right with this picture?

You’ll notice I removed the big fat scare with the chicken. Fat doesn’t make you fat, and neither do calories. In actuality, more fat in the diet can help encourage weight loss. Fat helps to fill you up, which means it will be longer until you’re hungry and that also means less between-meal-snacking. As I had mentioned previously, extra calories aren’t what makes us fat.

Calories themselves are a useless unit of measure. I’ve heard the objections; “but if you eat 500 calories of ice cream (or chips, or candy bars, or milk chocolate, or doughnuts..), then you get fat!”. Well yes, that is true, but it’s not because of the calories. The reason is due to simple human physiology. For these foods, the extra load carbs and sugar will cause the pancreas to produce more insulin and thus will lead to inflammation and weight gain.

The second thing I changed was the kosher salt. Sure it’s better than irradiated, iodized, sodium chloride (ie: regular table salt), but sea salt is a healing food that helps the adrenal glands thanks to the number of trace minerals that are found within it.

What’s next? The health-supportive powerhouse of raw grass-fed butter! Yes indeed, raw butter from cows that live their entire lives on the pasture and eat only grass and hay is a nutrient dense food. Butter helps prevent heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis, it helps support the thyroid and digestion, and it contains 13 different fatty acids, including stearic acid, arachidonic acid, and glycosphingolipids! Butter contains a perfect 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, which is good for the heart. Lastly, butter is a super-rich source of vitamins A, E, & K2, selenium, lecithin, iodine, and the Wulzen factor! But wait, butter is a saturated fat, isn’t that terrible? The science is out, and it has shown unanimously that saturated fatty acids are in no way correlated with heart disease. In fact, saturated fats help prevent heart disease by lowering lp(a), a known risk factor.

As I mentioned previously, there is a stark difference between the chicken-flavored water that you can pick up at the store and real, traditional, nourishing bone broth. Not only is bone broth incredibly nutritious (in addition to butter, I suggest making bone broth a dietary staple), but the flavor is astounding. Use it in a sauce or gravy for your favorite meal and you will notice a dramatic difference. The flavor is incredibly rich and it really makes a dish. It’s very easy to make (all you need is some aromatic vegetables like celery, onions, carrots, parsley, and cilantro, a pound or two of chicken bones, and a stock pot), especially if you cut up the vegetables ahead of time.

There is another load of fat with the raw sour cream. Isn’t this too much? Heck no! This of course beats the pants off of typical store-bought sour creams in that it’s loaded with the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, and K2), a great source of omega 3 since the cow ate grass, and it’s properly fermented (instead of just made sour) to ensure it not just goes down easy, but it contains wonderful probiotic bacteria as well (on top of the beneficial bacteria that’s already found in raw, unpasteurized dairy).

Lastly, what is lacto-fermented mustard? Traditionally, condiments were fermented using whey (hence, lacto-fermented) and this helped to make them healing foods. Mustard, when lacto-fermented and made from organic whole mustard seed, is indeed a traditional healing food that has been used for ages in Asia and the Middle East. Sally Fallon writes in Nourishing Traditions:

Mustard seed use for food and for healing dates back to antiquity. In China during the Tang Dynasty, it was used to treat lung diseases. The Egyptians used mustard for “respiratory therapy”. In the Middle Ages mustard was used for respiratory ailments such as chest congestion, coughs, and asthma. Eighteenth century English physician Herberden endorsed mustard seed for the treatment of asthma.

Mustard is a cousin of cabbage and broccoli. During grinding the mustard seed contains sinigrin, and releases sulfur compounds and oils. The odor irritates the skin and mucous membranes. All the more interesting that mustard seed has been used all over the world for treating the sinuses and lungs.

Looking at these two recipes, which do you think nourishes the body more? Which do you think matters more? A paper-tiger chase of fat, sodium, and calories, or helping the body heal and encouraging wellness? Which do you suppose is more like how our ancestors ate, during a time when there wasn’t epidemics of disease and obesity?

Many Americans are consuming less animal products and more plant-based products in response to a growing trend of “vegan for health”. What does the research say about plant-based diets and the health effects of avoiding meat?

The weekend before last at UCLA there was the Ancestral Health Symposium. This hosted lectures from many big names like Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Stephen Guyenet, Tom Naughton, and others. Denise Minger, famed slayer of The China Study (not the book, but the actual China-Oxford Cornell study), hosted a lecture entitled How to Win an Argument With a Vegetarian.

Despite the name, this was not a series of silly talking points that one can read from to “shut up” that vegetarian/vegan that disagrees with them (the name was inspired from a popular post on VegSource entitled How to Win an Argument With a Meat Eater). Throughout the 40 minute talk, Minger introduces the big names in the plant-based diet community that always come up as the definitive proof that a “whole food, plant-based diet” (WFPBD)  is the singular way to good health.

You will find all these individuals are interconnected, and you’ll commonly see one name be mentioned by the other (since they all belong to the vegan front-group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)). If you shop at Whole Foods, you have likely already heard of them:

  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
  • Dr. Neal Barnard
    • President of Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (a group purporting to be a body of physicians and health experts giving out the best science in nutrition and health). He has had success in treating individuals with diabetes.
  • Dr. T. Colin Campbell
    • Author of the best-selling book The China Study, which claims that animals products correlate with cancer. He is also the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.
  • Dr. Dean Ornish
    • Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California. Known for his lifestyle intervention trials where he has combined a very low-fat vegan diet with lifestyle suggestions to reverse heart disease.
  • Dr. John McDougal
    • Launched a successful vegan and vegetarian program in some hospitals and has a food line that is sold in grocery stores.
  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Minger outlined the studies done by these gentlemen, which they say is the definitive proof that a WFPBD is better than anything else and the proof therefore that meat and other animal products are bad for your health and are the trigger for modern disease.  Here is a shortened version of what they espouse and what kind of diet they recommend:

  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
    • Very low-fat, vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils.
  • Dr. T. Colin Campbell
    • Low fat, vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils.
  • Dr. Neal Barnard
    • Low fat vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils. He also suggests avoiding fried starches like potato chips and french fries.
  • Dr. Dean Ornish
    • Very low-fat, vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils. Ornish offers his patients lifestyle suggestions, help to stop smoking, and extra support when they need it. Patients may consume fish oil.
  • Dr. John McDougal
    • Low fat, high carb vegetarian or vegan diet. Reduce and eliminate sugars, refined and processed foods, and extracted oils. His patients also eliminate fruit juices.
  • Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Other than a lack of animal products, what else do you notice? That’s right, they all advocate a healthy lifestyle, no sugar, no white flour, no polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and no processed foods. So, let me get this straight: if you remove the smoking, and drinking, sugar and flour, processed foods and vegetable oils, sedentary lifestyle, and lastly the meat, then by God it must’ve been the meat that was the biggest culprit! Wait, what?

According to these gentlemen:

  • Smoking and drinking is the same as eating a steak, an egg, or drinking full fat milk
  • The standard American diet is a valid comparison to a healthy omnivorous diet
  • Factory farmed animal products are just the same as pasture-based animal products

Am I the only one that sees some funny math here? How can it be that a steak or an egg is equivalent to smoking or eating processed food? It’s easy to come to this conclusion when you have a very specific agenda! Of course, “agenda” is a strong word and it’s thrown around a lot, but I know that they have an agenda because for one, Activist Cash has shown how the PCRM has all sorts of connections to animal rights groups, and for two, I’ve been familiar with this group since I was in nutrition school. As a student, Dr. Neal Barnard  gave a lecture while I was there. I also was subscribed to the PCRM’s publications for a few years before I noticed just how much they like to ignore pesky little details. This group likes to blur the lines between pasture-based animal products and those that come from a factory farm. You’ll notice that no studies they have done have  involved healthy meat eaters; only those who follow a standard American diet.

The big problem here of course is that someone following a standard American diet is more likely to smoke, more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they consume lots of processed and refined foods. These are the very things that we know can trigger disease, so then how is it that these men have proven that a WFPBD is superior to all other diets when what they’ve really shown is that a diet that is plant-based, with no extracted oils, no smoking, no processed or refined foods, and stress reduction bundled together can help reverse modern-day disease. At no point have they proven that solely removing meat was the panacea that worked.

Well, this is true save for one man: Dr. T. Colin Campbell, whose book The China Study is cited by most proponents of the WFPBD community as the definitive proof that animal protein causes cancer. For those that aren’t already familiar with Campbell’s work, his evidence rests upon two separate studies. The first was an epidemiological (observational) study of Chinese people and what they ate. Campbell purports that the study showed that the more animal protein people consumed, the more likely they were to get cancer. The second study was a rat study where Campbell tested the effect of both animal protein and plant protein on rats and the results showed that the rats that ate the plant protein did not get cancer (but the animal protein rats did).

Case closed, right? No, not really; the devil is always in the details, my friends. In regards to Campbell’s epidemiological study (the famed “China study”), there are some glaring issues with the method. All this study did was ask people to mail in a questionnaire about what it is they ate for the period of time that the study was conducted. At no point was the quality of the food questioned, and likewise, there was no attention given to other food and lifestyle habits (sugar? white flour? vegetable oils? stress? smoking?). Regardless, poor controls in the study don’t outright discredit it. This is where Ms. Minger comes in, as she eviscerated the study itself and showed how the study actually pointed to a greater correlation between wheat and cancer, rather than meat consumption, and there are many other glaring issues that she beautifully exposed.

Next up, in regards to the rat study, this was also seriously flawed. In fact, the way the study was designed really makes one wonder if Campbell was purposely making the study flawed to get the results he wanted (that meat is bad and plant protein is divine). The rats were given powdered casein as the representative of the “meat group”. They weren’t given real meat, or milk, or eggs, or any whole food animal product. Instead, they were given a powdered protein isolate that I can assure you I wouldn’t touch with a 10 ½ ft pole! Really, I am not surprised that feeding rats powdered casein gives them cancer, not at all. In addition to the casein being removed from the vitamins and fatty acids that are naturally found with it, it’s quite likely that the source came from conventional milk which is potentially cancerous when treated with growth hormones. It really begs the question: why hasn’t Campbell followed up on this study with better controls?

Interestingly, Dr. Chris Masterjohn analyzed Campbell’s rat study, and surprise: the data does not match the conclusions! I also have to ponder as to how casein can be cancerous if it is contained in every animal milk, including humans? Ms. Minger brought this up in her critique of  Campbell’s study, and in his response, he completely ignored this. Why?

Finally, it’s important to understand that there is a stark difference nutritionally between grass-fed milk and powdered casein. Let’s compare a whole food animal protein to powdered casein:

Raw milk from grass-fed cows:

  • CLA (conjugated linolenic acid)
  • Vit A, D, & K2
  • Omega 3
Powdered casein from conventional dairy:

  • rBGH (growth hormones)
  • No vitamins or minerals

CLA and vitamins A & D are known cancer killers, so as you can see, a high quality whole food source makes a big difference! Likewise, rBGH and A-1 beta casein can trigger cancer. Coincidence?

In conclusion, it’s obvious that these men have not proven that the animal products are what cause disease. I’ve seen the studies, and I’m just not convinced. If someone removes processed and refined foods and adopts a healthy lifestyle, then of course there will be a dramatic difference in their health. In science, you must isolate specific factors in order to come to specific conclusions. If one must prove that meat or milk are bad, then it’s not as simple as just removing them. As I mentioned previously, all these men have shown is that a diet free of animal products, sugar, white flour, processed and refined food, and extracted oils, along with positive lifestyle changes, can help to prevent and reverse disease. They have never tested these same protocols with animal products; they’ve only compared it to the standard American diet (which we all know is no good for a variety of reasons).

In reality, as I had shown in the table previously, animal products (when coming from an ideal source; not sugar covered, soybean oil-drenched garbage) contain specific nutritional factors that help to prevent cancer. It is only in the last 100 years that we’ve seen a rapid increase in disease. Go figure, since we eat away from home more, have a less active lifestyle, are under more stress, eat more garbage (factory farmed animal products, sugar, white flour, processed and refined foods, polyunsaturated vegetable oils), smoke more, and have a less fulfilling life as a whole.

So is a WFPBD really the panacea for modern disease? If it is, there’s no evidence to show it. Likewise, this complete lack of evidence and poorly designed studies really calls into question the credibility of these men from the PCRM that crow the loudest about how a WFPD (and only a WFPD) will cure all that ails you. One must be left to ponder: if these men are so well-educated and have such an illustrious background, why the heck can’t they design a proper study that truly comes to the conclusions that they claim it does? Unless of course, they are only interested in coming to those conclusions first, and designing their studies to come to this conclusion all along…

Outside of the PCRM and their biases, there are still studies that have shown that a meat-free diet is healthier. If you look at these studies, you’ll find a clear pattern: vegans and vegetarians generally have better lifestyle habits than the average meat-eater (this goes back to what I was saying before about comparing someone with a healthy lifestyle to one with an unhealthy lifestyle). Last year a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared a low-carb Atkins diet with a low-carb “eco-Atkins” (a meat free low carb diet). The study showed that the individuals on the “eco-Atkins” had lower mortality and heart disease, while the regular Atkins was associated with a higher incidence of these. Is this the definitive proof that meat is bad? Far from it! In this study, the “eco-Atkins” group had a healthier lifestyle; no wonder they were healthier! A Polish study published last year showed that vegans and vegetarians are much more likely to engage in healthy lifestyle habits like less smoking and drinking and less processed foods (well, except for the veggie burgers that are giving many of them thyroid disease). Again, this goes back to what I was mentioning before: is it accurate (or even honest) to compare two individuals, one whom has a healthy lifestyle, and the other who doesn’t, and base the results solely off of what their diet is like? No, no it is not.

But what about when both omnivore and herbivore have a similar lifestyle? A study Minger mentioned in her discussion was this one from Taiwan. It compared vegetarian and non-vegetarian Buddhist monks who had a similar diet (except one didn’t eat meat). I like that this was done on Buddhist monks since that means that stress levels should be about the same. Stress is a disease trigger that is often ignored. Getting back to the study now, the results showed that it was the vegetarian Buddhists that had the higher risk of heart disease.

Is it time for the PCRM to eat their words? I think so. Really, there isn’t a single study that I know of that has compared health-conscious meat eaters with health-conscious vegetarians and has found that the meat eaters were just dropping like flies from disease. I think the Taiwanese study is especially interesting because all the individuals involved ate a similar cultural diet. Over at Minger’s site Raw Food SOS, she has a lengthy article discussing heart disease and the evidence that shows that ditching meat won’t save your arteries.

Since the beginning of time, humans have consumed meat and animal products. It’s taken thousands of years now for this animal-based diet to start giving us epidemics of heart disease, cancer, and obesity. But gosh, what about 200 years ago when we weren’t consuming nearly as much garbage (and before the invention of polyunsaturated vegetable oils, packaged processed foods, growth hormones, factory farming, epic stress levels, and super-sized soda)? You guessed it! There wasn’t an epidemic of these problems. Really, Dr. Weston A. Price demonstrated very clearly in numerous populations that when we eat nutrient dense animal foods, cut out the junk, and follow nourishing traditions, we have great health, and we even keep all our teeth!

(A very special thanks to Ms. Minger for her fantastic lecture and article that helped to inspire this post!)

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Last month I went over how disgusting our conventional milk is thanks to big business factory farming. But sadly, the level of filth doesn't stop there because these same things affect our meat products as well. Now you may remember that last month I revealed how in fact cows are kept in cramped spaces and are left very sickly and never receive sunshine, proper care, or even a proper diet. These conditions apply for every animal on a factory farm, sadly.

 Any animal that is raised on a factory farm consistently deals with some very disturbing factors:

  • Lack of sunshine and thus a vitamin D deficiency
  • Living quarters that force them to remain in one position, constantly (ie, the cages are just big enough to fit them)
  • Inhumane method of slaughter
  • Instances of mistreatment and neglect are rampant
  • Overcrowding
  • Improper diet
  • Maiming

Any living creature – unless they are diurnal – should receive sunshine. This is a vital component for many living things and even humans barely understand the importance of this very vital necessity to life (and we will discuss this next month!). I really don't think anyone would disagree that nothing should be forced to live in complete darkness all of its life if that is counter to its natural way of living. This creates unneeded stress and depression and we've known for ages that all this affects the quality of our meats as well as us.

Cows and pigs are forced to live in a pen that is only big enough to fit them; they can not turn around or lay down (unless they're pregnant, in which case the size of the pen is slightly expanded, but not by much). I'm no animal rights activist or anything, but certainly this is cruel treatment! Now in the case of chickens, they are kept in very large pens that are severely overcrowded to the point where this causes much in-fighting over territory and it's not uncommon to see the chickens that died from malnourishment or stress to simply lay there rotting amongst the rest of the other living chickens.

On a factory farm, there is no such thing as proper treatment or care. An animal simply is there until it dies. It doesn't matter if it's sick or completely malnourished; it will stay there until slaughter without any proper care (or sometimes it will simply be abandoned to die. I've seen actual video of physical mistreatment as well (electric prodding, etc.).

This level of disgusting treatment is turned up a notch more when you consider that chickens will have their beaks cut off so that they aren't able to maim eachother in the crowded pens (chickens are very territorial), and also, larger animals are slaughtered simply by allowing them to bleed to death. On a factory farm, it's all about cost and convenience. All of these factors really affect the quality of the meat that we purchase. You can see this for yourself in the 2-part documentary entitled Supermarket Secrets (part 1, part 2). Also, if you'd like a better understanding of what happens to your food at factory farms, there are two documentaries I'd suggest watching depending on how strong your stomach is:

The Meatrix I

This cartoonish-parody of The Matrix offers a much easier to digest picture of factory farms because it uses animated graphics instead of real video. But it has won 7 different film awards for a reason: it's very informative.

Peaceable Kingdom
A film in progress that really promises to open your eyes to the level of digust that occurs when we are not looking. Their site has a sneak preview of this film but I warn you: it's not pretty. This isn't a cartoon. This is real video, of real animals.

Now we are left with questions. Some people, after viewing materials such as this decide to go vegetarian or vegan, and certainly I commend them because that's a hard path to follow. However, such a diet and lifestyle is not right for everyone. Some people, either because of blood type or ancestry, physically require meat products. There is still hope for those of you who still wish to consume meat. Only purchase meats that are either labeled as “all natural”, “certified organic”, or “cage free” (although I issue caution with the last one because there are some companies that will lie and claim that their animals are free-range, but in reality, it's just another factory farm). Personally, I suggest purchasing meats from a health food store like Whole Foods, Harry's, Trader Joe's, etc.. If not for humane reasons, then make the switch for personal reasons: these meats are incredibly unhealthy for you, are swimming with antibiotics (see The Meatrix I), and the conventional meats always contain 2 preservatives that will lead to cancer: sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite.

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