This may come as a surprise to a lot of people who have been in my life for a very short while, but I was a vegetarian for several years. And while I’m learning to not look at life experiences as either good or bad, but rather as learning opportunities, I can say that a plant based diet was not a good experience for me. In short (and to avoid a tangent I can expound upon later), this style of eating left me nutrient depleted, hormonally imbalanced, and created a compromised immune system.
The reason I went to a vegetarian diet is because I stumbled into some reading on how factory farmed animals (which current estimates range between 80% and 90% of the US meat supply) were raised, fed, and slaughtered. And I’ll spare you all the gruesome details, but to translated it into human terms, imagine having to live in a college dorm room with 15 unhealthy and digestionally compromised line backers while being force fed McDonald’s injected with growth hormones and antibiotics all day every day. If you haven’t seen the new Chipotle commercial, you can check out their take on this industry.
I am a firm believer that most people need animal proteins to thrive. But I understand the objection to allowing any living thing to be treated in such a horrible way, much less the living things that will be fueling your life and performance. But there is hope because there are still plenty of small family farms that understand and embrace the humane and ethical treatment of our food supply (and even a couple of large ones such as Polyface Farms). The good news is that most family farms are easily accessible through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or a farmer’s market. About 2 years ago, the Hubby and I decided to change our primary meat source to Triple S Farms. Triple S is a family farm located in central Illinois, and they sell their meat all across central Illinois (including Collinsville, for all my Metro East peeps).
The best part of being involved in a CSA is that I can source exactly what conditions my meat endures. And having visited the farm a few weeks ago for Customer Appreciation Day, I can say that their animals look pretty darn content.
Case in point:
Chickens rooting for bugs and plants (their natural diet),
and piglets with room to run and embrace their inner pigginess.
- It’s all a matter of perspective. To paraphrase a quote I’ve heard recently, “Pay the Farmer now or pay your Doctor later.” Eating this way will keep you healthier longer than food which is mass produced.
- Start small. Start by buying a couple of cuts of meat from a farmers market or local health food store. I think once you start to taste the difference, you’ll find it hard to go back.
- Buy in bulk. Go in on a half of a cow or a pig and save tons of money. If you don’t have a deep freezer, you can usually find a decent chest freezer for under $200.
- Be smart about your cuts of meat. Hey, I’d love to eat a top sirloin every night,but that’s pricey. Get more cuts of dark meats and roasts. They tend to cost less per pound but in my opinion have a superior flavor profile.
- Make it a priority. If you’re paying for iPhones, 200+ plus channels on TV, designer handbags, clothes, video games, etc, but telling yourself you don’t have the budget for quality food, you’re probably right.
- Quit wasting food. I am personally guilty of this and am making a conscious effort to stop. I shudder when I think about how many meals I’ve wasted because I got too lazy or too busy to worry about what is in the back of the fridge. Every week when you’re writing your grocery list, go through your fridge and see what you can re-purpose into a soup, stew, or
Switching our primary food source to a CSA has allowed me to become more connected and appreciative of my food. Not to mention is all just tastes way better. To find a local CSA near you, I encourage you to check out LocalHarvest.org. If you can’t find one in your area, there are great online delivery options available such as US Wellness Meats and Pete’s Paleo.