We know our ancient ancestors had simpler diets than we have today—they ate what we now call whole foods straight from nature. They hunted and fished for their meat.
These days, meat is once again a spotlight food in many eating plans, as dieters are getting results with higher protein/fat ratios (and fewer carbs). But which meats are the best?
The key is to keep animal fats as healthy and pure as possible. The meats available in modern grocery store aisles are often held in question because of the industrial farming age, where techniques for raising cows, pigs and chickens for mass consumption have moved away from more natural agriculture and wild game hunting of days gone by.
Getting Back to Basics
Your great-grandparents likely bought their meats from a local butcher shop, which received deliveries from a smaller family farm nearby. That meant local sourcing, healthy animals raised in a pasture, and meat cuts broken down by hand, not by a machine. They might have found wild game in the butcher’s case too, or went out to the country to hunt for themselves.
If you’re looking to increase high quality protein in your diet, or want to return to a more primal eating style, getting back to these kinds of basics is a good bet. A simple way to begin is to look for organic, pasture-raised meat. Heritage breeds and wild game are great choices when selecting meats to help support your health and fitness goals.
You might see heritage meats on a menu at a farm-to-table restaurant, or sold in bulk (or “hoof to tail”) by small organic farmers. Heritage means the animals are bred to live in open spaces, eat their preferred food and grow naturally, as they once did before large-scale farming methods. They don’t need regular antibiotics to deal with the effects of their environment, they aren’t bred to have bigger breasts, etc.
Heritage breeds are raised on organic and sustainable farms. These animals often take longer to grow and produce less meat, eggs or milk than factory-farmed breeds, a main reason they tend to cost more. But their heritage status adds to their health properties—studies have shown the levels of beneficial fatty acids is much higher in humanely-raised heritage breeds than in meat from large commercial farms, even though the meat is leaner overall. And many say it is more delicious.
- Berkshire pigs
- Bourbon Red turkeys
- Plymouth Rock chicken
- Red Poll beef
Wild game refers to animals that grow up in the wild and are hunted in their natural environment. That means their diet, their physical activities and their lifestyle depends on the land where they live versus human intervention. Their habits and environment will determine their size, the health properties of their meat, and even their flavor profile.
Animals who live in open environments offer a different nutrient composition as a foodstuff. Because they move more, they tend to have more muscle. In fact, body fat content been shown to average 25 to 30% fat in domesticated animals, while in wild game it is only 4 – 5%. Plus, wild game is not only leaner, the fat it does have contains a higher proportion of “good” fat (polyunsaturated fatty acids), while being lower in saturated fat.
- Elk burger
- Quail legs
- Caribou steak
- Venison ribs
For more information on healthy meat eating, read “The Meat Eater’s Glossary of Good Health”