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Monday Mission: You are What You Eat, Eats

Paul with cows

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to make an upgrade in where you get your animal products: beef, pork, chicken, fish, cheese, milk, butter.

Personally, I’ve purchased quality meat, milk and eggs for some time now, but cheese has been hit and miss and butter never ideal, often pitiable. Recently I’ve made some upgrades, and I’d like to inspire you to do the same this week, whether you’re still at square one (all animal products purchased conventionally from the grocery store) or anywhere else along the journey.

RELATED: How the Meat Delivery Subscription Works from Butcher Box

Review: What Makes Meat “Healthy”?

Here’s the deal: whether or not humans were originally created to eat meat may be up for discussion, but at some point after The Fall, we became quite well suited to digest animal proteins, and in fact, there are some nutrients (B Vitamins for one, if I’m not mistaken) that we can only get sufficiently from meat products. Therefore, I’m starting with the belief that meat is healthy.

If you’re still with me, you probably already know that humankind, the same flawed human bodies who were tempted to eat the apple to become like God, have continued to “play God” with our food system, always trying to improve the system and be in control of the natural world.

Sigh.

We grow crops with chemicals so we can put more into one space and work less to battle weeds, we pack animals into similarly small spaces, feed them things they weren’t designed to eat, and pump them with preventative antibiotics so they don’t get all sick at once, and we try to grow them bigger, faster, and with more milk or eggs, so we use artificial hormones and other unnatural means to do the trick. The meat produced by that sad system is what is mostly found in your average grocery store. We can do better.

It takes a reversal, a return to the traditional methods of farming – the way God intended, in my opinion.

Because we know that not only is it true what teachers have been saying for years: “You are what you eat.” But really, when it comes to animal products, “You are what you eat, eats.” So what should animals eat?

Avoiding “Real-Washing”

What’s “real-washing,” you ask?

Have you heard of “greenwashing?” The term describes companies and practices that make a product “sound” eco-friendly, but the company or product really still has plenty of chemicals and just a little “green” twist to trick consumers. The phrase has also been used to describe companies who support breast cancer research, but perhaps their products have been linked to cancer – that’s called “pinkwashing.”

“Real-washing” is a fantastic term that we can apply to a great many name-brand foods today.

You know the ones – they slap “natural” on their packaging because there’s something real in there amongst the MSGs and fillers. They appeal to the mom who wants to do right for her kids but has only learned about nutrition from the popular media, who recognizes some buzz words but not really what they mean. It’s trickery, and you’re smarter than that, fearless Kitchen Stewards!

You need to know what those animals should be eating (and more).

Find a Farmer, if You Can

When I source meat, I try to find a direct relationship with a farmer so that I can ask the questions and make sure I’m sourcing quality meat.

For beef, pork and chicken, I like to hear that it’s:

  • free of antibiotics and hormones (although if the farmer starts with that and then stops, you can usually do better as that’s kind of the “real-washing” line that the only slightly informed consumer has learned to listen for)
  • allowed to be outdoors
  • fed appropriate food
    • grass and hay for cattle
    • grass, bugs, scraps for chickens; if the feed is organic, non-soy and GMO-free, then you’re really talking quality. Adding flax or shells to the feed is great for healthy eggs.
    • pigs eat just about anything, but they should be allowed to root in the mud; milk-fed or whey-fed pork is primo yummy, so try to find a source for pork where they also have dairy cattle or make cheese
  • organic is certainly a bonus, but I am not a stickler about “certified” organic – many farmers can’t afford certification but grow organically anyway

Some Notes on Beef and Bacon

Farmers and butchers can make their stuff sound good, too, even when it’s not ideal, and so can “organic” packaging.

Watch for:

  • Grassfed beef – What do they really eat? Truly grassfed cattle only graze on pasture or have hay in the winter, not “silage” or “feed” or corn or grain. There are no federal regulations for the term “grassfed” on packaging, so you may want to try calling customer service numbers and asking real questions about how much they’re on grass. 100% is ideal, but I’d say 80% or so is better than nothing. If it’s down to 50%, you might not be getting much better than conventional store meat, so it is probably not worth a price premium.
  • Naturewell beef – Many big chain grocery stores carry Naturewell, which I used to purchase thinking I was getting better for my family. Naturewell does not use antibiotics or hormones in the 120-day “finishing period,” if I remember correctly, which means that you shouldn’t be getting those chemicals directly in your meat. However, it’s not necessarily grassfed, not organic, and does use the junk before the end of the animal’s life, so you’re still contributing to toxins in the environment when you buy Naturewell. If I had to buy beef from the store, I might buy Naturewell, but only if it was less than a dollar a pound more than conventional. Any more than that (and that is really pushing it already), you’re getting ripped off.
  • Organ MeatsOrgan meats are a part of a healthy traditional diet, but here I think it’s especially important to seek organic, perfectly raised meats. (How to cook liver so your family will eat it)

For a pretty balanced perspective on huge farms vs. family farmers farming conventionally vs. organic farmers, I have an old post exploring both sides called “Where does your Meat Come From?”

Review: Eggs and Milk

milk jar (2)

I’ve already pretty thoroughly discussed what all the labels on eggs mean and the pros and cons on “What kind of milk should I buy?” For some reason, those two were the easiest for me to tackle when I first started getting into real, traditional foods.

What’s Coming

This week we’ll discuss:

  • how to source safe, healthy fish
  • how to buy a cow
  • is the new “natural” bacon and lunchmeat actually better?
  • nailing down good, better, and best cheeses
  • where to find truly high quality butter (and some other acceptable options)

Keep up on the series all week and a big happy giveaway next week by signing up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed. You can also follow me on Twitter, get KS for Kindle, or see my Facebook Fan Page.

What’s your biggest struggle with sourcing quality animal products?

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to Basics

Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

11 thoughts on “Monday Mission: You are What You Eat, Eats”

  1. Pingback: Why I am Striving for Real Food - Your Thriving Family

  2. I am still working on local pork, and milk.
    I buy eggs from a local farm – $3.50 /dzn.
    and local beef from the grocery store. I buy butter and cheese from (embarrassed to admit) Costco. They have Kerrygold butter and cheddar cheese. It is grass-fed and affordable.
    Trader Joe’s had grass-fed swiss cheese and raw milk Parmesan. None of this is local but it’s healthier and at a decent price – it’s what works for right now.

  3. well we’re slowly transitioning to ‘best foods’ I can find – and thus far I’ve been successful at finding a farm that’s affordable and close enough that shipping is livable [I live in a very urban suburb – no farmers anywhere near me] and it’s all pasture raised free range beef, pork, even chickens though I haven’t taken that plunge yet – plan to do so soon. I’ve been buying organic chicken at TJs and costco and WF but I don’t know that I trust these big companies – I’d rather buy from the nice lady who feels passionate about pasturing her animals but doesn’t have the organic label. Eggs are tough – I can get them for about $5/dozen pastured
    Veggies and fruit are easier to find organic – especially now!

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Cherie,
      Totally agree about small farmer/home gardener vs. big companies! 🙂 Katie

  4. Signing up for emails from the WAPF chapter in my area has been a lifesaver when it comes to this. Through them I found pastured, local chicken for 3.50/lb if you buy by the dozen (I’m on the GAPS intro right now so the more the better!), which is still expensive, but not bad for the quality. Eatwild.com helped me find grassfed local beef, so I bought a side (204 lbs!) a week ago for 4.71/lb (that’s the cheapest I’ve seen in my state by probably .50/lb. For eggs we use craiglist, mostly, and I just found an awesome lady 5 MINUTES AWAY! who has truly pastured eggs for 3.50/dozen. We only buy milk to make yogurt for my husband and older daughter so I just buy organic pasteurized for that. It takes time but I think if you keep your eyes open and look around (and talk to people!), eventually you find sources for all these things.

  5. Jason Harrison

    B Vitamins are synthesised by bacteria, fungi, and plants. Animals get their B Vitamins from the dirt and plants they eat.

    Modern day humans can get B Vitamins from supplements, whole grains, fermented foods or meat. Therefore eating meat is unnecessary.

  6. I so wish I could do this. I live in a fairly large and increasingly urban, formerly agricultural area. Raw milk is illegal and very hard to find. I can get it for a premium price if I am willing to drive three hours each way to get it and say it is for my (Really Big) cat. I understand that the same place makes (legal raw milk) cheese and butter, but, again, more than double the price of conventional. I think it may be run organically, but is probably not certified. If it were much closer I would probably buy milk there, but doubt I could afford the cheese and butter. Pastured meat is legal, but still involves high prices and a lot of driving. Eggs are easier to find, but very expensive. We think a lot about a couple backyard hens. We also think about a more rural setting.

    I did a search with the term “real food” a few weeks ago and found an interesting real-wash by Hellman’s. Your recipe is much better for you and everyone in my house prefers it over our old commercial and newly real brand. Thanks!

  7. I am lucky to have found good sources for chicken, eggs and beef. Plenty of farmers around here. But, I feel stupid for not asking how they feed their chickens. I have been reading plenty about GMO’s but never thought to ask if the grains they buy for their chicken are non gmo. So we had gmo chicken and eggs all last year! I am being more careful now.

    Cost is still an issue. I don’t know where Erin lives. I would love to get beef for $2.65 lb. I have to pay $5.50 lb. We did buy some bulk last year, but we haven’t gotten around to it this year. The milk I get is from Trickling Springs Creamery. It is slightly pasteurized, non homogenized cream line. It is the best I can do right now. I can’t afford top quality cheese so I check the ingredients and try not to get extra crap in it. Butter comes from Trader Joes. Their price is better. I am looking forward to your upcoming posts, especially seafood. Another food I can’t afford top quality.

    1. We live in NC. The $2.65 is for a minimum order of 1/16 of a cow–and includes all cuts. A la carte is something like $4.50/lb, and grassfed/organic beef at the grocery store is closer to $5-$5.50/lb. I have to order like a month to 6 weeks in advance because they have to get so many orders in before they slaughter the cows.

  8. What a great post, Katie! (BTW–I have a little more time to comment now. 😉 )

    I really value your opinion on these things. Right now, we’re not even consuming dairy milk. (Hubby and I don’t really like it, and dairy messes up the girls’ stomachs.) I know–it’s good for us, but the raw stuff’s illegal here, and I can’t fathom driving 1 hour each way to SC to get raw milk that I’ll just use for cooking. :/ I use almond or rice. :/

    I get my eggs and pork from my doula! She and her hubby have a mini farm. So thankful for that!

    We recently started getting beef from a grassfed beef co-op. I just got 1/16 of a cow in my first order, but I’m planning on getting 1/4 next time! It’s only $2.65/lb!

    About to read your chicken post…b/c that’s a true struggle. I’ve been buying the antibiotic/hormone-free/veggie-fed (which I’m sure means soy) chicken from BJ’s. 🙁 Although..about 2 hours ago I was there and they did have the same brand w/ the USDA organic label on it…for $2.99/lb. SO, I picked up the organic stuff this time.

    I haven’t found a chicken farmer yet. 🙁

    Thanks for this challenge!

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