It’s not a crime to like meat. Sure, right now, it seems like it might be. Stories about factory farms, growth hormones, caged in cows and inhumane treatment litter the news. And even if you can get past the moral concerns, the health issues still stand in your way. The goodness of red and other meats is a hot topic. How much of that steak is hurting you; how much is helping you? Come to think of it, how much of that steak is steak? If you didn’t pause after the pork supplier for the 2008 Beijing Olympics announced that they would change their pig-rearing methods to ensure Olympians didn’t fail drug tests, you are a braver soul than I. Why was that a concern to begin with? But even with all the negative press, you can’t help it. You like meat. Some cravings can’t be satisfied with soy products. Tofu, with its concerning jiggle, just doesn’t always hit the spot. So, what meat can you eat that will satisfy your craving without taking its toll on your conscience and health?
Let’s start with health. First, not all meat is bad. Lean red meat is a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3s. Eaten in moderation, it can help you maintain a healthy weight, keep down your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce nutrient deficiencies. Other meats have similar benefits. Now if you want to avoid the hormone-injected products, look for the organic, grass-fed meats. Grass-fed animals are raised on a healthy diet of, you guessed it, grass. With this diet, the nutrients in the resulting meat increase and the harmful aspects decrease. Throw on the organic tag and you have animals that aren’t injected with hormones, supplements or antibiotics. You end up with natural meat, meat that won’t cause you to fail a drug test.
What’s even better is that grass-fed, organic meats are a positive step towards taking care of our second problem: the moral dilemma. For the most part, grass-fed means more humane. Usually, farms advertising this practice are not factory farms; they are smaller businesses, using more sustainable and healthy methods. And, organic often denotes the same. However, you do have to be careful. Manufacturers can earn the label without truly changing their ways. Some grass-fed and organic meats come from animals that have only briefly seen the outside of their cage. To make sure that you are choosing a farmer that cares, talk with your grocer or if possible, check out the farm. Find out how they raise their livestock. Knowledge is the only way to be certain that the steak you’re cooking is a good one.