To be honest, I had a completely different topic in mind for this issue. I even had about half the article written, when I came across a blog about why and how we should eat red meat. I can’t imagine anything more appropriate to write about when my audience is primarily men and women in construction than red meat, so I started over with this!
Fall means hunting season is here in much of the country, and I know there are a lot of concrete cutters who enjoy it. What many of you may not realize is how good that venison, feral pig, elk or wild-caught salmon is for you. Up until about 50 years ago, most of the meat humans consumed was hunted or caught. Factory farms and large-scale livestock operations are a recent development and have contributed greatly to the vilification of eating meat, especially red meat.
For thousands of years, humans didn’t have a grocery store or Amazon Prime to rely on for their food. All food was hunted or gathered, and the animals that were hunted existed in a free-range, organic and all-natural environment where they feasted on wild grass, grains, vegetables and other smaller animals. This meant these animals, when hunted and eaten by humans, passed along those healthy nutrients from their wild diets to the people who consumed the meat. There were no added hormones, steroids, chemicals or confined and dirty living spaces. But as we embarked on the Industrial Age, technology advanced and the world’s population skyrocketed, allowing and demanding the development of industrial farming and livestock operations. Now, cows, pigs, chickens were raised in close quarters which bred diseases that required medication and antibiotics. No longer were these animals free to roam and eat their native diets. They were fed processed grains or whatever was cheap, and chemicals were added to make them grow faster and fatter so that these farms could maximize their output of beef, pork and chicken. The wild grasses, grains and vegetables full of nutrients were no longer part of their diets to create lean muscle, and instead of those nutrients being passed on to the people who consumed the meat, instead we got hormones, antibiotics, chemicals and meat full of fat.
So, society decided that this meat (red meat, especially) was terrible for us. Full of chemicals and coming from unhealthy animals who were mistreated and abused, red meat was now taboo in many cases and people were discouraged from consuming too much of it.
So far, sounds like I am also telling you not to eat red meat, right? Well not quite. The point is that red meat, when coming from animals who could roam free and eat a healthy diet, is actually good for you. It’s just not as common as it should be.
Let’s go back to why red meat is so good for you. First, beef is not the only red meat. Pork, when coming from a natural source, is supposed to be red. Other red meat options are buffalo, elk, feral pig, deer, caribou and ostrich. Organic and free-range or pastured red meat is high in protein, micronutrients, amino acids and two to three times more omega 3 fatty acids than red meat you’ll find in most supermarkets. Omega 3 fatty acids are very good for you and necessary to help your body function properly. When you look at what wild and pasture-raised animals eat, you’ll see things like grasses, alfalfa, clover, hay, berries and more. All these things contain nutrients that our bodies need as well, so it makes sense to consume animals that were raised on this type of diet, rather than one who was fed a diet solely of processed grains.
Unfortunately, this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap, so organic, free-range and pasture-raised meat will be more expensive and harder to find than the mass-produced options. However, this is a small price to pay when it comes to your own health and well-being. It is becoming increasingly easier to find good-quality red meat now, with options at health food stores, farmer’s markets, local farms and even online. There are some options highlighted at the end of this article if you are interested. Of course, the best way to ensure that your red meat is of the highest quality is to hunt it yourself – most hunters will tell you the best meat they’ve ever had is what they have provided themselves.
Once you have your quality red meat, you’ll want to take the same care in cooking it. Aging red meat in cool temperatures is a natural way to bring out more flavor and tenderness. Red meat should also not be overcooked, as it will make the meat tougher and many of the micronutrients are lost during high-heat cooking or when the meat is cooked for too long. (People who order their steaks well done – I’m looking at you! STOP!)
It’s not realistic to expect to eat high-quality, organic, pasture-raised, free-range red meat always. But if you can be more mindful about the source of your proteins, you will not only feel better because your body is getting much-needed nutrients and not getting hormones and chemicals, but you can also feel good because you are supporting natural and sustainable farming or hunting practices. Do the best you can, when you can and encourage others to do the same. Visit your local farms, farmer’s markets and vendors who produce healthy and sustainable products.
Erin O’Brien, MS, ATC is a Certified Athletic Trainer and Marketing Director for O’Brien International, the association management company that manages the Concrete Sawing & Drilling Association. O’Brien received her Bachelor of Science degree in Athletic Training from Ohio University and her Master of Science degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology from the University of Florida. She is also a Certified Level 2 CrossFit Instructor and member of CrossFit9 in St. Petersburg, FL. She is a regular contributor to Concrete Openings magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com or 727-577-5002.