Why I don't like (Meatless) Mondays!

Cows on pasture at Polyface Farm Hello dear readers! Happy New Year to all of you!

I am writing because it is Monday...a Monday suggested to be "Meatless" by Food, Inc. and others.  (Yep. All over FB today.) Heck, there's a whole website and movement dedicated to it. It's the start of a new year, and I'd just like to clear something up from the get-go.

I would LOVE "Meatless Mondays" if it was specified that the meat we are being asked to go without on Mondays was CAFO meat. That is, meat from animals raised in confinement--specifically, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, "CAFOs". You see, a CAFO burger is not a burger...a CAFO steak is not a steak...one cannot compare meat from a CAFO operation with that from a pasture. CAFOs are also known as feedlots.  (There are a  lot of them out here in Colorado; I have the distinct displeasure of driving by them and the stench of them permeates the air some mornings, depending on how the wind blows. Ever put your head into a diaper pail filled with dirty diapers and taken a sniff? You get the idea. Repulsive. Hundreds and thousands of cows crowded on a dirt lot, standing in their own excrement, eating grain full of soy and corn and more--which is probably GMO. And that's the meat we get to eat here in the USA.)

The vast majority of meat eaten in America comes from CAFOs. Yes, it does. That burger at your favorite burger joint, that filet mignon at that fancy French restaurant, the taco at your favorite Mexican restaurant...nearly all the beef in every supermarket in the country including Whole Foods Market (unless it is marked "grassfed" and "grass-finished".) But let us not confuse meat from CAFOs with meat from animals raised on pasture as they are meant to be. Grassfed and -finished meat is good for the planet, good for the animals and good for you and your health. One just cannot compare CAFO meat with grass-fed and -finished meat. So let's not lump them together, shall we? The health problems attributed to meat is not the meat that is raised on pasture, sustainably.

Grass-fed meat is good for the planet. Grass farming sequesters carbon! This knocks out the popular argument that eating meat contributes to global warming... "if you care about the planet, stop eating meat". Oy.  If all cows were on pasture, we would not have the methane gas problem that we do today, nor many of the other problems that feedlots produce including runoff and water pollution. The High Priest of Pasture, one of my heroes, Joel Salatin, talks eloquently about carbon sequestration all the time.  Here's a great talk Joel gave at TEDMED in DC April 2012.  Chris Kerston of Chaffin Family Orchards  also spoke on How Grassfed Beef will Save the World last November at the Weston A. Price Foundation annual conference.

Grass-fed meat is good for the animals because...well, duh. Animals are meant to express their "animal-ness", to paraphrase Joel Salatin. Cows and bison are meant to eat grass. Chickens are meant to eat grass and bugs. It's "humane" if that fits for animals, it's ethical, and it's natural. What's good for the animals is good for us. Read on.

Grass-fed meat is good for us to eat because it is more nutritious, leaner, and chock full of Omega 3s (those Essential Fatty Acids your brain and your body needs) and CLAs (conjugated linoleic acid...with anti-cancer properties and many other good things!) Everyone knows that the nutrient profile of meat depends upon what the animal (or bird or fish) is fed. Meat from animals raised on pasture is simply more nutritious because it comes from animals that ate what they are supposed to eat. Grass.  Also, you know this food is more nutrient-dense because you are not hungry an hour or two after you eat! You are satisfied.

But again, this is America, and the vast majority of meat eaten in this country is from animals in CAFOs.  Not kidding. We can continue to patronize our crazy food system that perpetuates the confinement model, or we can make another choice; take a different path. Truth is, I would love it if EVERY day were declared a CAFO-meatless day! Can you imagine if everyone stopped eating meat from animals raised on feedlots or in cages? The entire fast-food industry would come crashing down...supermarket meat shelves would bulge with burger patties and steaks and hot dogs and sausages...and chicken tenders and breasts until they rotted past their expiration date. People would be healthier! Hospitals and doctors and prescription drug makers would have no takers! We would have more energy due to more nutrients in our bodies AND less toxins from our food. Heck, I daresay we would have a revolution on our hands!

Let's do it.

Let's make EVERY day a CAFO-meatless day! Or to say it differently, let's make every day a pastured meat day! Vote with your pocket book, folks! Seek out meat from local sources (or not so local when necessary) that raise their animals on pasture. And make it a CAFO-meatless Monday! And Tuesday! And Wednesday! And...you get it. ;) Eat Wild is a great site to find local grass-fed meat. And check with your local WAPF chapter for farmers, farmers markets, and CSAs near you.

(Don't even get me started about all the milk Americans drink from confinement dairies. That will have to be for another time.)