Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 Jan

5 Meats to Avoid

While we’re all about vegetables here at MDA, we have a special place in our stomachs for clean, lean meat. Yes, it’s the ultimate primal picture-caveperson (O.K.-caveman, but can we get points for trying?) returning from the hunt with dinner for the family.

Fun illustration aside, it’s more than the image. Meat, of the MDA-approved variety, means protein, omega-3s, iron, and a host of other nutrients. And, yes, there’s that gastronomical, savory satisfaction. (Apologies to the vegetarian set. We’ll stop now.)

Nonetheless, as we say here at MDA, not all meat is created equal, especially in the current era of antibiotics, hormone injections, grain feed, factory farms, and cloned animals-coming soon to a neighborhood store near you. (Yes, our friends at the FDA are expected to approve cloned meat and milk in the coming days, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

1. Cured meats

We love bacon as much as the next guy or gal, but we definitely recommend going for the uncured variety. Nitrites are a sketchy lot. Included in everything from bacon to most lunch meat, sausages and hot dogs (are we really calling those a food still?), they act as preservatives and color enhancers. Unfortunately for those hot-dog-eating competitors, nitrites bind with naturally present amines in the meat when the meat/”meat” is cooked. The result is N-nitroso compounds, which have been linked to oral, lung, urinary, pancreatic, esophageal, stomach and brain cancers, particularly for children.

2. Cold cuts – Cured meat redux and then some.

First off: nitrites.

And then: listeria. Pregnant women, children and people with compromised immune systems, in particular, should shun cold cuts because of the risk of listeria, a kind of bacteria that causes flu-like symptoms in most people but can, in extreme cases, result in meningitis, blood infection, miscarriage and stillbirth.

To boot: it’s processed. We just don’t like them processed foods ’round here. Sodium (oh, yeah, there’s the massive sodium content) and phosphate brine, meat emulsion substances we can’t pronounce-ewww.

Hey, wait a minute. Cold cuts are for, um, sandwiches – with, like, bread and stuff. Well, consider it another reason to skip the hoagie.

3. Ground meats

Ground meats, as we’ve said in the past, usually end up being a hodge-podge of flesh from hundreds of carcasses. (All remaining vegetarians have now fled the room.) In addition to this decidedly repellent image, the grinding process also poses a safety risk, as we’ve seen in the E. Coli recalls. The issue with ground beef, in particular, is the fact that the unsterile exterior of the carcass is ground and mixed in with the “safe” interior.

4. Grain-fed beef

Grass-fed beef is leaner in terms of saturated fats but heftier in terms of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. That grass diet, with all the benefits of plant and grass chloroplasts, beefs up (we couldn’t resist) the meat’s omega-3 content to as much as six times that of grain-fed cattle.

It’s important to note that the grass-fed label can sometimes be misleading. Although many cattle are fed grass at some point, most are later fattened up with grain at the feedlot in the final weeks before slaughter. During this relatively brief time, the store of alpha-linolenic (LNA), DHA and EPA quickly diminish. We recommend doing a little digging to make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for.

5. Non-organic meat

Remember those antibiotics, growth hormones, and squalid, inhumane conditions of factory farms? As much as we enjoy meat, we’d recommend enjoying less for the sake of the better quality, higher nutrition, safer content, and lighter conscience (albeit heftier price) of organic meats. (Did I just see a couple vegetarians peek around the corner?)

As primal thinkers, we eschew the meat and potatoes hobby horse of our current culture. Cave people were hunters and gatherers, after all. Meat, as important as we think it is for complete nutrition, is best enjoyed as one ingredient among many – a strong supporting actor in a well balanced ensemble cast.

If you’re having difficulty finding organic meats in your area or if you want to make a special point of supporting local farmers (and we applaud you for it!), talk to the folks at co-op markets or CSAs. Both typically know area suppliers. CSAs, community supported agriculture co-ops, are best known for their vegetable shares, but some also offer meat shares or informative referrals for area farms.

What’s not for dinner at your house these days? Share your thoughts and stories with our forum folks.

cobalt123, phototram, cobalt123 Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Why Don’t We Eat Horse?

Why Vegans are Misguided

Highlight Health: Amino Acids

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Be highly skeptical of “uncured” meats made with celery juice- they ARE cured, just with nitrates that naturally occur in celery and not “added” nitrates which have to be listed separately. There’s no difference. Another “greenwashing” technique to make you think you are eating something “natural” when it’s no different than standard commercial- industrial bacon and salume. I think better to buy from small producer – small producers like Cremenilli or Fra Mani so that you know you are not eating commercial feedlot/industrial food.

    stephen wrote on May 13th, 2012
  2. when i ask for organic meat at whole foods (in los angeles), they always reply with, “here’s the kind of meat we have:…”. they have meat that they qualify as better in a variety of ways (antibiotic-free, hormone-free, grass-fed, humane), but they won’t call it organic for some reason. you can ignore the “no hormone” claims in all pig products b/c there’s no such thing as hormone-grown pigs, since it’s flat-out illegal, organic or not. so in that case, the designation is pretty meaningless. but just because there are not antibiotics or growth hormones used doesn’t mean they aren’t subjecting the animals to harmful chemicals, like pesticides & other medications. the only meat foods i’ve found that are both organic and in which the beef is pasture-raised, are pre-packaged meats. there’s the “applegate” and “fork in the road” brands with really tasty sausages & dogs (both brands are also uncured & preservative-free, if you don’t count salt or celery, and as for me, i fail to see the harm in celery). honestly i feel like i’m eating the best meat i can eat b/c i won’t eat a chunk of meat fat or gristle or anything other than lean muscle meat (i find everything but the lean stuff texturally gross) unless it’s been essentially pre-chewed for me by grinding it into these composite meat foods. and i know it’s way healthier for me to be eating all these other parts of the animal than taxing my system with fatless (or even low-fat) isolated protein intake. so for folks like me, sausage and dogs are really the healthiest versions of animal protein, the closest thing to the principle of eating foods in their whole form, that someone like me can get. at first it bummed me out to see these categories of foods listed as non-ideal, but i’m trying to convince myself here that my food choices don’t suffer the pitfalls that landed the general categories on this list. am i fooling myself? i used to get a lot of protein from nuts & full-fat dairy, but i’m trying to reduce those, and if you take away these meats, which seem to be my saving grace, what am i left with? i can only afford wild-caught salmon about once a week, and can only a few times a week snack on butter-drenched wild-caught shrimp. and i’m a newish crossfitter, so my muscles are massively busy restructuring, so i really can’t neglect the protein right now. am i getting it right, mostly? every time i make an “improvement” to my diet, there seem to be so many caveats! 😛

    jamie wrote on October 18th, 2013
  3. In defense of ground beef (or mince meat as we call it here in Australia), I’ve been eating somewhere in the vicinity of half a kilogram of the stuff every day for four months as part of a low-budget ketogenic diet and have never felt better in my life.

    Granted, I’ve tried a few different brands and have found tremendous taste differences (from practically inedible to verging on gourmet) and the one I’ve gravitated towards is actually the cheapest brand there is. Homebrand Coles mince meat with an equal ratio of protein to fat ( which is the fattiest mince they sell) tastes amazing, and I have to say I haven’t had a single problem with it in the four or more months I’ve been eating it.

    I judge that I’ve eaten something like 60 kg (135 lb) of the stuff in that time (more than my total body weight in fact), and have never felt better in my life. I’ve dropped ten kilograms (22 lb) in those four months, and am feeling unbelievable.

    Granted, I live in Australia where the meat is generally astounding across the board, but surely that says something for the safety and health of ground beef.

    At $5/kg (about $2.20 AU per pound) it provides about 40g of protein per dollar, and is thus the cheapest source of primal protein there is. The only way you’d ever get cheaper protein of any kind is if you ate a diet of 100% rolled oats (no thanks!!!).

    But I must say that ground pork might be the vilest-tasting substance known to man. I got it one time just to try it out. Never again, let me tell you!

    Chook wrote on December 13th, 2013

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