Have you ever had wagyu beef? Wagyu is the breed of cattle from which the infamous kobe beef is derived: highly marbled, impossibly tender. I mean, this stuff is ridiculous. I’ve had wagyu steak that you could cut with your fork, no knife required. It can actually be too melt-in-your-mouth tender for me. I’m not saying I like meat tough and stringy, but I like to know I’m actually eating something’s muscle tissue. At PrimalCon 2011, the wagyu steaks were grass-fed, grilled perfectly, and not overly tender or excessively marbled. Just great. I suspect they were a wagyu-angus crossbreed, which is true for most wagyu raised in the US. I can get behind wagyu like that.
So why am I talking about wagyu beef (why not?) and what does all have to do with “human interference factor”? Well, last week I happened across an interesting science story in a newspaper. It was your typical science reporting – kind of vague and prone to make broad proclamations based on limited evidence – but the study being referenced got my attention. In it, Australian researchers compared the postprandial inflammatory markers of patients after eating either 100 grams of wild kangaroo meat or 100 grams of Australian wagyu beef.
If you weren’t at UCLA this weekend for the Ancestral Health Symposium, you really missed out on the brainiest, brawniest, most physically and mentally impressive gathering I’ve been witness to. My hat’s off to the organizers (and my friends), Aaron Blaisdell and Brent Pottenger, and all the presenters and volunteers who made it happen. It went more smoothly than I’ve ever seen a conference of this magnitude go – and this was the inaugural one! I’m looking forward to the future and I’ve got a good feeling that this weekend will prove to be a powerful milestone in the story of the movement. All the presentations were filmed. I’ll alert you when they become available.
Let’s get to the questions. I field a Marcona almond query, discuss the unpalatability of raw olives, explain my stance on grass-fed whey protein, and lambast Carbquik.
When making the transition into the Primal way of life, a lot of people get tripped up on the question of grass-fed beef. Is it necessary? (No.) Is there really that big a difference between conventional beef and grass-fed beef? (Kinda.) What does grass-fed actually mean? How do conventional cows live and what do they eat – and does that matter enough to me to make the effort to incorporate true grass-fed beef into my diet?
Hopefully, the following article will shed a bit of light on the subject, making it easier for you to make an informed decision based on your preferences, your needs, your budget, your personal ethics, and the objective information provided.
A new grass-fed meat study (PDF) has just been brought to my attention, thanks to Aaron Blaisdell. It’s pretty fascinating. Researchers wanted to see two things: whether eating grass-finished animals instead of grain-finished animals would provide a significant influx of dietary omega-3s and whether the potential influx would actually make a difference in lab numbers. They took two groups of people, regular Irish folks, and provided weekly portions of beef and lamb, either grass-finished or grain-finished. The animals were “finished” for a minimum of six weeks. Both groups were told to avoid fatty fish and omega-3-rich oils for the duration of the study. All told, both groups ate roughly 469 grams of red meat a week for four weeks. Oh, and these were all healthy subjects with good cholesterol and blood pressure numbers and without prescriptions to any medications.
The embrace (some might say exaltation) of butter is, in some respects, what sets the Primal eating plan apart from strict paleo. It is essentially pure animal fat with only minor traces of dairy proteins and sugars remaining, and for that reason I consider it a worthwhile staple. But, to answer the question posed in the title, not all butter is created equal. Most of us are in agreement that the nutritional content of the animal’s flesh depends on the content of its diet, and the same goes for butter.
We’ve covered similar ground with other foods – olive oil, cheese, chocolate, to name a few – but butter’s special. A quick glance around the forum and other online paleo/Primal/real food communities reveals that people are mad for butter. Perhaps it’s because we’re subject to a steady barrage of anti-butter propaganda from day one on this earth; perhaps it’s due to the fact that the stuff tastes like heaven and goes with nearly everything. Whatever the reason, butter knowledge is important.
As mentioned in our Red Scare commentary a few weeks ago, beef gets a seriously bad rap these days. “Saturated fat!” the status quo shrieks, running in all directions, hair on fire, arms flailing, gnashing their teeth. Let’s set the record straight here. You know our decidedly pro-fat leanings. No need to go any further there. But what else is there to like about beef? To its credit, beef offers among the biggest boost of protein per ounce of any traditional food. (Yes, insects and other underappreciated delicacies in some cases offer more. We’ll let our good readers fill in the options here.) To boot, beef is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, phosphorus, selenium, as well as iron, potassium, and riboflavin. In its best form (and we’ll get to that), it also serves as a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (more on this in a minute) and omega-3 fatty acids. (See why we were so compelled to defend red meat’s honor?)
You grow much of your own produce, visit your local farmers’ markets for the foods that you can’t grow yourself and have even started participating in a food co-op, but you’re still left high and dry when it comes to purchasing a decent steak.
Enter Cowpooling, the latest buzz term for the practice under which a group of neighbors team up to purchase a whole cow from a local farm. The cow is then butchered to order and the various cuts divvied up among the neighbors (who presumably aren’t going to argue over who gets the last T-bone!)
But, beyond the nifty name (seriously, cowpooling? Genius!) how exactly is it any different to good ol’ fashioned cow-sharing? Well, typically when you sign up for a cow-share, you’re signing up to have access to the cow’s fresh raw milk as opposed to, well, the actual cow. In addition, when you’re participating in a cowshare, you generally have to pay for a portion of the cow’s upkeep, usually in the form of a holding fee to the farmer.
There’s been a lively discussion going on in the comment board of yesterday’s “Dear Mark: Pondering Protein” post. I want to make myself clear about what I mean when I say “lean meats”. Here is a markus’s great comment and my reply:
can’t see why you seem to think that Paleolithic man ate lean meats (certainly not on purpose anyway)
many anthropologists and ethnobiologists since the turn of the century noted traditional societies actively sought out the fat – Aborigines come to mind. Never mind the Samburu and Masai herdsmen or the North American Indians or Eskimo (the latter did not all eat fish).
Are you influenced by Cordain?