Although Eric and I have been striving to eat a real/whole foods diet for about two years now, we’ve just begun to eat pasture-raised meat. We’re aware of the health benefits of meat, and it’s always been a part of our diet. Eating quality, pastured meat was one of the goals in my initial manifesto, but one year later we still weren’t there yet. Why not? Primarily because pastured meat is more expensive than conventional grocery store meat.
However, I’ve long considered the benefits of pasture-raised meat, and this year I made a resolution to eat accordingly. I’d like to share some of the reasons why we’re making the switch, and then I’ve got a list of how we make it work.
Why we eat pastured meat
You’ve probably heard, as I have, that pastured meat is a fad, a fraud, and no different nutritionally from conventional meat. Please don’t believe these accusations blindly. Do your own exploring and thinking on this issue. Eric and I started considering the issue more intentionally after watching Food, Inc. and I’ve since decided that pastured meat IS worth the extra cost. Here are some reasons why:
- Animals raised on pasture are in their natural environment; animals raised in a confined feedlot are not. Cows should have plenty of fresh grass to eat, chickens should be able to peck in the dirt and eat bugs, and pigs should be able to root and wallow.
- Pastured animals are healthier than feedlot animals, and thus need less antibiotics and additives to get them ready for market
- Pastured meat has a better nutritional profile than feedlot meat
- Many feedlot conditions are disgusting and inhumane
- Buying pastured meats supports local farms and the local economy
Perhaps you agree with these reasons, but feel that purchasing grass-fed meat is just not possible for you right now. That’s totally fine! Until now, I haven’t felt that it was possible for Eric and I, either. I believe that if you’ve cut back on processed foods (even if you’re eating grocery-store meat), you have already made the biggest step towards a real food diet. However, if you’re interested in moving towards pastured meats, here are some ideas to get started with:
How we planned to afford pastured meat
- Increase our food budget. Yep, we did have to up this a bit. We’ve offset the increase by keeping better track of our overall budget with mint.com and by decreasing our date budget a little.
- Eat more beans and rice. Although we always try to be frugal, having a few especially cheap meals each week really helps. Now we eat beans and rice once a week, and lots of other inexpensive meals like soup or fried rice.
- Eat from the pantry and freezer. I was surprised at how much food we’ve been storing! The freezer has lots of pumpkin, berries, seafood, and breads, while the pantry is full of pasta, oats, canned tomatoes, potatoes, etc. Eating more from storage offsets our food budget each month.
- Consume grass-fed meats infrequently. We have larger helpings of chicken and beef about once a week each, and then use the leftovers in pasta or wraps for lunches or the following week. On the meatless nights, we eat seafood or enjoy alternative sources of protein, like eggs or beans. I often post weekly menus each Sunday–you can explore those to get an idea of how we spread out our meat.
- Offer more sides. When we do eat meat, we serve it with plenty of hearty sides (and maybe a dessert to save room for!) so that we’ll have leftover meat.
- Purchase bacon and lunch meat from the grocery store. Because they’re particularly expensive, we don’t buy those grass-fed. However, we like to get the Hormel Natural line of meats, since they’re uncured and have less unsavory ingredients.
Someday we’ll purchase a chest freezer which will allow us to buy bulk portions of meat, which is cheaper in the long run.
Where to buy pastured meat
- Farmer’s market
- Craigslist (search the “farm and garden” category)
- Contact your local WAPF chapter, if your area has one
- Order online
- Many grocery stores now carry grassfed beef. Aldi usually has the very best prices!