Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ruminant animals...

Q. How do you make a calf gain 600 pounds in eight months? 
A. Feed it corn... A shed load of corn. (And antibiotics).


Go out into the bush and try and find a fat brush turkey, kangaroo or deer. You won't. Animals in their natural state  are inherently healthy and lean.

Before concentrated animal feeding operations (factory farming), cows raised on pastures typically weren't slaughtered until five years of age. Now these poor beasts are stuffed with corn, antibiotics and hormones to reach slaughter weight at just 14 to 16 months old.

Unfortunately we humans love to intervene. We think we can do better than mother nature. We think we are so industrious that we can increase productivity endlessly. We think that we can make chickens bigger, fatter and grow faster and cheaper. But all of this comes at a cost, and this cost is ultimately born by us and our own health.

The modern epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer are no mystery. These diseases of civilization stem from a mismatch between our modern lifestyle and our natural state - with poor nutrition being the primary culprit.

In this post I'm going to shed some light on how industrial farming affects the nutrition of our food and outline two basic rules to follow in order to make the right food choices. 

Pasture raised cow v CAFO cows

Q. How do you make a human gain tens of pounds and become diabetic?
A. Feed him corn... and wheat, and sugar, and soybean oil, and other industrial foods. 

Now unlike cows, which are ruminant animals that should only eat grass, we omnivorous humans require a broader diet. But in general, the further we move away from a diet of unadulterated (meaning wild, grass-fed, organic, local, in season, unprocessed) animals and plants the more likely we are to get fat, sick and die prematurely. Simple. 

Keep it simple, stupid

I have been ruminating [pun intended] about the diets/inputs of the animals/plants that we eat and how that affects us when we consume them. 

What I have come up with is a couple of general rules when it comes to what we should eat:

Rule # 1: Eat animals and plants that existed in a state closest to their natural environment. 

Wild Salmon v Farmed Salmon


Beef: Organic pastured beef from happy cows on nice small farms is far more nutritious and healthy in every respect compared to feedlot beef: better fatty acid profile, higher protein quality and less toxins in the meat from hormones and antibiotics. This is not even to mention the ethical and environmental benefits of pastured beef. 

Plants: Organic vegetables grown locally in nutrient-replete soil free from chemical fertilizers have significantly higher nutritional content and none of the nasties found in mono-crops farmed in nutrient-depleted soil and sprayed with harsh chemicals.  

Seafood: Wild-caught seafood is far superior to farmed seafood. Farmed fish is no different from farmed cows, pigs or chickens. The fish are often confined in overcrowded unsanitary tanks and administered antibiotics to keep them from dying. Furthermore, the fish are fed processed pellets made from soy, corn, canola oil and even other dead fish - clearly a terrible diet for salmon, for example, which are supposed to subsist mainly on krill. 

As the adage goes, "rubbish in, rubbish out". Same goes for farmed aquaculture. One study found farmed salmon to have eight times the levels of PCBs (synthetic chemicals) than wild salmon. 

This unnatural diet also affects the nutritional value of the salmon - reducing the amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3s and increasing the amount of pro-inflammatory omega-6s. This is exactly what happens with beef and poultry. 

You see, the fat in corn and soy is overwhelmingly omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which is why corn, soybean and other industrial seed oils are so harmful to humans in the way they skew our diet towards a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Our ancestors had a ratio around 2:1 of omega-6 to omega-3. Today the average Westerner has a ratio of 20:1 or more. This is hugely problematic and is thought to be a major culprit of inflammatory conditions such as heart disease. 

So not only are we screwing ourselves by eating corn, soy and refined vegetable oils but we are compounding the situation by eating animals that are fed corn and soy - causing their own omega ratio to be out of whack. 

Poultry: Chickens are supposed to scratch around in the dirt eating grass, seeds, worms, bugs and insects. But now we feed them - you guessed it - (GMO) corn and soy! 

Poultry, especially the skin and dark meat, has a very high omega-6 content. This chart estimates poultry to contain around 3g of omega-6 per 100g. Compare this to pork (0.8g/100g) or beef (0.3g/100g). 

This brings me to my next point:

Rule # 2: Eat animals that eat mostly green stuff

When it comes to choosing your meat, it matters what your meat ate. 

Ruminant animals are ideal nutrition for humans because they have a clean, healthy diet... of grass. 

If we had four stomachs and could digest 70 pounds of grass a day I would totally recommend a raw vegan diet of grass! But we don't, so I recommend we eat cows, sheep, goat, bison, elk, deer, raw vegans, etc. 

Since grass derives its energy from sunlight consuming red meat is basically eating mouthfuls of sunshine! How awesome is that? And much healthier than eating mouthfuls of corn, antibiotics and animal cruelty! 

Seriously though, I believe pasture-raised red meat to be superior to poultry and pork because of the fact that grass is a simple, natural and healthy diet for ruminant animals. Compare this to pigs. Pigs are omnivores that sometimes eat questionable matter. Toxins from their diet will be stored in their fat and could potentially affect us when we consume pork. 

Incorporating the same logic explains why (smaller) fish that predominantly eat algae or krill generally have better nutritional value than larger fish that eat these smaller fish. 

We've all heard about metal toxicity (mercury) in fish. Usually the higher up the food chain (the more predatory) a fish is, the more mercury and other toxins are contained in it's flesh. Toxicity accumulates the older and bigger a fish is, and the further up the food-chain it is. 


Eat animals and plants that lived in the way nature intended them to, favouring ones that eat green stuff or convert sunshine... 

  • Eat organic, locally farmed plants that are in season. 
  • Eat wild or grass-fed ruminant animals as your first preference for meat
  • Eat pasture-raised pork and poultry as your second preference for meat
  • Minimize consumption of CAFO/factory farmed animal products
  • Eat wild-caught seafood and avoid farmed seafood
  • Favor smaller fish such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring and salmon over predatory fish such as swordfish, tuna and shark. 

God/evolution (you choose) created a harmonious system of nutrition from sunshine to green stuff to animals to humans. Mess with it at your own peril!

"Eat Paleo. Train. Live life."

The Paleo Model

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Burridge, Les, Judith Weis, Felipe Cabello and Jaime Pizarro (March 2008). Chemical Use in Salmon Aquaculture: A Review of Current Practices and Possible Environmental Effects. World Wildlife Federation, Salmon Aquaculture Dialogue. 


Image Credits



  1. Hi David,
    As usual a well thought out, thought provoking article.
    Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into researching these facts for us and spending the time to write light and entertaining articles. You rock.

  2. Do you eat insects, or does that source of protein not fit into your paleo lifestyle?

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