If going vegan isn’t in the cards for you, start by improving the quality of the meat that you consume. You’ll feel better for it, and it will be better for the planet as well.
Picking meat used to be simple — you went to the butcher, asked for your specific cuts and you were sure that the meat you were purchasing was local and healthy. Today, though, it can be nearly impossible to tell where your meat is coming from or how it was raised unless you’re raising and butchering the animals yourself. If you don’t have the space or the time to raise your own livestock, here are a few tips and tricks to help you pick the healthiest meats in the grocery store.
1.Focus on Sustainability
Everyone loves a good tuna sandwich or anchovies on their pizza — well, maybe not the latter for most of us, but you get the idea. The problem with these canned fish is that they’re often full of mercury and other contaminants, and they’re also not sustainably fished, causing damage to the ecosystem. Most canned tuna should be avoided – even the ones that are dolphin safe — in favor of wild-caught Alaskan salmon and canned sardines. Both are fished sustainably, and in the case of sardines, much healthier because they don’t live long enough to eat the toxins that can be stored in their flesh. If neither of those sound tasty, there are plenty of other options that are fished sustainably for you to choose from that offer many of the same health benefits.
2. Go Wild
This might sound a little odd, but bear with us — or in this case, boar with us. Wild boar is a healthy pork alternative with high amounts of niacin, vitamin B and niacin. Eating wild boar is also good for the environment — they are an invasive species in 45 different states and compete with native fauna for food and living space. It can be a little harder to get your hands on than pork chops in your local meat department, but it is a great and healthier alternative to farm-raised pork — and it’s definitely free range!
3. Grass-Fed Goodness
Grass-fed beef has gotten more popular in recent years, and for good reason — it’s three times higher in grass-fed cows than it is in grain fed cows. It also allows the farmers to pay closer attention to the kind of food that their livestock is consuming. Cows naturally forage, and the food that they forage contains many of the vitamins and minerals that cattle need. Pasture foliage should be tested to ensure that it has the proper mineral levels, but the healthiest meat comes from cows that eat a combination of forage, supplements and concentrated feed, in addition to natural minerals in their water supply.
4. Go Organic
Organic food might seem like a fad but it is actually healthier for you. Chicken and turkey are among the healthiest proteins for you and eating organic fowl means that your chicken breast hasn’t been exposed to antibiotics or other chemicals. This might not sound like much, but it means that your chicken is less likely to harbor antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Farm-raised chicken is also pumped full of caffeine to keep them alert, as well as antidepressants and painkillers — all of which are bad for your health as well as the health of the chicken.
5. Think Outside the Box
Healthy beat doesn’t necessarily just have to mean beef, chicken and pork. There are plenty of other lean and healthy meat options that you can enjoy — most of which are raised free range and organic. Meats like beefalo — a crossbreed between a cow and a buffalo that has higher protein and lower fat than beef — goat and rabbit are all fantastic out-of-the-box options for your evening meal.
6. Farm Fresh Wherever Possible
No matter what type of protein you enjoy, the most important thing to remember is to try to get farm fresh meat wherever possible. They’re more likely to be organic and grass fed, and they won’t be treated with preservatives that grocery store meat is treated with because you’re getting to fresh from the source. It also makes it easier to learn how your meat is raised — you can just ask the farmer!
7. Bonus — Eat Bugs Instead
This sounds gross but hear us out. Insects, like mealworms and crickets, contain a higher ratio of protein to weight than cows or chickens, and take a fraction of the resources to raise. If you can’t stand the idea of eating whole bugs, don’t worry — dried bugs can be ground up and added to nearly anything. They even make cricket flour which can be used for bacon and it doesn’t taste like bugs at all!