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How the Paleo Diet Helped Me Become a More Ethical Meat Eater

How the Paleo Diet Helped Me Become a More Ethical Meat Eater

In September 2013, I made a big lifestyle change: I went paleo. It started as a personal 30 day experiment motivated by the desire to conquer some lingering health issues. I was so impressed with how I looked and felt at month’s end, I stuck with it. I’m no paleo perfectionist, but here we are eight months later, and still going strong.

In some circles, paleo is a controversial diet. Personally I hate the name and the ‘caveman’ references it conjures up. Despite what you may have heard, paleo eaters are not obsessed with meat. In fact, vegetables make up a bigger portion of my diet than ever before. Still, animal protein is a central tenant (though it is possible to be a vegetarian paleo), which, in today’s food system, means making some tough choices.

(At this point let me clarify that the purpose of this post isn’t to convince anyone to be paleo or even to eat meat. I believe that we are each different, with different nutritional needs that guide our dietary choices. I have nothing but respect for vegetarians and vegans. I understand the ethical and environmental arguments made by both camps. At the same time, I acknowledge that some of us will never shake our omnivorous nature. And some just don’t want to. This post is for those who eat meat, but would like to do so in an ethical manner.)

One thing that many people (myself included) don’t realize is the importance modern paleo eating places on sourcing high quality animal products. A major part of the diet is giving up foods full of additives, artificial/refined ingredients, and chemicals, which also means giving up animals who are fed these things.

Ask any paleo expert and they’ll tell you that a huge portion of the “conventional” meat in grocery stores is off limits. Even though I was an omnivore before going paleo, the diet has helped me to drastically re-evaluate my animal protein choices. I’m much more selective about the brands and labels I trust, which pushes me toward the most ethical choices in any situation.

My 3 Questions: Where was it raised/kept? What was it fed? How was it slaughtered?

Led by those questions, I’ve created a type of hierarchy when shopping. Here it is along with some ideas for those who want to buy high-quality meat from companies with ethical standards that actually mean something.

1. Local and Pastured/Pasture-Raised

Knowing the farm (and the farmer) is always best. When your meat is local, there’s no guess work. You see where the animals are kept, what they’re fed, and where they’re slaughtered for yourself. Supporting local farmers is good for the environment and the economy, not to mention that it’s often cheaper because you can buy in bulk directly from the producer. Not sure if there’s a local option near you? Search www.eatwild.com for information about pasture-based farming and a state-by-state directory of local farmers who sell directly to consumers.

2. Online and Pastured/Pasture-Raised

Unlike the term “free-range” which rarely means what you think it does, pastured or pasture-raised is meat that has been raised outdoors on actively managed pasture (grass) using the techniques of rotational grazing on nutrient dense forage crops. This means concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) and gestational crates are out of the question. Since this type of meat is hard to come by in conventional grocery stores, retailers willing to ship pastured products have become popular. See US Wellness Meats, Grow and Behold, Burgundy Pasture Beef, Good Earth Farms and many more.

3. Organic

These animals eat only organic feed (by definition, organic feed, even when mostly grain, is non-GMO and not sprayed with chemical pesticides or herbicides unless they are on the OMRI ‘acceptable substance’ list). Organic animals are not given hormones or antibiotics for any purpose. These animals must also have “access to the outdoors, including access to pasture for ruminants.” However this doesn’t always mean green fields in which to romp and forage. “More often than not it means a door on the side of a barn. While it may be open, animals may never be encouraged to use it,” explains Grow and Behold. Also keep in mind that some organic meat is finished in feedlots. Again local is best so start with your farmers market or food co-op. After that, consider Applegate Farms, Organic Prairie, or other brands with well-documented ethical standards.

4. Grass-fed

This label is regulated by the USDA and means animals eat only forage grasses after they are weaned. Ideally it’s also combined with an organic label, but not always. Grass-fed animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. However, as we’ve seen with the term free-range, “access to pasture” can be a subjective term. In some cases, grass-fed animals can still have precious little exposure to fresh air or room to roam, especially when they’re “finished” on grain in feedlots.

Are you a meat eater? What criteria do you use to make healthy, ethical choices? Share your thoughts and ideas in a comment.

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222 comments

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10:54AM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

I could live with this diet.

4:52PM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

Meat is murder! How can anyone even begin to believe that murdering an innocent living being is ethical. If an animal is sick and suffering, it is ethical to end its misery, but to kill an animal because you crave that bit of flesh is in no way ethical. You don't need meat. You want meat because you grew up eating meat. Evolution is still going on. Some people haven't yet evolved to a higher level of compassion. They are still like their cave ancestors.

8:55AM PDT on May 23, 2014

Yesterday May 22, 2014 on Cbc Radio's Ontario Today which has a phone in component and online interaction after 1pm. interviewed author Mike Sheridan a personal trainer who through observation has negative opinions about the vegan diet. The Interview was titled; Are You Exercising Too Much?

http://www.cbc.ca/ontariotoday/episodes/

His book is titled "Eat Meat and Stop Jogging, Common Advice on How to Get Fit, Is Keeping You Fat and Making You Sick" argues you can do more for yourself by doing this. The Paleo diet is promoted. He recommends Vegans and Vegetarians read his book, because of observations over the years he has witnessed the negative long term aspects of the anti-animal protein centric diet.

1:50AM PDT on May 10, 2014

When you’re “chowing down” on your grain products, (using negative word association is an unethical tactic you know) remember that it costs 55 sentient lives for every 100 kg of grain protein.
http://theconversation.com/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659

2.2 cattle are killed for 100 kg of useable beef protein. That would take me personally well over 10 years to consume.

Your annual consumption (assuming US average) of wheat is 81.6 kilos, which is between 10.2 and 10.7 kilos of protein. That’s 5 mice - PLUS snakes, lizards, birds, rabbits, moles, voles, frogs, not to mention spiders and insects - per year. In 10 years, that would be 55: that’s 25 times more animals killed per 100 kg of protein. And they die in agony; poisoned, slashed by harvest blades, mangled by tilling machinery.

If you eat wheat, rice, oats, barley, corn, soy, and various vegetable oils, (I do not) you could be unintentionally causing the deaths of 30 or more sentient beings. I don’t just eat beef, of course: adding up a rough tally for one year I estimate a maximum of 10 animals (including calf and male chick) plus numerous sardines. You may be indirectly causing many more animal deaths than me, so be careful when you sling the word ‘hypocrite’.

1:50AM PDT on May 10, 2014

Tim, I said “If you hate all these people…you are on the wrong path”: if you do not then that’s good, but I’ll need a little more convincing.

An ethical meat eater is one who never buys or eats meat or animal products unless they have made enquiries and are satisfied that it was produced humanely and sustainably. There is no hypocrisy. Your decisions are based on ethical considerations and so are mine: we just have different perspectives.

6:35AM PDT on May 9, 2014

Lynda, Lynda, Lynda What about your statement about The Vegan New World Order. Your hatred is aimed at the groups who are against those who harm animals and since most of these people are vegans you come up with The Vegan New World Order. You said, "“Whoopee!” say some of the vegans: “I’ll vote for that!” - but they don’t realise that the “Vegan New World Order” will make it illegal for them to keep a cat, dog, horse, bird - or any animal as a pet/companion. That’s collateral damage. An unavoidable necessity in the obsessive campaign to end all animal agriculture and force the vegan diet on all people against their will."
That is the same BS that is being spewd out by the NAIA and the CCF, and both organizations pretend to care about animals.
And again you make up something and claim that I said it. Maybe someone can explain this to Lynda: I do not hate anyone simply because they eat meat. Most of the people I know are meat eaters, but they don't pretend that they are "Ethical Meat Eaters." I do hate Hypocrits. When you're chowing down on that piece of meat, don't try to pretend that you give a damn about the horror and suffering that animal went through on the way to your plate, because you don't.

7:56PM PDT on May 8, 2014

Tim L, there is absolutely nothing on my profile page that even remotely suggests a “deep seated hatred of vegans”. You see what you want to see because you want to hate. It makes you feel so noble, so virtuous, so righteous to hate and attack others. You get off on it. Only you and those who agree with you are ‘righteous’ and everyone else is ‘evil’. Does that apply to your mother? Father? Grandparents? The really great teachers you had? Your best friends before you went vegan?

If you hate all of these people - or in fact anyone - because they eat meat, then you are on the wrong path. You have turned into a zealot no better than the WBC nutjobs. One can and should be passionate about important things, but one should never be hateful.

12:50PM PDT on May 8, 2014

contd; Do a google of Third World economies who still use oxen to grow OUR rice, cotton, cart products to market etc. What is the alternative? Steel, carbon fueled tractors shoed in rubber tires.

This; The Elliot Lake Uranium Miners - Labour / Le Travail
www.lltjournal.ca/index.php/llt/article/viewFile/5678/6541

The 1974 Wildcat Strike
On 18 April 1974 Elliot Lake uranium miners at Denison Mines staged a wildcat strike and picketed to protest their unhealthy working conditions. When an Ontario Ministry of Health study was presented to an international symposium in Bordeaux France on the hazards of mining uranium, miners’ cancer rates were high.died prematurely from uranium-related cancers Another paper presented by a director of Occupational Health in Ontario, at a conference in San Francisco revealed that 80 Elliot Lake workers had radiological pneumoconiosis.The Canadian and Ontario governments knew this but did not inform the miners. In their close relations with the uranium mining companies, they gave precedence to industry profits over protecting employees’ health and safety.

viv·i·sec·tion n. The act or practice of ... or otherwise injuring living animals,

12:47PM PDT on May 8, 2014

@ Tim L; www.thefreedictionary.com/vivisectionist
viv·i·sec·tion n. The act or practice of cutting into or otherwise injuring living animals, especially for the purpose of scientific research.

Because the workers were being studied without their knowledge. We have humans today still suffering Occupational Exposures so WE can enjoy power for our computers, rubber tires on our bicycles, aluminum to support our Solar arrays etc. Modern day comforts which kill humans at a slower rate of off-gassing exposure in our homes, vehicles, harvesting raw resources etc. Lest we forget the animals that are killed extracting and processing the resources needed to produce our modern stuff, plus our food from tillage, harvesting, herbicides & pesticides.

I often times think vegans are shills for Big Industry, because they hate eating or using anything natural, eg. leather, wool, silk, dairy, meat protein, honey. But yet all their substitutes rely on Heavy industrial extraction, Oil based plastics, synthetic fabrics made from dissolved Pulp fibre using the neurotoxin Carbon Disulphide, plastic based poly-fleece contaminating shellfish etc. I am against CAFO's, Feedlots & battery cages, but in perspective it seems more rational to lobby against factory farming methods, and promoting the use of natural products. The insanity goes as far as saying use of horses or oxen is animal exploitation. Do a google of Third World economies who still use oxen to grow OUR r

8:54AM PDT on May 8, 2014

Lynda H. I see on your profile page that you have a deep seated hatred of vegans. All of the ranting and raving you do on your site is the exact same rantings of groups like NAIA and the CCF. Both organizations are funded by big AG business, animal breeders, hunters, rodeo cowboys association and others (many of whom are anonymous) who profit from the misery of innocent animals. The goal of all of these people is to discredit PETA, HSUS and anyone who threatens their profit margin. In fact, the founder and CEO of NAIA is a vivisectionist who is a senior research fellow and board member of an organization called PRO-TEST. Needless to say, the name PRO-TEST says it all: They are Pro-testing on animals, Pro-experimenting on animals and Pro-vivisection.

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