Animals, Too, Are What They Eat

The food we give our animals has a direct effect on our own bodies.

This article is part of a series that explores the idea of mindful meat consumption. Have a question about how animal diet affects the product? Fill out the form below, or click here to submit. We'll build an article answering your best questions in fall, 2016. Stay tuned!
Humans aren’t the only animals that need healthy diets for a healthy life. Fueling the body with the food it evolved to eat is better for animals as well as humans. If you are a human who eats meat, this type of animal diet is better for you too. After all, if you’re eating an animal, you’re essentially eating everything that it has consumed throughout its life, both good and bad. This isn’t to say that chickens and cows should drink only green juice, of course, but it does mean they should be eating what they would eat naturally had they not been domesticated. This may seem like a no-brainer, but unfortunately it’s not. Many factory farms—from which the majority of Americans get their meat—pump animals full of antibiotics and hormones in order to prevent illness and induce abnormal growth. When we eat those animals, we’re ingesting all of that. While the scientific community has not yet reached a consensus on precisely how much better grass-finished meat is for consumers, there's no doubt that it's better.
If you’re eating an animal, you’re essentially eating everything that it has consumed throughout its life, both good and bad.
Grass-fed beef contains up to five times more Omega-3s and twice as much conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA). This fatty acid is associated with reduced body fat and can provide other nutritional benefits. If that weren’t enough, grass-fed beef has more Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and micronutrients such as sodium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and potassium. To boot, a 2015 Consumer Reports study found that among 300 samples, grass-fed beef was three times less likely than grain-fed beef to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  “You are what you eat” has never been more appropriate. “When we buy cheap meat that is low quality and inhumanely raised, we are supporting a livestock system that is destructive,” writes Taylor Collins, co-founder of EPIC Provisions. “We are supporting large multinational conglomerates that destroy our environments, make animals sick, and produce meat full of hormones.”
By supporting farmers and operations that produce grass-fed meat, you are voting for an agricultural system that supports the environment.
A picturesque image of cows is one of them roaming in a small group, surrounded by greenery, grazing on fresh blades of grass. It's not a stretch to assert that this is how cows should be raised. The average American cow, however, does not see a single blade of grass after its first six months. Once the average cow is weaned from its mother, it is trained to eat grain that its rumen—its stomach—was not designed to process. When an animal is fed food it did not evolve to digest, it's more likely to get sick. Even when this corn or soy is "organic," it doesn't mean that it's good for the animal. Regardless of what type of grain it is, it's not what the cow evolved to eat.  So why are factory farms with grain-fed, hormone loaded cows still the norm? Farm subsidies are a big reason. As long as feed crops like corn and soy continue to be subsidized by the government, this will be the status-quo. But humans have the power to shake things up. Your fork is your ballot. By supporting farmers and operations that produce grass-fed meat, you are voting for an agricultural system that supports the environment. Think carefully about the food that goes into your body, and enjoy the benefits of a healthy planet.