01 February 2011

Paleo Books and a Budget Paleo Rant/Ramble

The health benefits of eating paleo, or feeding your dogs prey-model, can and will speak for themselves. One thing I have noticed recently is the seemingly plethora of paleo/primal/hunter-gatherer books that have either been published or are in the works. I have just finished De Vany's New Evolution Diet that I picked up in NYC a few weeks ago. Having read Sisson's Primal Blueprint and Wolf's Paleo Solution, I find De Vany's book adding little wood to the fire. Although I really like the momentum another book brings to the masses, which I will touch on later, I am starting to feel that once you know paleo, you know it. You know you don't eat the processed crap found everywhere and instead you should model your lifestyle (or any animal's lifestyle) after how we evolved to optimize health and fitness. Before I continue, I would like to say I did find benefit in De Vany's exercise randomization concepts.

Of course I speak from the experience that I've not only read several books but follow many blogs and websites on the subject and have done a lot of self-experimentation. For the first-timer I think any of the books would be a good starting place, and with the ever increasing amount of books on the subject there is a better chance paleo goes mainstream. I believe that to tackle the obesity epidemic having paleo go mainstream and challenge the poor conventional wisdom head-on would be a good thing. One of the things I like about paleo is the idea that not all meat is created equal and that the closer the animal comes to its natural, wild diet and lifestyle the better it is. Cows should be eating grass outside, not fed corn and antibiotics in confined conditions. But to do this it costs more to eat beef. This is a stumbling point for many people I talk to... they see the price tag and give up. I try to explain that if your (or your children's) health is a priority, your food quality needs to be a priority. And if the demand for quality, grass-fed beef increases, more and more farmers will move towards this. This move would be better not only for us and the bovine, but for the planet as a whole. As paleo touches the mainstream however, I've started hearing some disconcerting things.

Enter Budget Paleo
Seemingly what I mentioned above is a common problem. People want to go paleo, they want to be healthier, eat healthier, but they see the price of a local grass-fed steak and it is significantly more than the Walmart equivalent. It is here they begin to bitch and moan. And in response to the bitching and moaning, I see the term 'Budget Paleo' arrive and say one can eat paleo with shit meat. Robb Wolf says all you need is to take some fish oil to counter the overload of omega-6 fatty acids that come with grain-fed animals. Instead of people making a real change, they seek ways of skirting around the real issues. It is exactly like getting no sun and simply taking a vitamin D pill every day and thinking it is the same. The conventional, industrial system needs to change for both human and animal welfare purposes. To tell people that eating grain-fed animals is even remotely paleo is an injustice to them. By purchasing grass-fed meat from my local farmer I am not only supporting the farm and keeping money in my local economy, I am also getting some of the highest quality meat available, I can see the animals are happy and healthy, and I’ve built some great friendships with the people that grow my food. Instead of buying some plastic wrapped package from unknown origins and slamming some fish oil pills, I am making a difference. I am voting with my money.

I suggest you check out Eat Wild and also ask around. You will be surprised by the healthier options that exist. When you buy the dirt cheap meat at the grocery store you truly get what you pay for. Food, Inc. touches on the industrial raising of animals and is one way to see the conditions and downright abuses that the system supports. And instead of boycotting meat and going vegetarian or worse, a dirty vegan, you can spend your money and invest in the people that do things right, taking proper husbandry into consideration. If the farmer is raising heritage breeds you will also be protecting lines of animals that provide diversity that is ever decreasing. All of this because you’ve decided to devote a larger portion of your money into food. There are ways to make eating this way more affordable and I hope to illustrate a few.

The Offal Truth
Organ meats are a diamond in the rough. From heart, liver, kidneys, tongue, ears, tails, and so forth, you can find nutrient dense grass-fed/pastured offal for a small fraction of the price of a rib-eye. If you do a little digging, you will find recipes galore. Liver has now become a staple in my kitchen… in fact, I probably rival the dogs in my love of liver. I find it hard to pay upwards of $12-15/lb. for a steak when I can stock up on liver and heart for $1-2/lb. Still, the idea of say a tongue sitting in your kitchen may be a bit much for some people. While one blog post is not going to break any phobias, as stupid as they may be, you should give it a chance. If you do, you are one step closer to nose-to-tail eating, utilizing the entire animal, wasting nothing. Having dogs is a key part of this strategy for me, as I know whether the bones go into a stock or become a chew toy for Shaman, we are benefiting from this animal. The moral issues that may arise for me about taking an animal’s life to feed myself as quieted and comforted knowing nothing went to waste.

Group Up
Another way to bring down the increased cost of grass-fed/pastured meat is to buy a whole animal. I will presume that like me, you do not have the money (and space?) to buy a whole cow. This is where you find some like-minded people and split the beast. By buying a whole animal the cost per pound will drop, and by splitting with others you will be able lower your upfront cost. With the investment of a chest freezer (or borrowing space from a friend or family member) you can stock up with meat to last you for a good amount of time. The beauty of buying a whole animal also comes in the form of the ability to have the animal butchered to your specifications. And with the parts that are hard to split several ways, why not just have a communal meal with your friends. Enjoy quality meat with quality people, win-win.

Turn Off The TV
The last item I would like to mention is the examination of your priorities. When I did this, I found I was paying over $100 each month for TV and internet. Given my active lifestyle I found I was only watching TV when I should be sleeping. And with a plethora of Wi-Fi hotspots near where I live and work, did I really need instant access to my email? By cutting out this bill, I had one less payment to worry about and more money to put towards quality food. I am quite happy with this decision and I know the dogs are too… more time can be spent playing tug with Cyprus. Sure I miss watching the Colbert Report, but I can always watch it later online. I eat better, sleep better, and spend less time sitting down at home. I am sure you can find expenses that can be cut, simplifying your life and freeing more income that can be devoted to higher quality meat.

Budget paleo and fish oil pills are no solution. I’ve listed three ways above that can be utilized to help anyone afford the meat they need to be eating. We can make huge changes in how our food is grown and raised by simply investing our time and money in sustainable and respectful practices rather than looking for a way around.