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A Brief History of Meat
A Brief History of MeatAs brief as we can make it. We swear...

For a big chunk of human history (in other words for a very, VERY long time), there was only way to raise animals: Cattle spent their lives foraging on the local grasses, plants and shrubs that were a part of their surroundings. Free to roam lush, grassy pastures, these animals were robust and healthy, and the resulting meat was lean, nutritious, and rich in flavor.

But then very quickly—and very recently—that long, unbroken history of farming practices was turned on its head. Because newer is always better, right?! (Sort of like Wonderbread was better than fresh-baked bread, and margarine than butter. Hmm... )

Here's what happened: After World War II, big business figured out that with a few little (or not so little) tweaks in the way things worked, farming could be a serious moneymaker. And so the best practices that farmers had developed for thousands of years began to be replaced.

By the 1960s, American meat was no longer coming from family farms; instead, it was produced in massive feedlot operations that emphasized efficiency and quantity over quality. The largest of these operations could crank out more than 100,000 head of cattle a year, all fattened rapidly and unnaturally on the seemingly endless supply of corn, wheat and soybeans that were being churned out thanks to government subsidies and petroleum-based fertilizers.

But while we've come back around to the idea that fresh bread and fresh butter might be a whole lot better than the processed alternative, the pendulum has only started to swing on beef. So, today, animals, many of which have never seen a single blade of grass after they are weaned, are still fattened on these unnatural diets in cramped feedlots.

And because cattle aren't eating the diet nature intended (we'll save all the gory details on what a grain-based diet does to animal health and why the same diet is the direct cause of many of the scary meat recalls we've been seeing recently for a later post) or getting the fresh air and exercise they need to be healthy, they're bolstered by hormones and antibiotics. Within little over a year, animals have been artificially bulked up. This efficient industrial process guarantees that there will always be plenty of cheap meat in the grocery store and that your fast-food burger will be less expensive than a bag of carrots. Which, really, doesn't seem right, does it?

But just because you're not paying a premium for beef in the short term, don't think that you're really saving anything. Most beef simply isn't good for you—it's loaded with hormones and antibiotics, it's high in saturated fat, and it's linked to life-threatened diseases.

So here's the real truth: grass-fed beef is different. Yes, it costs a little more, but that's because animals are raised right—the old-fashioned way—on grassland. They grow not with the help of hormones but with the help of grass and sun on nature's timeline. And because cattle eat the healthy diet nature intended, grass-fed beef is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fat found in salmon, in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a proven cancer fighter, as well as vitamins A and E, branch-chain amino acids, digestive enzymes and essential nutrients that are known for their antioxidant properties.

So, yeah, go ahead. Have a brgr. And don't feel one bit guilty about it.
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