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Grass-fed beef and Wild-Caught Salmon, among other things…

What are important markers to pay attention to in our meats?  How do we tell if we are getting the good stuff vs. the yucky stuff?  What do I look for when buying meats?

I think right now there is a lot going on in the food supply, some things good and some not good. So here is what I look for:

1.  Is the animal I am eating (beef, chicken, fish – whathaveyou) itself eating a Native Diet? So, for example, cows are designed to eat grass and hay. Their stomachs are not meant to handle grains. What do you think happens when the cows eat grain? Same thing that happens to us when we consume things like processed foods – it converts into fat.* Excess fat!

Interestingly, this is considered a good economically because it has led to beef that is more marbled. On the flip side, we are seeing the unprecedented rise in obesity and being told “watch your fat intake”.

Okay, so we are eating beef that has been grown with food that is not native to the diet, i.e. ultimately toxic to the animal (see below*). What do you think would happen if we ate beef that only consumed grass? Less fat content, yet the beef itself contains high nutrients converted from plants! This is what my family tries to eat – beef that has eaten only grass.

2. Is the animal living in their Native Habitat? This is not essential for everything, but it does make a difference  – pigs always indoors vs. getting to run around outside, lots of fish crammed in a fish farm vs. swimming free in the ocean, cows on pasture vs. always in a confined small space.

3.  Check the lingo! This is really important. Grass-fed beef means it ate mostly grass, but it may have eaten grain at the very end.  Whereas grass-finished means it ate grass all the way through. Amish chicken sounds great, but you will still want to check that it is free range and not given hormones. A less well-known thing to check with your chicken is that it is not fed soy – soy feed is a (now) typical feed for chickens and is often Genetically Modified. Wild-caught fish are better than farmed fish as they get to live in and eat from their natural habitat.

Hope these three tips help! Do you buy your meats local? Ever try buying 1/2 cow? What is your experience – I’d love to hear it in the comments!

~ Savvy Food Mama

*Awesome article on what happens in the cow digestive process: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/interviews/pollan.html

Dinner Trick #1

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How to get a consistent, easy way to plan meals? Ready?

Plan your dinners based on the meats. We started with Beef, Pork, Chicken, Turkey. Repeat. This makes it easy. For example, Beef could mean anything: hamburgers or spaghetti or steak. Chicken can mean sauteed chicken breasts or roast chicken, chicken legs or chicken curry. Pork can mean pork burgers or breakfast for dinner (bacon and pancakes) or cooked into a Mexican dish. Are you getting the idea here? If you have your rotation mapped out, your week is planned, and then you can figure out based on what is in your cupboards what that will look like specifically for dinner.

Now, our 7 night plan is usually: Sunday – Beef, Monday – Pork, Tuesday – Chicken, Wednesday – Liver (hold that thought – I will explain why we do liver in another post:) ), Thursday – Turkey, Friday – Fish or Beans, Saturday – leftovers or soup. In the winter, I like to make a big pot of soup during the week, and then it is ready to go for Saturday.

I typically map out the meat plan once a week. Then I figure out the meals for the day either the night before or the morning of the new day. Our weekends tend to be full of family time. This can mean either busy or slow. Both ways, I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen away from the action or relaxation, so I like to use all our leftovers on the weekends.

Does this help? Did I mention a dinner dish you would like to get the recipe for? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!!!

~ Savvy Food Mama