Sacred Cow

The Case for (Better) Meat: Why Well-Raised Meat Is Good for You and Good for the Planet

By Diana Rodgers & Rob Wolf

Meat has a bad reputation but it shouldn't. This book dispels lots of myths related to eating clean
Published: July 1, 2022 Reading Time: 9 minutes

Notes & Highlights

What we’ve discovered is that, contrary to the popular narrative, red meat is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available; indeed, the extent of access to nutrient-dense animal products such as meat is one of the greatest distinguishers between the poor and wealthy in developed or developing countries. Perhaps more controversially, when raised properly, cattle and

Although grass-fed meat may be superior from a sustainability perspective, current research indicates that it is only marginally different from conventionally raised meat when it comes to health and nutrients.

Hunger has been humanity’s main problem. But today, far more people die from eating too much rather than too little—although it’s fair to say that most of these people are overfed yet undernourished

Eating meat also gave us freedom from the time-consuming process of gathering plants and chewing them. On a calorie-by-calorie basis, animal products provide far more nutrition than any plant material, and raw, unprocessed plants required far more energy and resources to digest, so animal products were highly prized.

Nutrient dense food: Alcohol and sugar have a lot of calories but not a lot of micronutrients, so they’re calorie dense but not nutrient dense.

By the mid-70s, there was a surplus of corn. Butz flew to Japan to look into a scientific innovation that would change everything: the mass development of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or glucose-fructose syrup as it’s often referred to in the UK, a highly sweet, gloppy syrup, produced from surplus corn, that was also incredibly cheap. HFCS had been discovered in the 50s, but it was only in the 70s that a process had been found to harness it for mass production. HFCS was soon pumped into every conceivable food: pizzas, coleslaw, meat. It provided that “just baked” sheen on bread and cakes, made everything sweeter, and extended shelf life from days to years.

Does it make sense to be irrigating vast fields of almonds in Ore towns where drinking water has to arrive in plastic bottles?

Every animal has a biologically appropriate diet.

We’re also sleeping less, moving less, and under much different forms of stress than we had during hunter-gatherer times.

We have larger brains, shorter large intestines, and longer small intestines.

Relative to other primates, the fiber-fermenting portion of our digestive tract, the colon, is comparatively smaller.

Humans can make arrows for hunting and sharpen stones and shells for scraping, pounding, and slicing meat.

It’s speculated that the Peruvian custom of eating potatoes with a clay sauce originated in pre-Columbian times to inhibit the toxic effects of glycoalkaloids present in wild potatoes, in addition to neutralizing their bitterness.

One study found that if cats and dogs had their own country, it would rank fifth in meat consumption.

Higher levels of protein are effective for weight loss. According to the protein-leverage hypothesis, people will continue to eat food in order to satisfy their protein needs. If the food you’re eating is ultraprocessed, low in protein but high in calories and carbohydrates, the brain will tell you to continue eating that food until you reach your protein minimum. Because protein is highly satiating, when we increase our protein intake, our overall caloric intake generally reduces.

Questions to ask when reading studies

Adequate protein intake, without too much in the way of processed foods, may be the recipe for dietary success.

Mid-Victorian diet

Insect Proteins

The issue with antibiotics and livestock really seems to be when drugs important to humans are overused and pass through the animal into the environment. The “antibiotic-free” label is not approved by the USDA, has no clear meaning, and doesn’t necessarily mean the animal doesn’t-carry-antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Fruits and vegetables taste good, are generally low in calories, and contain useful nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fats, and protein. But plants can be quite difficult to digest and have defenses that can block nutrient absorption.

Traditional cultures that consume a lot of soy-based products tend to ferment or prepare the soy in a manner that reduces the content of the antinutrients, reducing the risk of toxicity. But in most Western societies we consume soy in the form of soybean oil, soy protein isolate (a highly processed, high-protein powder), or as soy lecithin.

Sacred cow: an idea, custom, or institution held, especially unreasonably, to be above criticism.

The vast majority of food eaten by cattle comes from grass, and the grains that are fed to cattle are mainly the remnants of ethanol production and the leftover “straw” from grain harvest. Chickens, by contrast, are almost exclusively fed on grain and soybean meal.

Industrial animal production, with its manure lagoons, is indeed a significant source of methane, but these are largely from the pork egg, and dairy industries.

A meta-analysis looking at carbon sequestration in Soils from livestock grazing in several South American countries showed that grazing lands not only sequester carbon but also that net amount sequestered could partially or totally offset urban emissions.

Pork are fed a diet of primarily grain, which is grown on arable land that could be used to produce food for humans. ( This is 1 another mistake in DiCaprio’s Before the Flood-chicken is actually not a better option than beef when considering inputs and outputs.)

As ruminant animals, cattle can’t handle a diet of 100 percent grain (sometimes referred to as “concentrates”). In fact, an overexposure to grain in too short a time can be fatal for a cow. Ruminants need a lower concentration of grain to keep them healthy, so most cattle, sheep, and goats' diets come from pasture, hay, cornstalks, and other " crop residues."

If cattle are upcyclers, pigs are recyclers.

Feeding pigs food scraps seems like a win-win, yet it’s made virtually impossible in many places because of government regulations. While the USDA estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of food is wasted in the US, we foolishly grow large amounts of grain on land that we could be using for human food to feed to pigs.

Think of ruminants as four-legged speed composters. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm told Diana in an interview that animals are like a flywheel compared to a compost pile.

They break down the organic matter faster, especially in arid environments, without large amounts of water and without collection or redistribution. Their manure, urine, and saliva all contain bacteria that become part of the soil biome, so they increase the amount of nutrients available to plants.

The nutrition in grass-finished beef is far superior to rice, avocados, walnuts, and sugar. A pound of rice requires about 410 gallons of water to produce. Avocados, walnuts, and sugar have similar water requirements. Globally, 30 percent of groundwater intended for crops is used by rice, followed by wheat (12 percent), cotton for crops (11 percent), and soybeans (3 percent).

Most of us are entirely removed from how our food is produced. Most people have hunted, fished, or processed an animal, Butcher shops once proudly displayed pigs' heads in their cases and full duck bodies on the window, but they can now (at least in the US) generally only show the boneless, skinless, plastic-wrapped parts. Modernity

How many deaths are you causing per calorie you eat? At forty rodent deaths per acre, and six million calories per acre of wheat, that’s 150,000 calories per rodent life. Let’s be generous and assume only one head of cattle per acre yields approximately five hundred pounds of beef. At approximately 1,100 calories per pound, that’s 550,000 calories per cow life! So perhaps if you want to save more animal lives, eat beef, not wheat.

Vegetarians can only exist if there are meat-eaters to consume the by-products of their diet. Eating bread entails being comfortable with all the mice that are poisoned at the granary.

The households with the highest carbon footprints were ones that Consumed more fish, vegetables, alcohol, and sugary foods, and ate out at restaurants most often.

When countries can no longer feed themselves and have to rely on imports, it makes them extremely vulnerable. Venezuela is good example of this. When the price of oil was high, farmers left the fields and the country gradually started importing the majority of its food. However, when the price of oil fell, everything crumbled. In a statement made on February 9, 2018, UN human rights experts warned, “Vast numbers of Venezuelans are starving, deprived of essential medicines, and trying to survive in a situation that is spiraling downwards with no end in sight.”

We’re not hearing much about the high carbon footprint of avocados, nor about the destructive agricultural practices needed to produce this monocrop.

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