So the conversation continues on my blog post yesterday. My coach Jessica piped in and said that they have discovered that dairy cows under stress have an unhealthy kind of fat, and it is located in different places than the fat in happy, stress-free cows. I tried to Google to get more information, and I discovered several articles about how to humanely slaughter pigs and cows so that the meat is not damaged. Apparently, when an animal is stressed – even if it’s just right before it dies, cortisol is released which causes their muscles to tense. The muscles stay tense making the meat tough. And, in animals that are kept in unnatural conditions, the meat quality is so poor that it is sold only to secondary markets. There are all kinds of efforts being made to make the journey to the slaughterhouse more relaxing for our livestock. You can read more here.
Awhile back, my brother Terry and I went to the Farmer’s Market here in Baton Rouge. Cajun Grain rice farmers had a booth, and we both bought some of their Brown Cracked Rice (dubbed Grits). I love it so much better than corn grits. They are creamy and rich and, of course, have the nutrient profile of brown rice instead of genetically-modified corn. This weekend Laura asked me if I had ever visited their website. She laughed and said they take their rice seriously. She read that they sing to their rice. We all got a big laugh out of it, but really, aren’t you supposed to talk to your plants for them to grow. I went to their website tonight, and I couldn’t find the ‘singing’ stuff, but they do take their rice seriously, and they are starting to get some pretty stellar results. I’m hankering to go out to Kinder, LA now and have lunch at their restaurant, InnerG, and take a look at their operation. They have proven that you can grow crops in insect-infested Louisiana with natural methods. It took awhile to get there, but once their soil and plants were healthy, the eco-system battles the unwanted weeds and pests. You can read more on their website.
I don’t always know why living a gentler life makes everything better, I just believe it does. You can call it ‘you reap what you sow’ or karma or ‘you are what you eat’ or whatever you want. I just know that when people are proud of what they produce and take care of their animals and gardens, the harvest tastes better and looks healthier. I have always felt a spiritual connection to my food. It’s why I love farmer’s markets. Food is just something to eat when it’s made by machines or faceless, heartless corporations bowing to stockholders. But, when I’ve talked with the farmer about how they grow it, and I have a laugh or two with them, I bring that image and connection home with me. When I cook it, I know exactly who handled it and where it was grown. The ritual somehow connects me to the earth, God, the elements that nurtured it and the hands that labored to pick it for me. It brings me back to my childhood where my Pawpaw grew our food, and we picked and shucked and shelled it. It was a family affair. All of that feeds my spirit not just my gut.
I asked Jessica to give me some more information on the differences between beef that is humanely raised on farms where they are fed grass. She found some images. She said the difference in quality and nutrient profile of chickens is the same. Their eggs are more nutritious and more colorful. I know I love to buy farm eggs. I never know if they taste better, or I just think they do, but I love them. You can review this information and make your own decisions, but I really feel like my body deserves the healthiest food I can afford. I know these grass-fed meats and dairy are expensive, but I honestly don’t get as hungry when I eat them. I eat a lot less. I can buy a rib-eye and make 3 meals off it. The recommended serving size is 3-6 oz. Why are we eating 16 oz. anyway? Most of us do nothing but sit on our butts all day. It’s not like we need the fuel. I’d rather eat appropriate portions than stuff myself with bad quality and sub-standard tasting food.
I asked a friend of mine who raises cattle for food if he knew about the stress connection and tougher meat. He didn’t, but we have often talked about how horrible the meat in grocery stores is today. He’s used to eating his own homegrown beef, and when he buys storebought, there is no comparison in the taste. For those of us who don’t have the luxury of having cows, we never know anything different. I asked him if he sings to his cows like the Cajun Grain people sing to their rice. “No,” he said, “But I do talk to them and pet them.” I imagine that would make a cow feel good. I hope he says thank you, too. We often forget that these animals give their lives for us to have food. And, if it’s a spiritual thing to grow someone’s vegetables, it’s even more of a beautiful thing to give your life for their sustenance. That meat wasn’t grown from a styro-foam package. It was blood and bone and heart. And, I really want to know that it was happy …. for it’s own sake and my own.