My Journey to becoming a conscious carnivore
Health and wellness is a journey, and there really isn’t a “one path fits all” route that will get everyone to where they want to be. My idea of “healthy eating” has changed drastically over the last few years, mostly in response to what I’ve gone through at certain points in my life, and of course as a result of continuously learning. At one point in my life I was a strict vegetarian, mainly for sustainability reasons. I believed that eating meat was not sustainable for our environment, as it took up too many resources (it basically takes up double the land and resources to raise animals for human consumption than it does to grow plants for food — land to grow feed, watering that feed, transportation and fuel to get that feed to the animals, land that keeps the animals, and then even more transportation and fuel to get that meat into a grocery store near you to buy and eat at home.) Not to mention all the hormones and antibiotics given to conventionally raised animals, which I figured was just easier to avoid altogether by cutting out meat completely.
But at the time I was faced with many common health issues that vegetarians experience, such as extremely low iron and B12, for example. Both of these nutrients are essential for energy production in the body, so I was constantly feeling exhausted, even after getting a full night’s rest. Even getting up to get dressed seemed like a big task. Iron supplements and B12 shots helped, but were not going to be a long term solution, so I had to re-evaluate my diet. I decided to add some fish back into my diet (and I was also really missing sushi, because let’s be honest, veggie rolls are great and all, but just not the same as some fatty fish on rice dipped in soy sauce). A pescatarian diet was working out great for me, I was regaining some of my energy and strength back, as well as increased mental clarity.
I then started studying holistic nutrition, and really began to understand what healthy eating meant, and how to go about it. We learned the differences between “conventionally raised” meats, “pasture raised” and “grass fed” and what they really meant — how it affects the animals, the environment and the nutritional value of the meat. Yes my friends, not all meat is created equal. You are what you eat, but when it comes to meat, you are also what the animal eats. Most animals are meant to graze outside and eat different types of grass and plants (yes most animals are vegetarians), however, companies found that is was more cost effective to feed the animals corn (which was also probably genetically modified) as it fattens them up faster. But this means the animals are lacking the variety in their diet that the natural grazing offers them (and us) so many of the nutritional benefits we should be getting from meat. There is still a lot of conflicting research and opinions out there, and no one diet fits all, but after educating myself, I eventually began to realize that a diet with conscious meat consumption was best for me.
What I now look for as a “conscious carnivore” is animals that are certified Organic or 100% grassfed from sources I trust. There are a lot of phrases and terms that companies use that can mislead customers into thinking an animal led a blissful life in the outdoors, but it is not necessarily the case. The term “organic” is the only term in Canada that is clearly defined and has regulations including providing livestock with humane living conditions for their health and well-being, and does not permit the use of growth hormones for animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. “grass fed” and “grass finished” — unfortunately these terms are not regulated, meaning there is no clear definition. The common definition is that “grass fed” refers to livestock that has been raised on pastures and confined to a conventional feedlot system vs. “Grass finished” means animals ate grass at the end stage of their life (but no timeframe is usually given, and the would have eaten grains beforehand). “Pasture-raised” animals graze certified organic pasture whenever weather permits BUT may receive supplemental grain rations. “100% grass fed” animals eat only fresh pasture, for the entire duration of their lives. Bottom line here is to look for certified organic whenever possible and 100% grass fed, and don’t hesitate to ask!
The best thing you can do is KNOW YOUR FARMER. Find sources such as local farmers markets where you can actually ask the farmer questions about how they raised their animals, so that you know you are getting quality, fresh meat that is packed with nutrients. It’s been a great journey re-introducing meat back into my life and getting to know my local farmers such as Turtle Valley Bison who are 100% grass fed, and ethical farmers. It’s been amazing to experiment with the different recipes such as these Bison Butternut Squash Bowls and sharing these meals and experiences with friends and family. Remember that you always have a choice, and each purchase you make is a vote. A vote for who and what you support, so if you are thinking of introducing meat into you diet, or already eat meat on a regular basis, then make sure you are doing it consciously.