Woginrich had a change of heart when realized that her aversion to meat wasn't solving the animal welfare problem. She decided that the real way to make sure that animals she ate lived a happy, respectable life was to raise them herself.
Writing in AlterNet, Woginrich argues:
"Every meal you eat that supports a sustainable farm changes the agricultural world. I cannot possibly stress this enough. Your fork is your ballot, and when you vote to eat a steak or leg of lamb purchased from a small farmer you are showing the industrial system you are actively opting out."
Jenna Woginrich's story is a perfect illustration of the mind-set of many vegetarians—they become vegetarians not because they're convinced meat is bad for their health, but they just can't condone the inhumane treatment of the animals.
However, as Woginrich states:
"It's a hard reality for a vegetarian to swallow, but my veggie burgers did not rattle the industry cages at all. I was simply avoiding the battlefield, stepping aside as a pacifist. There is nobility in the vegetarian choice, but it isn't changing the system fast enough."
This is a powerful thought... If animal rights is your primary reason for avoiding meat, please take a moment to let this sink in. Avoiding meat really doesn't do anything to change the system. Insisting that the meat is humanely raised however, will.
"My beef, after all, wasn't with beef. It was with how the cow got to my plate in the first place," Woginrich writes. "One way to make sure the animals I ate lived a happy, respectable life was to raise them myself. I would learn to butcher a free-range chicken, raise a pig without antibiotics and rear lambs on green hillside pastures.
… [W]hen you vote to eat a steak or leg of lamb purchased from a small farmer you are showing the industrial system you are actively opting out. You are showing them you are willing to sacrifice more of your paycheck to dine with dignity. As people are made more aware of this beautiful option, farmers are coming out in droves to meet the demand."
Well said. Just imagine how the demand would change the face of the meat industry if vegetarians everywhere simply sought out organic, grass-fed meats instead of avoiding the issue entirely.
Not All Meats are Raised Equal
Let me make something clear. I'm not advocating that everyone should, or even needs to, eat meat. However, there are health consequences of abstaining from animal protein entirely. One of the primary questions you need to ask when you eat meat though is: how was it raised? This makes all the difference in the world when it comes to nutritional content and the health benefits of meat.
There's no question in my mind that we should all avoid factory farmed meat from CAFPOs as the harm likely outweighs the benefit for most. Factory farming is not only inhumane in the extreme, but it also produces inferior meat. Organically-raised, grass-fed and free-range meats however are a whole other animal. Nutritionally, they're just not the same. And you certainly cannot compare the stress- and disease levels between a pastured cow and one stuck in a feedlot.
Why I Changed My Stance on Vegetarianism
While Woginrich initially became a vegetarian because she abhorred the principles of factory farming, I tried a mostly vegetarian diet in the mid-80's (based on the theories presented in Fit for Life) because I thought it would improve my health.
After a few weeks of eating fruit for breakfast I was stunned to discover my fasting triglycerides had skyrocketed from below 100 to nearly 3,000! Clearly this diet was NOT right for me and was rapidly causing damage to my body. So, I had to reevaluate. I later learned the principles of nutritional typing and discovered that I'm a strong protein type, which explains why avoiding meats and eating primarily fruits and vegetables had such a detrimental effect on me.
Had I continued on that program I likely would have passed away from cardiovascular disease a long time ago. That does not mean the program does not work for some. I'm sure many benefit from it. However it clearly did not work for me personally, and I believe it could be a disaster for others who, like myself, are strong protein types.
As a general rule, those who fare the worst on a vegetarian diet are those who are naturally protein types, as they're depriving their bodies of essential fuel, determined by their genetic and biochemical makeup. Strong carb types on the other hand can do quite well on a primarily vegetarian diet.
From a clinical standpoint, I believe virtually everyone benefits from some animal protein. For example, meat is not necessary for most carb types, but they will still benefit from other animal proteins like raw organic dairy and organic free-range eggs.
Today, I typically have meat at one meal a day, including wild Alaskan salmon from Vital Choice. All the beef and chicken are organically and humanely raised; never factory farmed. However, I also usually balance that with about 24 ounces of freshly squeezed organic green vegetable juice.
As for vegetables, I firmly believe everyone should seek to consume high quality fresh organic and locally grown vegetables every day. The only questions are the amount (or ratio) and the type of vegetables. I believe vegetables provide the powerhouse of nutritional benefits that will vastly improve your health. I personally consume nearly a quart of freshly made green organic vegetable juice nearly every day.
As for fruit, I recommend avoiding eating large amounts of fruit, as most people need to limit their fructose consumption, from all sources.
Another Excellent Source of Animal Protein if You Don't Like Meat
The evidence suggests that raw organic milk is one of the healthiest options as it has the highest biologic value and utilization of any protein. It also has potent immune benefits and factors that stimulate muscle growth if exercising properly. My only concern on milk is that it probably should be avoided if you are seeking to lose weight as the lactose may impair your ability to burn fat as a fuel. You can also consider other organic raw dairy products, such as yoghurt and cheese, which will also provide healthful probiotics.
Three Important Dietary Factors to Consider
There are certain factors to consider when determining your ideal diet. These factors contribute to people's confusion about diet and about whether or not to eat meat because they don't make the necessary distinctions:
- Your nutritional type, which determines what ratio of fats, carbohydrates and protein your body needs to thrive.
I believe it's safe to say we all need some of each of these three categories, but our bodies require different ratios of each. This means that some people will thrive on very large amounts of vegetables and very little animal protein. For others, this ratio would spell disaster for their health.
- The types and amounts of vegetables chosen, as not all vegetables are suitable for all nutritional types, and different types need more or less vegetables to thrive.
- The quality of the meat and the way it is cooked will impact its health benefits.
Factors that Influence Quality and Health Benefits of Meat
So how do you determine the quality of the meat? The following three factors need to be considered:
- How it's raised, i.e. factory farmed or raised organically. Conventional meat is loaded with pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals and should be avoided.
- Whether or not it's grass-fed. This is an essential requirement healthy meat.
- Whether or not it contains nitrates, preservatives linked to cancer. Processed meats are not a healthful choice for anyone and should be avoided entirely, according to a recent review of more than 7,000 clinical studies examining the connection between diet and cancer.
Next, how you cook the meat will also influence its health benefits because any time you cook meat at high temperatures, dangerous chemicals are created, including:
- Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs): These form when food is cooked at high temperatures, and they're linked to cancer. In terms of HCA, the worst part of the meat is the blackened section, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and never eat blackened sections.
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs): When fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, and the smoke surrounds your food, it can transfer cancer-causing PAHs to the meat.
- Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs): When food is cooked at high temperatures (including when it is pasteurized or sterilized), it increases the formation of AGEs in your food. When you eat the food, it transfers the AGEs into your body. AGEs build up in your body over time leading to oxidative stress, inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
In other words, even if you are a protein type who thrives on red meat, eating factory farmed, grain-feed beef that's been charred to a crisp will NOT improve your health.
In order for meat to be its healthiest, it should be organic and grass-fed, and it should be cooked as little as possible. You can, for example, quickly sear the meat on both sides, leaving the inside quite rare. This gives the illusion that you're eating cooked meat, while still getting many of the benefits of raw.
Keep in mind that when it comes to parasites or other infections, the health of the animal is of utmost importance, which is yet another reason for avoiding any kind of factory-farmed meats. Those animals are fed and housed poorly, which makes disease-causing bacteria an issue, whereas organically-raised pastured animals rarely get diseased.
Tips for Finding Safe, Humanely Raised Food Sources
It is relatively easy to find a humane and reliable source for your food -- sources that are growing food with the health of the environment and the animals as the driving force.
This is such an important issue for me personally, I've made connections with sources that I know provide high quality organic grass-fed beef and bison, free-range chicken and ostrich, and wild salmon, all of which you can find in my online store.
You can also check out my Promoting Sustainable Agriculture page, which contains a long list of resources to help you find high-quality produce and meats in your area.