Random thought re grassfed meats ...

... I'm listening to Jimmy's podcast with Zoe Harcombe and she's discussing Lierre Keith and feeding grain to animals vs. humans, etc.  I don't have a beef (pun?) on this topic, but it reminded me of something I read a while back regarding grassfed meats and grain consumption in general.  

It went something like this:  The current population of the world could not be sustained if every human on the planet were to consume grassfed livestock and tried to eliminate grains entirely as a carbohydrate energy source.    What this says to me is that were we to try to transition to such a diet for "everyone", it could not be sustained.  Then the question becomes which humans get access to the good stuff, and which are relegated to consuming what's left, and what are the ethical implications?

Anyone else here ever read or consider this?


Paul Jaminet said…
Since I consider fatty meat, even if from obese cows, to be the "good stuff" and lean animal meat to be less desirable, I'm OK with taking the grain fed meat and leaving the grass fed stuff for pickier eaters. I would prefer eggs from grass-and-insect-fed free ranging chickens however.

I guess the people who get the grassfed meat are those who are willing to spend the extra money.
CarbSane said…
I'm perfectly fine also consuming the meat from grain fed cattle. When a local chain called Stew Leonards offers up Porterhouse at $3.99/lb, and my awesome grill master hubby can grill up a nice thick one for dinner at around $8 for two, who am I to bitch! On this one I really don't buy the whole O6:O3 ratio angle either. For one, beef is a poor source of PUFA's anyway, you're just not getting a lot of either. And nutrition data I've seen from actual analyses (as opposed to claims made on websites of advocates through to sellers) show an insignificant difference in ratio. It's not something I worry over.

But it is an interesting ethical question. If the richer among us are the ones who can afford the food, are we not in theory relegating a portion of the population to death by deprivation?
Sanjeev said…
That's nothing compared to what's supposedly coming.

If peak oil comes to pass and the cost of grains multiplies tenfold we'll all be raising rabbits in our backyards.

One can imagine a small taste of what's to come; Stuff like this has already happened in limited niches. When Cartier came to the New World the stories are that off the coast of Newfoundland the French sailors could hold their arms out and within a short time they would be holding a big cod. Exaggerated, most definitely ... but since there are a lot of stories like that, stretching all the way back to the Vikings, one wonders how much.

There are stories of even greater abundance in the US pacific northwest & southern British Columbia.

That (arms full of fish) won't happen today anywhere in the world. Well, maybe parts of the Brazilian rainforest (which has more than 70% of the world's clean water)

The small fraction of the humans that eat seafood have reduced stocks by 95 to 99%.
CarbSane said…
Which raises other questions about farm raised fish which about half if not more of grocery store offerings comprise these days. Fresh wild fish costs like 3X as much when you can find it putting it out of my price range that's for sure. For me when the choice is between Canadian farm raised vs. wild from parts unknown and questionable on the planet, ...

This is one of my issues with Paleo-based eating. Many of our modern foods do not mimic those of that day, from fruits to livestock. So I'm not sure eating grains to which we've adapted is necessarily all that much different. Cordain's approach of using modern foods to comprise a similar nutrient profile to Paleo days seems worthy of consideration vs. just trying to eat modern versions of their foods and act like it's all the same.
Sanjeev said…
I'm not a big seafood fan so I can't give any advice. (it's tough not to be one in Toronto, considering the amount of Chinese & Japanese seafood places, and I live right beside the biggest of the 4 Chinatowns)

There is a new movement on I've heard about, and seen some products in the local markets .. the "sustainable seafood" that promotes eating fish species that can be caught sustainably.

I really do feel the pain though ... except for eggs, high protein food in Canada is 30 to 50% more expensive than in the US, all costs considered. The cheapest proteins I can get are actually protein powders. Cheaper per gram of protein than even the cheapest, toughest cuts of beef.

The milk used for those powders is made the same as the milk in the corner store, PLUS it's run through a factory full of expensive separation equipment, and in the end that turns out cheaper. I suspect mostly because one is not paying to transport water.

PS - (thought I would post this on the one post where we don't discuss Insulin) ... speaking of insulin (ha ha ha), I'm currently living just south of the University of Toronto, near the art gallery - my apartment's a 5 minute walk from where Banting & Best did their research.

I actually took some of my undergrad courses in the same building. If Sanger had also done his work there it would be a trifecta of sorts ...
CarbSane said…
Kinda neat Sanjeev! I love Toronto but it's been a while since I've been. In certain ways I think for all the problems, farmed fish is likely safer because at least we know where they've been (as in toxin levels). Mom was a big fish lady and I never had "seafood" until I graduated college. Except for canned tuna, I avoided it in my younger days as it just didn't appeal. Now I eat a lot of salmon and a fair amount of shrimp and lobster (the same local chain sells lobster for $4-5/lb several times a year). I've been experimenting with squid ;) I can get the frozen rings at the Asian market cheap and they're great with a fra diavolo sauce. Used to make that over shiritake noodles, but Paul has given me "permission" to eat rice noodles so I'll do up a dish with that next time :D
Unknown said…
Cows cannot survive for more then 90 days on a grain fed diet. Their organs will fail and they die. I think its fair to assume that eating a health animal is probably healthier. As far as the "cost" and sustainability we just don't know for sure. But as Michael Pollan says "Cheap food is an illusion, the cost is paid somewhere. Either Government subsidies (corn and soybean are heavily subsidized), poor health (think current health-care crisis), or environmental costs(pesticides/chemical fertilizer have destroyed the gulf of Mexico and further decreased food supply)". 1 in 3 kids are expected to be diabetic and believe me the cost of caring for our sick country will be far larger the the $10 extra for a good quality steak. Not to mention who knows what the price would be if there were no subsidies for the feed (I have heard that approximately 70% of the land we plant to corn is used to feed livestock). That is a lot of land that could be used to grow livestock on grass.

I also must attest that once I stopped eating farm raised fish, and grain fed beef. Started eating raw dairy, grass fed meat, organic produce, and properly prepared grain (that's a big one coming from a former low carb fanatic.) I feel unbelievable. Always in a good mood, never sick, gaining strength with minimal exercise, and look more firm across the board. I pay $20 for a steak and thank god its available.

Right now grass fed meat is a niche market and therefore the price can be high...Increase demand will bring in more players and the competition will drive the price down. To What?
Let the free marked and not government subsidies decide that.
Muata said…
I think that local, or even individually, farm raised fish using aquaponics is an approach that really needs to be looked into by more folks. Basically, it's a closed system that produces a lean protein and various vegetables. The fish waste is used to feed the veggie plants in a hydroponic setup that in turns filters the water that is re-routed back to the fish! Right now, Tilapia is that main fish used in this type of system, and the only thing that is introduced into the system is the feed for the fish. And, you can't get any more "organic" than veggies grown using fresh fish waste as the fertilizer ;)
CarbSane said…
Hi Nick, I think you may have misinterpreted what I was getting at: that being if we raised all livestock in that manner and phased out grains for human consumption, the food supply would not sustain the current human population of the planet. I'm with you on the subsidies, the free market would be far better, and while the ideas may have initially been to help protect farmers from the financial hardships of a bad crop etc., they've long since ceased to have any effect on small farms other than to squeeze them out of existence.

Personally, I've gone through my phases eating organic, raw, wild, etc., (never could develop a taste for grassfed beef, yuck to me!) and I didn't feel any differently than eating the cheaper counterparts. It's mostly been cutting almost all junk from my diet, eating real foods and preparing them more and more at home so I know everything that goes into a sauce or rub, etc. that has made a huge difference.

Muata that sounds like a great idea. My issue with fish farming is that the feed. If I could get "fed a natural diet" and not something totally foreign to the fish, that would be sufficient for me. I don't like the dyes either, but y'know, we all have to draw our lines somewhere. I love tilapia :) No dye needed for those!
Sanjeev said…
In all fairness, the opposite side's argument is this:

one can raise cattle on grassland that is not suitable for commercial farming.

Goats and other hardy animals on even "worse" land.

IMHO if everyone started eating meat it would still not be enough, like the fisheries were not enough to survive the onslaught of the big commercial trawlers.
CarbSane said…
Zoning laws come to mind too. I would love to, and have enough land/area to support chickens to provide eggs ... but the town and neighbors would be none too happy with such.
Muata said…
That's the great thing about aquaponics CS; you get to choose which feed you give the fish! Also, I think that folks should also take a second look at growing their vegetables hydroponically. Other countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia already do this out of necessity, but, unfortunately, in this country hydroponics is more synonymous with growing marijuana.

I think that many people would be surprised at what they can grow in a simple 3-5 gallon bucket using "organic" hydroponic fertilizer (BTW, the one I use is actually made from molasses...)
Unknown said…
I think it's important to not underestimate the value of high quality nutrient rich food. I urge everyone once again to visit www.westonaprice.org. A site promoting traditional diets based on research of Dr. Weston a price. Dr price was a dentist in the 30's who saw increasing tooth decay in his patients. He decided to travel the world searching for communities that did not suffer from tooth decay, as this was a good indicator of overall health. The macro nutrients of these communities varied from zero crab (Eskimos Masai, ect), to fairly large carbohydrate intake, yet all shared great teeth and health. So what was the common factor of all of them? See the web site for more details.

I should also point out that the people I have met who now come to the site for answers are vastly varied. From the LC community (such as myself) to former vegan/raw foodist. For a great story about one man's personal journey to find health. See:


It makes me believe that there must be something to this stuff if such vastly different people come to the same place looking for answers to the same question. What is the best diet of overall health?

As for weight loss. Sally Fallon, the lady who runs Weston A Price, wrote a book "Eat Fat Lose Fat". It encourages a high fat, moderate carbohydrate, and CALORIE RESTRICTION for weight loss. But beyond that recommends nutrient rich traditional foods.
Anonymous said…
The implications everyone switching to a low-carb diet is precisely why I became very interested in this subject and actually tried low-carb for a while. Only part of what we do is driven by biology. Most is driven by social programming. If it is in the interests of society for everyone to eat grains (so that a larger population can be supported, allowing for a larger workforce and larger military), then I immediately jump to the hypothesis that society is programming us to eat grains, even if this is contrary to the interest of the individual. And that to me remains the strongest argument to look seriously at the merits of low-carb, though you still have to test the idea. Paranoia is good for generating hypotheses, but then you have to turn off the paranoia to test these hypotheses or you'll end up like Fred Hahn and company.

As far as the paranoia about low-fat, I believe it's a false alarm and the low-fat grain diet is actually quite conducive to health and longevity, and much more so than low-carb meat diets (though nothing beats a diet of mostly greens plus a small amount of fish). Right now, I balance the omega-6's in my 400g/day of oats with omega-3's from canned salmon/mackeral/sardines. All of these fish are wild caught and all are cheap if you buy them canned. Some people says canned fish tastes like catfood. And exactly what is wrong with the taste of catfood? If I can't afford canned fish in the future, then I believe algae farming will become widespread on a sustainable basis, and algae is the ultimate source of omega-3's. So I'm not worried about my future.

I'm also not worried about starvation and malnutrition in the third-world. When I go hiking in nature, I routinely see starving animals. Starvation is nature's way. If the third-worlders starve, too bad for them. The concern most people show regarding starvation in the third-world is socially programmed rather than springing from our biological nature--I am absolutely certain of that.