Lack of Humility Killed the Calf

Our self-image can get outright ridiculous. Whether it’s the finest gear, notebooks, boots, knives, or stock pots, often I take too much pleasure out of having ‘The Best’. In my crushingly finite wisdom, I have found more satiety from the Bigger Picture than any material (including meat) within it’s massive slide. This might be because I’ve seen thousands of tenderloins and I know the cost- thousands of lives. Maybe it’s because working in an industry like meat does things like this to you. Or, maybe it’s because I’m just shy of being an asshole, at all times.

In our shop we do a great job of selling abundance. Cases in any venue will be full of options. Incentivised by price to help make margins and push surplus items, it’s a race against entropy from steaks to steak fajitas. Hiding behind the stainless steel is a reality we as carnivores need to face, we are taking life to bring a better quality into ours. Do I think this is morally wrong– No. Do I think we have an opportunity to spearhead a reprise of old-world appreciation– Yes.

This lack of communication, or resentment we have toward our own nature makes a devastating blow to the ‘Circle of Life.’ Mindless, devouring consumerism is what gives meat a two-edged sad face in the eyes of many herbivores. To them, not only are we taking life off the planet, without a care to give along the road. In many ways, I agree. Our severance from the reality of our food system has brought us toward a no guts, all glory scenario together as a group. We want to benefits of animal-based protein and fats, but not the weight of their life on ours.

Delightfully I uncover that we have an opportunity to turn this stigma upside down. In the year that I have been reaching my hand out to our Paleo community, I haven’t met one person that does not have a deep down appreciation for what animals have done to correct an otherwise ruptured relationship with our bodies. Asking a couple of questions like What does that appreciation look like for you? or What can we do to give back to a species that has quite literally saved our lives?

Simply, I’ve begun to return to an archaic appreciation for the presence of these animals in our world. It is as easy as understanding the variety of cuts in an animals musculature, and making it a task, a duty, to experience what the entirety of that life has to offer me. It also means educating the people that can only cook a Ribeye (that is easy. Make some Liver and Onions that doesn’t make an unsuspecting person gag and I’ll reward thee.)  about the journey one has to undergo to learn effectively the skill of the sustainable variety.

To address this, I’ve drawn up a document in Excel to help guide myself to eat around the whole animal. It can be found below. You might find it useful.

Link To Excel Sheet – > BeefGuide

In the field that is labeled ‘On the Hoof’ is a weight that will vary from region to region, from processor to processor, and ultimately appropriate a conversation between you and your meat cutter/shop owner. This weight is all you need to know. It is the weight at which the steer, or heifer is sent to slaughter. The rest of the math is done for you- a complete breakdown. You can then print this document out, hang it up on your fridge and see how you’re doing on your possible ‘eat around the animal’ attempt. I bet it takes you awhile. I also bet you have loads of fun in the process.

The internet, and eventually this site, will have loads of how-tos and Paleo friendly recipes for the entirety of your journey.

When all is said, done, and roasted, another issue for me is the economics of our lack of awareness. Prices within this industry directly reflect the product availability in relationship to consumer demand. The reason why ground beef is so cheap is because 70% of the whole hanging weight is ending up in grinds. Rightfully, what your provider will do is make the price of these immovable products much lower than everything else. Incentivized and salivating, we are constantly drawn to the swirly red, because it’s affordable and abundant.

Balancing this shopping experience will eventually balance the market. There is not a degree in Economics hanging on my wall, but I have to believe that if more people shopped with this intention, there would be less need to separate these sections of animals with such polarity. There is also no degree in Shamanism from the Navajo School of Guiding, but it is possible that a more respectful relationship between Homosapien and Bovine might spark a chain of perspective shifts, as well.

Sticking with one cut, or section is easy to do. I also get into a rhythm and a lot of times, that is hard to break. Knowing that you’ve killed more animals in this situation is not the point, nor is it true. Moreover, the fact I found in my own pattern of Top Sirloin, Bottom Round, Grinds, Rinse, Sear, Repeat is that I’m not only caught in a cycle that will affect the market and sustainability, my actions reflect a person that is unwilling to try anything new. It is important to truly savor that 1.33# of Beef Tenderloin. They are rare, and take a lot of effort to get to your plate.

Even if this all seems preachy and unbecoming, it has helped me immensely on a personal level to communicate a need for a change in our food industry at the consumer level. There is a dark cloud hanging over our heads in the cold areas of department stores. This, to me, is a great way to hold one’s head up high to anyone who points the finger at them for contributing to the suffering of any being. Nature gives, we accept these gifts rightfully. And please, kill me and eat me if I ever say soy is a better alternative to our sympathetic moral response.

Why Butchers Hate Grass Fed Beef

When you are cutting meat, you feel everything. It’s all about sensitivity. Not one string of tissue goes unnoticed. This sensation of connection develops and a certain empathy eventually appears. Below are a few observations I’ve made while in this sacred space:

Dropping a primal to the plastic cutting service begins a ceremony– A beautiful 107 Rib is ready to be trimmed. If this animal has been allowed to follow an evolutionarily appropriate diet, it’s soft, pliable, cherry red, and bloody (obviously). The fat isn’t oxidized. It moves with the blade.

As beautiful as this sounds, It’s texture makes it a pain-in-the-ass to cut. After all the bargaining and pleading, the meat will not stay still enough to make quality cuts. Remember– I’m new at this. It frustrates me, but it absolutely infuriates anyone who has any sort of time behind the knife. The first thing I ever learned about cutting is this simple truth- All you can do is your best. With grassfed beef, my best is often just not good enough.

All good salesmen have a way of avoiding work. Clever methods spring up in all laborious arenas. What I have heard in my experience is seasoned cutters convincing themselves and patrons that a grain fed animal is more tasty and better in every way enjoyable. This is not true. We all are entitled to our opinion. But if yours is one based on a system that supports inflated, sick, and boorish ethics- please, for the love of humanity, reconsider your outdated bias.

To give a bit of perspective, let’s catalog this experience with the same primal but that has been forced a grain fed diet, here is my unbiased observation.

Dropping a piece of meat colored plastic to similar plastic surface, the tissues are so inflamed and the fat oxidized to the point that blood cannot be released from this subsection. The rock hard fat chips off this ribcage. My work now resembling a Michelangelo. I would call it The Thinking Steer, but that might be a tad too thought provoking. Almost kidding here, almost.

Articles show us a couple reasons why these animals may look this differently from each other. We have been told that Grass Fed beef contains on average 35% less total fatty acid content rather than grain fed. What is more interesting to me, and more obvious when you have these sections in your hands, is the difference in Omega – 3 fatty acids. With an n – 3/n – 6 ratio being 1:1.95 in a grass fed steer we see healthier tissue and less oxidized cholesterol. With a grain fed steer’s n -3/n – 6 ratio at 1:6.38 we not only see a closer reflection of our suggested 1:11 ratio from the FDA, but we see it’s effect at the muscular level. it is more clear that the thud on the cutting block is truly just a familiar symptom of chronic inflammation.

Important to note is a collection amazing work done in 2009 sequencing the Bovine genome. Unveiling to us that our happy cow is more similar to us than that of any mouse. Without hesitation my mind jumps to the question -

If unrecognizable muscular inflammation, complete fatty tissue upheaval, and ultimately complete physical reconfiguration happens to to Brother Cow in 129 days of a grain specific diet.. What happened to me in 22 years of ignorance to this fact!? 

Imagining what making similar changes to our evolutionary outline is doing to those increasingly marbled steaks within us makes my reticulum rotate.  Without going into any Hannibal-esque fantasy here, I can imagine a higher species eventually asking for the human hamstrings that were fed a Grain-Free, Whole Foods, and Animal Protein Based diet.

Luckily, I pretend to be a moderate. Forgiveness and humility at my own meaning making was imminent. It is possible I might have taken this to a level ‘too high’ in nature.. But I would love to see a study more clearly defining this similarity, and how it relates to our musculature and physiology in the future.

The last science class I took was in High School. More embarrassingly, the last math class I was in was Introductory Algebra. In no way am I claiming to have a monopoly on this content, or to have the mental faculties to fully conceive and research further into these areas. I am proud, however, that of my 23 years on the planet, I never lacked curiosity. It is the sole reason I adore my job. It is the magic in my life. It is what makes me look forward to waking up. It is also what makes me fall asleep after trying to read James Joyce.

Sources:

Comparison of muscle fatty acid profiles and cholesterol concentrations of bison, beef cattle, elk, and chicken. D C Rule, K S Broughton, S M Shellito, and G Maiorano J ANIM SCI May 2002 80:1202-11

BioMed Central | Article Collections | Bovine: The Companion Papers for the Publication of the Bovine Genome Sequence.” BioMed Central | Article Collections | Bovine: The Companion Papers for the Publication of the Bovine Genome Sequence. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Aug. 2013