How to Eat Meat: Getting the Most out of Your Protein Fix

I admit it. I'm fascinated by food.

I'm captivated by conversations about what to eat; I delve into fresh ideas and research on what our bodies require; I want to know how we grow and raise our daily quota of calories; and almost every day I personally select and prepare what I eat. This endeavor of finding, preparing, and eating food connects me with life - with plants, animals, and other humans, with water, soil, and microorganisms, air and sunlight - at its most fundamental, primal level.

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I'm not a vegetarian or vegan. My understanding is that a carrot, a chicken, and I all depend on the same natural recycling of elements that gives us each our moments in the sun. I want to participate in that process with respect and the knowledge that perhaps I'll be food for the carrots one day.

How do I respect the animals that become me after I eat them?   

  • I buy meat from animals raised in their natural habitat and not subjected to hormones and antibiotics. I favor organically fed meats, if possible.
  • I eat only what I need (a whole subject in itself) and try not to waste any meat (or other foods either). 
  • I cook at lower temperatures so the delicate proteins are not denatured or burnt (i.e., charred) by too high heat. I want to get the most value out of the meat I eat.

Paleo/Primal diets have a reputation for being very meat-centric, with lots of jokes about bacon and pictures of cavemen running around with spears. When you look closer, though, the point is that meat and fish that have lived naturally are (1) excellent nutrition for humans and (2) don't need to be the whole meal. Factory meat, made cheap and unhealthy through disgusting treatment of animals, is like a Trojan Horse of seeming benefit that delivers unseen enemies into our bodies, while polluting the environment unsustainably. 

Cooking Methods Matter

Even as I'm enjoying that strangely attractive flavor of burnt meat on the outside of my burger (mostly when I'm eating out), I know it's not good for me. Some of the problem is that the fat in the meat gets oxidized (turns rancid and toxic) and the other is that denatured proteins are harder to digest and may set off an inflammatory immune response. Instead of going for that blackened effect, grill at a lower temperature so the outside is just slightly browned and the inside no more than medium rare. Keep baking temperatures below 320 degrees, and forget about deep frying. That's the ultimate diss to whatever quality of meat you've hunted down and brought home for you and your family to feast on.