The global demand for protein is growing, and with it, the demand for meat. Today’s consumers, however, are a little choosier than they used to be. Where does the meat come from? Does it contain hormones? Is it sustainably produced?
To answer these questions, we must first debunk some common myths about our meat.
Myth #1: All Red Meat Is Bad for You
We’ve all heard this one. It’s probably the biggest meat myth of all time. Red meat is bad for you. It gives you cancer. It causes heart disease. And the list goes on. But not all red meat is created equal. Processed meats, like hot dogs and pepperoni, are not incredibly healthy, as they may potentially contain carcinogens. However, no conclusive studies support claims that unprocessed meat increases our risk of disease.
In fact, most dietitians will recommend eating red meat up to three times a week. A couple ounces of red meat can provide our bodies with nutrients such as iron, zinc and B12 among many others.
Myth #2: Humans Aren’t Designed for Meat Consumption
Some vegans claim that humans were never made to eat meat and that we’re natural herbivores, but humans and their ancestors have been eating meat for thousands of years. Our bodies are well-adapted to eat various meats.
Besides, our digestive systems don’t much resemble herbivores’ at all. Our colons are short, our small intestines are long and our stomachs are more than capable of breaking down animal protein. In short, humans were designed to be omnivores.
Myth #3: Meat Makes You Fat
Meat is high in fat and calories, so meat makes you fat, right? Wrong. Meat, if consumed in moderation, will not make you fat. In fact, it may have the complete opposite effect. It’s one of the best sources of protein — the most weight-loss-friendly macronutrient around. Studies have shown that increasing meat and protein intake can help people eat less and boost their metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day. In other words, meat could actually help you lose weight.
Myth #4: Growers Use Hormones in Poultry Production
Hormones are not used in chicken, turkeys or eggs, period. Instead, the poultry industry uses research, genetics and selective breeding to naturally breed better birds. Nutritious feed formulations provide protein and promote growth, and poultry barns maximise safety and comfort to make sure chickens are living in ideal conditions and temperatures.
Besides, feeding hormones to chickens doesn’t even work. The bird’s digestive system changes the steroids into amino acids, which makes them ineffective. In order for hormones to actually work, industry workers would need to inject the birds every single day, which would be too expensive and, frankly, physically impossible.
Becoming More Sustainable
Sustainability is not a destination. It’s a continual journey for ourselves, farmers, researchers and meat producers. But sustainability is more than just an environmental consideration. For meat to be sustainable, it must also balance efficient production with social responsibility and economic viability.
One way producers and ranchers can be more sustainable is by making feed with ingredients that we as humans would have no use for, such as distiller’s grains and cotton seed meal. Cows don’t mind these strange ingredients because their stomachs are more than capable of digesting them and converting them to energy. This diet eventually comes full circle to feed us.
Another way to create a more sustainable meat production system is to improve the way corn is grown. For meat companies, improving fertiliser efficiency for feed grains can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce toxic runoff. Organic fertilisers are a great place to start.
Making beef, poultry and pork production more sustainable won’t be an easy task, but if we start with the way animal feed is produced, we’ll protect water quality and soil health, increase drought resilience and reduce emissions. There’s not much to lose and so much to gain.