I consider the freedom to choose what we eat to be one of the most crucial human rights. Nothing affects us more than what we eat. If people do not eat what they need, and enough of it, they sicken and die.
The converse is also true—if we eat what we need, and enough of it, we are usually healthy. And there is nothing more important to a person than their actual health. Every person is different, and their needs change from day to day. We must be able to choose what we put into our bodies. But we cannot really choose what to eat, and what to avoid, if we do not know what is in the food, and how it was raised.
Since modern food contains many hidden ingredients and processes, the only way we can make an informed choice is if we know what is in the food, and how it was raised.
We need full and complete labeling.
The Modern Problem of Hidden Ingredients
The need to make a wise choice about what to eat is crucial, perhaps the most important decision, and one most of us make every single day. What we eat, and what we do not eat, has a huge impact on our health, mental attitude, energy, ability to do things, and our very survival.
In the past, the choice was not hard. There was a great deal of traditional knowledge about what foods were needed, and how a particular food could help a particular problem. Foods were unmodified and pure, for the most part.
That is not the case today. Most food is processed, raised in ways that violate the very laws of nature. Most food has many chemical additives. Even raw foods like meat and vegetables are often tainted with chemicals such as pesticides, growth hormones, and chemical cleansers such as bleach. Many animals are fed feed that was never part of their natural diet. Many plants are grown on depleted soil with the use of chemical fertilizers, and lack needed nutrients.
Without labeling, or actually knowing the details of what is in the food and how it has been raised, it is impossible to know what you are actually putting into your body.
The Labeling We Need
We do have some labeling and disclosure, but it is far from perfect. Many additives are not labeled, and the pesticides and chemicals used to grow and process the food usually never are on the label.
We need to have full disclosure of everything that is added to every food. We need to have full disclosure of how the food was raised. If we eat meat, we need to know what the animal was fed, where it was raised, and what has been added to the meat. If we eat vegetables, we need to know where they were grown, and what chemicals were used in the process. If we eat anything, we need to know how it has been processed. If something is genetically modified, we need to know it. Only then will we actually know what we are eating.
The food industry would greatly object to this kind of labeling, claiming it is too burdensome and expensive. I have heard one scientist say so many substances are used that there would not be enough room to put them on any label.
I do not believe the claim that full labeling and disclosure is too burdensome and expensive. Many other nations have much more extensive labeling requirements than the U.S.
As for the claim that there is no room on the label, my solution is to use less chemicals. Most of these unlabeled substances are chemical additives, which are there only to increase the profitability of the product. I submit that the freedom to know what we are eating is much more important than the profits of a greedy corporation that feels a need to hide what it adds to the food. We need good, real food, not chemical additives.
Given the current degree of control the biotech and food industries have over government in the U.S., such labeling is not likely at this time. But that does not mean we do not need it.
In the meantime, I learn all I can about what I eat, and refuse to eat those things that do not meet my standards of being naturally raised, and low in toxins.
When I think barbecue, I think about the magic of wood and charcoal, of fragrant smoke, of the heavenly smell of meat roasting in front of a charcoal fire. Yet most people have gas barbecues.
I was faced with a choice when I wrote Tender Grassfed Barbecue. Should I write it for charcoal barbecues, or gas barbecues, or both?
Writing it for both would give me the widest audience, and the most sales. Yet I chose to write it for charcoal only, though I did include a small section on how you could use a gas barbecue.
Why? Because our ancestors used wood coals, and 100 percent hardwood charcoal. I always try to honor tradition in my books, and there is no tradition in gas grilling. The traditional fuel is wood burned down to coals, or 100% hardwood charcoal. And it tastes so much better.
The Tradition of Cooking with Fire
Our ancestors cooked a great deal of their meat in front of fires. The fires were usually made of wood burned down to coals, or 100 percent wood charcoal, which has been used for thousands of years. The wood and the charcoal give a distinct and glorious flavor to barbecued meat, and have other cooking benefits that you do not get from gas.
I also like starting a fire, controlling it, adjusting the heat by how I adjust the vents, and adding flavor to the charcoal with wood and herbs. I enjoy looking at the coals, judging when they are just right to begin cooking.
I love the smell of meat roasting in front of charcoal, which mingles with the glorious smells of the fire to make my mouth water in anticipation of the joys to come.
And I love the flavor that comes only with the use of wood or charcoal, or both.
No gas grill can provide these experiences, though it is possible to get some wood taste into meat by using smoking chips with a gas grill.
And I believe that cooking with wood and charcoal adds something special to the meat, something that may even improve its digestive and nutrient qualities, since humans have been cooking this way since the beginning. I have no scientific proof of this, but I feel in my heart that it is true.
Many people who use gas barbecues talk about how they are much more convenient. But cooking with charcoal can also be very easy and convenient, as advances in barbecue technology has made it so much easier. I have developed a system, using a chimney barbecue starter, a drip pan, a meat thermometer, and a covered kettle grill, that is very easy to use and makes the most delicious barbecue I have ever tasted. This system is at the heart of Tender Grassfed Barbecue.
Starting the fire, controlling the temperature, avoiding flare-ups, and cooking the meat is very easy with this system, and I use it most days when the weather and the law allows.
And a little extra effort is so rewarding, in taste, in the pleasure of mastering fire, in the wonderful smells, and, best of all, in the delicious food it produces, which I love to eat.
Gas Barbecues Do Not Have the Magic of Charcoal
First of all, I have a confession to make. I have never used a gas barbecue. I have had friends with gas barbecues test my ideas on how to add some barbecue flavor, and have tasted the successful results.
But I have never used one. Not even once. That said, I respect the right of everybody to use the method of barbecue they prefer. And I have tasted a fair amount of barbecue cooked with gas. Some of it was good, but all of it was lacking, in my opinion. And what it lacked was the magic of wood and charcoal.
In my opinion, there is something magical about cooking with wood and charcoal, the qualities and tastes and textures it creates, which are like no others. And the smell, the wonderful, heavenly smell that makes my mouth water and gets me hungry in a way that no other form of cooking has ever done.
Finally, grassfed meat, my favorite food in all the world, and charcoal cooking were made for each other, being perhaps the oldest food of mankind, cooked in the most traditional way. This union of fuel and meat, when done right, appeals to a taste that seems to be coded into our very genes.
People have been eating meat cooked with fire for a very long time, since the beginning. People have only been using gas for barbecue since the twentieth century.
For these reasons, barbecue means wood and charcoal, to me.
We have been told, for decades, that butter and other animal fats will cause heart disease, obesity, diabetes, many other illnesses and death. Yet the purveyors of this claim were faced with evidence that could not be denied. The French ate huge amounts of butter and other animal fats, yet had low rates of these diseases, and were far less obese than other people. This situation was described as “The French Paradox.”
Some research was done, and some scientists explained the French Paradox by claiming that all the benefit came from drinking a glass or two of red wine daily, which supposedly counteracted the “harmful” effects of all that fat. This explanation never convinced me, because I knew that many other nations consume similar amounts of red wine and do not experience the better health enjoyed by the French.
But it was not until I had the pleasure of actually eating traditional French butter sauces that I realized the truth of the matter—it is the butter and quality animal fats that have the beneficial effect, not the wine.
It is the butter that helps give the blessing of good health.
My Fear of French Sauces
I did not always know about the benefits of traditional animal fats, like butter. Like most people, I believed the bogus “lipid hypothesis,” thought that butter was harmful, and avoided it. “Rich French butter sauces” got so much bad press that I never used them.
After studying the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, and eating a diet based on his discoveries, I experienced great health improvements. This meant eating a diet rich in traditional animal fats, including butter. Yet I still did not eat French butter sauces. Besides, these sauces were supposed to be very difficult to prepare. I had avoided them for so long that it did not even occur to me to try them, except occasionally in restaurants. The restaurant versions were boring and did nothing for me.
Rich butter sauces such as Hollandaise and Béarnaise are a big part of traditional French cuisine, often served with red meat. It did not even occur to me to put such sauces in my cookbooks, Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue, though I now realize they go wonderfully with grassfed meat. My mind still was influenced by the old mesmerism that French butter sauces were to be avoided, at all costs, though this belief was subconscious.
I was so wrong.
My New Appreciation of French Butter Sauces
When I was reading a traditional French cookbook, I turned to the section on sauces. As I started to read the ingredients of butter sauces, I realized that their main components were butter and egg yolks, two of the healthiest foods on earth, and two of my favorite foods. I actually became aware of the ridiculous attitude I had—if butter and egg yolks are good outside a sauce, why would they not be good in the sauce?
And, as I read the recipes, I came to realize something else. These sauces did not sound that difficult to prepare.
I prepared a Béarnaise sauce to go with some grassfed steaks two weeks ago. This was easy to make, though it required concentration. The resulting sauce was mostly butter, and had nothing in common with the pallid restaurant versions I had tasted before. It was absolutely delicious, and greatly enhanced the flavor of the grassfed steak without overwhelming it. But the real surprise was how good I felt. I always feel good after eating good grassfed meat, but this time I felt even better. Much better. The sheer enjoyment of the wonderful taste, the immense satisfaction of eating so much butter, and the wonderful combination of animal fat and meat, left me feeling full of energy and happiness, ready to do just about anything.
It struck me that this wonderful feeling of satisfaction, of enjoyment, of well being, was my body rewarding me for eating something wonderful, something highly nutritious. I never felt anything like this when I drank red wine.
I had exactly the same feelings of contentment, satisfaction, energy, and well being after I ate some homemade Hollandaise sauce on Mother’s Day, combined with some grassfed tenderloin steak.
To me, this solves the “French Paradox.” It is the butter. And my next cookbook will have easy, traditional ways of making these wonderful sauces.
Cattle have eaten grass and meadow plants for most of human history. These plants are the natural diet of cattle, and they thrive on it. Cattle eating their natural diet of grass (or eating hay in the winter when forage is scarce or impractical) produce the most nutritious and oldest food of humankind—grassfed meat.
Meat from cattle fed their natural diet of grass and meadow plants is full of nutrients that our bodies have adapted to use over the long years. Why would anyone want to mess with this perfect food?
The answer is simple—money. Producers can save a lot of time and money by using chemicals and drugs to increase the growth rate of cattle, and by feeding them grains and industrial byproducts.
Industrial byproducts that would otherwise be thrown out—as garbage.
Cattle should eat grass, not garbage.
The Prevalent Use of Industrial Byproducts in Feed
While all cattle start out eating grass, they are finished in different ways, usually in a feedlot. This period is usually at least ninety days, and often more. There is no grazing in a feedlot, and no living grass.
Most Americans are totally unaware of what is fed to finish most cattle. They are told that conventional beef is “corn fed”. This is only partly true. What is also largely unknown is the fact that corn and other grains are not the natural food of cattle, and cause the composition of their meat to be different than that of grassfed cattle. What is not publicized is the other things fed to conventional cattle.
These include substances which are industrial byproducts of the food industry. This includes the sludge left over from making soybean oil, the sludge left over from making canola oil, in fact the many sludges left over from making almost any vegetable oil. It includes the sludge left over from making beer and whisky, and other distilled beverages. These sludges, which used to be thrown out as garbage, are used to make feed for cattle, and sometimes food for humans, in the case of soy sludge. Most of these sludges contain chemical residues from processing, and most of them are GMO. In addition to this industrial sludge, cattle are often fed expired candy bars and bakery goods, loaded with sugar and other sweeteners, and chemicals. These expired goods are often served to the cattle when still in their plastic wrappers. Another product used to make feed for cattle is restaurant plate waste, which would otherwise also be thrown out as garbage.
The government says it is safe to feed these substances to cattle, so it must be safe. But safe does not mean ideal, or even desirable.
In my opinion, garbage should be thrown out, not fed to cattle.
The Blessings of Grass Feeding
Cattle have been fed grass and meadow plants, and dried grass, for most of human history. Eating rich, living grass gives many beneficial qualities to the meat and fat of cattle, providing invaluable nutrients including an ideal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, CLA, and many others. These advantages diminish with each day in the feedlot, as the cattle are fed substances which are not their natural diet. See Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products.
Science has not discovered everything about nutrition, and new things are constantly being discovered. I believe that there are other nutrients in grassfed cattle which have not been discovered yet, which are also beneficial. What I do know is that humankind ate cattle raised on grass and meadow plants for most of history, and found the meat and fat of these grassfed animals to be a wonderful food.
I know from my own experience that nothing energizes and restores me like grassfed meat and fat, the favorite food of our ancestors.
Grassfed meat is also much tastier than industrial meat, if it is cooked properly. I know how to cook it, and it is my favorite food, for taste, nutrition, and feeling satisfied after eating.
Which is why I say that cattle should be fed grass, not garbage.