How to Choose Meats for Your Paleo Meals

By Kellyann Petrucci, Melissa Joulwan, Patrick Flynn, Adriana Harlan

Health is contagious. The Paleo lifestyle is all about health. The healthier the food, the more health it brings to your body. Of course, the opposite is true as well. You may have heard some of the debate over grass-fed and grain-fed meats; the animals’ diet is one factor that makes a big difference in the meat you eat. One of the biggest differences between grass-fed and grain-fed animals is the overall fat content.

Take beef, for example. Grass-fed beef is lower in total fat and omega-6 fatty acids. The opposite is true of grain-fed animals. A healthy diet has an omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of about 4:1. The ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s in grass-fed animals is about 3:1. Grain-fed beef ratios exceed 20:1 omega-6s to omega-3s.

When you’re deciding where to spend your money at the grocery store, keep the following facts in mind to help you make the best choice in regard to meat quality:

  • Animals that are pasture raised and forage on a natural diet of grass have less stress and live healthier lives. There’s little or no need to treat them with antibiotics or drugs.

  • Grass-fed meat is a great source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a good component in fat found primarily in the meat and dairy products from ruminant (cud-chewing) animals. It reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes and boosts immunity. Grain-fed animals tend to be lower in CLA than their grass-eating relatives.

  • Grass-fed meat is higher in B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium than meat from grain-fed animals.

  • Meat from grass-fed cattle typically has a much lower risk of E. coli because the cows are cleaner at the time of slaughter and are typically processed by a skilled local butcher or farmer who ensures the meat doesn’t come in contact with feces.

  • Grass-fed beef has ten times the amount of vitamin A and three times more vitamin E than grain-fed beef. It’s also safe from mad cow disease (MCD).

  • Pasture-raised, locally sourced poultry is the cleanest source of chicken and turkey you can purchase. The birds are able to roam freely in their environment, where they eat bugs, nutritious grasses, and other plants that are part of their natural diet. Organic, free-range poultry is also a good choice. Birds consume organic feed and have access to the outdoors. They are not given antibiotics unless they are ill.

If you’re going to eat pork, make sure it comes from an organic, pasture-raised source. Otherwise, it’s just too unhealthy; you’re simply better off choosing another protein source. When selecting deli meats, make sure they’re organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, and nitrite-free.