The Paleo Diet: A Meat Company’s Dream!
September is Paleo Month here at Victorian Farmstead. I’m sure some minor politician in some small backwater town with way more juice than I have has already made this proclamation and presented a fancy scroll to the towns gym owner, who contributed an extra $50 to his recent campaign for town crier, but this is when it is convenient for me. So, September it is! I wanted to use this post to talk a little about how I feel about all the various iterations of these type of diets, and how they fit into my world both professionally and personally.
I should start with what I assume is an obvious disclaimer. Most of you probably know more about this topic than I do. I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or expert on the Paleolithic Era. But, like all my opinions, they are based on what I do know: meat, what my customers have taught me and what I like. Also, while we are calling this Paleo Month, it really is about all modes of eating a healthier, more sustainable diet. Paleo is cool for us because if you eat a strict Paleo diet, you can’t do it without pasture-raised meat. So you should also assume that making September Paleo month is also shameless self promotion and marketing. Hey, I am nothing if not honest.
For a starting point, let’s assume that when we talk about the Paleo Diet, we are referring to the idea that humans are best served by eating only that which was available during that period: meat, vegetables and fruit (I know there’s other stuff, but these are the big players). How awesome would being the local butcher back then have been??? I recognize that there are a lot of variations on this theme. While I know there are major differences to them, the Weston A. Price philosophies definitely align with the principles we love about the Paleo diet: eat locally grown, sustainably raised food that you know and trust the source of.
Now, as the owner of a meat company, I am a big fan of any plan that makes our wares the only source of protein in a protein-rich diet. But, personally, I can’t be that regimented. Trust me- I have tried. I last about five minuted before I need carbs. I love bread and pasta. I love cheese. I can’t even stick to it long enough to determine if I feel better by eliminating these apparent death traps. So I reduce. I tell Laura that I am going carb free, and then cheat on myself. This way I get half of what I would otherwise. Sad but true. . .
What I believe in is moderation in everything I eat. I try to eat a little less. I used to have the metabolism of a shrew; I never really got full, I just got tired of eating. Now as I hit my mid-forties, I can’t even finish a whole hoagie. I don’t go back for seconds very often. And I eat a lot of salad. I mean a LOT of salad. I can make a salad out of anything. Kids want taco night? No problem! They have tacos or burritos, I have all the fixin’s over lettuce with a dressing of sour cream and salsa. Sandwiches? Same thing. I have salad as a side instead of rice or polenta.
I realize that there all kinds of bread and pasta substitutes that are gluten-free, wheat free, starch free, you name it. The problem is they are also taste free. I have yet to try any of it that tastes like real pasta. It’s like “turkey bacon”. . . no such thing.
My big challenge is processed foods. Laura does an amazing job of making sure that almost all of what we eat in the house is good food. She makes her own ranch dressing, whipped cream, etc. All of our fruit and veggies come from the farmers markets. Pretty much everything is organic with a few non-negotiable exceptions. I have to have a jar of Best Foods mayo. Sorry, but to me there is no homemade or organic equivalent.
Molly and I have to have Rice-A-Roni Rice Pilaf at least once a month. You just can’t duplicate whatever that chemical composition is in that little packet of goodness is with real food. These seem like reasonable guilty pleasures.
I haven’t talked much about sugar, and I know that is a big focus of these types of eating plans. I really don’t have a sweet tooth. So much so that Grandma Sally used to fill my Easter basket with toys and baseball cards because I never really liked candy as a kid or adult (except for Peeps- those are awesome!) While Laura has a dessert for herself and the kids almost every night, it’s not my thing. Molly is becoming a world class baker, and so I get to taste all her goodies and that is about all I need.
From a business standpoint, we try to make sure that everything we do is as clean as possible. I won’t go into how we feed our animals here because if you don’t know that by now, you know that you can find all that info on our website. But now that we have the butcher shop, we have all kinds of marinated meats, flavored beef jerky, and our famous beef and pepperoni sticks.
All these treats present unique problems in trying to keep it organic. Take the sticks, for example. We send our beef and pork up to a Ft. Bragg USDA-inspected smokehouse to be made into our snack sticks. At the smokehouse, they use a pre-made curing mix that includes some ingredients that I would rather not have, like cottonseed oil. Since there is no other option, I choose to offer a snack stick that is at least made with quality meat, as opposed to no sticks at all. These are the kinds of compromises that we make all the time based on regulations by the government. If your eating plan does not allow for eating these kind of ingredients, no problem! But at least those with a less strict diet have a better option than a Slim-Jim.
Everyone has to make their own decisions. Personally, I think it is silly to believe that our bodies have not adapted to eating more than what was available during the Paleolithic Era. I think that it has also become hip (for some reason) for people to declare themselves allergic to gluten.
This leads to chefs and servers everywhere wanting to commit acts of grave bodily harm, as there is no such thing. I have an aunt that actually has Celiac Disease and I do know the difference. Sure, there are people more sensitive to gluten than others and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be conscious of it. But there is also no reason for some of the antics I see at restaurants these days. Even at the butcher shop we get asked if our grass-fed beef has gluten in it. I don’t even know how I would do that.
That also doesn’t mean everything has to be certified organic. Almost all of my family’s veggies come from a farm that is not certified organic. We get them because we know and trust that they grow the veggies the right way, no sprays or pesticides. Don’t forget. . . none of our meat is certified organic! But it is raised with integrity, and about as organic as anything can get without the label.
At the end of the day, do as I say, not as I do. I give major kudos to people who can quit bread and cheese, or anyone who really commits to a healthier lifestyle. And frankly, that’s the thing you can’t knock about the Paleo movement: people commit in a big way because they genuinely start to look and feel better. My diet is clearly much looser but I do adhere to one big rule: you shouldn’t eat anything that you don’t know the origin of. . . Except for the two tacos for $0.99 at Jack In The Box. Those things are awesome and should be allowed in any diet.
Just sayin’. . .