You Are What Your Burger Eats

Nutrition and

Nutrition and

You're hearing a lot more about free-range meat lately for good reason. Wild and freerange animals that feed on wild grasses have a much more favorable fatty acid profile than feedlot animals. In essence, this means that wild game meat and free-range meat is simply better for ya.

Why is this the case?

Well, feedlot animals (such as cattle) nowadays are fed grains and all sorts of nasty rations including feed mixed with chicken feces and ground parts of other animals. This nasty cuisine is used to fatten cows up more quickly, allowing the rancher to sell the cattle sooner and for a higher price.

Unfortunately for us, the composition of fat in an animal's body is determined by the types of fat that they eat. Feed a cow grains, chicken feces, and other cows - and you get an animal with fat that's too high in its omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. This is bad for us. However, let that cow graze naturally on food that she prefers, and you get a great omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. That's good for us.

(And who knows what the nutritional changes result when bubblegum is used as feed. No kidding, a study by Wolf et al. (1996) studied the effects of feeding cattle bubblegum and aluminum wrappers, and concluded a "positive outcome" in terms of weight gain).

The table below shows just how screwed up the omega fat ratio can be in our grain-fed beef compared to wild and free-range animals. Note, a lower ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is best.

Fatty acid class

Mule deer

Pronghorn antelope

Elk

fed beef

Omega-6

359

442

343

139

275

Omega-3

104

88

56

52

Omega-3

ratio

3:1

5:1

6:1

3:1

17:1

*Data taken from Anderson et al. 1989; Miller et al. 1986 and represent the amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids (mg) in 100 grams uncooked meat

In the end, game meat has more protein per ounce and a better profile of fatty acids. What more can you ask for?

OK, cheaper prices for one.

Steep prices for game meat will always be an issue because to produce game meat in abundance would require farming those animals, which would mean they would no longer be wild game. One solution is to befriend a hunter and get some game meat from them. Another is to eat the leanest cuts of meat from your grocery aisles (these meats come mostly from grain-fed feedlot animals). Finally, seek out free-range meat or game meat at specialty markets or butchers if your budget allows.

PRELUDE

Few things are more satisfying than warming up to a nice bowl of hearty split pea soup on a cold winter night. This dish provides a certain 'stick to your ribs' goodness with nutrients that fuel those tired muscles.

Split peas are an excellent source of fiber, particularly cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. Together with a low glycemic index, they provide a filling way to get your fiber and manage blood sugar levels. In addition, split peas have heart healthy nutrients such as magnesium and potassium.

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