Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meat is bad for you? Oh YEAH?

I spend a lot of time reading what anti-hunters say about hunters - particularly those who would like to see the whole world go vegetarian or vegan - and one of the most common arguments they make is that meat is bad for us. You know, all that stuff about heart disease and high cholesterol and clogged arteries.

My response is always that it's not meat in general that causes those maladies, but factory-farmed meat that's high in fat - and low in the kinds of nutrients you get from animals that eat a natural diet of real food, not stuff scientifically formulated to make them grow as quickly as possible.

Well, for a couple years now, I've been eating a diet in which the vast majority of the meat comes from wild game or pastured animals.

Beyond being choosy about where my meat comes from, I exercise very little restraint in my diet. I used to be into low-cal and low-fat, but living with a guy who cooks as well as Boyfriend has killed that. So, I eat what I want. As much as I want. Without counting calories or fat grams or any of that crap.

This has coincided with becoming such a busy person that I can't exercise as much as I used to. Old days: five or six days a week, religiously. Now: one to three days.

I weigh more than I used to, for sure. I used to look, uh, pretty emaciated. Now I look fairly human. Which means I can't be a model. But there's not a big market for 44-year-old models, so who cares.

But what about my health? Whenever I got blood tests in my low-cal, high-exercise days, they always came out great. But what would they look like with a higher-calorie, lower-exercise regimen?

I got the answer today: Freakin' terrific:

Total cholesterol: 182, which the American Heart Association calls "Desirable" - the best rating you can get.

HDL (good) cholesterol level: 76, well above the score of 60 that starts giving you protection against heart disease.

LDL (bad) cholesterol: 97, which the American Heart Association calls "Optimal" - the best rating you can get.

Triglycerides (a form of fat): 45, which as far as I can tell is insanely low. AHA says "normal" is anything less than 150.

I repeat: I do not exercise much restraint in my diet. In the week before I took this test, I had a big fat grilled cheese sandwich with French fries, three slices of pizza, a donut and a Whopper. It was an unusually fast food-laden week due to some extraordinary circumstances (we had a homicide on campus, and I'm the faculty adviser to the campus newspaper - to say we were in crisis mode would be an understatement).

But even in a normal week, I don't shy away from animal products normally considered verboten if you want to pass your cholesterol test. We have a fat collection in our fridge - rendered wild duck fat, pheasant fat and pastured-pork fat. We cook with that stuff all the time. I frequently cook rice with a big dollop of one of the above.

So, to all the militant vegetarians/vegans who tell me I shouldn't hunt because meat is bad for me, this militant hunter has one thing to say to you: You're wrong.

© Holly A. Heyser 2009


LNicole said...

Read the Omnivore's Dilmna. Great book. Talks about how cows are kept now and how much more fat we get in our diet from commercial meats than we did back before cows were feed corn - which actually they aren't meant to eat.

further, but I've found that most people who look horrified that I hunt are not vegetarians, so they aren't really against killing animals to eat, they just don't want to know about it. They want to see it packaged prettily in the supermarket.

Holly Heyser said...

Yeah, definitely great book - one that's heavily influenced my thinking in this area.

But it was one of the books of Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, who I learned about from Omnivore's Dilemma, that really lit me on fire about why natural meat is better for us. Can't remember which book, but he talked about the pastured chickens he raises and notes that the factory-farmed animal has bad fat because its lifestyle is pretty much like the worst American lifestyle: Too much grain, not enough greens, and lots of stress from crowding. Pastured animals get a natural diet and get to move around somewhat naturally, so their fat is actually healthier. It totally makes sense.

Gretchen Steele said...

I completely agree with you on this! We have always had a diet high in wild game and foods, and our own meats sans hormones, antibiotics etc.. veggies from our garden. That is not to say we "watch" or diets by any means Lord I still cook with butter and whole cream LOL
But - ebcause we are active - in the outdoors and farming it seems to balance out. Although my husband has had several heart attacks, none were related to high lipids ( some strange arterial syndrome in his case) his lipid panel looks great! I have MS and the only time my lipid panels look funky is during a bad exacerbation when everything is out of whack.
Factory farmed "franken foods" scare the bejesus out of me! I wild forage and when you check the nutritional benefits of many of the wild foods it just blows away "regular" foods.

Hil said...

All I will say is that as a person who's lost and kept off 80 pounds on a high-fat, low-carb diet, I am extremely jealous of your rendered duck fat. :)

Holly Heyser said...

LOL. It's part of what we do when we get home from the hunt: We clean the pope's noses well, quarter them and render out the fat over low heat. If we're judicious, we can make the fat last all year.

The rendering is also useful: If we have a bird that can taste "off," like the spoonie, we render those separately, and if the house starts to smell fishy, we now that's a duck that needs different treatment, e.g., sausage, instead of roasting and serving whole.

Anonymous said...

My oldest step daughter is and has been a vegetarian for as long as I've known her ( 25 yrs. ) and she is now on medications for high blood pressure, high cholseterol and acid reflux. I'm taking meds for the same conditions but, I'm eating meat and loving it !!! I didn't climb to tht top of the food chain to choke to death on a chunk of tofu.


sportingdays said...


Thanks for the medical check-up. Looks like you've got a few more good duck seasons left in you....

Julia said...

I'll dare to take this one step further and say that the closer we live to the land, including hunting/growing/raising our own food, the healthier we will be. I was a vegetarian and an obsessive exerciser when I met my husband at 22. Fifteen years later, and a mostly-(wild) meat diet, I'm a little curvier, for sure...but hard farmwork, eating wild game and hand-raised farm animals in addition to home-grown veggies...has put me in the best shape of my life. And those medical results don't lie. It's about living an authentic life, not a vegan life. Great blog post!