You’re reading The Healthy Boy, a living well series from Adam Reynolds. We’ll be following along as Adam eats and exercises his way through a healthier lifestyle, providing fitness tips, delicious recipes, and nutritional advice.
When I sit down to eat at a restaurant with friends, I have a lot of things going through my mind. How am I going to manage to sit down in these skinny jeans? Who is that hottie my friend has brought along and is he single? And what sort of dirty looks are going to come my way when I order a cosmopolitan – not to mention the nasty remarks; “Who do you think you are Adam? Sarah Jessica Parker? Sex and the City was so five years ago.” The last thing I have on my mind is any consideration where the food on the menu is really coming from. But if I were to think about it, I would imagine as I slice into my filet mignon with over-polished cutlery, that the cow it came from lived in a lush green and over spacious pasture where on Wednesday afternoons it would catch up with the rest of the gals for a spot of tea and reruns of Desperate Housewives, Season 2. Or as I sink my teeth into my grilled chicken sandwich at my local fast food joint, I imagine my chicken in a previous life, sleeping in on Sunday mornings and clucking away happily in some farmer’s large, clean and cozy chicken pen. It would be able to roam freely at lunchtime, running up the hill and swinging around to the background orchestral version to the sound of music. Both animals, when their time had come, being leisurely escorted down a path to a farewell ticket tape parade, smiling and waving farewell to their friends, as the sun sets behind them, being happy to fulfill their destiny. Yeah, not so much.
You see I watched a documentary recently called Food Inc. You may have heard of it. It was nominated for an Oscar this year, appeared on Oprah, received a ton of press and has a pretty huge following. It was one of the most powerful things I have watched in recent years and jolted me out of my animal daydream and catapulted my into a reality that’s about as unpleasant as watching Kate Gosselin on Dancing with the Stars.
You see in reality, before they arrive on your dinner plate, a lot of cows (and most other animal produce you consume) don’t live happy lives. Instead of large green pastures, cows are cramped into unsanitary living conditions, often hundreds and thousands on top of each other, injected with artificial hormones for faster growth and larger milk production. They are force fed antibiotics to ward off the E. coli they now contract from their artificial diet, where they consume a mixture of cheap corn and grains, rather than what they were naturally born to eat – grass.
Here is some other information that may ruffle your feathers: A chicken’s life isn’t so clucky either. Chickens live in over crowed pens and battery cages where the windows are often blacked out and they have no access to sunlight. They can only walk a few steps at a time before having to collapse down, a result of their bodies having grown too fast for the ligaments and tendons in their legs. This is all due to the growth hormones they are fed to grow them as fast as possible so they end up in your McChicken burger in a timely manner.
Now by no means am I a vegetarian. I eat chicken like it’s going out of fashion, and if you were to come over to my place on any given day you would be excused for thinking you were thrust into a Julia Child cooking segment — although I’m not as tall and I think she may have better hair. But the point is, there is no vision in my future of ever giving up meat of any sort. Now I, like everyone, had heard about how animals destined for my dinner plate are bulk raised by manufactures, but seeing it just put it in a different perspective.
You may think this post is a little off topic for a health and fitness blog, but it isn’t, and let me tell you why. Whilst we all adopt healthy eating habits for various reasons these days, from vanity to feeling better, or just because we think we should, it’s not just a matter of calories and grams of fat anymore. It’s about the quality of food that you put in your mouth. There is no point in trying to eat healthy if your food is laden with artificial ingredients like hormones and pesticides. Would you prefer to eat a piece of chicken that was raised humanely and has come to you void of additives? Or would you like your value meal with a side of added hormones that have been known to cause cancer and various other health issues?
People sometimes shrug this subject off because they believe its too big for them to make a change, buying organic is too expensive (and it is in some cases), and they simply don’t know what to look for. But there are a few small changes you can make that wont disrupt your current way of living, and will leave you feeling better and living healthier.
* Buy Food Inc. It’s only $9.99 and knowledge is power, so be educated and informed about what goes into your stomach. Lend it to your friends and family members.
* Purchase cage-free eggs.
* When you eat out, or are at the grocery store, buy grass-fed beef, and where possible purchase the varieties from animal friendly farms.
* Buy milk that is organic and free of rBGH (a nasty hormone used to increase a cow’s milk production). Organic milk is not that much more expensive than regular milk.
* Look for statements on the packaging notifying you that the animal was raised antibiotic and hormone free.
* Try to buy local where possible. Buy your meats, fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets and get closer to the people that put the food on your plate.
* Purchase organic where you can, and be wary of misleading statements on your food. Just because it says its “All Natural” does not mean it was raised humanely or doesn’t contain artificial ingredients.
* Avoid fast food. Food manufactures adopt these horrific living conditions for animals because of the high demand many fast food companies put on them to provide large quantity cheap food. Did you know McDonald’s is the largest purchaser of beef in America and KFC the largest purchaser of chicken?
We have tendencies to live in our own little bubbles these days, and it’s sometimes hard for us to look outside of those and explore. But you can still enjoy the comfort of your own bubble and make a few more informed choices about your food that will benefit your health, benefit the environment, reward the farmers that are doing the right thing, and generally make the world a happier place. Sure, the cows may not ever have the chance to gossip about the amount of plastic surgery Teri Hatcher has done to her face, but as you lay your chompers into that t-bone steak, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they enjoyed the luxury of living comfortably…the way they were supposed to.