In the U.S., 99% of meat comes from factory farming. By definition, factory farming is the intensive animal farming, livestock production or agriculture designed to maximize production, while minimizing costs. All that sounds good from a business perspective but not as a consumer. 

In Factory farming, animals are daily given antibiotics, hormones and pesticides. In fact, 80% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are for agriculture use.

Animals are fed a diet of GMO soy, grains, and corn which is high in carbs and low in nutrition. Their diet is unnatural and produces meat that is extremely unhealthy. Industrial meat is higher in inflammatory omega-6 fats from corn and fewer anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats derived from a pastured diet. 

On the other hand, many good benefits occur when animals are raised naturally in a pasture.  Their hooves press seeds into the ground, which supports germination. Their mouths prune vegetation and allow plants to regrow.  Their urine and manure provide water and add microbes and nutrients to the soil. Pasture-raised cattle provide fresh, natural, and free fertilizer to keep the soil rich and healthy, so it can support the growth of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.

Cows are part of a cyclical ecosystem. Unlike fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions from cows aren’t a one-way street. Fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere forever, but cattle can give back to the environment when left to graze at their own will.

The health of our soil determines the health of our planet. Right now, our soil isn’t very healthy. Harsh, industrialized agriculture practices like soil tilling, pesticides, and GMO wheat, corn, and soy monocrops deplete the soil of essential nutrients and sterilize it from beneficial bacteria. Over half of the world’s grains are used to feed conventionally raised livestock, while the rest is used to make industrially processed foods. Our soil is capable of sequestering billions of pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Quality matters and is much more important than quantity. When it comes to your health, nothing is more important than what you put at the end of your fork. Minimize your dependence on conventionally raised meat. Avoid highly processed, factory-manufactured foods.

The debate should not be meat versus plants. It should be regenerative agriculture versus conventional agriculture. If you do choose meat, follow these rules:

  • Choose local if possible, such as farmer’s market which are typically sustainably grown. Grass-fed, pasture raised organic meats. They are more expensive but ideally you will eat less meat and more plant-based foods.
  • Think of meat as a condiment, not the main dish. Fifty to 75% of your plate should be vegetables.
  • Avoid all processed meats. Stay away from processed meats such as deli meats.  These are the meats that the World Health Organization (WHO) points to that have been proven to cause disease, illness and cancer.
  • Prepare the meat the right way. This is key.  High-temperature cooking like grilling, frying, smoking or charring causes toxic byproduct which can cause cancer. Try baking, roasting, poaching or stewing.

As Dr. Mark Hyman says, ‘It’s not about the cow, it’s about the how’. 

Live Long, Live Healthy!

Dr. Julie Wood is a Nurse Practitioner and has been serving the Middle Tennessee area for more than 30 years, specializing in adults with obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Office is located at 401 First Avenue, Mt. Pleasant, TN and statewide with telehealth. Dr. Wood can be reached at 931-325-5560,,  

Articles are meant to be informative and should never replace the advice of your health care provider.