Homesteading with Hyacynth: Bring on the Beef and Butter!

Welcome to Homesteading with Hyacynth! Homesteading with Hyacynth is a monthly look at ways to lead a healthy, greener, more sustainable life. My intent with Homesteading with Hyacynth is to offer genuine, practical experiences and humorous and helpful tips. Of course, I am not a medical professional so these are my tips and what worked for my family.

homesteading with hyacynth


It’s what’s for dinner.

Unless it’s not.

Because, you know, there are lots of people saying that perhaps beef isn’t all it’s beefed up to be.

Same with eggs. And bacon.

Many people and agencies and doctors are squawking about how eggs aren’t all they once were cracked up to be either and that we should steer clear of that evil temptress bacon.

I agree. Well, sorta.

But for different reasons than the people and the agencies and the doctors.

They say it’s not healthy because of things like saturated fat and cholesterol and lipids, oh my!

But I’m convinced that the only reason these things aren’t so good for us anymore is because what many of our livestock producers are feeding our food doesn’t work!

There’s this whole concept of the food chain that we seem to be ignoring with the mass production of our animal products.

It’s a whole lot of cages and crates and whole lot less of home on the range.

And that’s important. Because when we take animals off of their intended food, their nutrients, fat ratios, and a host of other things change — so while we’re eating a hamburger, it’s not the *same* hamburger great-grandma used to it.

Ready to liberate yourself and get back to some of the best meals you can think of, chicken off the bone, full-fat ice cream, and whole eggs? Stick with me for a few minutes, and you might be shouting “steak’s on” again, too!

Food chain

Great-grandma lived well into her 80s, and I think {along with a whole lot of medical professionals who are nutritionally minded} that I know one thing that certainly helped.

Great-grandma ate a nutrient-dense diet — full of good fats, a moderate amount of proteins, good helpings of veggies from her garden, and whatever grains and fruits she could harvest here in the plains of Illinois. Of course, she enjoyed eating the pies she and the like, too, but those pies were chalked full of real ingredients: butter, lard, fruit, honey, grains, and probably some nuts—all good stuff.

And all of these foods came from nutrient-dense soil and animals who ate what they were intended to eat.

Guide to Pasture-Raised Animals

Cows grazed on grass and ate hay and alfalfa in the winter. {Did you know cows can’t actually digest corn? If you’re really interested in what happens when they eat corn, watch Food Inc. If not, just trust me and know that grass-fed beef is less likely to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.}

Chickens were fed vegetable and fruit kitchen scraps and left to peck insects, bugs, and whatever else they could manage from the dirt.

Pigs were the natural composters of all the other food scraps and slop.

As a result of eating their natural diets, their bodies and byproducts were incredibly nutrient-dense, and importantly their fats were all in the preferable ratio. Maybe you’ve heard of Omega 3 fats being touted as heart-healthy? Well, they certainly are! In fact, we want our Omega-3 fats to outnumber the rest of the fats like Omegas-6. But Olive Oil isn’t the only way to get good fats in!

Things like butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, steak, eggs, and bacon all provide some seriously good fats and in preferable ratios WHEN the animals eat their natural diets.

Also, pasture-raised animals don’t experience crowding, get adequate sunshine {Vitamin D!} and fresh air, and generally experience fewer illnesses and stress.

If we are what we eat, then we definitely want to eat healthy animals. And healthy animals eat healthy, natural diets themselves.

Long story short: the first rule of thumb for buying quality animal products is to find out whether the animals are eating their natural diets.

Keywords for buying quality meats, eggs, and dairy: Pasture-raised, grass-fed {not just grass finished}, pastured

Words that don’t mean quite as much without proper context: grass-finished, cage-free, organic, free-range, outdoor access, no crowding, natural.

At the Farmer’s Markets: Get friendly with some of the farmers. Ask them questions. Most farmers are happy to share what happens on their farms. And many will invite you to the farm. You can often buy meat in bulk and split with other families or even join a Community Supported Agriculture share.

A few local animal farmers our family trusts:

At the grocery store:

  • always look for the term pasture-raised or grass-fed when it comes to poultry, cows, and dairy. Organic Valley is notorious for its grass-fed dairy products like cheese, butter, cream cheese, and even milk.
  • fish should be wild-caught
  • pork products should come from pasture-centered practices or free-to-roam barnyards
  • butchers often can tell you much more about their meats than the grocery store. If you don’t know a farmer, find a butcher!

A Word on Fat and Dairy

Fat and dairy, they go together like bees and honey. We’ve got to stop separating the two!

Fat is full of flavor. It’s full of nutrients. And it’s incredibly healthy for us in the correct ratios, as we discussed above. In fact, we really, really need fat in our diets — our brains are made up of fatty acids and cholesterols! The low-fat diets we’ve been on are actually hurting us more than helping! Maybe you saw the recent research from a Harvard expert who argues that low-fat milk and milk products are actually increasing the obesity epidemic? 

Here’s what happens when we take the fat out of our food: we have to add more sugar to things like yogurt, desserts, and even bread. Thus, these things are touted as “low fat,” which we’ve been tricked into thinking is healthy! But fat has flavor. And lots of it. So when we subtract the fat, we’ve gotta make up for it by adding sweet in its various forms.

And here’s the problem with switching fats for sugar: we actually need fats to fuel our brains, and we need the nutrients in fats to nourish our bodies. It’s not quality fats that even make us fat — the more likely culprit is excess sugar.

When we consume whole-fat dairy, our body processes the food as fat. This is ideal. We’ve consumed the fats we need, in the right ratio, with all of its deliciousness and nutrients. Good stuff!

When we consume low-fat dairy, our body processes the food as a carbohydrate. This is less than ideal. We are then trading a more nutrient-dense food {fat} for for a less nutrient-dense food {sugar}.

We won’t get into raw dairy this time around, but rest assured that we’ll discuss it soon! I have to introduce you to Joy! And Sapphire!

Long story short: Fat and dairy together make a happy love story we don’t want to break up!

So pass the {full-fat, pasture-raised} butter in confidence and flip those {grass-fed} steaks with a smile because {pasture-raised} beef?

Well, it’s what’s for dinner again!

{Curious about this whole full-fat dairy thing? Dr. Mercola has a wonderfully rich article about it here.}

Next time, we’ll be talking about seasonal eating and preservation. But in the meantime, let’s talk about this whole quality animal products issue. Your thoughts? Tips? Questions? Spill ’em!

New to this? Start with one thing!

  • switch to whole-fat dairy
  • Or buy pasture-raised eggs
  • Or look for pasture-raised dairy.

One step at a time! Add more when one thing becomes a habit!

by Hyacynth Worth
Hyacynth Worth is a wife to John and a mother to three boys and three girls. She writes about motherhood, healthy living, and faith. She is a local writer and the author of Homesteading with Hyacynth. She promises to be candid, amusing, and only slightly neurotic. Most of the time.

Homesteading with Hyacynth: Bring on the Beef and Butter!
About Hyacynth 22 Articles
Hyacynth Worth is wife to John and mother to two boys and two girls. She writes about motherhood, healthy living and faith at Undercover Mother. She is Little Lake County's managing editor and the author of Homesteading with Hyacynth. She promises to be candid, amusing and only slightly neurotic. Most of the time.

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