To answer the question of whether something is healthy needs a background understanding of exactly how the food industry has evolved over time and what to look for when choosing your ideal meat/protein source.
In this article, we will be discussing the benefits of venison—a type of red game meat from a deer.
Let's go back to when modern industrial farming methods began developing and changed the way we produced food. The boom in population size produced an increased amount of food needing to be produced and what was produced needed to stay fresh longer.
This started the introduction of processed foods with longer shelf lives and less nutrient density.
Not only do modern industrial farming practices decrease the density of nutrients in food, but they also diminish the microbial diversity, available nutrients, and the quantity of soil itself[*].
Because of this change in soil and farming practices, the animals grazing on this newly depleted soil and grass do not get the same nutrients as they once did and are therefore not providing humans with nutrient-dense meat.
Is Red Meat Cancerous?
As the food industry moved away from seasonal crops and farming and more toward refined sugar, canned and boxed items, and longer shelf lives, our diets made a dramatic shift. Our balanced nourishing menu of plants and animals were traded in for a combination of unnatural and potentially damaging plates of grain and sugar.
Some media and research have come to the conclusion that red meat causes cancer. In 2015, The World Health Organization put out a press release that stated red meat is probably cancerous to humans.
Heme from meat is more easily absorbed by the body
If we look closely and understand the breakdown of red meat and how the hypothesis came about, we can see that it not only has to do with red meat but all the added grains and reduced vegetables.
Red meat contains heme, which is a molecule that helps carry oxygen through our blood, which gets broken down differently in the body compared to the non-heme we get from plants. It is much easier for the body to metabolize heme from red meat and therefore is better absorbed and utilized in the body.
Heme absorption is enhanced by the presence of amino acids and peptides, produced by the breakdown of protein, and is, therefore, the preferred source of iron in the body[*].
Breakdown of L-carnitineRed meat gets a bad name because of the production of L-carnitine in the body when it is metabolized.
- Prevotella, a sneaky little organism, feeds on grains and sugar and aids the breakdown of L-carnitine (an amino acid)[*][*].
- L-carnitine converts to Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) which is a molecule that is produced during gut microbial metabolism of L-carnitine[*].
- TMAO has been linked to cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, neurological disorders, and inflammation[*][*].
To help reduce the production of toxic metabolites in this process, it is important to eat green vegetables and herbs with your meat. According to the research, the combination of vegetables and meat should reduce the transformation of l-carnitine into TMAO (the dangerous byproduct).
L-carnitine, an amino acid found in meat, does have amazing health benefits including increasing mitochondrial function, energy production, and potentially enhancing brain function when ingested in moderation[*][*].
Long story short, we need to take into consideration all other lifestyle factors besides just red meat consumption.
Reviews are in... and red meat is safe
A few months ago, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a review on red meat and found that the advice to limit red meat was poorly researched and unwarranted[*].
Most of the studies have failed to look at other lifestyle factors such as physical activity, tobacco use, and vegetable intake which have a huge impact on health and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease if activity is minimal, tobacco use is high and vegetable intake is low.
Benefits of Protein and Red Meat
After taking in all other lifestyle choices and leading a healthy daily life this leads to the question: what nutrients does meat contain and why is protein important?
When protein from meat is broken down by the digestive tract, it creates essential amino acids. These amino acids are the fundamental building blocks in creating new proteins that allow our bodies to perform functions that are crucial in keeping us alive.
These include building and rebuilding muscle, organs, nerves, blood, and other tissue; regulating the immune system by building antibodies to fight infection; digesting other food; and maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails.
To provide more detail, protein creates hemoglobin (a protein found in red blood cells that transport oxygen), and peptide hormones such as oxytocin, insulin, and glucagon[*].
Venison is a great source of:
- B Vitamins
It is a leaner meat than your normal beef or pork meaning it is a meat with lower fat. Fat is not inherently bad but with the easily available and excessive use of unstable oils and fats, the human diet is not lacking fat but is lacking a clean and available source of protein.
Venison, in particular, is an animal that is pasture-raised and grass-fed. This animal is in a calm, happy, and nourishing environment, leading to a healthier animal and therefore healthier meat to be consumed. While grazing and exposed to natural sunlight, venison consumes more vitamin A, D, and K, more fatty acids, and has a better ratio of omega-3's to omega-6's[*].
How do we find quality meat?
Quality meat is getting easier to find if you know what to look for. Thank goodness for many researchers debunking the myths around red meat and cancer while also shedding light on the nutrient profiles of quality cuts of meat protein.
While there are some healthy plant proteins, high-quality, humanely raised, and properly prepared protein from animal sources is much more bioavailable and includes all 9 of the essential amino acids necessary for human health[*].
Next time you are looking at labels for high-quality meat, look for labels such as:
- "Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished"
- "100% Grass-Fed"
That guarantees the animals were fed grass for the entirety of their lives. Just being "grass-fed" can indicate that for the majority of the animal's life they were fed grass but could have been fattened with grains or corn before they came to market.
Another label to look for, which refers to where the animal ate, would be:
And lastly, if you are really wanting to make sure your meat is being raised properly with no chemicals, additives, grains, hormones, or other non-sense, a good way to get quality meat is to know your local butcher. Ask questions about how they raise their animals and work with them directly.
And the consensus is... venison is healthy!
Overall, venison is a great source of healthy bioavailable protein. In a 3-oz serving of venison, there is about 26g of protein compared to the 23g of protein in beef and venison outperforms beef in B vitamins, iron, and zinc[*].
Venison outperforms conventional beef in a number of ways. Grass-fed, grass-finished/pasture-raised meat is raised in a stress-free environment that allows the muscles to be less stressed and produce more tender meats. Compared to conventional meat, pasture-raised meat such as venison is packed with:
- More vitamins and minerals;
- Not injected or fed any chemicals, antibiotics, or hormones;
- Containing 2-4 times more omega-3s.
Healthy and Nutrient-Dense Snack
All of this equates to a snack that is packed with more protein, has less inflammatory fats, and more of your daily recommended supply of vitamins.
Deer meat is a healthy source of clean protein and CHOMPS has created a Venison snack stick that is easy to travel with while also being 100% grass-fed, non-GMO, gluten-free and incredibly tasty.