Healthiest meat on the planet

Wild meat and game is the healthiest meat on the planet. It is leaner, antibiotics and chemicals free, it contains E.P.A (eicosapentaenoic acid)*, is fuller of flavour, denser of texture and lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories than most other meat. It’s also high in protein, iron and vitamin B, yet low in saturated fat. The animals are also not genetically modified or in any other way unnaturally “enhanced.”

(*E.P.A. (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a fatty acid that facilitates blood flow. Some studies link human ingestion of E.P.A. to reduced risk of heart attacks, arthritis and hardening of the arteries. E.P.A is formed in the blood of wild animals as a protective agent against cold. Farm animals just don’t make it) 

As the animal doesn’t have to handled, transported or experience the slaughter house the issue of cortisol and adrenaline being released due to stress is eliminated. Wild meat and game is the original sustainable, free-ranging, organic, natural fed meat.

The animal has a free and natural life, it has typically lived a lot longer than a farmed animal and avoiding the slaughter house makes it highest on the ethical list. The further towards the intensively farmed system you go the bigger the gap becomes.

Wild meat is an animal that was born naturally, has had not form of human intervention and has been hunted, for example wild boar, deer, wild birds etc. Game is animals raised specially the sport of shooting, they are often bred in captivity, then realised into the wild, they are provided with feeding stations to keep them from flying away, for example pheasants, partridge, grouse. Some animals are both wild meat and game. The bottom line is the same, the animal and therefore the meat is as nature intended.

The great news is that the majority of game and wild meat is reasonably priced. Unless you are in central London in a fancy butchers you should be able to find fairly priced wild meat and game in farm shops, butchers, specialists suppliers and online.

There are seasons for game so buy when it is in season. Meat freezes really well, so stock up at the right time. I found a good offer on 1KG of pheasant breast for a similar price to intensively farm chicken breast today. These meats are at the opposite ends of the scale so being close in price it is a no brainer! see https://www.wildmeat.co.uk/collections/pheasant/products/pheasant-breast-fillets

Correct cooking of wild meat and game is important. As there is often little of no fat and the age of the animal is unknown so it is best to use specific instructions for cooking. For example when I cook pheasant I braise it:

  • Heat pan with a knob of butter or oil. Add pheasants breasts and cook both sides until sealed.
  • Chop onion and garlic, place on the bottom of the dish, lay pheasant breast on tops, add stock and splash of apple juice to half cover the meat, cover tightly with a lid or an foil (no steam must escape) and cook for around 40 mins at 180C.
  • Serve or add to a dish such as Indian or Thai curry
  • Or make a stew and slow cook all the ingredients

I make a dish called ‘marry me pie’ which is mixed game in white sauce and shortcrust pastry. I’ll post the recipe.

If you are unsure of the best way to cook the piece of meat you have, try slicing off a tiny piece and frying it for a short time over a high heat. If it is chewy then it is best slow cooked, but if you find it is tender, you can cook as you would a steak or chicken breast, pan fry etc..

Parting thoughts: A lot of people don’t like the idea of shooting Bambi or watching a bird falling out of the sky, but the reality is if you eat meat it is the most ethical choose. Hunting is where our meat eating history begins and in these times of intensive farming, you are wise to choose wild meats or ethically farmed, free range or organic meat.

Remember a lot of meats you consider to be wild or game animals are also farmed so check it is wild not farmed. A good example of duck, check is states ‘wild duck’. It is unlikely that you will find wild meat in a supermarket due to the consistency in the supply chain look for a butcher of specialist supplier.

A few suppliers online:

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Eggs – how much space do the girls get?

Do you want to know the difference between the eggs systems?

I refer to systems as the defined egg production standards:

  • UK Organic soil association
  • EU and UK Organic standards
  • EU and UK Free range standards
  • EU and UK barn standards
  • EU and UK caged (enriched)

In addition to these standard there are assured schemes e.g. RSPCA and producers that define their own standards that are over and above the UK and EU standards. This can be significant or minimal so don’t just buy eggs because they have a standard labelled or fancy packaging. Any brand worth you spending extra money on, will be proud to promote their standards on their website, http://www.thetraditionalfreerangeeggcompany.co.uk if they don’t then it is marketing gloss and they don’t really have anything to say.

It is hard to work out the difference between the systems. Most of us agree that caging hens is not acceptable but it is hard to decide what is acceptable. There is a very dark side to the egg industry, it is mass production under huge cost pressure, so within each system there is a lot of variance. I have attempted to do a 5 yrs old impression of the space each bird gets and flock sizes to help give some meaning behind the labels. The figures are based on EU and UK standards and the UK Organic soil association.

The flock size is also an important consideration. The only defined maximum size is in Organic systems. Free range, barn and caged is undefined. It is hard to find typical sizes but I have found people promoting their flocks of e.g 12,000 and 16,000 as a smaller flock size and evidence of flocks as large as 32,000. This often achieved by multi tier system, shelves in effect, this means the area of ‘floor’ space is increased allowing them to house more birds in a building. It is really a loop hole in the law which states 9 birds per m2 floor space. In effect by having the floor and 3 tiers they have 4X the amount of intended birds in a space, this means that a lot of the birds never get outside, they are too hemmed in.

In caged colonies I have found information of buildings housing 150,000 caged birds, which is beyond my comprehension. If you like to think of the hen that lays your egg getting individual attention, you get the picture.

In contrast we have 3 birds that free range 2.5 acres but that won’t fit on the page! The majority of us have to buy eggs that are available in the supermarkets, look for organic eggs, I believe the difference is worth the extra cost, but if you want to go the ‘whole hog’ I will write a post about keeping hens and try to find producers that sell ‘real eggs’. In the mean time if you find a friend that has their own eggs it is worth expressing your interest in buying some.

Whatever you take from this post, I remain firm that anything is better than caged ‘enriched’ eggs. Read my other posts about 48% of UK eggs still coming from caged hen eggs. Think about ingredients and eggs served in cafes, restaurants, airlines etc. As Zammo said ‘just say NO’.

The Ethical omnivore and the girls

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The diet battlefield

What are the different diets?

There is endless debate about diet. We divide ourselves into our separate groups, rarely seeing eye to eye. The debate is multi layered and warrants open debate. If we shared information, pooled the best of our knowledge and acted as a common group we would all be much better off.  That is the approach of the Ethical omnivore. Let’s talk about health issues, sourcing good produce, the dark side of the industry, how to soak beans to avoid flatulence, where protein really comes from and that we can live without dairy if we so choose.

Common diets overview:

Vegan – a diet and lifestyle that excludes consumption and using of all animal products (meat, diary, fish, eggs, honey, wool, leather etc). Focused on animal welfare issues.

Plant based – similar to Veganism but focused on health and inclusion of whole plant based foods.

Ethical omnivore – A plant based diet, focused on nutrition with the additional of quality animal products as you choose. (i.e. excludes all factory farmed produce).

Flexitarian – Also know as a flexible vegetarian. Adding occasional animal products.

Vegetarian – a diet that excludes meat and fish but does include diary and eggs.

Pescatarian – a diet that excludes meat but does include fish, dairy and eggs.

Reducetarian – a diet that aims to reduce the consumption of animal products.

Omnivore – a diet where anything goes, meat, fish, veg, dairy, eggs.

Carnivore – reserved for wolves, none of us are carnivores, we are herbivores and omnivores but never carnivores however much you think you like steak!

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Creamy buckwheat curry

If you like creamy mild curry and want to try something a bit different this dish is absolutely delicious and easy to do. Quantity serves 2 people as a main course with veg.

You can make a plant based (vegan) or fish version.

  1. Toast approx 100g raw buckwheat groats and 50g raw cashew nuts. Spread on flat a baking tray in a 180C oven for around 8 mins, check and toss, until lightly tossed and golden. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a pan, add 1 finely chopped onion and 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger. Cover and cook for approx 6 mins, add 2 cloves chopped garlic cover and cook until the onions become soft.
  3. Add a splash of water to avoid it sticking or burning, add the buckwheat and cashew nuts to the pan.
  4. Add 1 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp coconut or palm sugar stir well.
  5. Add a 400ml can of coconut milk* and 2 tbsp of soy sauce.
  6. Stir until combined, bring to simmer point, reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 mins. You can add water during cooking if you think it is too thick or it you want a soupy curry. If there is too much water, leave the lid off towards the end until it reduces.
  7. Veg version – chop and separately fry or bake 100g mushroom and a medium aubergine until cooked. Add at the very end to avoid them getting mushy.
  8. Fish version – separately cook prawns, a piece of white fish or salmon per person. I recommend wild alaskan salmon. Add on top or smash up and stir into the dish at the end.
  9. Serve with leafy green veg, kale, savoy cabbage, broccoli. I use around 150 g organic chopped kale. Add to a baking tray, toss in a small amount of oil and roast in a 180C oven for 6 mins, toss and cook for another 4 mins or until as crispy as you like it. Be careful it doesn’t burn.

* you could use cashew cream instead of coconut milk if you prefer. See recipe post.

Add the kale to the bowl and serve the curry over the top. Yummy-tastic.

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Buckwheat delights

In my quest to find healthy and tasty, whole foods, to understand more about plant power and widen my range of ingredients. Buckwheat was high on the list of foods to investigate.

Discovering buckwheat

Often mistakenly thought of as a grain, buckwheat is in fact a plant, related to sorrel and rhubarb. We eat the seed, in the whole form as groats or milled as flour. It is gluten free so a good replacement for flour in any wheat based recipes. As such it is considered a pseudocereal (like a cereal or grain).

Russia is the biggest producer and consumer closely followed by China and other Asian nations, growing in popularity in UK, USA, Canada and the rest of the world. It is an ancient food that we are rediscovering. As well for food it was grown as a nitrogen rich fertilising crop, before chemical fertilisers came into use.

It is amazingly versatile and a great way to increase nutritional intake. It is a nutrient rich food. Containing many trace minerals, including manganese, magnesium and copper. A good source of the B vitamins: B6, pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, thiamin and choline. Revered as one of the best plant sources of protein, it contains eight essential amino acids. Also high in complex carbohydrates and fibre. Whilst very low in fat and low on the GI index.

How to buy

You can buy buckwheat in larger supermarkets, health food stores or online. As raw buckwheat, (slightly greenish in colour) or toasted buckwheat, called ‘Kasha’ which is brown (pictured above). On the basis it is often double the price and you can easily toast it as home, go with the raw version, then you have the ingredient for all dishes.

To get a good value organic version for more speciality products I tend to shop online for more choice. See https://www.buywholefoodsonline.co.uk/organic-buckwheat-raw-1kg.html it is cheaper per kg (£3.67) than the standard version sold at Tesco. It is also from Austria rather than China as the majority are.

You can also buy buckwheat flour, pasta, noodles (tradition Japanese soba), cereal bars, you name it!

How to cook

You can toast, steam, boil or soak buckwheat. It can be used in savoury or sweet dishes. Experiment with a few recipes until you get to grips with it. Google ‘buckwheat recipe’ and you’ll find 100’s.

  • Toasted (Kasha). Using raw buckwheat. Spread it out on a flat baking tray. Add to 180c oven for 10-20 mins, keep an eye on it, so that is doesn’t burn. It is done when it is brown and a bit crunchy. You can add this to salads, in breakfast etc, it gives a lovely nutty crunch to a dish
  • Boiled raw. Wash it well in a bowl of cold water, drain and rinse. Add to a pan with double the amount of boiling liquid as buckwheat. Return it to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for approx 20mins. It is done when it has swelled and softened. You can serve or leave it covered off the heat to further absorb and swell, this makes for a softer fluffier version.
  • Boiled Kasha. If you have already roasted the buckwheat, follow the same process for boiling but reduce the cooking time to approximately 10 mins.

You can cook it in a stock to give more flavour if you intend to serve it a straight side dish. Or add flavours once it is a cooked, e.g. herbs and spices or cook it in a dish such a soup, broth, curry. We made buckwheat and cashew curry last night and it was amazing. For recipe see https://wp.me/p7RDjy-jl

Don’t be too hard on it, if you just boil it in water and serve it as you would rice I doubt you’ll be that impressed, you never know, but I suggest doing something more interesting, especially if you are trying to convince the rest of the family!


Understanding health benefits

As with all nutrient rice whole food there is a long list of health benefits. The nutritional profile makes is a good source of easily digestible protein and with resistance fibre is means slow release energy which is key in maintaining a healthy weight as well as aiding weight loss.

Buckwheat has several novel nutraceuticals, (basically good stuff)Rutin, quercetin and other bioflavonoids: These compounds have been shown to strengthen small blood vessels, which can prevent easy bruising, hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Rutin can also help prevent blood clots, lower LDL cholesterol and the production of histamine, which can improve airborne allergies and food intolerances.

Tannins: Tannins are astringent phenolic compounds most commonly found in tea. They are also present in significant amounts in buckwheat. Tannins have been shown to reduce bacterial and viral infections and improve diabetes. Along with the mix of insoluble and resistant fiber, the tannins in buckwheat can improve important strains of bowel flora, such as lactobacillus and bacteroidetes, while reducing yeast and harmful bacteria.

D-chiro inositol: D-chiro inositol is an exciting compound that may improve many important elements of blood sugar metabolism (such as production of glycogen and insulin sensitivity). Data suggests it may improve polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and type 2 diabetes.

Bound antioxidants: Recent data from cancer researchers has shown we may have been ignoring an important type of antioxidants. We have mostly considered the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables since most of these are readily available and easy to test in lab studies. Now, it is becoming clear a new category of antioxidants, called bound antioxidants, may be even more important. These are found in buckwheat and some grains and are activated by the bowel flora. Buckwheat is rich in bound antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase. These compounds are also heat stable and survive the cooking process with buckwheat.

Nutritional breakdown. Remember when reviewing nutrition check if it is the uncooked (dry)weight or the prepared weight. A lot of foods absorb water in cooking so the cooked weight is different from the dry weight. You will see on labels it will say ‘As sold’ or ‘as prepared’. The purpose of checking NV is not to count specifics but as a guide to the ratios a food has. This breakdown is the dry weight before it is cooked. So this is intake from 100g, that might end up as a 200g serving.

Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 343 Kcal 17%
Carbohydrates 71.50 g 55%
Protein 13.25 g 24%
Total Fat 3.40 g 17%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 10 g 26%
Vitamins
Folates (B9) 30 µg 7.5%
Niacin (B3) 7.020 mg 44%
Pantothenic acid 1.233 mg 25%
Riboflavin (B2) 0.425 mg 33%
Thiamin (B1) 0.101 mg 8.5%
Vitamin A 0 IU 0%
Electrolytes
Sodium 1 mg <1%
Potassium 460 mg 10%
Minerals
Calcium 18 mg 2%
Copper 1.100 mg 122%
Iron 2.20 mg 27.5%
Magnesium 231 mg 58%
Manganese 1.300 mg 56.5%
Phosphorus 347 mg 50%
Selenium 8.3 µg 15%
Zinc 2.40 mg 22%
Amino acids
Lysine 672 mg 32%
Methionine 172 mg 24%
Tryptophan 192 mg 69%

Parting thoughts,  The majority of us need to increase our nutritional intake, whilst decreasing sugar, fat, animal based proteins and processed foods.

With space to grow food being an ongoing issue buckwheat serves both purposes. It is an efficient crop that produces a nutrient rich food for humans whilst generating animal feed and a natural (green) fertiliser. It is tasty and easy to cook with. A firm favourite in our house.

Buckwheaty marvellous – The ethical omnivore.

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