Nitrites are used in prepared meats (and other food products) as a preservative and color fixative. By using them, jerky, hot dogs and similar products can last for months.
But this convenience, unfortunately, comes at a price. Previously nitrites have been linked to cancer, since under certain conditions they can be turned into carcinogens. Now in a startling new study, evidence suggests they may also be a factor in the rising rates of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. So unfortunately its another case of where industrial food gained some production benefits…but at what cost? Is some extra shelf life and improved color worth the risk? No doubt we’ll be getting some additional studies telling us how safe they are, but who knows, perhaps as time goes on nitrites will go the way of other food additive miracles, like trans fats, remember them? They were in everything, and no one mentioned any potential health risks, then all of a sudden..poof! Almost overnight every product proudly displayed the 100% trans fat free seal. There is a bigger issue here regarding science and nutrition. It seems like every year or so what was safe is found to be dangerous (remember margirine was good, butter bad? how’d that turn out?), of course you could always play it safe and just stick to natural foods!
Well, with nitrites we’re not waiting for any more research, we strive to eat food that doesn’t have any sodium nitrates or sodium nitrites (or any preservatives, additives, high fructose corn syrup etc. like our prepared beef products) playing it safe and natural is the safe way. A general rule of thumb is that the less processed/additives in food the better.
GZ beef cuts come from Polyface Farms!!!
If you landed on this site, chances are you are already very familiar with Polyface, after all it is perhaps one of the best known farms in the US, and certainly the most high profile biodynamic/organic/sustainable/grass farms around. Joel Salatin, and his son Daniel, are tireless evangelists and heroes to the grass fed movement and their passion is really contagious. He is considered one of the most innovative and influential ‘beyond organic’ farmers, and many of his practices have been adopted across the world. It’s never a dull moment with Joel, a self described lunatic farmer, who is also a very prolific writer.
For those in the DC area or those who have been in the grass fed ‘movement’, Joel Salatin has been a well known figure for many years. For others Polyface was really put on the map by the New York Times bestseller (and we’d say a truly ‘must read’ book) The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In the book, Pollan contrasts what he terms ‘industrial organic’ with Pastured organic operations such as Joel’s. In a nutshell, big business sniffed an opportunity to make money in organic, and by doing so essentially industrialized it, which in many ways went against the spirit of the organic movement itself. That is a long story which we can address at another stage; suffice to say that Joel eschews the organic certification.
Joel was also prominently featured in two recent documentaries, Food Inc and Fresh. Food Inc is now playing in a theatre near you, and we’d really encourage everyone to check it out. He has been featured on too many news sites (NPR, USA Today…) to name, but all you need to do is a Google to see dozens of articles, speeches and videos about or by Joel Salatin. Joel is very vocal and articulate; his speeches are well worth a watch.
So what makes Joel so different? There is a lot that can be said, but essentially he treats his farm as a single organism, with all the animals working symbiotically as a cohesive unit. It is a beautifully harmonious ecosystem, and at its core he sees his job as a grass farmer, since everything begins with the sun. Grass (and how much diversity there is in grass!) harnesses solar power, and converts it into food for animals.
He practices management intensive grazing (or rotational grazing), a method for pastured farming in which cows are moved daily to new paddocks to allow the ones they ate to recover. After three days, he brings the laying hens on the paddock using the Egg-Mobile to allow them to scratch through the cow pies for bugs, thus feeding while at the same time spreading the manure as fertilizer. Additionally by taking this approach, since the cows do not stand in their own manure, he does not need to use any de-wormers (and he doesn’t use any vaccines either, much less antibiotics or hormones!). This approach is also called ‘natural pattern’ farming, since the animals are allowed to follow the patterns they follow in the wild. He views his role with the land, and animals as a steward, one that transcends just physical but reaches a spiritual connection as well. There is so much more that can be said, and we’d encourage you to explore more by reading Omnivores Dilemma, as well watching additional videos.
For Green Zabiha, working with Joel is coming full circle. We first visited Joel many years ago (prior to The Omnivore’s Dilemma) to harvest some animals, and have been in touch on and off since then. We are very excited to feature his beef, and he is excited as well to provide his meat to those who seek halal harvesting. We will also plan at some point of having a tour of the farm for GZ’ers, something that Joel is more than happy to arrange with us.
Here are some videos we’d recommend: