Carnivore diet on a budget - Heart & Soil

Evidence based

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Carnivore diet on a budget

“The first wealth is health”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why Animal-Based Nutrition Doesn’t Have To Break The Bank

Animal-based nutrition is a great way to optimize your health and live the radical life you are meant to, but many people avoid it because they think it is expensive. Some assume that a diet based primarily around grass-finished red meat must be exclusively available to the rich. This is patently false.

The truth is, you can eat the healthiest version of an animal-based diet for $12-$18 a day depending on your target body weight. This equates to a grocery budget of $400 to $600 a month. Think that sounds too expensive? Think again. This budget assumes you aren’t eating at restaurants (something you should avoid if you are prioritizing your health anyway.) With that in mind, this budget is comparable to that of Americans in the lowest income brackets.

“But Paul, a ribeye is already $15 a pound, and grass-finished steaks are closer to $20. Surely it’s more expensive than you say.” Not so. Ribeyes are great for birthdays and special occasions but there’s no need to eat them all the time. I personally eat ground beef, stew meat, skirt steak, chuck steak, bavette and sirloin alongside Ribeyes. All of these are cheaper cuts which can easily runs $7 to $10 a pound for grass-finished. What’s more, the organ meats I suggest including in your diet are dirt cheap. Because few people eat these foods, Butchers will often sell them for around $5 a pound (if they aren’t giving them away for free.)

Lastly, healthy fats like suet or beef trimmings couldn’t be more affordable. Good, grass-finished suet might cost you $5 a pound at the high end, and will feed you for days. If you’re using an animal-based diet because you want the advantages of carbohydrates (which is what I recommend for most people without pre-existing metabolic dysfunction,) many fruits are inexpensive even when bought organic, and even high quality honey won’t break the bank.

All of this is for the healthiest version of animal-based nutrition. No junk foods, no toxic plants, and no factory raised animals necessary.

If you’ve truly analyzed your own grocery budget, and this still feels too expensive, I’d ask you about to really think about your priorities. Is your health, the future of our food supply, and the health of the planet more important to you than your Direct TV? Are future medical expenses preferable to robust health now? It’s not my business to give you the answer to these questions, but I’d request true consideration before labeling any diet too expensive. Is it really too expensive? Or have you been trained to think of things like a fancy car with a payment as greater priorities than your own well-being and longevity?

Animal-Based Basics

Before getting down to brass tacks, let’s talk about the basics of animal-based nutrition.

Animal-based diets are built around the idea that humans are omnivores with an animal-based specialization. We are hunters, and have evolved to thrive on animal foods eaten nose-to-tail, while getting some seasonal, low-toxin plant foods when they are available.

In our modern world, the best way to emulate our evolutionary nutrition is to eat ruminant animals like cows, goats, and other “red meat.” These animals should be consumed nose-to-tail by including organ meats, bone broth, and collagenous tissues in your diet.

I’ve been deeply researching animal-based nutrition for many years, and my general guidelines are as follows:

  • Consume 1 gram of protein per pound of target body weight. A steak typically contains 100 grams of protein per pound, so if your goal is to weigh 150lbs, then you’d eat 1.5 pounds of red meat a day.
  • Aim for 1-3 ounces of fresh organs or desiccated organ supplements from a variety of organs.
  • If you are metabolically healthy (you are not obese, diabetic, or pre-diabetic) consume ½ grams of animal fat per gram of protein and ½ to 1 grams of low toxin carbohydrates per gram of protein.
  • Determine your metabolic health. Bring metabolically healthy means your fasting insulin is ideally <5, you are not obese, and your fasting blood glucose is under 100, ideally under 90.
  • If you are not metabolically healthy, aim for the lower end of carbohydrates (½ gram per gram of protein) or experiment with zero carbs for short periods. Actively monitor blood glucose. This a great place to use a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGM.) For an intro to CGMs, check out this podcast I did with Nutrisense.io. These guys are my recommended source of CGM devices so check them out too.
  • Eat primarily red meat from grass-fed, grass-finished sources. Poultry and pork are ok, but their fat contains higher amounts of linoleic acid, a poly-unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) I have concerns about when consumed in excess Cows and other ruminants are able to convert the oils in their feed into healthy stearic acid. While this is true of both factory-farmed beef and grass-finished alike, I suggest avoiding factory farmed red meat too. Fat can store toxins, and factory farmed cows consume grains that are moldy and have been sprayed with harmful pesticides like glyphosate. I believe factory farmed meat can expose you to significant toxins. If you do eat factory farmed beef, stick to the leanest cuts possible and do not eat fat from conventional sources. Only source animal fat from grass finished sources.
  • For carbohydrates, stick to the lowest toxin plant foods and monitor your diet for sensitivity. The least toxic plant foods are fruit, white rice, and some tubers. Honey is also a great low-toxin source of carbohydrate that is animal-based. Stick with local, organic, and (in the case of honey) raw and unfiltered.
  • Increase salt intake from healthy sources like Redmond salt or Maldon sea salt.

Cost Breakdowns

Following these rules, the diet of a 150lbs person doing a zero-carb carnivore diet with the goal of maintaining weight would look like this:
1.5lbs of red meat per day (150 grams of protein)
150 grams of grassfed beef suet
.5 to 1oz of beef liver or 12 to 18 capsules of Heart & Soil Desiccated Organ Supplements

Let’s do a quick cost Breakdown for the healthiest and most ethical rendition of this diet. In this case, we’ll be using prices from the regenerative agriculture farm: White Oak Pastures.

$7.75 – 1.5lbs grass fed beef shank ($5.50/lbs)
$2.16 – 150g grass fed beef suet ($6.00/lbs)
$2.06 – 3oz grass fed beef liver ($10.99/lbs)

Grand total: $11.97 per day

Bet you didn’t expect that. For just shy of 12 dollars a day, the average person can enjoy what I believe to be the healthiest diet on earth.

Let’s calculate the macro. This budget equates to $360 in food expenses for a month. If you don’t currently factor restaurant spending into your monthly food budget, this may sound expensive. Let’s see how it really compares to the average food spending of the typical American. According to USDA statistics, households in the lowest income bracket spent an average of $4,400 on food per year. Using our budget from earlier, you’d need $4,320 for a single person to eat carnivore for a year.

In short, even those in the lowest income bracket can afford a nose-to-tail, animal-based diet with no modifications for cost.

Now, let’s say White Oak Pastures is out of beef shanks and you can’t find a local grass-finished farm. Ground beef and stew meat are nearly always available online if you live in the U.S.

White oak pastures sells ground beef for $8.49/lbs. If we calculate our budget with this price, here’s what we get:

$12.69 – 1.5lbs grass fed ground beef
$2.16 – 150g grass fed beef suet
$2.06 – grass fed beef liver

Grand total: $16.91 per day

This is roughly $500 per month, or $6,000 per year. It is slightly higher than the average grocery spending of the lowest income bracket in the U.S. Most of you are probably not in the lowest income bracket, but even if you are, it may be worth cutting costs in other areas in order to support your health.

A Note on Conventionally Raised Beef

Originally, I was going to include a section describing how to use conventionally raised beef to lower your budget if you are going through hard times. However, I quickly discovered that the lean cuts of conventional beef are barely cheaper than grass-finished beef.

For example, beef shanks from Walmart are $4.40 per pound. This is only a dollar cheaper than beef shanks from White Oak Pastures. Stew beef is a little better. Walmart stew beef is $5.99 a pound in the family pack, whereas grass finished stew beef tends to be closer to $8.99 a pound. You save $3 a pound, which can be significant over a long time period.

Overall though, I’d rather you address your spending in other areas of your life than buy conventionally raised beef. If you have to, you have to, but really consider if that’s where you are in life.

Lastly, chicken and pork is much cheaper from conventional sources, but these animals also have higher amounts of linoleic acid in their fat. This polyunsaturated fat may promote insulin resistance and inflammation, which is the opposite of what we want from our diet. If you use chicken and pork to lower the cost of your food budget, avoid fat and try to get back to red meat as often as possible. I do not recommend eating animal fat of any kind from conventional sources. In ruminant animals like cows, there may be pesticides or other toxins in the fat. In chickens and pigs, this is true as well as the fat being high in inflammatory PUFA oils. Grass-finished beef fat only costs a couple dollars a day. Don’t skimp here.

Online Regenerative Farms

If you don’t have access to a local farm, or prefer the convenience of the internet, here are several options for affordable grass-finished meat.

Belcampo Meat – California based regenerative farm and restaurant chain run by food network critic and chef, Anya Fernald

White Oak Pastures – 25 year regenerative agriculture project based in Bluffton Georgia. Industry leader in regenerative agriculture practices and techniques.

Force of Nature Meats – Texas based regenerative agriculture project leasing in affordability and education. Specializes in ground meat, and offers venison, elk, and bison alongside beef.

What is it Worth To You?

We can talk about specific costs all day, but what it really comes down to is priorities. Your diet is a huge piece of your health, resilience, and ability to lead a good life as a human being. If eating a nutrient dense diet is too expensive for you, but you have a car payment, what’s really your priority?

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

– Jim Rohn

At some level, I think we need to decide what we want and choose to prioritize our health. Could you cut the daily starbucks coffee (which isn’t doing you any favors anyway) and add $5 to your budget for meat? Have you actually looked at your true spending and proven, beyond all doubt, that animal based nutrition would actually cost you more money? Do you need that $60 cable package? Netflix? Or the gym membership? A single kettlebell can give you tons of fitness access and let you allocate more to your diet. What about medical expenses? How much will you spend on insulin, heart surgery, or cancer that results from an unhealthy lifestyle?

As we’ve clearly demonstrated, a carnivore diet is only slightly more expensive than the average food spending of the lowest income bracket. Sometimes we have dire straits, and if that’s you, do whatever you can to eat as healthy a diet as possible. But if you’re not truly living at rock bottom, is carnivore really unaffordable? With the declining health of the world, I think the real question is, can you afford not to eat carnivore?

And what are you supporting if you don’t eat nutrient dense foods? Not only is your health at risk, but you support an agricultural system that is unsustainable. Monocrop agriculture is destroying soil environments and we will not be able to continue making food this way forever. Regenerative agriculture does the opposite. Through evolutionary informed livestock rotation practices, regeneratively raised cows sequester carbon into the soil, restoring fertility and healing lands.

Every time you buy a grass-finished steak, you support an agricultural revolution that is literally restoring the lands that monocropping has destroyed.

So I’ll ask again, what is it worth it to you?

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