Zero carb but not burning fat?

As a (‘dirty’) carnivore, I shouldn’t be too fussed about opening a can of worms.

So here goes. It’s quick look at the issues around storing or breaking down fat, and under what circumstances. And I will be using the ‘k’ word!

Could something be stopping you from burning fat when you are to all intents and purposes zero carb? It could be that you want to get leaner, but it’s not happening.

Dairy? Caffeine? Volume/quantity? Silent, secret carbs? The dreaded macros – too much fat, or too much protein?

Dr Zsofia Clemens of Paleomedicina says you can be ‘zero carb’, total carnivore, and totally plant free and STILL run on glucose if your protein consumption is excessively high.

Amy Berger, author of ‘The Alzheimer’s Antidote’ and low-carb nutrition expert says that when it comes to fat loss, protein is your friend, and you mustn’t be scared of gluconeogenesis (the process whereby protein or fat is transformed into glucose).

Carnivores tend to say that if you just eat meat and drink water, then you will gravitate to your optimal body composition over time, and the time it takes is the time it takes to heal everything. It will be what it will be.

Dr Clemens says an all-meat diet is not necessarily ketogenic. Too much protein and not enough fat, she says, can stop you from running on ketones and hence from mobilising fat cells for energy. You’ll be on a carbohydrate-based metabolism, she says, despite not really eating any!

The caveat that Clemens adds is that if you are in good health and especially if you are physically active, then this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you are ill and trying to heal yourself, she stresses that it is vital that you get the proportions of fat to protein right.

And Amy Berger agrees that if your entry into ZC/carnivory is purely to become leaner, that’s different from if you are seeking radical health improvements as a primary goal, such as overcoming an autoimmune condition.

Carnivores say that you just don’t need to entertain the concept of ketosis: just follow the simple rules of ‘eat meat, drink water’ and over time you will become fat adapted and your body composition will optimise.

For hard-core carnivores this is a simple issue: eat fatty meat and offal according to hunger and taste, and all will sort itself out. Micronutrients and macronutrients will, over time, be consumed in appropriate quantities and ratios for optimal health, and fat adaptation will take place.

But there’s another strong point from the carnivore camp: many people who come to carnivory have practised ‘keto’ or intermittent fasting or some other way of eating for which some attention to quantity of food, or make-up of meals, or timing of meals has been required. Hence they are used to restrictions. Hence, according to the carnivore experts, they simply do not consume enough fatty meat to get the steady flow of appropriate nutrients. By eating more, you hasten the healing.

Adding clarity to the views of Dr Clemens and Amy Berger, Dr Benjamin Bikman says the insulinaemic effect of protein is heavily influenced by the underlying glycaemic status. If carbs raise insulin levels at the expense of the catabolic hormone glucagon, and fat raises glucagon levels with not a twitch from the insulin producers, then protein ingestion can raise both insulin – aargh! – and glucagon – phew!

In a hypERglycaemic state (ie eating standard western diet), the ingestion of protein seems to cause a spike in insulin levels, and a drop in glucagon. In a hypOglycaemic state (ie ZC/LCHF) the ingestion of protein seems to have no effect on insulin, yet stimulates a rise in glucagon production.

Remember, glucagon is a catabolic hormone. It wants to break down and mobilise eg fat cells (while insulin, its great rival, is anabolic, wants to accumulate and store).

In a fasted state, the production of insulin would bring down glucose levels even further, with catastrophic results, so in response to the ingestion of protein there’s  no insulin and lots of glucagon. In a fasted state a little gluconeogenesis is a necessary thing.

Dr Bikman goes on to assert that the ratio between insulin and glucagon indicates what metabolic function is likely to be dominant: if insulin:glucagon is high, that produces an anabolic, or storing, state; if glucagon:insulin is high, that produces a catabolic, or breaking down, state.

With a high glucagon:insulin ratio, says Dr Bikman, you have insulin sensitivity, autophagy, lipolysis and the activation of brown adipose tissue – all elements of losing fat and getting leaner.

You also get, at the liver, ketone production. In the ‘keto’ world you get people refusing real food – meat, say – because it has protein in it and ‘It’ll kick me out of ketosis’, and pouring gallons of oil down their throats. But listen, without glucagon, ketone production is very low. And ingesting protein bumps up glucagon levels, remember?

No matter how low your insulin levels, in the absence of glucagon, ketone production will be low. Add carnitine into the mix, essential for ketone production, and you’ll find that protein + fat + carnitine, consumed in the absence of insulin will be both ketogenic and catabolic.

Is there a food that fits this protein + fat + carnitine profile? You bet. It’s called red meat. There are leaner cuts and fattier cuts. And guess what, if you’re coming to ZC and carnivory from a typical western diet, you’re overweight and moving towards metabolic syndrome, with constantly elevated insulin levels – you need more fat than protein.

And if you’re already an old hand at keeping your insulin levels under strict control, then you can eat more protein than fat.

So I think the carnivores are spot on. Just eat meat. Your underlying metabolic state will guide you to fattier or leaner meals, and either way insulin will be low and ketone production will be appropriate for your needs without you having to wee on a piece of plastic several times a day to check.

Finally, never forget that your need for protein increases with age, as redistribution of ingested protein becomes less efficient. Even more reason to embrace protein!

Wishing you the best of health. Thanks for reading. Till next time.

 

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Coffee up, insulin up?

My mum looked at bit sheepish, and said: ‘22 cups‘.

I’d just asked her how much coffee she’d drunk each day when pregnant with me.

‘They were small cups,’ she added hopefully, as if my neonatal caffeine addiction would have been worse if they’d been large cups. When she breastfed the baby me without having first primed the system with coffee, apparently, baby me would go apeshit. And after a few slugs of the good stuff the next attempt at feeding would result in a happy, contented, caffeinated baby me.

So caffeine is addictive, to the extent that, with enough effort from your mother, you can even be born addicted to it. Don’t ask me for tips on giving up coffee either, because I have none. Not only am I addicted to consuming it, I fetishise it, in that I buy green beans and lovingly roast them myself, trying different varieties and roasts. (Currently I’ve got a lovely Costa Rica Tarrazu on the go).

As I’ve evolved into ZC/carnivore eating over the last couple of years, my deep-rooted caffeine addiction has started to become a source of concern. I know that the carnivore mantra is ‘eat meat, drink water.’ Coffee is indeed plant-based (it hurts to write those words!). I know I’m not the only ZCer/carnivore by a long way who also drinks coffee, but I’m aware that it’s not ideal. But coffee is such an integral part of my physiology, it seems, that I rarely have any thoughts about it – I just automatically make sure there is some there for me every day of my life.

On the up side, coffee consumption is linked with lower incidence of T2 diabetes and even lower overall mortality. That’s good, isn’t it?

This is a bit of a paradox, since caffeine is also known to reduce insulin sensitivity, and as carnivores, being highly insulin sensitive is one of the primary objectives of our way of eating. Or to put it another way, caffeine seems to increase insulin resistance, and if there’s one thing that seems to be at the heart of modern health issues, then insulin resistance is it.

So how does it also protect against T2 diabetes, since that condition derives from insulin resistance? Coffee is a complex mix of substances of which caffeine makes up only a small percentage, and it isn’t totally clear which of the many constituents of the coffee bean are working in favour of diabetes protection.

So could it be that caffeine itself is unhelpful for our blood sugar levels, causing insulin spikes, while coffee’s other constituents, high in antioxidants, may have positive effects? (Carnivores don’t really need antioxidants, by the way).

It seems to depend on your insulin status: if you are already insulin resistant and moving along the road towards metabolic syndrome,  and T2 diabetes, then it would seem that coffee is only going to make things worse.

If you are robustly insulin sensitive and eat not a gram of carbs from one decade to the next, then it could be that coffee is perfectly tolerable. Yet caffeine itself increases cortisol, which has inflammatory tendencies, and other constituents have potentially harmful effects via increasing heart disease risk, according to Mark Hyman, MD.

Hyman also points out something which I often see in the various carnivore Facebook groups: it’s just not good to be in the power of an addiction. Coffee owns me.  It could be that my body, my physiology, tolerates coffee – although I’d forgive it for wanting a break from it after a lifetime’s addiction – but my mind, my psychology, is no longer comfortable with the dependency.

This post is more about coffee vs insulin than trying to cover everything to do with coffee and ZC, but here’s a ZC/carnivore reason to think twice about maintaining a coffee habit, as asserted by Charles Washington, one of the primary carnivore advocates:

‘Your goal is to get nutrition into your cells. Anything that interferes with that process undermines your efforts at successfully reducing excess body fat. Coffee tends to blunt the appetite and therefore you skip a meal because of it. You need to eat on Zero Carb in order to reduce excess body fat. You have to increase the flow of fuel in to the cells, not decrease it. Using coffee to suppress natural hunger can work against you because it makes your body think it is starving.’

The thought of giving up coffee fills me with dread, horror, a medium panic and the fear that my life will be a hollow, meaningless mess (as opposed to a well-filled meaningless mess). I can’t imagine losing all the trappings of my life as a coffee consumer – there are four or five coffee makers and three coffee grinders in my kitchen. I have green beans in a bag, roasted beans in a jar and emergency coffee in the pantry,

I owe it to myself – all of us coffee addicts owe it to ourselves – to see what happens in a caffeine-free existence. Some people find that it makes an unexpectedly positive difference, with better mood, and more energy; some people find no change. But if we get more insulin-sensitive, then it’s a win. Is it worth at least taking a break from it?

What would happen if you made your cells eat themselves?

Take my friend, oh what name shall I invent to hide his identity, Ignatius. Iggy, let’s call him, has chronic stress in certain areas of his life, and is a lot more rotund than would be thought healthy. His diet is standard western, hence rubbish, he drinks ad lib (good name for a drink, you heard it here first) and wears trainers but rarely exercises. Not only do the stairs seem a lot steeper these days, he sometimes has little memory lapses.

Iggy doesn’t know it, but he has chronic inflammation in lots of his cells, including plaques, or neurofibrillary tangles, in his brain. But he doesn’t think there are any real problems because, despite his belly and breathlessness, he can get through his working day just fine, and that’s what counts, isn’t it?

So there’s this thing called apoptosis, or the scheduled dying-off of cells. Under conditions of chronic stress and chronic inflammation, cell death simply happens more quickly and more frequently.

And there’s this thing called autophagy, literally ‘self-eating’, a process by which dead and useless cells are re-absorbed and broken down to form new cells. Autophagy reduces apoptosis – it increases the cell’s stress threshold, basically, putting off the point at which cell death occurs. So if we could upregulate autophagy, we would downregulate apoptosis. Autophagy is an ongoing process, by the way, trundling along in our bodies day and night, but its rate can be increased. In the presence of hyperinsulaemia and insulin resistance, autophagy is suppressed, which is bad news for Iggy.

So as Iggy maintains his high-carb and exercise-free lifestyle, shuffling slowly towards metabolic syndrome and possibly type 2 diabetes, his cellular degeneration is disproportionately fast. And brain biopsies indicate that by the time you are experiencing slight memory loss, your brain probably has several years’ worth of neurofibrillary tangles – a kind of build-up of rubbish and sludge. Autophagy tidies away all these dead cells and repurposes them. Clever, eh? And as autophagy is stimulated, so production of growth hormone is increased, in  order to help build new cells, which is extremely helpful for our overall health.

How can Iggy upregulate autophagy? By fasting.

Fasting exists in so many forms. One justification for fasting in the zero-carb/carnivore and Paleo communities is that our ancestors must have been obliged to spend long periods of time without food, and that we must therefore have evolved strategies to turn this to our advantage. One justification for fasting in the modern era is that it is a cleansing spiritual practice.

In Victorian and Edwardian times, fasting was even a sport, in that slightly bonkers Captain Matthew Webb-challenging-a-Newfoundland-retriever-to-a-floating-contest-in-the-Thames-and-winning way. One of the greatest ‘fasting artists was’ Giovanni Succi, who made a very nice living by travelling Europe in the 1880s and 90s, giving fasting exhibitions. In 1890 he came to London and fasted for 40 days (he did have a home-made ‘elixir’, whose contents are not known, but suspected to contain some kind of opiate, that he sipped) under close medical supervision, losing 34 lbs and winning £3,000, a veritable fortune.

We don’t want Iggy to fast for 40 days, elixir or no elixir.

How long does he need to fast before autophagy kicks in? Dr Annette Bosworth says that if you eat a standard, relatively high-carb western diet, it can take 72 hours. The guys down at Paleoleap, who eat a Paleo diet, say that autophagy begins at around 12-16 hours, which ties in with many types of intermittent fasting (IF), and applies if you eat a low-carb or zero-carb diet.

So it’s in Iggy’s interest first to move towards becoming carnivore/zero carb, and get rid of his hyperinsulaemia, then start simple 16-hour intermittent fasts to promote autophagy. Because he sure as hell doesn’t want to fast for 72 hours.

But hang on, what does the redoubtable Dr Zsofia Clemens of Paleomedicina say about fasting, especially intermittent fasting? Dr Clemens argues that people who are chronically sick and overweight have a paradoxical situation in which they eat too much, but don’t get enough nutrients. Makes sense.

Dr Clemens is also clear that an overcarbed Iggy would suffer miserably in his 72-hour fast because he simply doesn’t have the right mitochondria to deal with it without headaches, dizziness, sweats and more. Inducing a ketotic state, asserts Dr Clemens, is just as good as intermittent fasting, as long as Iggy eats freely of high-nutrient foods. Like meat. And more meat. And cuts out ALL the crap.

Many, many carnivores arrive instinctively and intuitively at an organic IF approach – the carnivore mantra of ‘eat when hungry, eat until full’ often means that they eat two meals a day, or one meal a day, or three meals every two days, and so on, eating when hunger strikes.

My conclusion here for Iggy is that an IF of 16-18 hours is probably fine (since you get diminishing returns after 24 hours of fasting), and that if you eat lots of meat and only meat, thus satisfying Dr Clemens’ position, you will most likely fall into a pattern of eating that both induces autophagy and fulfils your nutritional needs if you have chronic illness and are overweight.

 

 

Antipodean vegan bullying

Today’s blog has very little to do with ZC/carnivory per se, and everything to do with the evil world of food industry politics, vegendas, ideology and greed. Which just makes you want even more to stay out of supermarkets, or at least avoid everything in boxes, and be a simple carnivore. (My mum always said I was quite simple).

In an earlier blog I wrote about the Seventh Day Adventists. You will have read how, despite their strange beliefs, they came to have a good deal of influence in food policy in the US in the early 20th century, and how that influence still works its power today.

I pointed out that the Seventh Day Adventists were anti-meat and anti-protein because they were anti-fun, anti-smile, anti-enjoyment, anti-pleasure, anti-dancing, anti-sex (especially the self-pleasuring, non-procreative kind, which Mr Kellogg hoped to stamp out by the liberal administration of the then new-fangled breakfast cereals such as corn flakes). And that despite their anti-meat stance being the idiosyncratically religious and ideological belief that meat caused inflamed passions in the loin area, rather than based on, oh, I don’t know, science, reason, logic or evidence, it became enshrined in government policy and from there into the public consciousness, and from there infiltrated its way into much of western beliefs about food and nutrition.

I also pointed out that Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing, the company that grew from those early, heady days of anti-masturbation plotting in Battle Creek, Michigan, is alive and kicking, and churning out millions of dollars’ worth of cereals for Australia and New Zealand to have for breakfast. Sanitarium – named after the very establishment set up by John Kellogg and the other Adventists to help cure people of meat-eating and masturbation – is owned by the Adventist church and as a result pays no tax on its huge profits. In effect, the company is being subsidised to push a plant-based vegenda.

One of Sanitarium’s biggest selling products is a cereal called Weet-Bix. It’s similar to our native Weetabix, which isn’t surprising since both brands were invented by the same man. Sanitarium has been bullying shop-owners in New Zealand who import the British cereal Weetabix to sell to British expats, who generally prefer it to the local variety. The multi-million dollar company has been pretending that shoppers wandering into the tiny store for British expats will mistake this bright yellow box:weetabixfor this dark blue and red box:

weet-bix

despite the different colours, different font, different design etc. And that they’ll be defrauded into buying it, thinking it’s Weet-Bix, and there’ll be a drop in the Sanitarium profits. In fact, they forced one shop to destroy 108 boxes of Weetabix that had been held in customs, at around $4 per box, and in doing so saved themselves, oh maybe $200, if they’d all otherwise been bought by confused (or severely colour-blind and slightly dyslexic) shoppers believing they were buying Weet-Bix.

Even though the High Court found that there was no chance of customers being confused, it also found that the shop, A Little Bit of Britain, had breached the Trade Marks Act, and had to cover the labels of any other boxes of Weetabix lurking on their shelves. A Little Bit of Britain has vowed to fight on against the bullying, however, so it remains to be seen whether Big Agra/Big Religia wins in the end or not. You’d hope the good guy would win, wouldn’t you?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sympathising with the Weetabix company. After all, they have recipes for Weetabix-coated chicken on their website for you to feed to your children so that the poor darlings don’t have to go a full 24 hours without ingesting the stuff. No, it’s the behaviour of the plant-advocating, trivially litigious Adventist Sanitarium company that makes my blood boil.

(Sanitarium also threatened legal action against a New Zealand cafe six years ago for using British Marmite in its sandwiches while Sanitarium’s own Marmite was in short supply).

What are the take-homes from this? The food industry is nasty and horrible? Cereal grains make more money than any other food and people will play dirty to keep their share? Yellow is easily distinguishable from blue? Seventh Day Adventists are evil masquerading as good? Eating breakfast cereal doesn’t prevent masturbation?

Make up your own minds, and be glad you’re a carnivore and well away from all this crap.

Till next time.

Guess what. Cows are zero carb!

The internet is rife with vegan propaganda on the theme that if a plant-based diet is good for certain animals then it is good for humans. Here’s one.

vegangorilla

Let’s forget for one moment that gorillas often eat insects and grubs and snails, making a mess of that ‘exclusively’ in the strapline, and move on to that word ‘vegetarian’ A gorilla is a herbivore. This is the word for an animal that only eats plants. A ‘vegetarian’ is a human who eats only fruit, vegetables and grains. BY CHOICE. (And cheese. And maybe a nice egg or two. But let’s skate over that inconsistency, they’re only human after all). A gorilla is a monogastric herbivore: a herbivore with a single-chambered stomach.

Calling a gorilla a vegetarian is cynically anthropomorphic. Representing an animal as a human in order to manipulate emotions. Implying that gorillas dither about whether to eat leaves or to have some bacon, and decide to go for the plant-based option, with a soy latte. But worse, equating gorilla strength with its ‘vegetarianism’ (which, remember, it didn’t choose, but let’s ignore that) is misinformation of the highest order, implying that human vegetarians can be, what, as strong as gorillas?

What does a gorilla eat? Plants and plants only, this is true of any herbivore. How much? Around 20kg a day. Hmm, that gorilla-human comparison is not looking so good already. Even the staunchest, most obsessed, maddest vegan can’t get through 20kg of leaves a day. Every day, every week and every year of their lives before they give up being a vegan. Plus, they’d have no time to go to the gym to get that superhuman gorilla strength that such a diet would enable.

Gorillas have a hindgut, a gigantic colon (see the size of that gorilla belly?) with an equally gigantic microbiome that ferments the cellulose of the plant matter it eats and converts it from a carbohydrate to a short-chain fatty acid. (Humans don’t have a hind gut, and we can’t do this to cellulose, so it just sits there for a while, blowing up a storm). Short-chain fatty acids? Hang on, isn’t that…fat?

Yes. Fat. And by the time a gorilla’s metabolic process has run its course, with all that cellulose being converted to SCFA, its nutrient profile looks like this: protein, c20%, fat, c66%, carbohydrate, c13%. And guess what, those SCFAs are 100% saturated.

So, yes, the vast bulk of a gorilla’s energy comes from saturated fat. So that gorilla strength comes from…saturated fat. Sorry, writer of inaccurate memes.

Let’s move on to cows.

vegancowmeme

The vegan who put this picture and strapline together maybe wasn’t having their best day, because it makes very little sense on any level. But let’s be charitable and engage with this madness. Why don’t I get protein from grass? This cow can, and we’re just the same as cows. Aren’t we?

Well, humans are monogastric carnivores, and cows are ruminant herbivores, with foreguts, and a stomach that has four, count ’em, four compartments that allow them to derive essential nutrients from their grass-based diet. They are of the species Bos taurus, and we are of the species Homo sapiens. They are quadrupeds, we are bipeds. But apart from that we’re exactly the same, yes.* (*Smiles kindly at vegan).

Lacking the cow’s four-stomach system, the only way we can get protein from grass is by letting the cow convert grass to protein and eating the cow – which pretty much sums up hundreds of thousands of years of human existence.

Not only does the cow’s four-stomach system cause it to ferment cellulose into SCFA, as with the gorilla, it also ferments starches and sugars, ie directly available carbohydrates, into SCFA – it foregoes fast sugars for longer-term energy. So this means that the energy from nutrient profile of a ruminant such as a cow is 70-80% fat and 20-30% protein – and 0% carbohydrate. Yes! A cow’s energy needs are met with a zero-carb diet.

Carnivores – lions for example – co-evolved alongside herbivores. Carnivores, too, require no carbohydrate in their diets, and nor will they get any by eating herbivores who subsist on zero-carb. What’s more, it’s evident that carnivores automatically go for the fattiest parts of their prey, and leave the lean muscle for the scavengers. Carnivores and herbivores alike appear to subsist on high-fat, moderate protein and typically zero-carb nutrition.

So, to strike back against the propaganda, mammals that have evolved to eat plants, such as cows, and even primates such as gorillas, still run on fat for fuel. Animals that have evolved to eat other animals also run on fat for fuel simply because their diet includes no other fuel. Humans have evolved to eat other animals, and so we also need to run on fat for fuel. Simple.

Shame about agriculture, then, isn’t it?

 

 

Which deaths are worse? (Warning: might make you sad).

Causing death seems to be a major argument against carnivory. Oh no, a lovely little lamb is being killed. This is cruel, callous and murderous. I want no part of it so I’ll be a vegan forever, and no creature will ever, ever die so that I can be fed. Blood is shed, the cute creatures have fear in their eyes, some of the cows even cry in terror just before they are slaughtered. I can live happily and well and be strong on beansprouts and soy milk.

Causing death is one the major arguments against a plant-based diet. Look, look at those soy crops. Stretching out as far as the eye can see. Right to the horizon. All that land, that precious, rolling, ancient land, has been drained of life: cauterised, sterilised, homogenised.

Instead of a rich topsoil, teeming with so much life and fertility that it can be thought of as a life form in itself, there is chemically enhanced soil, stripped of all nutrients. That makes me feel sad. Instead of a stretch of land covered in grasses, trees, bushes, clover, buttercups and daisies and more field flowers, buzzing with insects, aflutter with birds, ascamper* (*I’ve just invented this word for this post) with field mice, voles and rabbits, and grazed by herbivores that refertilise the topsoil with their manure, there is a a gigantic robotic monocrop devoid of any other form of life, the implementing of which has either killed or displaced all those creatures – millions of insects, thousands of birds and mammals. That makes me profoundly sad.

Instead of a neighbouring stream giving habitat to fish and other creatures, there is dried-up lifeless runnel, deprived of life by fertilisers leaching from the soil. More sad.

In 2017, approximately 160 million cows and pigs were slaughtered. We can regard most of these deaths as ‘standalone deaths’: the ripple effect from those deaths on the environment – our planet – is low, negligible or zero.

In that time, Big Agra killed 7.3 billion animals in its quest to grow more crops. 7.3 billion creatures, each of which has another life dependent on it: the insects that birds and small mammals depend on, gone. The small birds and mammals that birds of prey and small predators depend on, gone. And so on. The ripple effect is significant, and the ripples are still speeding across each patch of land that has been defiled, murdered, sterilised. That should make us very sad for the future of humanity.

Since the year 2000, eight species of birds have become extinct. It saddens me to even write those words. One species, a macaw, was a bird featured in the kids’ film Rio, a high-profile casualty indeed, not that the other species are any less valuable. Those species that were wiped out in South America lost out because of deforestation for the sake of agriculture. Worse, much of it was unsustainable – in they came, ripped out the forest, extincted a species, planted crops then gave it up as a bad job. How incredibly callous and cruel.

I get that if you see a lamb and know it’s about to be slaughtered then you will have emotions around that. Especially if you are a young, urban, western, privileged (in global terms) person who’s never spent time in rural areas, whose food comes via their parents from the supermarket, who spends a lot of time on YouTube and Instagram, who has a highly inflated sense of the value of their world knowledge and wisdom… We need these people to develop a sense of perspective about what really is callous.

A farmer in the UK recently wrote that it’s possible that we may only have 100 harvests left. There is no topsoil to regenerate life. The existing soil is dying, artificially sustained by fertilisers and pesticides, and there’s only so much it can take.

Our land is dying, and it’s being brutally, callously, cruelly murdered by agriculture. (Not to mention the backbreaking, underpaid, dangerous working conditions of those at the bottom of the employment chain who have to pick crops that can’t be combine-harvested).

Given the choice between knowing that the animals that die for my food can do so in a sustainable way and knowing of the large-scale massacre of animals that senselessly die, and aren’t even eaten, for the sake of agriculture – I know which I find to be a better outcome. Which deaths are worse?

 

7 portions of secret meat info

I’m an idiot when it comes to meat. An ignorant, overcautious lout. A pan of minced beef cooked in lard or dripping is fine for me. Most of my pre-zerocarb adult (brainwashed) life was a steak-free and red meat-free zone, so I struggle not to default to mince and bacon and eggs as my staples. (I used to think that the pepperoni on a pizza was the unhealthy bit!)

However, what’s sauce for me isn’t necessary sauce for you. (I’m not going to discuss eating goose meat – it gives me gooseflesh. You can PayPal donations for that joke to my email address on request). I thought I’d have a hunt around to see if I could find a few interesting or little-known portions of knowledge about meat so we can all broaden our horizons.

1 – secret burger ingredient: bone marrow. Ask your butcher for beef legs sawn in half lengthways. Then you can scoop out the marrow and mix it with your mince to make your burgers.

1 (a) there’s another secret ingredient, but it’s not ZC (nearly, but nearly isn’t good enough) – made from vinegars and fermented anchovies (with a dash of molasses and sugar), Worcester sauce can add hugely to your home-made burger’s popularity.

2 – if your cut of meat comes from the front of the animal, it’s where the muscles have been working hardest, supporting more weight – neck, shoulder, foreshin (no ‘k’ in there!). These cuts require long, slow, moist cooking.

3 – if your cut of meat comes from the middle of the animal, where they’ve done less work – rib, sirloin, fillet – then it can be cooked quickly and served rare.

4 – if your cut of meat comes from the rear of the animal, they’ve done a medium amount of work – silverside, rump, shin – and can be grilled, roasted or braised.

5 – meat glue is made from transglutaminase, an enzyme derived from the blood plasma of pigs and cattle, that causes blood to clot and binds proteins strongly. It’s a white powder used in the food industry that, when mixed with chunks of meat and left for a few hours, binds them all together into a ‘steak’. Or a skin-free sausage. If three strips of meat are glued to form a steak, and then eaten rare, there is a real danger of bacterial infection and food poisoning (not with a real steak, since the internal flesh is sterile and the outside, where pathogens might lurk, is seared). Banned in the EU (although what happens here after Brexit is anyone’s guess) it’s still used in the US and other countries. So watch out!

6 – if you like a salty tang to your burgers, do NOT add salt to your burger mix – when you convert the mix into burgers, they will dry out from the inside. Yuk. Salt the outside of your burgers just before cooking for a juicier middle and crispier outside, or wait until they’re cooked.

7 – as a non-steak person for much of my life, I’ve just got used to the received wisdom that you really need to cook your steak at a high temperature. Now here’s this method, from gentleman scientist and molecular gastronomist Nathan Myrhvold: freeze your steak solid; sear the outside in a pan; then bake the steak in the oven at a very low temperature for around an hour. Crusty on the outside, apparently, and buttery on the inside. I will try this method and let you know. Or you try it and let me know. OK?

Till next time.