The farmer I buy my pastured chickens from charges $3.25/lb for a whole chicken. The rancher I buy my pastured beef from charges around $3.80/lb for a butchered, processed, and packaged side of cattle.
To some, this seems expensive. Afterall, supermarket sales regularly sell chicken or beef for as little as a dollar per pound.
Yet, these are the same people who are willing to pay almost $10/lb for a box of breakfast cereal.
Okay, so those $10/lb boxes of cereal are the so-called “organic” or “natural” whole grain granolas and muselei. You can usually find a box of knock-off Honey Nut Cheerios for as little as $4/lb.
But my point still stands.
Cereal grains are usually quite nutritionally empty — particularly when compared to grass-fed beef. Let’s take oats, for example. Oats are one of the most nutritious of all grains, and rolled oats are generally the cornerstone of any self-respecting breakfast granola.
Here’s the nutritional value information for a 100g serving of oats:
And here’s the nutritional value information for a 100g serving of grass-fed ground beef:
Compared on a macro-nutrient level, the grass-fed beef wins in just about every category. It has twice as much fat (the good kinds!), considerably more cholesterol, and 2 grams more protein. (And lest you still question whether or not cholesterol is good for you, check out this post.)
On a micro-nutrient level, grass-fed beef wins, too. It’s rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, higher in B vitamins, and also contains CLA (the strong cancer-fighting fatty acid only found in grass-fed beef). Plus, the iron in grass-fed beef, being a heme iron, is considerably more usable to our bodies as well.
Now consider this: oats are also high in phytic acid. Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that binds with minerals and vitamins in your gut in order to keep you from fully digesting them. It’s the protection mechanism common to all seeds, grains, nuts, and legumes that helps the seed clear the digestive system of the animal eating it so that we’ll deposit it somewhere else where it can germinate and grow. Granted, our digestive system is particularly acidic when compared to most animals, so we can do a better job digesting seeds than your average chicken.
But the point remains: Even though dry oats may contain the nutrients above, there’s no guarantee you’ll be absorbing them all. In fact, you’re guaranteed to have a hard time digesting them. Traditional oat eating cultures hidden away in mountain valleys have one thing in common — they soak their oats in an acidic medium before eating them. It’s how we got old-fashioned porridge — you know, that delightful dish prepared by soaking oats in yogurt overnight before cooking them in the morning.
Soaking oats in an acidic medium overnight breaks down the phytic acid in the oats and renders the oats far more digestible to us.
So, when you’re walking down the breakfast cereal aisle looking at those $10/lb boxes of organic granola, are those oats properly prepared by soaking before being processed and turned into your favorite cereal? The answer, of course, is no.
And as you stray away from the granolas with their added sweeteners and venture into other so-called “whole grain” cereals, you encounter the same problem. None of these grains has been properly prepared either. And, on top of all that, the grain was probably extruded and chemically treated in order to shape it into those cute little rings and tiny little balls and fun little flakes that so delight your children.
Taken as a whole, breakfast cereals are a nutritional loss. Sugar-laden, carbohydrate heavy, full of artificial ingredients, devoid of natural vitamins and minerals, improperly prepared, and bearing an ingredients label that reads like a college level chemistry course, how can anyone feel good about paying $5-$10/lb for it?
This post is part of today’s Real Food Wednesday carnival, hosted by Kelly The Kitchen Kop.