top of page

Eating Flesh is Only 30-50% of the Picture

I wanted to bring you through a train of thought I had recently. I know I'm still shocked and amazed, and thought you might find it interesting and useful too.

It all started with a quote I read years ago but had recently been mulling it over and over. That quote was from Catherine Shanahan M.D.'s book, Deep Nutrition, a great book worth reading/listening to multiple times. In it, she briefly talks about how it is preferable to eat meat on the bone, as opposed to ground meats or boneless steaks. Why?

For one, eating red meat as rare as possible is more nutritious. It's only recommended to eat rarer red meat that is in steak or roast form because only the four or so surfaces have been exposed during the butchering process, the meat inside is still sterile. So searing the surfaces is all that is needed. On the other hand, there are hundreds or thousands of surfaces that have been opened up and exposed during the process of making ground meats. To be safe, you would want to make sure ground meats are cooked. That is unfortunate to cook your red meats until they're browned throughout because the proteins change and the nutrition gets cooked too.

Anyhow, not the point but it's too useful of a tidbit to skip over...

The other point about it being preferable about eating meat on the bone was what Shanahan described as getting a sort of nutrient infusion from the bone and connective tissues. I maybe extrapolated too much, but wanted to believe she was saying that eating meat on the bone was so nutritious that it was like eating bone broth and meat at the same time. This was revolutionary thinking! I am always searching for more ways to increase the amount of bone broth in my diet. I believe now that she was more pointing out that you would be getting extra collagen from the bone by eating meat-on-the bone. Hey, that's great too! Eating collagen builds collagen in our bodies, something that breaks down and we don't produce as well as we get older. Collagen is great for creating a more youthful appearance and more comfortable joints.

But the real point, why I kept thinking about meat on the bone and bone broth so much was that I know that: We need more bone and organ meat in our diet to balance meat, eggs, dairy, etc.

I wanted to keep going with that thought. Was eating meat on the bone like eating broth?

Was broth really that special or could we just eat a roast every week and be covered? Luckily, Chris Masterjohn, PhD must have been wondering the same thing. He actually created an online database of about 4000 foods that have had their glycine-to-methonine ratio measured. Why would such a ratio be important? Here he explains perfectly: "Methionine... makes us mentally more flexible, and can help cool our anxiety or lift us from depression when our minds are rigidly ruminating on negative thoughts. Glycine helps stabilize our blood sugar. It helps stabilize our mind, to prevent us from drifting into endless distractions. It promotes healthy sleep, and it revitalizes our skin and bones. The reason it is important to balance these amino acids is that consuming too much methionine can deplete our glycine levels. Methionine is especially abundant in eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, and fish. Glycine is especially abundant in skin and bones. While our ancestors tended to eat “nose-to-tail,” making liberal use of the skin and bones of the animals they ate, we tend to eat the meat and throw out the skin and bones. For example, skinless, boneless chicken breast is rich in methionine, but the glycine-rich skin and bones have been removed.

...I recommend selecting foods to obtain an average glycine-to-methionine ratio near or above 4.0 when averaged across the diet." So what did I find by entering several foods into this database?

Shocking news, folks!

Bone-in steaks like ribeyes and pork chops were at a 2. Bone-y roasts like a chuck roast were also a 2. Ground pork with 28% fat got a 2. Bacon got a 3. A whole roast chicken got a 4. Roasted chicken skin got an 8. Drumroll please...

The bone broth they tested had a glycine-to-methyonine ratio of 34!

Whaa? I couldn't find any other food that could shake a stick at 34 (the next highest I found was pickled pork trotters at a 16, ha!). Granted, the brand of broth they tested was "pasture-raised" and I'm sure watered down. I wonder what homemade broth with our stewing hens would yield?!

I believe this glycine-to-methonine ratio can give us insight about eating a balanced, nose-to-tail diet. I was totally shocked that roasts and bone-in steaks didn't have a higher ratio. And I was equally surprised that bone broth could have vastly more. So I started thinking, how much meat versus bone versus organs including skin contribute to the makeup of an animal? Are we even scratching the surface of true nose-to-tail eating?

For in the past, wouldn't we have utilized all the parts of the animal?

It turns out that:

Beef is only about 30% flesh meat Chicken is about 40% meat Pork is about 50% flesh meat.

Are we even close to eating in balance?

When I eat beef, I'm definitely not eating 34% flesh, 21% bone (like marrow or broth), 16% organ meats, 9% blood/fat/skin.

When I eat pork, I'm also definitely not eating only 50% flesh, 22% bone, but I believe I'm getting my 6% skin and fat due to all of the pork rinds I eat.

Well folks, I am fully amazed and humbled. I'm going back to the drawing board to figure out even more about how to incorporate more of the "nasty bits" into my diet.

The glycine-to-methyonine ratio is just one tiny reason why. The larger picture is tied in with the love of land, regenerating earth, raising happy and healthy animals, and sharing the wisdom of the earth for health and happiness - who knew animals play such a key part - when moved across the land in beautiful mobs like in paintings or National Geographic, they build the land, they build their own bodies and their young, and they provide us humans with good health too. Cheers!

1 Comment

Great article! Increasing glycine seems to be a big part of improving the picture on healing thyroid conditions. This illuminated a lot! Thank you.

~ Elizabeth Howard, MS, FNTP, CNS, LDN

bottom of page