Calls for a plant based diet and the surging profile of Meatless Mondays tells me that many people believe it is best to avoid eating meat and other animal products, especially red meat. I have spent the last three months scouring the literature and I just don’t see the evidence. But the issue may be less of an issue in the near future. The cost of animal food is rising and fast.
Today’s a Los Angeles Times front page story by Tiffany Tsu highlights the problem. We will endure higher beef prices for the next year, primarily driven by a shrinking supply of animals, compromised by drought as well as a higher cost of feeding the animals. In the LA Times story, the reporter states that the US Department of Agriculture forecasts between 2.5-3.5% increase in food costs this year. That doesn’t jive with what many will see in the supermarket, or what my husband already sees in his wholesale food business. Some weeks the prices increase so fast that a quoted price on Monday with a modest profit turns into a loss by Thursday. I’ve heard the grumbles for months now.
HOW MUCH MORE?
Just this morning after reading the front page story on beef prices, Frank mentioned that his costs for animal products have soared during the last year. When pressed, he offered a few rough figures. So I called him later in the day at work and had him read me the hard numbers from his database. Compared to April, 2013, wholesale prices increased:
- 22% increase for ground beef
- 24% increase in flat meat (used for carne asada)
- 16% increase for skinless, boneless chicken breast
- 42% increase for eggs
- 30% increase for bacon
That means consumers can anticipate higher prices everywhere we purchase food unless retailers choose to suck up some of the cost difference. How this plays out will be painful for some and merely curious for others. What will happen to American’s desire for large portions? How will increasing prices for protein impact fervent carnivores and paleo enthusiasts? What will happen to folks who need more protein to enjoy better health or feel more satisfied after a meal?
WHAT IF YOU NEED MORE PROTEIN TO FEEL GOOD AND STAY HEALTHY?
For those of us born with greater insulin resistance, there are a few options. Our grandparents learned to stretch their food budget by adding generous portions of noodles, potato and rice to a dish, but that maneuver can spell metabolic havoc for many. Beans and other legumes are a better bet.
Beans and legumes contribute 20-25% of their calories as protein. They offer a highly resistance source of starch. This means that beans and other legumes like lentils and split peas are metabolized more slowly, allowing for a greater sense of satiety (feeling satisfied) over time. So today when I put together my left-over lunch, I thought twice about my usually generous portion of protein. Instead, I included one small grilled chicken thigh with a hearty dose of black beans and polished off the bits of left over zucchini and sauteed beet greens. And those greens–they are also not a bad way to bump up the protein. In a blog last year I listed greens and other vegetables that contribute a full 30-40$ of their calories as protein. Vegetables don’t yield a lot of calories, so the bump in protein is modest. But sometimes every little bit helps.
Stretching your protein budget with plant based proteins can help buffer the sting of higher beef prices in the months ahead. In addition to beans, legumes and vegetables, you can try sprinkling nuts or seeds on a salad, sometimes in a stir-fry, or crumbled over yogurt.
As for anyone used to large portions, there is no time like the present to pay attention to how much is enough. Even I can still get surprised. It is easy to settle into that familiar pattern of eating until I feel full. Unfortunately, full usually translates to just enough extra fuel that contributes to slow and annoying weight gain over time. Take a minute to reset your expectations. Experiment and find out just how much (or little) it takes for your hunger to go away. That’s the goal.
What are your plans to navigate around higher prices for protein?