I am delighted to have Autumn Smith joining me on the show today! Autumn is a co-founder of Paleovalley, one of my favorite socially-conscious companies. Paleovalley has a mission to create products that live up to their strict standards, and they always prioritize health over profit.
From the age of ten, Autumn suffered from intermittent, painful digestive issues. When she got to high school, her digestive issues became even more challenging, and she also started to experience mental health problems. At the time, she was unaware of the intimate connection between the brain and the gut, so she began to abuse substances, and her life spiraled out of control.
Years later, when her husband moved in with her, he saw how much she was suffering and researched chronic digestive issues. That led them to change their diet. Within thirty days, Autumn’s digestive issues disappeared, and over the next year, her mental health returned.
Autumn and I are in full alignment about the quality of fats, saturated fats, avoiding seed oils, and getting enough high-quality omega 3’s and omega 6’s. In this episode, Autumn shares her backstory. We look at animal-based protein diets from an ancestral health perspective and discuss the importance of eating for satiety. We talk about regenerative farming practices, agriculture, the value of pasture-raised animals, and discuss the impact of pesticides and toxins like glyphosate on our health. We also dive into greenwashing strategies and bringing high-quality, pasture-raised animal products to the general public at more affordable prices. Stay tuned for more!
“Exercise is more effective for mental health than anything you could take.”
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- Autumn tells her story explains what led her to start her company.
- The foods that caused Autumn to suffer from IBS and skin problems.
- Exercise and movement contribute to Autumn’s mental and physical health. Tracy Anderson developed a life-changing system that wakes up all the muscles in the body.
- Why are highly processed and refined seed oils unhealthy?
- The quality of the animal products we consume does matter.
- Small changes can have a big impact!
- How can you make better choices when buying animal products?
- Eating for satiety is very important.
- What is the problem with conventional feed-lot meats?
- We need to be more aware of the cruelty and green-washing practices that happen with the production of animal products.
- What is regenerative agriculture, and why is it so important?
Autumn Smith suffered from debilitating digestive issues and crippling anxiety for most of her life. Specialist after specialist told her nothing could be done, and she was ready to give up. But as one final attempt at a life free of health issues, Autumn decided to harness the power of whole foods. She cleaned up her diet and in just 30 days, her IBS was cured. But that was just the beginning. She also had less anxiety, was mentally sharper, and a bubbly side of her that she forgot existed came back. Since then, Autumn has dedicated her life to helping others harness the power of whole foods to live vibrant lives.
In 2013, she and her husband Chas launched Paleovalley, a company dedicated to helping people get the essential nutrients they need, without added sugars, grains, and other harmful ingredients. But they didn’t stop there. After learning about the healing powers of grass fed, pasture raised meat – both for our bodies and the planet – Autumn and Chas started their next venture. In 2018, they launched Wild Pastures, a regenerative meat delivery service that sends 100% grass fed pasture raised meat directly to your doorstep.
Connect with Autumn Smith
Email Autumn at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Wild Pastures Burger Company website
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
- Follow on Twitter, Instagram & LinkedIn
- Check out Cynthia’s website
- Check Out Dry Farm Wines: www.dryfarmwines.com/cynthiathurlow
About Everyday Wellness Podcast
Welcome to the Everyday Wellness podcast with Cynthia Thurlow! Cynthia is a mom of 2 boys, wife, nurse practitioner, and intermittent fasting and nutrition expert. She has over 20 years experience in emergency medicine and cardiology, but pivoted to focus on food as medicine. She loves to share science-backed practical information to improve your overall well being and is grateful to be interviewing leaders in the health and wellness field. Her goal with Everyday Wellness is to help her listeners make simple changes to their everyday lives that will result in improved overall wellness and long term health.
Presenter: This is Everyday Wellness, a podcast dedicated to helping you achieve your health, and wellness goals, and provide practical strategies that you can use in your real life. And now, here’s your host, Nurse Practitioner Cynthia Thurlow.
Cynthia: Today, I had the opportunity to connect with Autumn Smith who is one of the co-founders of Paleovalley, which admittedly is one of my favorites socially conscious companies that’s out there. Their mission is to create products that live up to their own strict standards and always prioritize health over profit. We dove deep into Autumn’s backstory, her pain to purpose, we’ve touched on topics like the use of seed oils and we are completely in alignment in terms of looking at quality of fats, saturated fats, avoiding seed oils, quality omega-3s and omega-6s, really focusing on animal-based protein diets, and an ancestral health perspective, eating for satiety, which is certainly something that many Americans lack and that’s why their appetites are out of control.
We’ve talked about regenerative farming practices in agriculture, the value of pasture raised animals, the impact of certain types of toxins like glyphosate that are impacting our health and our gut microbiomes, how many conventionally produced products are fooling us with greenwashing strategies, the value of bringing high-quality products that are wholesaled like wild pastures, which is a company that Autumn and her family have worked very closely with, so that they can bring pasture raised animal products to the general public at much more affordable price points. I hope you will love our conversation. I know that I will have Autumn back again. I actually want to dive a little bit deeper into ecosystems, agrobusiness, regenerative farming practices, and I’m sure after listening to her, you’ll want to know more as well.
I’m so excited and delighted to have you with me today and I know we had an IG Story Live, and we talked a lot about your story but I know for the benefit of listeners who maybe missed your story, and missed your passion project, and how you pivoted your life, turned your life around, what is your story like, what brought you to where you are today? Before we started recording, we were talking about the fact that you are doing your doctorate which I love, and how you’ve really pivoted your entire lifestyle to embrace this new way of living. How did that start for you? What was that journey like?
Autumn: As with a lot of people, I think, with a lot of struggles. [laughs] I mean, a lot of struggles. I have wonderful parents, grew up in a small town in Montana but when I got to be about 10 years old, I started to suffer from pretty debilitating digestive issues, and I’d just wake up in middle of the night in excruciating pain, but it didn’t happen all the time. So, it was kind of intermittent. My life became unpredictable. We went to the doctors in my small town and they didn’t really know what to do. They just said, “You have irritable bowel syndrome, take some Gas-X, and it’s stress related.” I was like, “Okay.” I just continued on until about high school, when things got more challenging, then mental health challenges started to set in. I didn’t know it at the time but there’s that intimate connection between the brain and the gut, which people are now elucidating beautifully. But anxiety, depression set in, eating challenges set in, and then we went to the psychotherapists and psychiatrists, and they gave me the antidepressants, and we went through a litany of them, and they made me feel awful, and like I wasn’t even myself.
So, I got off of them, and my skin started breaking out, and then I’ve realized, “Wow, I’m going to manage. I’m not even going to be able to thrive here. I just need to hang on and get through each day and substances seemed like a good way to calm my anxiety.” So, I got into all sorts of substances. It got so bad that my parents actually kicked me out of my house before I graduated high school. Yeah, so, I finished high school even though I was living on my own, and luckily, I always had a passion for learning and dance. So, I did continue on to college, and then I went to Los Angeles and became a dancer. On the outside, I was actually a celebrity fitness trainer. I was in great shape. But if you saw me on my off times, and my skin breaking out me feeling like a total lie, and me being so bloated that I looked pregnant at night. My husband, when he finally moved in with me said, “Sweetie, you are suffering in silence.
Autumn: You’re a mess. You are smiling, and you’re making the best of it but this isn’t what your life should be like.” So, he got onto Google after we visited some doctors in Los Angeles at the time, who told me the same thing, irritable bowel syndrome, there’s nothing you can really do. We changed our diet because back in 2007, a few people on the internet were talking about the fact that chronic digestive issues could be addressed through dietary change. So, we did it. In 30 days, my digestive issues were gone. I didn’t know it but over the course of the next year, my mental health came back. I was like, “Wow, I’m stable, resilient, kind of excited enthusiastic person that I didn’t know for so many years.” So, even though, I had a wonderful job with Tracy Anderson, I quit that job to go back and learn what had just happened and literally transformed my life. Opening a company that had the supplies and the food products was more about how do we have a life and I spend all my time in the kitchen, which I don’t want to do, I’m not good at.
Autumn: And still live in this way with these healthy nourishing foods that I had come to depend on and actually thrive because of, and so, that’s why we founded our company eventually too.
Cynthia: That’s a really an inspiring story and I think for anyone that’s listening, I like to align myself with my guests. So, as someone who was allopathic medicine trained, I was writing prescriptions, I worked in ER medicine, cardiology, and as you can imagine, there’s a lot of prescriptive writing, and I just got to a point where I was like, “We’re not doing enough. It all starts with food.” So, I love that you healed yourself through changing your diet. In terms of irritable bowel syndrome, if listeners don’t realize this, irritable bowel syndrome is more often than not related to food sensitivities. But we don’t talk enough to our patients about this. On so many levels, it’s oftentimes things like gluten, and grains, and dairy, and processed sugars, and alcohol that can really exacerbate these symptoms. Were there specific foods for you that when you eliminate them from your diet, you saw significant improvement? I’m just curious. If it’s one of the ones that I mentioned, the ones that are most typically implicated in inflammation.
Autumn: Oh, yeah. Well, I was a dancer, a young dancer. I learned what a calorie is a calorie. So, it doesn’t really matter what you’re eating as long as you’re eating enough or not enough in [unintelligible [00:07:23] land. I was living on protein bars, soy protein, and all of those crazy additives. I was eating bread, garlic naan, all of these processed products, first of all, but I did identify a very potent wheat sensitivity. Gluten is definitely an issue for me at that time because my gut was so damaged. Dairy was a definitely a thing for me. Sugar, I can bring it in. I have to keep my blood sugar stable or I start to go into these highs and lows this like depressive place. Funny enough, garlic is a huge trigger for my skin. It’s not always a digestive trigger but my skin I’ve noticed, it definitely makes me break out consistently. So, those are the big ones. But soy, I’m also allergic too. So, through trial and error, I’ve identified a lot of foods but I think the biggest needle movers were definitely gluten, dairy, sugar, and garlic for me.
Cynthia: That’s fascinating and this is really the value of bio-individuality. For each one of us, there are some big things, gluten and dairy in particular, but you’re finding that the [unintelligible [00:08:29], series of vegetables that caused a lot of inflammation for you in particular. For me, I personally find that if I had too many nightshades or if I during the summer eat too many tomatoes or if I have some eggplant, I will get some plantar fasciitis symptoms. So, my family thinks I’m completely crazy when I say this, but I always say, if I have foot pain, because I otherwise have no aches and pains whatsoever, that’s my tell. So, during the summer, I ate a lot of tomatoes, and that’s usually my body’s way of saying like, “Back off. No more nightshades, take a break.” Seemingly benign foods that in specific people can really cause a lot of inflammation and discomfort. In some instances, bloating or skin eruptions. So, I’m fascinated with Tracy Anderson by the way. I find the workouts that she does. They’re deceivingly challenging. You see them and you’re like, “That can’t possibly be that hard” and it really is that hard [laughs].
Cynthia: So, you were probably with her at the beginning. I’m assuming at the beginning stages, it must have been interesting to do that. Now, do you still incorporate, I would imagine as a lifelong dancer, movement and exercise is probably a significant contribution to mental health, physical health, etc.
Autumn: Oh, man. First of all, let me just say, I think, Tracy Anderson is one of the geniuses among us. She is so special in so many ways and she’s developed this system, where she wakes up all the different muscles in the body rather than you’re going to lift for these big muscles, your quads, and your biceps, and it’s all these little accessory muscles that she’s found out how to access, and its literally life changing. I highly recommend it. A lot of work on the spine as well as the abs and just. She’s basically teaching the world how to dance and move their body in a way that is supportive of health, and just like finding joy and movement, it’s gorgeous. So, I do that. I mean, I’m still a Tracy Anderson member and I do that most weeks. I change my exercise during my cycle. [giggles]
In the beginning in the follicular phase, I’m doing a lot of Tracy. I’m adding a little more cardio. I have a very interesting relationship with cardio. I found that I was using it to change my mood to really ameliorate some anxiety that I hadn’t known I really had. So, I do that but a lot less than I used to, because I’m taking it upon myself to figure out how do you address that without that. But also, I do yoga. I was a yoga teacher. So, getting into more of my luteal phase, I bring in yoga every single day, some power and every other day of my cycle in addition to Tracy. So, I hike outside, but exercise is more effective for mental health than anything you could take. So, I’ve absolutely realized when I don’t move, I’m not the person that I want to be. It’s not anymore an unhealthy relationship. I think it could have been classified as such at one point in time. But I just know, if I want to feel good, this is something I have to do. I’m not going to shame myself if I don’t have time but I’m just going to know that I’m not going to be my best self without a little movement or exercise on the daily.
Cynthia: Some really powerful realization when you recognize that you choose to do certain types of exercise, whether it’s aligned with cycle syncing, and that’s really what you’re speaking to beginning half of our menstrual cycle, estrogen predominates. Second half of the menstrual cycle after ovulation, progesterone predominates. So, it’s very aligned with progesterone is up, which is the mellow sister to the more type A estrogen makes sense that yoga would fit more nicely. It’s interesting for me even when I’m talking to women about fasting, we fast differently depending on where we are in our cycle. So, it’s not 28 days of the month. We’re doing the same exact pattern. Obviously, if you’re a man or a menopausal woman, it’s a little different. But when we have those cycling hormones every month being responsive to that is certainly very important.
I’m curious and I know this is a great interest of yours is the quality of the ingredients we consume, not just elimination diets, but when I was doing my research, we’re very aligned on so many principles. So, when we’re talking about other types of inflammatory foods and we’re talking about seed oils, let’s unpack, I’ve had the delight of having Dr. Cate Shanahan on the podcast, and she’s definitely one of these physician researchers that’s out there trying to educate the public and the community about the dangers of highly processed seed oils, which are food like substances they really aren’t. There’s little to no nutritional value in these. But let’s talk a little bit about seed oils because the assumption is made that if it’s sold in the grocery store, then it must be healthy.
My youngest and I went to see a play in Washington, D.C. over the weekend and we were in Whole Foods killing time. This is a sad fact is that, oftentimes, if I’m trying to kill time wherever I am like, “Let’s just go to Whole Foods,” make an excuse to go there. My son made me take a photo of this big display of canola oil and he was like, “Mom, they actually sell seed oil and canola oil in Whole Foods.” I was like, “Yes.” That’s where consumers need to educate themselves. So, let’s unpack what seed oils are, what they do to our bodies, why we want to avoid them, why we want to read food labels, and why we want to ask questions when we go to restaurants or we’re eating outside our home because it’s important for us to understand they sneak into everything?
Autumn: Yes, it’s so devastating for me that Whole Foods and everyone so many other health food stores still believe this. I want to touch on the origin of that is essentially they’re polyunsaturated, a lot of them. This stems from that fear of saturated fatty acids that happened in the mid-1950s when there was some research to suggest the more saturated dietary fat you consume, the greater you’re at risk for heart disease. Now, we know that isn’t true. Ancel Keys, when he originally presented the Seven Countries Study, there are actually 22 countries with available data and not all of them fit this nice tight correlation that he presented and just other subsequent research has proven that saturated fat and cholesterol are not the dietary villains that we once believed they were. But dietary dogma doesn’t die easily. So, there’s still a lot of people believing, we just need to get rid of animal fats too.
But when you look at the origin of seed oils too, like, Procter & Gamble started using them for soap making. They were interested in using these different ingredients that were cheaper because they used to use a lot of lard. He found a way to hydrogenate foods or seed oils, cottonseed oil, I think is how they began, and then use it for their soap making, and then created trans fat with Crisco where they hydrogenated, which means turn it into a solid. Then based on no evidence of their safety in humans because at that time, it didn’t really matter in order to market a product as healthy there wasn’t regulation. They were just like, “No, this is better. This is better because we say it is.”
Autumn: And because it’s a [unintelligible [00:15:30] technology and animal fats, even though we’ve been eating them for the entirety of our evolution, they’re the bad guy, even though, when our disease rates really started to skyrocket is after the advent and incorporation of these other oils into our food-based system. So, hydrogenation is one kind of seed oil, trans fats are largely eliminated, probably, not entirely yet, but there is legislation to eliminate them. But what isn’t being regulated are these seed oils like you said that are extracted from canola, and there’s safflower, and sunflower, and cotton seed, all of these different oils that are still highly, highly processed using hexane and other chemicals, and then also highly polyunsaturated.
Now, the problem is saturation, actually is protective against oxidation. That is where you’re going to find a lot of your animal fats and the traditional fats that we’ve been using for centuries. And then you have these highly unstable oils, they’re polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are prone to oxidation. It’s funny when they’re used in fast food restaurants, they can actually create this grease like substance on the uniforms of people who work there, and their uniforms will actually combust, because oxidation is not something we want. In our bodies when we oxidize, thought to be one of the primary drivers of disease and aging. So, when these oils get oxidized and become rancid through their processing, it’s not good for us to eat them. It just surprises me that we have become so misinformed and follow this logic that this would be better, even though, it’s a novel creation that hasn’t ever really been tested and turn our backs on traditional fats that we have literally been eating for a long, long time.
There’s even been research to suggest, this was one really interesting trial. The LA Veterans Administration Hospital study, where they looked at eating two different dining halls, essentially. They were looked at eating traditional fats like butter versus eating vegetable oils. What they did notice, they looked at it for about eight years and it looked like the death rates in both were similar. But what they didn’t really report on was at year five rates of death from cancer shot up and they got way higher in the vegetable oil group and the authors concluded that you should have longer trials. Trials over five years or under five years are not adequate. But that’s not what they’re doing today. They’re still being touted as healthy oils based on the vitamin E and other nutrients, but not looking at the fact that they are highly processed things that we have not been consuming very long and are prone to oxidation. So, I think they’re very, very dangerous and I think they’re one of the things if people will start anywhere, just upgrading the quality of their fats, I mean, these are actually incorporated into our cell membranes.
When their composition of the cell membrane changes, inflammation becomes more rampant. You’re actually competing for turning specific types of fat into other types of fat like omega-3 and omega-6 types fatty acids, and when those enzymes are used up by the omega-6 type fats, then it becomes more inflammatory environment and that’s not something we want. So, I do think the quality animal fats, high-quality animal fats are absolutely wonderful. They’ve been nourishing us since the beginning of time and turning our backs on the highly processed vegetable oils, I think is one of the best steps you can take.
Cynthia: It’s interesting. Throughout the year, I do these little videos or vignettes on social media about how to navigate Costco, how to navigate Trader Joe’s, how to navigate the grocery store. My one resounding rule is no seed oils. So, I’ve done ones on and I recognize there are people out there who never eat a bottle dressing and that’s great. But I’m realist and I recognize not everyone wants to make your own dressing. So, as one example, I went to Whole Foods and in Whole Foods, I was trying to find a clean dressing and of which there were not many, but I did find a couple. So, sharing the brands and talking about it and I affectionately refer to Trader Joe’s sometimes as ‘Trader Junk’ because it’s very hard to find products that are processed that don’t have seed oils in them to a point that or soy those are my two non-negotiables. Trying to find those things and my kids now read the labels, and so, it becomes this game to try to find as many things as we can or not without either of those. But it’s how you can take something seemingly, relatively healthy and make it unhealthy.
For anyone that’s listening, when we’re talking about seed oils, I’m not talking about avocado oil, I’m not talking about coconut oil, we’re not talking about extra virgin olive oil, we are talking about these highly processed refined oils that need to be made in factories and are exposed to a lot of toxic toxins, they’re exposed to high heat, they are manipulated significantly. If you want to find something really fascinating, want to dive down a rabbit hole, go Google or go to YouTube and plug in “how to make canola oil?” You will be stunned. It’s disgusting. You’ll never want to consume it again. But what I find really interesting as we really look at the research of the advent of seed oils and the indoctrination of seed oils into the processed food industry, and it correlates pretty well with the rise in obesity.
I like to remind people, Dr. Ben Bikman is one of these insulin researchers who does such an amazing job. If you don’t follow Dr. Ben, please do. He’s amazing. So, he’s an insulin researcher. One of his recent shares was that the most consumed fat in United States is soybean oil, because it proliferates in the processed food industry. We as Americans eat a highly processed diet. We know that 88.2% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy. So, it really is a small, very sad portion of the population that’s avoiding these kinds of toxic ingredients. If you do nothing else and you’re navigating the grocery store, really just read those food labels and try to avoid them because I dare you to try to find in the grocery store a bread or a lot of the chips and crackers that don’t have these things in them. I now have teenagers, and I have to be a realist. So, my kids know there are certain brands that we can go to where I will let them buy [unintelligible [00:21:52] or any number of other small amount of brands that are out there where they can have a chip or they can have something where I don’t have to worry about that. But it really is challenging.
The last thing I want to dovetail into that is, I did a discussion at an event in October talking about metabolic flexibility and inflexibility, and was tracing the concept of seed oils because people will talk about a specific type of fat like linoleic acid, and people say, “Well, that you can find that in seed oils, you can also find it meat.” Yes, but at very different proportions. So, you’re really looking at an avocado or a piece of meat, yes, may have some of these fats, but not to the proportion which we find in seed oils. So, if you want to really drive down inflammation, if you want to lessen the likelihood, you’re going to develop insulin resistance, you really want to get diligent about reading food labels.
I always say, I want the message to be a positive one. So, there are lots of alternatives. There are definitely things that are out there and what I find is, when you find a chip or a cracker, it doesn’t have seed oils in it, they come in smaller boxes and bags, you eat less of them and to me, it’s a pain point. If I knew my bag of food crackers is like $5, I’m going to enjoy every less cracker and then I’m not going to buy another box for a while. So, for me, I look at it’s a limiting thing. My kids know when the box is gone, we’re done. We don’t need to have copious massive Costco sized bags of junk because it’s very easy to overeat them and it’s very easy to get to a point where you’re just consuming far more processed foods than ideally we want to be.
Autumn: Absolutely. I also want to add to the quality of the animal products like you said, it matters. We actually have a pork farmer on our team who has created the most nutrient dense pork and this is pretty shocking to most people. Omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio, we want to keep it 4:1, 1:1 historically. We have over 20:1 right now. Conventionally raised pork has a ratio of about 35:1. Through his different breeding practices and using pigs that actually work very well on pasture, he was actually able to test if I fed half green and half grass or as much grass as possible. He got down, he fed the pigs actual grass, it was down to a 5:1 ratio. So, you’ll see this throughout the animals too in beef, in eggs, in dairy, in pastured pork, but you can significantly change that fatty acid ratio simply by feeding them in a way that is more appropriate and in alignment with nature, pasture feeding, especially, when they can have these nice, diverse, lush green pastures which I know if it’s overwhelming to know where to find that we can talk about that too. But just know that yeah, getting seed oils out and then also watching the quality of your animal products, especially, pork which was really surprising to me is a great move as well.
Cynthia: It’s interesting. The city that we just moved from there was this amazing pork farmer and we got to know, I mean, when I say no the pigs. It’s not like on a personal basis. But we got to see the happy pigs, and it lived amazing lives, and I think it’s really important as we evolve, because when you’re making small changes, I always say, small changes have a large net impact, but it’s impossible to change everything all at once. But once you know better, you do better and so to us it’s a priority to try to find the cleanest animal-based protein that we can find whether it’s wild caught fish or pasture raised animals. If you go to your farmers market, this is a great starting point for a lot of people is go to the farmers’ market. Get to know the farmers, better ask them questions, they want to share their information and their expertise.
If you buy eggs at a farmers’ market, they’re going to look a lot different. The yolks look very, very different because the chickens eat different types of food and what I was surprised to find out, maybe you weren’t, but I was, Chickens are like carnivores. I didn’t realize that they actually eat bugs and worms and I was like, “Oh, I just thought they grains. I had no idea.” So, the yolks from the pastured eggs or from the pastured hens look very different. The yolks are really vibrant and bright or even if you decide you want to get more exotic and if you’re doing quail eggs or duck eggs, there’s a whole different taste profile that you may not even ever been exposed to. So, don’t be afraid to try different proteins. That’s one thing, like the bison, elk, wild boar, we’ve tried ostrich this year.
Cynthia: We had elk for the first time when we were in Montana but be open to trying. I always tell my kids, if you tried and you don’t like it, not a big deal. At least we can check the box but we definitely want to be trying different types of protein. Like don’t just stay eating chicken and maybe all you do is chicken and bacon. It’s like, “Okay, let’s try something new. Maybe, we’re going to have grass-fed steak, maybe we’re going to try some bison.” There’s a lot of what I consider to be entry level like exotic meats that are what I would not describe as weird or super gamey. That’s the question I get people are like, “Bison just sounds so exotic.” I’m like, “We actually like bison more than we like beef.” We’ve been surprised to see that.
When you’re talking and connecting with your customers, what are some of the things that you use as a starting point to help people navigate making better choices about the quality of animals they’re consuming? How do they source out reputable/cleaner, safer farmers to purchase from? I mean, certainly, I always say that, you do what your budget permits. Because there may be people listening, they’re like, “Listen, I cannot buy all grass-fed all the time.” That’s okay. We’re not saying that. But it’s like, once you know more, then you’re going to be more conscientious about where you’re procuring your meat from or your fish, where are your eggs for that matter. But what are some of the recommendations you have when you’re working with people to allow them to safely integrate these new practices into their lifestyle without busting their budgets?
Autumn: [laughs] Yeah, I have several. I want to mention two things, I think, are really important for what you just said too, though. When you look at those nutritional differences, they’ve actually been demonstrated to change things about human health, which I think is even more incentivizing. In one trial, they looked at wild kangaroo versus cage-produced meat, and they’re actually able to reduce levels of inflammation and they’ve changed cholesterol profiles and triglyceride levels. There’s not a lot of research but there is some. The other thing I wanted to mention is, yes, wild meats, different meats, they’re going to have a different flavor based on the way that they’re raised. Dr. Fred Provenza has actually been studying the way that these secondary compounds.
So, most of us are aware of probably like 15 nutrients. It’s basically what we track on the label. But there’s actually thousands like tens of thousands of other compounds that actually affect human health, and some of them terpenoids, carotenoids, phenols. They have anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressive, but also satiety enhancing mechanisms. So, he’s looking at the way it might taste a little bit different but those signals and those other compounds actually let us know, it’s time to stop eating. We don’t get those in a lot of our foods today, which is why I think a lot of us are continuing to eat more than we might need because our food is raised in a way that doesn’t allow us to access those signals anymore. So, that’s another like, it might taste weird but it’s also probably for a good reason and something maybe you want to push a little bit past.
In order to get started, I would just start usually have people upgrade one meal a week. I’m going to find out the origins of this one meal. So, just choose one particular type of protein. If you’re going to focus on beef, the questions you want to be asking if you’re actually able to access the farmer or looking at the packaging on the company, when they’re saying grass-fed and grass-finished. One easy question is, have they ever been fed grain? Because grass-fed is an unregulated term and all cows are grass-fed in the beginning of their lives. But it matters how they’re fed in the end of their lives. Are they fattened up on grain or not? That’s again going to change the nutritional profile. And also, if it’s raised in confinement, there’s pesticides and antibiotics being used, and often hormones. So, it just oftentimes, when they are not feeding grain, they are taking into consideration these other things as well. So, that’s a really good place to start for grass-fed beef.
The best-case scenario is they’re being raised in a way that regenerates the environment also, we can talk about that also but there isn’t, regenerative agriculture is an emerging very important effort but it isn’t one that’s like on a label necessarily. But grass-fed and grass-finished 100% and asking you has it ever fed grain, that’s a great place to start. I think it’s interesting that you were surprised that chickens were omnivores. A lot of them are advertising vegetarian fed, all vegetarian fed as if that’s a good thing. But again, this goes against the chicken’s biology.
Autumn: That really means they’re probably raised in confinement. They’re not getting outside because if they were they would be eating bugs and all of these other things that worms are designed to consume. So, pastured poultry is my favorite, cage free, free range, there’s seven or eight direction, what that often means is they have access to the outdoors, but that they’re not necessarily going to be out there. There’s probably like a little door in this warehouse.
Cynthia: They can see the grass, but they can’t actually be on it.
Autumn: Yeah, and they probably don’t. Then they’re probably raised with antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a very important threat. So, pastured poultry is the best way to go. Birds do get a little grain. I am not afraid of that. You want to do non-GMO grain, if possible, but pastured poultry look where they’re living, can they get outside, those are the important things to consider. Same with pigs. We’ve all seen the horrible pictures of the pigs in little tiny crates, raising confined animal feeding operations. So, we want to know, are they on pasture? Like I mentioned, our farmer is using a specific breed that can eat a lot of grass, and also letting them be rotated around on pastures, so that the land is able to recover. He’s planting trees, he’s getting into agroforestry. So, there are ways to raise pigs that are really beneficial for the environment and do not involve being in a warehouse, in a crate, or any of this cruelty. So, that was just pastured pig, too.
But you have to dig in, you’re not going to find it at the supermarket unfortunately, pastured poultry is really hard to find and our solution to that was our company Wild Pastures and we can talk more about that. Also, I’m going to give a shoutout to one of our pork farmers Singing Prairie Farms. They do a really nice pastured pork stick. We’re going to be moving into that realm soon but just if you want a simple way to upgrade your pork and be convinced or be sure that you’re not getting that inflammatory pork, that’s a great way to go, or you can do our Wild Pastures meat delivery service. When it comes to eggs like you said, same thing. We want to see those bright yellow yolks. When I first went down to Uruguay, I was like, “What is this? Why are they orange?”
Autumn: That is the difference because there’s more antioxidants, there’s more nutrients, it’s a different food than animals, chickens, hens that are raised in confinement, and it’s reflected in the quality of their yolk. So, pastured eggs also. I’ve seen some organic pastured eggs in the store. Yes, they are definitely more expensive. But again, they’re much more nutrient dense. You have to think even beyond what it’s doing in your body like, “Every time we’re purchasing something, what are we supporting on the back end, is there an externality that we aren’t considering? What’s happening to the environment, what about antibiotic, are we worried about antibiotic use, are we actually contributing to the production of grains, which is actually further destroying the environment if they’re raised inappropriately, and on and on?” So, yes, you might buy less of them but like you said, you’ll enjoy them more, they’ll be nutrient dense, and you can feel really good that the foods are not only nourishing you, but also the environment in a larger sense.
Cynthia: Well, I think you really started that segue off beautifully talking about satiety because I always say the most important macronutrient from my perspective is protein. I find most if not all women eat grossly less than what they should be. So, I’m very aligned with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon who talks a lot one gram per pound of ideal body weight. Most women are probably getting 50 or 60 grams in a day. We should really be aiming for closer to hundred if not more. I find that the better quality the meat or fish or eggs, the more satiated I am without question like, if I have four or five because I love omelets. I love doubled eggs. I’m like a big egg aficionado. It’s almost embarrassing. My kids are like, “How many eggs did you eat today?” I’m like, I don’t know.”
But I find that they’re so satiating that I won’t be able to eat more. I may have my non-starchy vegetable and whatever the protein is, but I can’t just keep eating like, is if we sit down with a bowl of pasta, bowl of rice like my teenagers can do, but they’re also super active, they’re still growing, they’re very lean, but they can polish off, I mean, mounds of carbohydrates, and they’re impervious to it, but they’re also growing. But if we as adults consume those types of foods, we are never nearly as satiated. So, you don’t register the amount of macros you’ve consumed, which can set off a cascade of inflammation, insulin response, blood glucose going up, if we’re already largely a metabolically unhealthy population, I always say like, “Really try to hit your protein macros.” Because if you do that you won’t be hungry. You won’t be hungry in between your meals and you’re certainly not going to have enough room to eat a lot of junk.
But you brought up some really important points. You talked about pastured meat, you talked about wild caught fish, we talked about finding the best quality products you can find. Let’s talk a little bit about conventional feedlot meat. You mentioned the antibiotics. I think it’s important for people to understand what happens under those conditions. There was a book I read recently that was talking about conventional farming practices, which I think for anyone, especially, someone I’m a huge animal advocate, animal lover, I do eat meat, I don’t shy away from eating meat, but I was incredibly disturbed at the amount of antibiotics, chemicals, pesticides, etc., that these animals are exposed to, and then we’re ingesting this. So, let’s talk a little bit about this just from an awareness perspective, so people understand like, “Why we are talking, advocating leaning towards really purchasing, supporting farmers that have different practices?”
Autumn: Yes. I think the big one is definitely the antibiotic thing. 70% of the antibiotics produced are used in animals. There are the beginnings of some sort of regulation around it. Now, you’re not just supposed to use them to make animals gain weight, but oftentimes, because of the conditions they’re living in, they are used to prevent illness, which allows them to gain weight more quickly. But the problem is, when these antibiotics are overused, they can allow for the creation of antibiotic resistance bacteria. So, when you take an antibiotic, you’re going to kill bacteria. Some of them inevitably will survive and then they will thrive. These antibiotic resistant bacteria can get into the environment because of these conditions. Because what we’re using on farms and CAFOs is getting into our waterways, and it’s getting into our soil, and there is some evidence to suggest there might be trace amounts in the meat products that could potentially be impacting things on a microbiome level, and on and on.
But it is a huge, ever looming threat. We do not want our antibiotics to not become useful. We need them. They are lifesaving. If we continue going where we’re going, we are headed for disaster essentially on the antibiotic realm for sure. So, we want to ensure that the people who are raising our animals are not misusing antibiotics. The way that our farmers handle that is, if an animal is sick, they’re not going to let them suffer. They’re going to give them antibiotics and they’re ready to be removed from the program. So, that’s just what we do there. Then, also pesticides. So, because a lot of cows are eating corn and soy, a lot of pesticides are often present on corn and soy. So, they’re eating them, they’re consuming them. And again, we’re perpetuating. They’re using the environment. I think it’s like three tons of pesticides per person a year is sprayed on our food. We know that they can impact our gut microbiome. Dr. Stephanie Seneff talks a lot about this that the shikimate pathway produces certain amino acids and that is disrupted when it comes to glyphosate.
We also know that glyphosate is actually more dangerous in the roundup formula because glyphosate is just the active ingredient, the principal ingredient. But what they don’t often test is the total formula, which can be even more toxic. So, these pesticides are interfering with our microbiome, they are killing our wildlife, they aren’t not something that we want to be ingesting, and people will argue, “Oh, yes, well, these are safe levels.” But what happens when you consume it over and over? No one’s really regulating how much you are consuming. So, I definitely think it’s something we really need to be mindful of, especially, when it comes to our little people, our children, they are not little humans, they metabolize things differently, they impact brain function, attentional issues, it runs the gamut. So, we really want to be careful of pesticides, too.
Then hormones, European Union hasn’t wanted our beef for a very long time because they found that there are risks. Especially, for kids before puberty. You don’t want to eat animals that have been given synthetic hormones. So, they’ve stopped the sale. I think there’s little amounts that are still being able to be accepted as long as it’s tested. But hormones, when you give an animal synthetic hormone and then you eat that meat, who knows, it could potentially impact your own hormonal levels. So, we definitely want to be careful with that. So, our farmers will not be using grains and pesticides, because the animals are eating grass. They’re absolutely never using hormones. Then of course, they’re not using antibiotics. If they do because an animal is suffering, then they’re removed from the program. So, for all of those reasons, in addition to the nutritional reasons, it’s just really important to know what you’re putting into your body and how to avoid soy and corn, the pesticides that come with them, antibiotics and hormones.
Cynthia: It’s really overwhelming for a lot of people to whether it’s cognitive dissonance. It’s so overwhelming they can’t even entertain the possibility these things happen. Robyn O’Brien talked a lot about how corn is largely, there’s no other term that I can think of right now impregnated with this insecticide. So, when you’re consuming conventionally raised corn, you’re consuming this insecticide, which is designed to protect the plant, but obviously, it is impacting us on a negative level. One of the things I found really interesting when I was reading this book, the name of which will come to me eventually talking about– I hate when that happens, talking about when you have cows that are producing milk, and they’re given hormones to produce more milk. So, for those of us who’ve ever breastfed, can you imagine, if we were supercharged in breastfeeding, like, we were producing twice or three times as much milk, so, these cows are dealing with mastitis, and inflammation, and pus, and I mean, this is all disturbing, and then, that’s going into the milk supply that’s then being sold to stores. You just think about the downward impact on our bodies.
Not to mention the fact, these hormones which themselves can also be endocrine disruptors. You talked about how these synthetic hormones can dysregulate our own hormones in our bodies. I think, again, about the metabolic inflexibility in the bulk of the population and just how what we’re exposed to in our food environment, personal care products really has this downstream domino effect. This is one way that we can be more conscientious, more thoughtful in some of the purchases we’re making by not supporting some of these other practices. So, it’s actually not good for us, it’s also not good for the animals because as you mentioned, a lot of them are kept in very close captivity, they’re kept in small, close quarters where they might not see any sunlight their entire lives. One of the things about this book that talks about how highly intelligent pigs are and how they’re separating mothers and babies at very young ages. So, they’re never weaned, they know that that connection piece is animals are mammals.
Again, I eat animals, I’m not suggesting not to eat animals, I’m just saying, let’s be thoughtful about the practices that we’re supporting with our dollars. Because that’s really the way that we need to think about it that where our intention goes, money flows. So, just being really mindful about that as consumers.
Autumn: Yeah, because we’re always voting for something, right?
Autumn: And just making sure that that’s one of the things that drives me crazy, too, is there’s a lot of greenwashing and humanely raised, unless it’s certified third party, you can’t really be sure. There isn’t yet a legal definition of that. So, like you said, these weaning practices where they’re taken from their mama’s way too early, or their cruel practices, where they’re dehorning, or branding and on and on. That is another huge piece of the puzzle. Like you said, they’re being given antibiotics or being raised in such a way that the three times their average size in the breast just because that’s the type of meat that we prefer and we buy. Yeah, there’re so many things that happen on the way to your plate. When you’re really mindful about them, you can make sure that those things that are happening are also probably in alignment with your values as well. [crosstalk]
Cynthia: Absolutely. So, regenerative agriculture, I know there’s a lot of discussion around this. For the benefit of listeners who are maybe less familiar with that terminology, let’s unpack what that is so that people understand why we want to be supportive. This is really getting back to the way things used to be but with some modifications based on modernization.
Autumn: Yeah, it’s so important. Like you said, we’re going back, it wasn’t until around the 1950s that we thought, “Oh, wow, our population is going to get out of control. We needed to mechanize, and centralize, and commoditize this production of animals, and to do it as quickly as possible.” I think it was started with good intentions, but we totally turned our back on what tradition, what had worked for us and kept our land in a state that we actually needed to be before that. It’s been estimated about 60 years left of topsoil is all that we have. If we continue at this trajectory supporting practices that degrade our soil, we’ve actually lost about a third of farmable land in the last 40 years that there will come a day when our kids can’t even feed themselves. So, that is really, really devastating and terrifying to me.
Regenerative agriculture at its core is just an agriculture that supports soil health. There are six practices basically, it’s like living roots. We’re really maximizing the root because the root systems are what feeds the microbes in the soil, and then the microbes in the soil create carbon glues that literally can store the carbon from the atmosphere underneath the ground. It’s also like least disturbance. So, we’re not using pesticides, we’re not using tilling. Every time we till that soil, huge amounts of carbon are released. It’s also about animal integration. Using animals in a way that is in alignment with nature. Because when you’re in a CAFO, they produce huge amounts of manure, there’s these manure lagoons. But then it becomes a source of toxicity because it’s not managed properly. But when you have an animal and pasture and you bring them around and you rotate them, then their manure is actually fertilizer. It’s fertilizer that we’re not getting. Animal integration, we’re increasing biodiversity.
One of our farmers said, he sits out on his land and just listens and he hears about hundred different species of birds singing, things chirping, he’s seeing the dung beetles come back worms, there’s just life. A healthy ecosystem is a diverse ecosystem. So, we’re doing that. Then we’re also taking everything in context. We’re looking at the land as a personality. We’re not blindly applying a set of practices to something and saying, “Okay, this is what’s supposed to do.” No, we’re listening. We’re listening for feedback and we’re changing things. So, the difference in most agricultural systems is we’re not looking at where did the soil begin and where is it going, and we’re not tracking that progress, and we’re not focused on that really at all. We’re focused on yield creating as much food as we can. So, it’s changing the way we see things entirely, honestly.
The cool thing about regenerative agriculture is it’s even one step above sustainability. So, I love people who are thinking sustainably. I think it’s awesome. I was doing this before I learned about it. But if we were to sustain what we have right now, we’d still be in a lot of trouble. So, regeneration is actually to make something of a higher or more worthy state. We need to regenerate that land because what’s happened is, we have all this carbon in the atmosphere right now, which is heating the planet, essentially, causing this climate change. But historically, it was underground and we’ve released it through many different methods. But our farming and agricultural practices are definitely one of them. But it belongs back in the soil. So, if we can take that carbon out through the plants, and protect it, and get it down into the soil, we can potentially reverse the climate change, we can improve water holding capacity, all these droughts and floods are the result of soil erosion a lot of times, not the result of not having enough water.
The other cool thing is we can actually restore the nutrient density of our food. We have to eat about two times the amount of meat, and three times the amount of fruit, and four to five times the amount of vegetables that we did in 1940s to get the same level of nutrition. While a lot of people think the nutrients are just gone, because we’ve been growing too many plants and expecting too much, what’s actually happening is the breakdown of that soil biology. So, these plants have this beautiful relationship with the microbes in the soil. They essentially take carbon out of the atmosphere, they turn it into carbohydrates, and then they feed the microbes down there, and the microbes say, “Thank you for that, I’m going to then make these nutrients here in the soil available to you.”
But when we use pesticides and chemical fertilizers, we kill that life, that microbe, that beautiful transportation system and relationship that they have. So, we actually improve nutrient density too. Regenerative agriculture is a bunch of things but mainly going back to what we were doing before and making sure that the soil health and environmental health at large is a priority, and that biodiversity is a priority, and that human health is a priority.
Cynthia: Now, that’s so fascinating and I think I could listen to you talk about regenerative agriculture.
Cynthia: We’ll definitely have to have you back. I learned a new term today manure lagoon sounds about as awful as I would imagine. That would be as opposed to manure fertilizing healthy soil. So, on that note, I would love for you to be able to share with listeners how to connect with you. I’ve been very transparent, I was telling Autumn before we started recording that the joke that I always hear about on social media is, what protein bars do you travel with? So, I always say, “I travel with Paleovalley meat sticks.” I say this genuinely, I’m not paid to say this. It is my preferred “protein bar,” because it is just meat sticks. You have some amazing products and I’m so very grateful that we were able to connect today and have you share some of your incredible knowledge with the listeners. I know this will be a highly valued podcast. But how can listeners connect with you, how can they find your products, support your mission, connect with your farmers, support your farmers?
Autumn: I love that. Thank you so much for letting me be here. I wanted to say something about that the meat sticks. The reason I made them is because I learned about hydrogenated oils and veggie oils, and I found out that pretty much all meat sticks on the market are involved that. They take genetically modified corn and create citric acid, and then they coat it in hydrogenated oil, and then it melts into the stick. I was like, “That’s disgusting.” So, I never envisioned myself being a beef stick manufacturer. But when I found I really need high quality foods and I do not approve of the way that they’re being made now. Yeah, we make Paleovalley. So, you can find me at paleovalley.com. You can always email me at email@example.com. We also have a company called Wild Pastures. That’s just our solution to, we didn’t want these pasteurized regenerative meats to be an elitist thing. We think everyone deserves access to high-quality food that can really move the needle for the environment and their own personal health. I hate– These kinds of foods are more expensive than a twinkie. I think it is such a disservice and it’s such a travesty.
While pastures take these farmers, we connect with them who are doing things regeneratively and then we connect them with you and we deliver them to your door, and most importantly at wholesale prices. We keep them as low as possible and it’s very hard but that’s our mission. The last company you can find me as well, Pastures Burger company. We want to meet Americans where they are with fast food. So, it’s fast food but the fries are all cooked in tallow, which is actually traditional beef fat, and it’s all regeneratively raised beef and gluten free stuff, and we’re open in Boulder, and hope to be in other areas soon.
Cynthia: Well, please bring it to the East Coast. I feel like when I travel to Austin and Colorado and Utah, I find that there’s a much more open-minded methodology to food ingredients. I know Austin’s one of the few places I’ve ever traveled to where nearly every restaurant is proud to say, we cook in avocado oil, we cook in coconut oil or duck fat or what have you, whereas those here on the East Coast is still aligned with the seed oil methodology and I get it. It’s less expensive but at what cost? Would I pay $2 or $3 or $5 more for a meal and know that I’m avoiding those awful seed oils absolutely. Lastly, I just want to mention that for me, I wear a continuous glucose monitor and I know what my blood sugar levels are, they’re rock solid, stable. I focus on animal-based protein and non-starchy vegetables most days.
When I go to a restaurant, when I can control, if I’m having a steak and I’m having vegetables and maybe I’m having an appetizer, or dessert, or whatever it is consistently I ingest seed oils and sometimes, they’ll cook your steak in a seed oil, or they’re using these adulterated oils to finish off foods, it will spike my blood sugar. So, it’s been a pretty interesting/significant observation to make that, if most if not all of us were more aware of what these seed oils are doing to our bodies on a molecular granular level, I think more people would try to look for alternatives and would demand more for themselves. So, thank you for the amazing work that you’re doing. I’m so grateful to be connected and I look forward to having you back because I would actually like to learn more about regenerative agriculture and obviously, we like to support these efforts with our dollars and where intention goes. So, thank you so much for all that you do.
Autumn: Well, thank you for letting me be here. I love your work. I’m a big fan and I’m just happy that you gave me access to your audience. So, thank you so much.
Cynthia: Thank you.
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