The Gateway Protein: Bacon?
I’ve long referred to fish as the ‘gateway protein’ for no other reason than that’s what it was for me, on my own food journey which included a two-year stint as a hard-core vegan. I’d begun dreaming about eating fish about six months in, but it wasn’t for eighteen more months that I actually began to partake. And it was fish. Slowly, over a long period of time, i incorporated eating only humanely-sourced proteins back into my regime, about three years prior to learning about Paleo, back in 2005. And I’ve had many people reach out who are battling with the same issue; following a vegan regime and feeling as though something’s missing, craving flesh protein but feeling it’s morally wrong. I get it. For me, it took a lot of time and consideration to find my balance and the Paleo regime is what’s been working for nearly a decade. I find with other clients, too, that eating wild fish seems to be more palatable as the first type of animal protein eaten when transitioning from a vegan approach. Subsequently, I began calling fish the ‘gateway protein’… you see where I’m going with this. Today, however, I saw the term used in in reference to a very different ‘protein’ (note the use of the quotes, intentionally): bacon. Oh, dear. I walked past the Grass Fed Burger Lounge across from my studio and saw an ad on the tables outside that said: “Bacon: The Gateway Meat. Can Bacon Awaken the most Ardent Vegetarian’s Carnivorous Desires?” So many things are wrong with this statement. First the confusion that bacon (and I’m not writing about pastured, uncured, nitrate-free bacon, because, unfortunately, that’s not what the masses are eating) is akin to ‘meat’. Yes, there is some protein in it, but most commercially sold bacon also contains a list of ingredients we’d be much better off avoiding. Next, the idea that a vegetarian would suddenly choose bacon of all all animal products, when a) the standards for treatment of pigs are among the lowest, if not at the very bottom, in terms of how they’re treated, aside from the small percentage of farmers and ranchers who raise them for their entire lives on pastures, eating food that is…food, rather than being fed a mixture of grains and antibiotics and b) if someone is vegetarian for ethical reasons, the likelihood of diving into bacon is next to nil. I will say, however, that it caught my attention. Here’s the deal. Bacon, if from a pastured pig and neither cured with copious amounts of salt nor preserved with nitrates and nitrites, can be a small part of a healthy approach now and then. But making the mistake of interchanging it for fresh, local fish or 100% grass-fed beef is like eating baked kale chips with ‘cashew cheese’ and counting it as a serving of a raw, kale salad with lemon and avocado. If we try to fool ourselves, it’s only our own body that takes the brunt of the joke.