I have a huge appetite and I can't really afford grass fed meat, plus my rent. I buy chicken mostly, rarely red meat...and the chicken I buy says that it has no added hormones and is "minimally processed". I don't like the sound of that, but if I want to buy organic or free range, I won't be able to afford other necessities. How important is this? Does non-grass-fed meat totally ruin the rest of the diet?
You could just eat less meat and fill up on other cheaper paleo staples. Pototoes, eggs, rice, fruit, etc etc. There's no nessecity for a high meat diet.
If you can't afford grass-fed, eat the leaner cuts of ruminants (beef, lamb, goats). A lot of the health problems associated with grain fed meats are associated with the fats. Also get protein from wild caught fish and eggs. Canned salmon is virtually always wild (farmed salmon looses texture when canned) and a fantastic bargain.
Added: Something else to consider - Can you really not afford grass fed? (no problem if the answer is yes, it is for many people) OR is it that you are spending money on other things that could be spent on grass fed meat? Are your purchases in line with your true priorities? The classic example of this is the $4 morning coffee shop beverage. That $4 will buy 2/3 of a lb of pastured local ground beef or a dozen pastured eggs at my farmers market. That's a nice chunk of high quality protein.
You could save up as much as you can, and once you can afford a deep freezer, purchase a split-half or an eight. I see 1/8ths go for something like $300-$350. You might be even able to get them for less if you find a farmer nearby.
i can't always afford grass fed... but i ALWAYS check the sale flyers cause sometimes you can get grass fed beef for 3.99/lb. also last minute sales on grass-fed items that you may cook right away or freeze can be found.
from my understanding if you can't afford grass fed is; buy lean cuts of meat, and if you do large roasts in the crock pot separate out the fat as a lot of the "toxins" are found in the fat.
also be thrifty in your cooking- last week Sprouts Market had organic free range turkeys on sale for .79/lb. that is so much meat, and so many bones to make broth with. i actually spend less money since eating paleo, so i often am ok to "splurge" on grass-fed items. my last option would be eat less meat, but make it quality meat, and increase my fat intake.
Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good enough.
Also, I work with a group that does a cow pool. Many of the cuts the group doesn't use, especially the bigger cuts and the offal. In addition to my share of the cuts. I buy the unwanted cuts from the group at a dollar per lbs. So I get it dirt cheap, just have to do more work than if I had all Rib Eyes.
Just make sure the red meat you do buy has NO ANTIBIOTICS/HORMONES or anythings else unnatural. Animals (including you) store toxins in their fat. That's why it's very important to get quality red meat or you will ingest the same unhealthy toxins that the cow did.
As far as chicken, the fat is high in omega 6 so you want to be careful, however, by supplementing with a quality Omega 3 you should get you the same benefits while still avoiding the unwanted toxins in the fat.
Trader Joe's has great prices on frozen chicken and FISH. I love buying frozen cod from them. I can get 2-3 single servings for $4!
Have a read of this post by Chris Kresser:
Here is a passage from the article
The fat of ruminants comprises approximately equal parts of saturated and monounsaturated fat, with only a small amount of polyunsaturated fat. (11) The unique ruminant digestive system ensures that these proportions stay relatively constant, regardless of what the animal eats. This makes red meat a better choice than pork or poultry for those that cannot afford pasture-raised meat, because you will still be getting mostly saturated and monounsaturated fats.
Basically, regardless of what the cow eats, only a small portion of the fat content will be polyunsaturated. So, beef is pretty safe to buy in the conventionally (grain fed) state. I would however go for antibiotic and hormone free. That being said, if you can't get past the idea of the omega 6 content, regardless of how small it may be, just go for the leaner cuts of conventional beef to grill up, and use the fattier/cheaper grass fed cuts for the slow cooker.
All that being said, conventionally raised red meat seems to be better than poultry or pork.
Hope it helps!