I work full time and am a student, which means I generally don't have a ton of time on my hands. I've been dedicating a lot more time to cooking as I've made the switch to paleo, but I find that realistically I will probably eat out for lunch at least 3 times a week. I eat at chipotle a lot, but you can only eat so much of the same thing. other days I opt for a salad from the deli or pervuian roast chicken w/veggies (YUM), which I imagine must be conventionally raised. I wonder, am I doing myself a huge disfavor by eating this much conventional meat? what is a reasonable mix to aim for to make sure I am getting all (or most) of the benefits of eating paleo? how conscious of this do I really need to be? and, finally, has anyone gone from my mix of conventional and grass fed/free range to ALL grass fed/free range and noticed a marked difference?
I'm not totally convinced at this stage of the benefits of eating grass-fed beef and pasture-bred pork and poultry, also "organic eggs". I think the supposed benefits are limited to balancing your fatty acid imbalance (n6 vs. n3). I'm not too sure if true benefits accrue in terms of the hormones, additives, toxins, and other antibiotics avoided.
If you're unbalanced in your fatty acids, then, I believe you can supplement with fish oil. I think it's the plant oils that are guilty of causing this imbalance and, in the case of poultry, you'll still have that imbalance, whether pasture- or factory-bred. Also, I aggree with Kent Rieske that the supposed benefits of n-3 eggs are miniscule. He believes that the benefits of grass-fed and organic beef, eggs, and wild-caught fish are way overblown (Google him).
I occasionally eat buffalo and wild-caught kingfish but that's about it. I only take 1 tsp of fish oil to balance it out. My CRP has been around 0.3 for the last 2 years.
It's better than no meat at all, so as much as is necessary. You have to consider the vanishing omega-3's in commercial meats, so supplement fish oil. Also, you shouldn't regularly eat rare commercial meat, especially when ground-up, because of all the bacterial contamination from the feedlots and processing plants. You'll be eating some of the additives and food byproducts that the cattle were fed. That's not ideal, but it's probably better than replacing those calories with grains, rice, or soy.
If you work full time and are also a student of course you are very busy and broke! Don't get into the either/or mentality here. You are doing very well giving up grains, sugar, and industrial oils. Don't worry right now about grass fed beef. It is probably more important to figure out how to do more of your own food prep using conventional beef and backing out of the eating out for now. The eating out is the deal breaker...bad oils, etc. Get in several wild caught salmon meals, use coconut oil, supplement with Carlson's cod liver oil, spend the extra money on pastured eggs and butter, limit the chicken meals and your omega 6/3 balance ought to be good for now. Read Kurt Harris' 12 steps. And I say kudos to you to be making the changes you can make for now and not waiting for the perfect.
Good point Frank (assuming I read it correctly and you were hinting at the reason for eating grass fed and pastured animals outside of the supposed or real nutritional benefits). I like the idea of the animals I eat having had a somewhat happy life and hopefully a somewhat humane death. After watching Food, Inc. and seeing how CAFO animals are raised, kept and slaughtered, I have no issue spending the extra money for locally sourced and preferably grass fed and pastured meats. It just feels right to me.
I'll let other people comment on how much of a disservice you are doing by eating conventional meats, however I will say that I noticed a DEFINITE improvement on how I looked and felt after switching to making all of my own food. I'd say this is due to food quality, both grass-fed meats, etc. as well as using better cooking oils.
There are plenty of things you can make at home rather quickly and easily, and take with you to school/work. Mashed sweet potatoes and sardines are one of my favorite to-go lunches.