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Month: January 2017

More Regulation is not the Answer

Posted in Food for Thought

Does the government know what’s best for you? Are government officials smarter than you? The answers to those questions should determine whether the government has the right to dictate what food you eat. The more regulations we place on the food industry, the harder it becomes for small producers to compete. Government regulation always favors the big guys, they’re the ones with the money.

Foster Farms Sold Contaminated Meat Under Inspection

March 2013, doctors along the west coast begin seeing patients with cases of food poisoning. For awhile they simply treat them, not thinking much about it. What they don’t realize is that one by one, an outbreak is forming. By June, PulseNet reports an unusual number of salmonella infections on the west coast, primarily California.1

In July another four reports of salmonella come in. Several strains show antibiotic resistance. An investigation reveals that 80% of patients reported eating chicken, 48 of which bought chicken produced by Foster Farms, a California based firm. Foster farms product is found in a patient’s home and tests positive for Salmonella Heidelberg.1

After investigating Foster Farms, the USDA sends a letter. It states that the positive samples coupled with the illnesses suggest that the sanitary conditions at the facility could pose a serious ongoing threat to public health. Foster Farms promises to increase food safety controls.2

Two days later, Consumer Reports announced that it had found a dangerous strain of salmonella in foster farms chicken it bought in July. Consumer Reports called on Foster Farms and the retail outlets that sell Foster Farms chicken to recall the contaminated chicken. No recall was made by foster farms. Kroger and Costco issue their own recalls. The outbreak now totals 338 individuals in 20 states.1

Despite Foster Farm’s promise to food safety, their plant in Livingston, CA is cited 154 times between October 2013 and March 2014. The plant is only closed once by the USDA due to  “an infestation of live cockroaches” and “egregious insanitary conditions.” 2

In early 2014 the outbreak was thought to be over, but in March, the CDC added another 51 persons to the list of infected individuals, bringing the total to 481 across 25 states.1 The numbers continue to rise, and the CDC announced in May that the outbreak was still ongoing. Foster farms replied that they we’re committed to “leadership in food safety”

Finally, on July 3, 2014 Foster Farms recalls an “undetermined amount” of chicken products produced between March 7 through March 13.1, 2 The announcement was made on the afternoon before a holiday weekend and fourteen months after the initial outbreak was detected.

On July 31, 2014, the CDC announced that the outbreak was over. A total of 634 people were infected across 29 states and Puerto Rico. 38% of the people affected had to be hospitalized.1 Luckily, no deaths were reported.

The Weakness in Government Regulation

The Foster Farms outbreak was not an isolated incident. Every year there are outbreaks linked to a food company or restaurant. The public has become used to it. They expect it. But should they?

Whenever a food recall takes place or some animal abuse is exposed, the public decides that the government should take care of it. We can’t be bothered. We have much more important things to worry about. Like what the Kardashians are up to. Let the government take care of industry problems. They should make those business behave themselves.

The government has only one real way to control business, regulation. They create regulations, then send out inspectors and other government agents to enforce these regulations. I agree that there is a need for some government regulation, but in many cases, we have too much. I agree, it’s important that we make sure companies do not dump dangerous chemicals and waste into the environment. Unfortunately, many regulations that work for big companies, do not work for small ones.

The reason for this is that many of the officials that run government agencies used to work for the large companies they regulate. This is necessary to a point. The government needs regulators who know the industry they are regulating. However, this can also harbor conflicts of interest. These regulators only know big business, they’ve never worked for a small company or a small farm. This leads to regulations written to serve the big business model. Little guys are never considered.

Many administrations clam to be for small business. That small business is the backbone of our country. But in reality, they don’t understand small business. How many government officials come from small businesses? Not many.

Food Inspection Saved the Big Meat Packers

Food inspection did not exist until the the meat packing industry began consolidating into huge processing plants. These huge processing plants were dirty and dangerous. The industry was exposed in Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle. He described the a long list of despicable practices: the slaughter of diseased animals, using borax or glycerine to remove the smell of spoiled meat, workers urinating and defecating on the kill floor and many others.

The public became outraged and took their business elsewhere. They went back to the small butcher shops processed animals in small batches which sold directly to the customer. Every customer could see how clean the butcher was. If he wasn’t, they could go someplace else. These butchers were customer inspected. No government inspection was necessary. This meant a huge decline in revenue for the big meat packers.

The official story is that Teddy Roosevelt stood up to the big meat packers and controlled them with government inspection. The meat packers fought back, but ultimately lost. Government inspection became law. The public bought in because they assumed that the government knew what they were doing.

But what would have happened if Roosevelt had decided to follow the constitution and do nothing? After all, the public was already implementing their own solution. The answer is that many of these meat packers would have gone out of business. The remainders would have come up with some sort of industry certification, much like Underwriters Laboratory. They may have even had to, wait for it, open up their meat packing plants so that the public could come and see how clean they were.

The Government does not have a good track record.

Expecting the government to fix everything that’s wrong with the world is not realistic. Imposing top down solutions is tricky business. They frequently fail. The projects, prohibition, the war on drugs. None of these top down solutions can be called successes.

The Teapot Dome scandal shows that people in positions of power can be bribed by large corporations to give them favorable treatment.

Watergate brought down the Nixon Administration.

Fen-Phen, touted as a diet miracle, was approved by the FDA then subsequently unapprooved when it was found to cause heart disease and high blood pressure. Oops.

Olestra was heralded as a new breakthrough to replace fat, calories, and cholesterol. The FDA approved olestra for use as a replacement for fats and oils, claiming that such use “meets the safety standard for food additives, reasonable certainty of no harm”. Olestra fell out of favor when it began  causing abdominal cramping and anal leakage. It is now mostly used as a base for deck stains and a lubricant for small power tools. However, Olestra is still available as a food additive in a certain “light” foods. Industrial chemicals, yum.

OSHA was created to ensure safe work environments, yet workers get hurt on a regular basis at meat packing plants.4

Federal inspection was created to clean up the meat processing industry and eliminate food borne illness. Yet foster farms was permitted to continue selling contaminated and adulterated meat for months.

These are just a few examples. The list could fill this entire article. These are symptoms of a bigger problem.

Business is Smarter than Government

The government is not good at regulating business. Businessmen are smarter than government workers. Any time a government agency forces some regulation on an industry, the businesses find a way around it.

They use their money to curry favors from the regulating agency. They change their operations slightly to take advantage of a loophole. Or if all else fails, they’ll move their operations to somewhere less restrictive.

The public likes to think that the government is there to keep big business in line. To break up monopolies. Just look at the breakup of standard oil. Rockefeller had a monopoly on the oil business. The government came in and broke up his monopoly. That showed him, right?

Not really. The breakup of Standard Oil made Rockefeller even richer. He still owned an equal percentage of all these new companies. Now that there were all separate, each one’s value increased, making Rockefeller the richest man in the world. Take that Rockefeller! All the way to the bank.

Government Regulation is not Consistent

Back when I was a vendor at the Ferguson Farmer’s Market, I had a conversation with another vendor who sold dog treats. She lamented the fact that Ferguson, being in the county of St Louis, could not allow dogs at the market. The county health department forbade it. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps dogs are filthy creatures who spread disease. More likely is that someone at the health department doesn’t like dogs. How do I know?

In the city of St Louis they have a separate health department, the City Health Department. As far as the City Health Department is concerned, dogs at farmer’s markets are fine. You could hold a dog show in front of the food booths, no problem. So what’s the deal? Are dogs dirty or not?

This is the kind of nonsense local farmers and small businesses have to deal with. Rules that don’t make sense. Inspectors who interpret them differently. One month everything is fine, the next month you’re in violation. Why? Everything is the same. Well, it could simply be that your inspector hasn’t been writing enough infractions lately. His boss mentioned it, so he writes you up to look like he’s doing his job. You didn’t do anything, his boss did.

What Can We do?

The first thing you should do is opt-out of the industrial system whenever possible. The more money that goes to local food producers, the more innovation we will see. I believe that customer inspected trumps government inspected. But what about customers who don’t want to inspect the farm they are buying from? Well, the internet has already come up with a solution to that.

Companies like eBay, Uber, and AirBNB have a rating system for their users. You as a customer don’t know the person you’re buying or renting from. You’ve never met them before. How can you possibly know if someone 500 miles away is trustworthy? Will they take your money and run?

That’s where the rating system comes in. It says they have 4.5 stars. Sounds good. If they had one star, you probably wouldn’t buy from them. This system works, but not thanks to the government. These systems are self-imposed. They we’re innovations born out of necessity. Born out of small companies, on an internet with no regulations. Imagine if the founders of google had to build a million dollar server farm before they could release their product? We’d probably still be using Alta-Vista.

The assumption that farmers might be dirty, assumes that bureaucrats are never dirty. Do you seriously believe that all bureaucrats are honest? That is simply ridiculous. Just ask any republican whether the Clintons are honest. Ask any democrat whether the Bush’s are honest. Clearly bureaucrats are not clean.

Yet we assume that these same bureaucrats will have our best interests in mind when it comes to our food. Even when big industry shows up with their campaign contributions and lavish steak dinners. They’re still honest right? I don’t want to think about it. What’s on TV?

References

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/
  2. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jonathan-kaplan/disclosed-usda-documents-show-fecal-failures-and-other-recent-violations
  3. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/10/consumer-reports-finds-dangerous-strain-of-salmonella-in-a-sample-of-foster-farms-chicken/index.htm
  4. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, 2012

Everything is Corn

Posted in Food for Thought

Corn is an amazing plant. It has managed to insert itself in nearly every facet of modern daily life. It dominates the food pyramid from top to bottom. Many breads contain corn syrup, added gluten, corn starch, etc. all of these ingredients can be derived from corn. Breakfast cereals frequently contain corn syrup, corn flour, corn starch, maltodextrin, and many other corn products.

If you shop at the grocery store, corn is in nearly every product. Even if you don’t recognize it on the label. Many of those esoteric ingredients you find on a label can be derived from corn. Maltodextrin, lecithin, MSG, Artificial flavorings, just to name a few. Did you think citric acid came from oranges? Chances are it came from corn.

Corn feeds nearly every type of livestock. Beef, chickens, pigs, turkey, tilapia, and even salmon, a carnivore, eat corn. Eggs are made of corn. Milk is made of corn. Soda is made with corn syrup. Beer is fermented with glucose, derived from corn. Chicken nuggets are made from chicken that’s made of corn, covered in corn flour, and fried in corn oil. That cheap honey you bought may be more corn than bee.

Even if you’re not buying food, you’re probably still buying corn. Namely corn starch. Many glues are made with corn starch. Corn starch baby powder is becoming more popular with the revelation that talcum powder may cause cancer. Batteries, matches, cleaners, cosmetics, deodorant, aspirin, cough drops, and medicines. These all contain corn starch. Even trash bags may use cornstarch to keep the bags from sticking together.

Corn oil is used to make plastics. It is also used to make fuel to run our cars. Corn ethanol is touted as a green alternative to gasoline. Yet it is made in a process that is far from green. And it may even be harmful to your car’s engine. Not all vehicles are designed to run on ethanol.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, 88% of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified.1 Unless you are buying an organic product, then chances are the corn it contains in genetically modified.

You may wonder, “Isn’t this a good thing? Isn’t more corn good a good thing?” Well it’s certainly for the economy and for the food companies. They profit off this cheap corn. It may even be a good thing for corn growers. At least the farmers who are big enough to not require a day job to pay the bills.

Processed Corn Products are Dangerous

High Fructose Corn Syrup. Surely you’ve heard of it. It is one of the most prolific of the corn products behind only corn starch. Unlike glucose, fructose has to be metabolized by the liver before it can be used.2 Overconsumption of HFCS can lead to liver damage similar to what you would find in an alcoholic.3

MSG is primarily made from soy or corn, but can be made from many other grains. Is associated with cancer, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.4 

Citric Acid is produced by the fermentation of crude sugars. Corn usually provides the cheapest source of sugar. During processing, protein left in the citric acid becomes hydrolyzed, producing some processed free glutamic acid (MSG). citric acid may interact with any protein in the food product, freeing up even more glutamic acid.5

Vegetable Oil is made from corn, soy, cottonseed, or canola. They are refined in a highly industrial process. Solvents are used to extract the maximum amount of oil from the grain. Processing may include degumming, bleaching, deodorizing, filtering and removing saturates to make the oils more liquid. All this processing removes nutrients and antioxidants, but not the solvents and pesticides.6

Shortening and Margarine are made by subjecting vegetable oil to a process called partial hydrogenation. The oil is mixed with a nickel catalyst then flooded with hydrogen gas under high temperature and pressure. This is the process that creates trans fatty acids. As you may know, trans fats have been linked to many diseases such as: cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.7

Growing Corn doesn’t Pay (much)

Growing corn can’t be all bad. Otherwise there would be no one growing it. It’s pretty obvious that farmers aren’t doing it for the money. Their mission is to help feed the world. There aren’t many corn farmers getting rich off growing corn. The problem is the price, Which farmers have no control over.

The price of corn in Iowa in September 2016 was $2.90 a bushel.8 According to Iowa State University, the average cost to grow a bushel of corn is between $4.00 and $4.75.9 That’s still a deficit of over a dollar per bushel even on the low side. This is where corn subsidies come in. The government sends a check to corn farmers to keep them from going out of business. Despite this extra money, many farmers are still only breaking even. They have to take day jobs to pay the bills.

Corn is grown in giant monocultures. Hybridization and genetic modification have created high yield varieties. High yield does not mean more corn per plant. Instead, it means you can plant the corn closer together to get more plants per acre. Farmers can now squeeze 30,000 plants into one acre.10 Squeezing so many identical plants into each acre can lead to disease and pest problems.

In 1970 and 1971 corn fields were attacked by a fungal disease named “race T”. it caused the southern corn leaf blight which ravaged fields and left withered plants, broken stalks, and rotted or misshapen corn cobs. Race T was able to spread so rapidly due to the uniformity of the corn plants. Every single plant in a field was derived from the same source. Mostly from a single Texas male sterile line. The genetic makeup of this new hybrid corn which was responsible for its rapid growth was also responsible for its vulnerability to disease.11

The Federal Crop Insurance Program offers insurance against such disasters. However, depending on how much a farmer is willing to spend on premiums, the insurance may not cover a total loss.

Everything is Fertilizer

If everything is corn, then by extension, everything is fertilizer. Most of the corn grown in the world is grown using chemical fertilizers. Corn is a very greedy plant, It uses more fertilizer than any other crop grown on earth. And to make matters worse, most farmers over-fertilize their fields as a sort of yield insurance.

Some of this excess ammonia evaporates into the air, acidifying the rain and contributing to global warming when it turns from ammonium nitrate to nitrous oxide. Still more pollutes ground water when it seeps down with rainwater. This is a natural process, what’s not natural is the chemicals.

Most of the extra fertilizer washed off the fields by rain and ends up in the nearest river. Des Moines, Iowa issues “blue baby alerts” each spring. Citizens are warned not to give tap water to children. From there it flows down the Mississippi river to the Gulf of Mexico. The flood of nitrogen stimulates an algae bloom which uses up the oxygen and smothers the fish. This has resulted in a dead zone the size of New Jersey. 10

The commercial chemical fertilizer typically used in corn farming is a type of NPK fertilizer mix. The N stand for nitrogen, the P stands for phosphate, and the K stands for potassium. These minerals require extensive mining and industrial processing to refine.

How Fertilizer is Made

Nitrogen fertilizers are made from ammonia. Ammonia is made by Combining nitrogen and hydrogen gases under immense heat and pressure in the presence of a catalyst. The hydrogen is usually supplied by natural gas, the nitrogen is supplied by the air. This process requires a lot of electricity.

Phosphate fertilizer requires mining various phosphate rock. Two processes are used: Wet and Dry. In the wet process, the rock is crushed and treated with sulfuric or nitric acid to produce phosphoric acid. In the dry process, phosphate rock is heated in an electric furnace to produce a very pure phosphoric acid. This method is more expensive due to the high electricity usage.

Potassium consists of one or more types of potash. Potash ores are often located deep below the earth’s surface requiring the use of conventional shaft mining. The ore is then ground up and put through several purification steps to remove salt.

The largest component of NPK fertilizer is nitrogen, and there’s good reason for that. All life on earth depends of nitrogen. Nature uses nitrogen to assemble amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, etc. the nitrogen used in commercial fertilizer comes from a fossil fuel. We’ve gone from turning sunlight into food, to turning fossil fuel into food.

1 bushel of corn takes up to ⅓ gallon of oil to grow. That’s about 50 gallons an acre. It takes over 1 calorie of fossil fuel energy to grow 1 calorie of corn. It would be much more efficient if we could drink the oil directly.10

It’s cheaper to grow corn this way economically, but not ecologically. But growing the corn is not the only wasteful step in food production. Now we have to process the corn.

Processing Corn is Wasteful

It takes 5 gallons of water to process 1 bushel of corn. This process consumes a lot of energy. 1 calorie of processed food takes 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce.10 The remaining 9 calories are waste. Luckily for these companies, energy is so cheap that they can afford to waste that much energy and still make a profit.

The number one reason corn syrup is cheaper than sugar is because corn is extremely cheap. Corn is so cheap because it is grown with cheap fertilizer, transported using cheap fuel, and processed using cheap electricity.

One 16 ounce box of cereal provides 1,100,000 calories of food energy, but takes 7,000,000 calories of energy to produce.11 That box of cereal contains about 4 cents worth of grain, but it’s sold for around $4.00 a box.10 How’s that for a profit margin? Who cares how much energy we waste? The money is rolling in.

It’s Time to Change Our Buying Habits

Don’t like all the negative? Here’s how to change your dependence on corn and soy. First, you need to ask yourself a few questions. Does your food heal the land, or pillage it? Does your food require fertilizers mined from mountains and oceans, then transported thousands of miles to the land it grows on? How much energy does it take to produce your food? Is it less than the energy is provides?

The easiest way to change this is to cook more food yourself using whole and raw ingredients. Organic farming requires less fossil fuel energy to grow since they do not use man made chemical fertilizer. It also eliminates much of the pollution inherent in conventional farming. The only major pollution cost is transportation. Buying locally grown food will reduce that even further. So visit your local farmer’s market. Seek out local farms. You’ll be glad you did.

 

References

  1. phys.org/news/2013-06-gmo-corn-soybeans-dominate.html
  2. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, November 2002 Vol. 76, No. 5, 911-922.
  3. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/modern-foods/sugar-alert-references/
  4. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/msg-update-summer-2007/
  5. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-difficulty-in-keeping-msg-free/
  6. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry/
  7. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/trans-fats-in-the-food-supply/
  8. www.iowaagriculture.gov/agMarketing/historic/2016GrainPrices.asp
  9. www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/pdf/a1-20.pdf
  10. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2006
  11. Soil Not Oil, Vandana Shiva, 2015

What is Elitist?

Posted in Food for Thought

One of the biggest criticisms of local and organic food is that it’s too expensive. That it’s only for elites who have a lot of money. And it’s true that local and organic food is more expensive. But that’s not because this food has increased in price. Conventional food has gone down in price.

1950 Prices vs 2010 Prices

In the 60 years after 1950 the dollar went down in value 850%. This is called inflation. The average income went up by 1200%. That means that a person making $40,000 in 2010 could support 12 families in 1950. The $2.75 your spent on one gallon of gas in 2010 could have filled your tank in 1950. You could have sent 14 letters in 1950 using only one 2010 postage stamp. That’s a 1,400% increase.3

The one sector that did not go up significantly was food. Staple items such as milk, eggs, hamburger, chicken, steak, etc went up by only 300% – 400%. Instead of getting a cart full of milk, you only get an extra two gallons. The same for eggs. You only get 3 dozen eggs for the price of one dozen in 2010.3

When I adjust the 1950s prices for inflation, you’ll see that something’s not right. Eggs were $.60 a dozen in 1950, adjusted for inflation they should be $5.00 a dozen. Instead, they’re $1.50 a dozen. Milk was $.82 a gallon, it should be $6.85 a gallon. Chicken was $.43 a pound then, it should be $3.60 a pound now. All of these staple items should cost 2-3 times as much as they do.3

This price discrepancy only pertains to basic food items such as: meats, eggs, milk, etc. You know, the type of stuff you would buy from a local farmer. Processed foods, however, they’re more expensive than ever. Their prices increased by 1,300% or more. While at the same time, the amount of money the farmers make off this food went down.3

Bread was $.15 in 1950, inflation says is should only cost $1.25. Instead is costs $2.00 or more. Soda cost $.07 in 1950. It should only cost $.58. Instead it costs about $.75.3

My question to you is, why? Why is processed food MORE expensive when the basic ingredients are LESS expensive? Wheat is cheaper than it’s ever been in history, yet bread is more expensive than it’s ever been. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup is cheaper, but soda is more expensive. This means higher profits for the food companies. Not for the farmers.

The money being made in the food industry is being made in processing. A bushel of corn yields about 33lbs of High Fructose Corn Syrup. That 33 lbs sells for about $13. Sounds cheap, right? Well the bushel of corn cost only $3.00.2 That’s means that the processing company is selling the corn syrup for over four times what they paid for the corn. Not that they’re making a ton of money. It’s very energy intensive to process corn syrup.

You Spend How Much?

Isn’t it elitist to pay $100 a month for television, another $100+ for cell phones, and at least $50 for internet? That’s $250 a month for things that no one had 50 years ago. They did just fine without them. This is all a form of elitism. There are well over a billion people that don’t have these luxuries. In fact, there are many parts of the would that do not even have electricity.

“But my son needs his cell phone. How will I know where he is if I can’t call him?” says every parent nowadays. You don’t want them to get kidnapped or worse.

But what about kids in the 70s, 80s or 90s? What did they do? Did they all get kidnapped or lost? No, they were responsible enough to figure it out. They knew when and where to meet their parents. And if they didn’t, they found a phone and called their parents. They knew to be home by dark. Not because they’re parents called them, but because they remembered on their own. It seems to me, kids in the 70s were more responsible than kids are now.

Having a cell phone means that your kids don’t have to worry about remembering where to meet or when. They’ll just call mommy. Or better yet, mommy will track them down using the GPS.

Every time I visit a relative with teenagers, I hear about how one of the kids stayed out late and didn’t call. Sometimes they don’t even answer their phone. What could be easier than pulling you phone out of your pocket and calling mom? Kids in as late as the 90s didn’t have that luxury. They had to go in search of a phone.

Having that constraint meant that kids had to think ahead. They had to plan. How often do you ask yourself, “What were those kids thinking?”. Answer: they weren’t. They don’t have to think ahead. They can get a hold of mom and dad anytime they want. That breeds a sort of laziness. Being lazy is a luxury that only elite countries can afford.

Luxury is Elitist

I would argue that being overweight is elitist. Being overweight is a luxury that many millions of people around the world do not have. Children in many parts of the world are starving. They would do anything to fill their stomachs. Meanwhile Americans complain if the price of milk or eggs go up by 10 cents. That’s elitist.

Likewise, being lazy is a luxury. If you’re a poor farmer in a developing country, being lazy means you don’t eat. If you’re lazy in the United States, you can always get food stamps. “But isn’t that a good thing?” you may ask. I don’t think so. The US has the highest rates of obesity and obesity related conditions than any other country. Why? Because we eat more cheap processed food than any other country.

I call this food cheap because it is. If a food company made it’s processed food with pasture raised meats and sustainably grown grains and produce, it would cost twice as much. Ezekial bread costs $5.00 a loaf, not because they’re selling to elites, but because that’s what it costs to source decent ingredients.

Don’t Blame the Farmers

Every time someone complains about the cost of local food, they want to blame the farmers. Why is it always the farmer’s fault? We can’t help it that big food companies have developed a system where they can grow food cheaper using abusive practices, cheap fertilizer, and underpaid farmers and food workers.

Why is no one upset with the food companies who make billions off the food you eat? Conventional farmers make pennies compared to what these companies make. Yet somehow these companies have managed to shift the blame away from themselves and onto the farmers.

Most of the shoppers at a farmer’s market would be offended if a farmer showed up driving a BMW. Meanwhile, they’re perfectly happy that they’re doctor, lawyer, or accountant drives a BMW. Why the double standard? Isn’t the farmer who grows the food you eat just as important as your doctor? I’d argue he’s more important. You eat his food everyday, you only see your doctor a few times a year.

You can argue that it’s not fair that poor people are stuck eating cheap unhealthy food while people with money can afford healthy food. I agree, it’s not fair. But again, that’s not our fault. It’s not our fault that the food industry has built a system based on food that’s unhealthy. It’s not our fault that the government subsidies this system.

Efficient isn’t Always Better

Local food is not made artificially cheap by government subsidies and cheap fossil fuels. Sustainable farms cannot benefit from economies of scale. At least not the way conventional farming does. Economy of scale dictates that you raise animals in abusive conditions. That you grow massive amounts of one crop using fertilizers that pollute the environment. That you pay your farmers very little.

Sustainable farming is inefficient compared to conventional farming. One conventional farmer can grow 100,000+ chickens at a time. A sustainable farmer cannot even come close to that. Maybe 2,000 pastured chickens at a time. Sustainable farming requires more labor per animal. But is that a bad thing?

To some people, it is. They claim that we can’t feed the world unless farmers can grow thousands of bushels of corn by themselves. Efficiency is the only consideration. There’s no consideration for pollution, erosion, or the fact that if we run out of cheap energy, this system collapses. Nope, only efficiency.

Our culture is obsessed with efficiency. High efficiency appliances, fuel efficient cars, computers have made office work more efficient. But efficiency isn’t always a good thing. Factories become more efficient, then lay off workers. Farms have become more efficient, at the expense of the animals and the environment. 20,000 birds in one house is very efficient, but it’s not very humane. 30,000 corn plants to an acre is efficient. But it requires so much fertilizer that runoff creates a dead zone in the gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey.1

So the next time you’re comparing prices between local food and supermarket fare, remember. We’re charging what the food actually costs. That’s not elitist. Elitist is the attitude that we should get our food cheap at the expense of the farmers, the environment, and our own health. Does your food heal, or destroy?

 

  1. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2006
  2. www.iowaagriculture.gov/agMarketing/historic/2016GrainPrices.asp
  3. http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1950s.html

Don’t Throw Out the Yolks!

Posted in Food for Thought

No Yolks, egg beaters, yolk free omelettes. These products are touted as a health revolution. Finally we’re free from those blasted yolks. So what’s wrong with yolk? Well, nothing really, but they contain Cholesterol and Saturated Fat. Two of the most vilified substances in food.

For years we’ve been told not to eat eggs. They can lead to heart disease, we’re told. The advice worked. Americans now eat approximately 41 fewer eggs per year than a century ago. According to Mary Enig PhD, American’s consumption of saturated fat has decreased by 21% over the course of the 21th century.

What hasn’t changed is the rates of stroke and heart disease. They have not gone down. At best they have merely remained the same. How can this be?

It’s very simple. The advice is wrong.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol are not Your Enemy

Saturated fats play many important roles in the body. The lungs and kidneys cannot work without saturated fat. Saturated fats provide integrity to the cell walls, promote the use of essential fatty acids, enhance the immune system, protect the liver, and contribute to strong bones.

Our bodies need saturated fat. If we don’t have enough, our body will make it out of carbohydrates and excess protein. Breast milk contains saturated fat. Over half the fat in the brain is saturated fat. Humans have been consuming saturated fats for thousands of years. Heart disease, obesity, stroke, and diabetes are recent epidemics. A century ago they were rare, now they are commonplace.

Naturally occurring cholesterol contributes to the strength of the intestinal wall. Cholesterol helps babies and children develop a healthy brain and nervous system. Food that contains cholesterol also contain many other important nutrients. Only oxidized cholesterol, found in most powdered eggs and milk, contributes to heart disease.

Eggs are a Complete Food

Eggs are nature’s perfect food. Mankind has been eating eggs for millennia. An egg contains all the nutrients needed to grow a chick from embryo to a two day old chick. Egg yolks provide an excellent source of protein. They contain the gamut of vitamins and essential fatty acids that contribute to the health of the brain and nervous system. It’s no wonder that asian cultures value eggs as a brain food.

Most of these vitamins and nutrients are in the yolk. Egg yolks are the most concentrated source known of choline, a B vitamin, that is necessary for keeping cholesterol moving in the bloodstream.

Pastured Eggs are the Best Eggs

The eggs you buy in the supermarket are not the same as the ones you buy at the farmer’s market. It doesn’t matter how many certifications they have or how big they print “Free Range.” Even the organic eggs are raised in the same type of barns as the cheap eggs. Sure, some of them get to run free inside the barn, and they may even have access to outside. Hence the term free range. But having access to a small dirt yard does not make a healthy egg.

Pastured eggs are laid by hens out on pasture. They get to eat fresh grass and live bugs every day. This is how chickens are supposed to live. Not forced to walk across a floor layered in weeks old poop to get to their feed and water.

Properly produced eggs are rich in virtually every nutrient we’ve ever discovered. And many we haven’t yet discovered. Pastured eggs have both Omega-3 and Omega-6 in nearly equal proportions. CAFO eggs have as much as 19 times as much Omega-6 than Omega-3. Many other nutrients necessary for the development of brain are found in pastured eggs but are almost wholly absent in CAFO eggs.

Another problem with commercial organic eggs is freshness. The sell by date on organic eggs is based on the packing date, not the date they were laid. This means that organic eggs could be up to a month older than regular eggs. Certification is no guarantee of quality. If you don’t know where your eggs come from, then you don’t know if they’re any good.

Don’t Eat Powdered Eggs

Powdered eggs contain oxidized cholesterol. Dr. Fred Kummerow said in a new York Times interview: “Cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, except if it’s oxidized.” Oxidation happens in the drying process. In order to dry the eggs they must be exposed to air.

Powdered eggs come from industrial cracked eggs. These eggs can’t be sold in cartons so they are separated and sent to a grinder, shells and all. These shells may have manure or chlorine on them. The eggs get pushed through a screen to separate the egg from the shell. They are then dried to make powdered eggs.