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A Vegetarian Diet is not Cruelty Free

Posted in Food for Thought

Many people have chosen to become vegetarian or vegan because they think that being so will save animal lives. What they fail to understand is that nature is a constant cycle of birth and death. If humans don’t kill a certain animal, something else will. It’s always been this way and we’re not going to change that no matter how many protests have or cute Disney movies we make.

Growing Fruits & Vegetables Requires Killing as many as 100 Animals per Acre

There’s a lot of little critters in one acre of land. There’s mice, rabbits, moles, gophers, birds, deer, and more. If you think suburban sprawl is disruptive to wildlife, then you’ve never been in a cornfield. When a farmer decides to clear cut an acre of forest or till up an acre of pasture, he’s disturbing and displacing the animals that heretofore called that land home. The bigger the farm, the more acres are disturbed.

Most of the fruit and vegetables a vegetarian eats, comes from mega farms. These farms raise the vegetables in giant monocultures, where only one type of plant is grown on tens or hundreds of acres. Everyone is familiar with the sight of a cornfield, where hundreds of acres are planted with nothing but corn as far as the eye can see.

When you think of your everyday vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, or celery. You think of a nice little garden where tomatoes are growing next to carrots, next to lettuce, next to potatoes, etc. This is not the case. The lettuce you bought at the supermarket was grown next to acres and acres of the exact same lettuce.

When farmers grow crops in monocultures like this. It invites pests. This is why farmers have to use pesticides. When you have a bug or animal that likes squash plants, it will thrive in a field full of squash plants. Deer love vegetables like corn or lettuce, that makes them a pest. Pests must be eliminated.

A farmer growing vegetables has to rid every acre of pests including mice, rabbits, deer, moles, raccoons, the list goes on.[1] These animals are trapped, poisoned, shot, or eliminated by whatever means necessary. All this death is a waste. The animals are disposed of like so much trash, or left out for the vultures to eat. Many herbicides warn to stay out of the field for at least three days. That’s some toxic stuff. But what about the wild animals? They can’t read.

Organic Still has Pests

Organic farms are no exception when it comes to pests. Of course, being organic they don’t spray conventional pesticides. They have their own organic certified biodegradable poisons. These sprays still kill insects indiscriminately. They kill the good bug along with the bad ones. Oops.

Being organic means they do not use conventional poisons. Except for self contained bait traps for pests. Those can contain whatever kind of poison they want as long as no poison comes in contact with any plants or soil. A dead pest is a good pest, right?

I’m sure there are farms who are committed to trapping and relocating pests. However, this is more expensive and not as effective as killing the animals. They may come back. And even if they don’t, now they’re just someone else’s problem. And that person may have no reservations on killing these new pests.

Raising Animals on Pasture doesn’t Require Killing Hundreds of Animals

When a farmer raises animals on pasture, they do not need to dramatically disturb the natural ecosystem. In fact, proper pasture raising is right in line with nature. It follows the example that nature has set out for us.

Pasture based farms are not tilling up the soil. Tilling interrupts the balance of natural bacteria, fungus, and other critters. Critters that are necessary for making the soil fertile. They’re not blocking off hundreds of acres that would normally have mice, rabbits, moles, etc. living on it.

A pasture based farm doesn’t worry about mice, rabbits, or moles disturbing the livestock. They can coexist just fine. All they ask is that the critters don’t get into the feed bins. It’s not unusual to see deer eating grass next to the cows. That’s fine, they’re happy to share. Deer aren’t the enemy when you’re raising meat.

A Vegetarian Earth is not Sustainable.

If everyone on earth stopped eating meat, there would be a huge shift in agriculture. Not all ranch land can be converted to cropland. Arid climates can sustain pasture, but crops require more water. Irrigation is expensive and not sustainable in these climates. The Colorado river is nearly dry, thanks in part to agriculture.

Livestock populations would plummet. With no viable income streams, most ranchers would get out of the business. The only livestock remaining would be in zoos and nature preserves. Organic farming would suffer as a result. The majority of organic fertilizer is manure. Without livestock to produce this manure, the only fertilizer left is going to be expensive or synthetic. But of course, synthetic is not allowed in organic. At least not yet.

The increase in man made fertilizer will lead to even more agricultural run off. We already have a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey  Runoff from farms in the Midwest flow into the Mississippi river and dump out into the gulf. This has depleted oxygen and caused algal blooms.[2, 3] This renders the water inhospitable, killing millions of fish.

The marginal increase in cropland would not sustain the developed countries. We would have to import more food to make up for the loss of meat. More food would have to travel further to get to the consumer.

Don’t let the bleeding hearts guilt you into giving up meat. Meat, properly raised, is very humane. Seek out local farms who raise their animals on pasture. Who treat them like the animal they are. Not some cog in a giant industrial machine, able to be manipulated like some raw material. Pasture raised meat is more humane than vegetarianism. Period.

 

References

  1. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/twenty-two-reasons-not-to-go-vegetarian
  2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2016
  3. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20110804_deadzone.html

Processed Food

Posted in Food for Thought

Processed foods are everywhere. Supermarkets are full of them. It’s true that humans have always processed food through cooking, fermenting, drying, etc. However, that processing is minimal when compared to industrial processing.

In the grand scheme of things, industrially processed foods are new. They’ve only been around for little over 100 hundred years. Most of the chemical additives, preservatives, and flavors are less than 50 years old. Mankind is participating in a mass experiment. An experiment to see whether eating chemical food is really safe. Not whether it is safe short term, but whether it’s safe long term.

Humans have been eating minimally processed foods for thousands of years. You may believe that we were designed this way or evolved to this, but either way, the message is the same. Humans are not meant to eat highly processed foods. Our ancestors never ate MSG, refined vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, or large amounts of refined carbohydrates. Nowadays, up to 5,000 additives find their way into our food.[3]

What do Common Diets Have in Common?

There are many popular diets floating around. Most of them are fad diets that don’t live up to their claims. However, there are three popular diets that have stuck around. Because they do get results. The strange thing is, they couldn’t be more different.

The Paleo Diet, also called the caveman diet. It recommends only foods that would have been available during the paleolithic era: all animal foods, including fat and dairy, eggs, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and low-glycemic fruits.

The Mediterranean Diet calls for less meat and emphasizes everything plant based: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lots of olive oil. Dairy, fish and poultry are limited to moderate amounts while red meat is only allowed sparingly.  

Whole Food, Plant Based, also known as vegan. On this diet you’re allowed lots of unprocessed starches from potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and some vegetables and fruit. Very little fat is allowed, even from plants.

So how could all three of these diets possibly claim similar success? One is high in animal fat, one is high in plant based fat, while the last is low in all fat. These diets are as different as apples, oranges, and hot dogs. But they do have one thing in common. They all shun heavily processed food. Refined flour, refined sugar, industrially processed vegetable oils, lab-produced additives and preservatives. Pretty much anything you buy at a fast food restaurant or prepackaged supermarket junk food.

So it seems to me that the removal of animal products isn’t the answer. It’s removing highly processed ingredients from your diets. You won’t find that in a box on the supermarket shelf. These foods are full of additives and components that maximize shelf life. The longer the expiration date, the more profitable. Real food goes bad. Milk sours, meat spoils, vegetables wilt. Processed food is designed to not perish. Consider this, if a food has a shelf life longer than you, maybe you shouldn’t eat it.

What do Highly Processed Foods do to Us?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is comprised of around 78% processed glutamic acid and 22% sodium with moisture. While natural glutamic acid is used in the biosynthesis of proteins, the processed free glutamic acid causes people to suffer adverse reactions. MSG is associated with cancer, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.[4]

MSG is a money maker for the food industry. Eating it forces the release of insulin even with no carbohydrates present. This flood of insulin causes the person’s blood sugar to drop, making them feel hungry as quickly as an hour later.[9] Chinese food anyone? This insulin flood is also responsible for weight gain. Insulin is a fat producing hormone. The primary way it removes sugar from the blood is by storing it as fat.

Avoiding MSG can be tricky. Even foods marketed as having “no added MSG” can contain high amounts of free glutamate. MSG is camouflaged under many different names. Ingredients such as: flavors, natural flavors, maltodextrin, citric acid, gelatin, enzymes, and more, may contain MSG.[9]

In his book, A Life Unburdened: Getting Over Weight and Getting on with My Life, Richard Morris describes how eliminating all processed foods containing MSG allowed him to finally lose the weight he had been fighting to lose.

Vegetable oil as a product is a bit misleading. Vegetable oil is not made from vegetables. It’s made from seeds. Mostly soybeans or corn, but also rapeseed(canola), cottonseed, peanut, sunflower, grapeseed, etc. Crude vegetable oil is dark, sticky and smelly. It has to go through a heavy refining process to produce a clean-looking and smelling oil. Degumming, bleaching, deodorizing, filtering, and removing saturates. Many processors add hexane to squeeze every last drop of oil from the seeds. In the process, antioxidants and nutrients disappear, but much of the pesticides remain.[1]

The rise in vegetable oil consumption occurred as americans decreased our consumption of saturated fats. In 1909, 82% of the fat we ate came from animals. 100 years later, only 44% of our total fat intake came from animals, while 66% came from processed vegetable oils.[3] Much of this oil has been partially hydrogenated, creating trans fat.

We’ve been eating saturated fats from animals and tropical oils for thousands of years. Our bodies know what to do with them. When presented with trans fat, our bodies can’t tell the difference. These trans fats get used to build cell membranes.[2]  The more trans fats we eat, the more synthetic our bodies become. Because of the chemical substitution, reactions that should happen can’t happen. Enzymes and receptors no longer work properly..

The dangers don’t stop there. Even non-hydrogenated oils can be dangerous, especially in fast food. Restaurants typically cook at high temperatures, these temperatures cause polyunsaturated oils to oxidize. Turning linoleic acid into a toxic aldehyde called 4-hydroxynonenal that seeps into the food being fried.[3, 10] This toxic aldehyde interferes with DNA. Another aldehyde byproduct is formaldehyde. You know, the stuff morticians use to embalm dead people.[2, 3]

You’ll find vegetable oils in many products in the supermarket: Salad dressings, crackers, bread, cereals, peanut butter, etc. Luckily, vegetable oil is much easier to spot than MSG. It may be listed under its plant name: soybean, canola/rapeseed, cottonseed, corn, etc.

White Sugar is pure sucrose, derived from sugarcane or sugar beets. It’s a combination of glucose and fructose. High fructose corn syrup is similar to sugar except that instead of being half glucose and half fructose, it’s mostly fructose. The processing of sugar eliminates the vitamins or minerals.[7] Sugar is a heavily refined product, much like cocaine. In fact, brain scans show that our brains light up the same way for sugar as they do for cocaine.[3] This makes sugar addictive. It isn’t your sweet tooth making you want sugar, it’s your brain.

Our sugar consumption has skyrocketed in the last three hundred years. In 1700, average sugar consumption was 4 pounds a year per person. In 1800 it went up to 18 pounds a year. Then the industrial revolution made sugar cheaper and consumption quintupled to 90 pounds per year. Now with the advent of modern farming and subsidies, sugar consumption is up to 180 pounds per year. That’s one cup of sugar a day. Of course, this is just an average. Some people consume more than one cup of sugar a day.[7]

While sugar consumption was on the rise in the last two hundred years, so has obesity rates. In 1890, the US obesity rate for white males was 3.4%. In 1975, the rate for the entire population was 15%. By 2010, it was 32% and climbing.[7] Now this does not mean that sugar alone is making us fat, but it is an interesting correlation. Sugar may not be the only factor in our obesity epidemic, but i would argue such high consumption is not doing anyone any good.

Everyone knows that sugar is a risk factor for diabetes and hypoglycemia. But it’s also been associated with many other diseases: ADHD, cancer, depression, candida overgrowth, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, malnutrition, obesity, poor sleep, and more.[7]

Avoiding sugar isn’t easy. It’s easily one of the most popular food additives. Whether it’s in the form of regular sugar or high fructose corn syrup, it’s everywhere. A half cup serving of Prego Traditional contains more than two teaspoons of sugar.[3] Even healthy sounding items can be sugar laden. A typical bottle of chocolate milk contains more sugar than a similar bottle of soda.[2] A medium fruit-and-yogurt smoothie at dunkin donuts contains four times as much sugar as a chocolate-frosted cake doughnut.[6] It’ll be okay, right? After all, yogurt is good for you, isn’t it?

Artificial Sweeteners are not a suitable substitute for sugar. Aspartame, the one in the blue packages, is the most popular sugar substitute. When digested, it will break down into methanol and formaldehyde. Aspartame can also lead to headaches, brain cancer, seizures, and damaged vision.[7] Sucralose(splenda) has not had very good results in test animals. Reduced immunity, decreased red blood cells, problems with liver and kidneys were found.[7]

Agave Nectar is not a health food. It is made the same way as high fructose corn syrup. A process where starch(glucose) is converted into fructose. The body cannot use fructose very well. While glucose can be metabolized by any cell in the body, fructose must be metabolized in the liver. Heavy consumption of agave or high fructose corn syrup can lead to liver damage. In fact, rats fed high fructose diets end up with livers like those of alcoholics.[7]

White Flour is what’s left after processing strips virtually all the nutrients and fiber out of whole grain wheat. Whole wheat is rich in nutrients. During processing, the bran and wheat germ are removed. At the same time, the B and E vitamins as well as many minerals are removed.[11] Wheat germ oil contains 136 mg of vitamin E per 100 grams.[8] White flour contains practically nil. To make up for this deficiency, synthetic vitamins are added to ‘fortify’. Some synthetic B vitamins are derived from coal tar.[11] Yummy.

Synthetic vitamins can lead to imbalances. As the body works to fix the imbalance deficiency in certain B vitamins can develop. Symptoms can include: depression, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, poor memory, trouble sleeping, and more.[11]

You already know that eating too much sugar will lead to blood sugar spikes. What you may not know is that white flour breaks down into sugar when digested. This leads to the same blood sugar spike as sugar. When blood sugar spikes in a healthy person, the pancreas pumps out insulin to bring the level back down to normal. This can lead to a crash in blood sugar levels as the glucose is stored as fat, burned, or eliminated. You may have experienced a crash like this after eating heavy carbohydrate snacks like doughnuts.

 

As you can see, the answer isn’t in eliminating any one type of food. Low-carb, low-fat, low-protein, none of these are the answer. The only consistently effective way to live healthy or lose weight seems to be eliminating highly processed foods, while eating moderate amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. And of course, plenty of fruits and vegetables.

While most of the food at your local supermarket falls into the highly processed category, not everything does. One good strategy is to shop the edges. This is where the minimally processed whole foods are kept. Meat, dairy, produce, eggs, cheese. Look at the labels, can you pronounce all the ingredients? That’s a good start.  

Edge foods from the supermarket are definitely healthier than their processed cohorts, but they’re still raised using industrial methods. Pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, herbicides; even the most basic products of a supermarket can contain these. Not to mention the inhumane ways industrial farms treat their animals.

By far, the best source of food for your family is local farms. Farms where you can visit and see how the animals are raised. You can verify that no hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or herbicides are used. If you need help finding local farms visit, www.eatwild.com or www.localharvest.com.

 

References

  1. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/modern-foods/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry/
  2. The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz, 2014
  3. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/modern-foods/our-broken-food-system/
  4. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/msg-update-summer-2007/
  5. Cholesterol Is Not the Culprit, Fred A. Kummerow, PhD with Jean M. Kummerow, PhD
  6. articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/01/08/16-secrets-the-restaurant-industry-doesn-t-want-you-to-know.aspx
  7. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/modern-foods/sugar-alert-references/
  8. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatty_acid#Fatty_acids_in_dietary_fats
  9. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/msg-three-little-letters-spell-big-fat-trouble/
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4-Hydroxynonenal
  11. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/making-it-practical/replacing-white-flour-with-whole-grains-in-four-simple-steps/

Why Grass Fed Beef is Better

Posted in Food for Thought

Beef is one of the most vilified foods on the market. It’s blamed for global warming, contributing to heart disease, and using up to a million gallons of water per cow. Some of these accusations may contain grains of truth, but only when regarding industrial beef. Also known as feedlot beef. 100% grass fed beef is not guilty of any of these problems.

“Grass-Fed” Beef is not the same as 100% grass fed.

The meat industry has been calling beef “grass-fed” despite being fed in a feedlot for the last several months before slaughter. You can read more about this scam in my article Grass-Fed Feedlot Beef. For simplicity, I’m going to use the term grass-fed to refer to 100% grass-fed and finished beef in this article.

100% Grass Fed Beef is Healthier

Meat from grass-fed animals have up to four times as much omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain-fed animals. As soon as cattle are taken off grass and fed grain, the omega-3s begin to diminish. This is because grain tends to be low in omega-3s and high in omega-6s. Grass is the opposite. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s.[1]

Grass fed beef also contains up to four times as much vitamin E as feedlot beef.[1] Even feedlot beef fed high doses of synthetic vitamin E only contained half as much vitamin E as grass fed beef given no supplements. Interestingly, most Americans are deficient in vitamin E. I wonder why.

Grass fed beef also contains less fat than feedlot beef. Grain makes cattle gain weight fast, that includes gaining much more fat. This fat is different from the fat of grass-fed cows. As i mentioned earlier, there is more omega-3s. There is also three to five times more conjugated linoleic acid or CLA in grass fed beef.[1]

Many of the nutrients in grass fed beef have been proven to protect us from disease. Omega-3s, vitamin E, and CLA have been shown to reduce our risk of cancer.[1] Grass fed beef has also been shown to be higher in beta-carotene, the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium.[3]

100% Grass Fed Beef is Safer

In a study done by Consumer Reports, they tested beef from various sources. They found that conventionally raised beef was more likely to have bacteria overall. Three times as many samples of conventional beef tested positive for drug-resistant bacteria as did the grass fed pasture-raised samples.[2]

When cattle are fed grains, their rumen goes from alkaline to acid. This allows bacteria to become acid resistant. Once they are acid resistant, they can survive in our digestive tracts. E-Coli O157, the most notorious, is acid resistant. It flourishes in the acid rumens of feedlot cattle.  

According to a study published in the April 2011 edition of Clinical Infectious Disease, nearly half of us meat and poultry is likely contaminated with Staph. This despite the widespread use of antibiotics in the raising of livestock.

Ammonia in Your Beef?

In 2001 Beef Products Inc. (BPI) began taking low-quality trimmings usually relegated to pet foods and began injecting this beef with ammonia. The ammonia effectively killed e-coli and salmonella, but it had side effects. Namely the odor and taste. The USDA accepted BPI’s own study as evidence that the treatment was effective, no testing required. This created tension inside the USDA, leading a USDA microbiologist to call it “pink slime”. Interestingly, beef prepared using ammonia is banned for human consumption in the European Union and Canada.[5, 6]

In an effort to make their product appear more palatable, BPI requested the ammonia be listed as a processing agent, this means that they no not have to list it as an ingredient. It’s known as lean finely textured beef, ammonia is not mentioned. Chances are, you’ve eaten finely textured beef recently. In 2012, up to 70% of ground beef  sold in the US contained finely textured beef. That number dropped off for awhile after the “Pink slime” scare, but has recovered. Meat containing 15% or less finely textured beef is called simply, ground beef.

School lunch officials used finely textured beef in order to save money, approx. 3% over regular ground beef. However, school lunch officials reported that BPI products began failing tests for salmonella. Up to three times as often as suppliers which didn’t ammoniate their meat. The contamination was not a failure in the ammonia treatment. Pathogens die when treated with enough ammonia. The problems showed up when BPI began lowering the ammonia content. This came in response to complaints by customers about the taste and smell of the beef.

Regardless of whether beef treated with ammonia is safer than beef not treated, I would rather not eat ammoniated meat. You can be reasonably sure that local 100% grass fed beef is free of ammonia. I don’t mind cooking my beef, and i’ll take my chances. After all, I know my farmer. I don’t know BPI.

100% Grass Fed Beef is More Sustainable

From an energy standpoint, grass-fed animals are cheaper to raise. Properly managed pasture requires only 1 calorie of fossil fuel to produce 2 calories of food.[7] Herbivores can eat these plants, humans cannot eat them. Raising grass fed beef does not require a lot of energy, the cows are harvesting their own food. The cost is in management, not fossil fuels.

Grass will grow in drier climates where crops and even trees do not grow well. Grass can survive on less water than crops and trees. This is because healthy grassland absorbs much more water. Instead of running off to the nearest stream, this water is used by plants or seeps down to refill aquifers. Soil with more organic matter has the ability to hold water from rainfall and slowly release it, reducing the severity of floods.[7]

Grazing land soils in the Great Plains contain over 40 tons of carbon per acre, while cultivated soils contain only about 26, on average.[7] I would not consider most of those grazing lands to be well managed. Yet they still contain nearly twice the soil carbon. This carbon is captured by grasses, legumes, and shrubs then stored in the soil when the roots are shed after grazing.

Once an herbivore eats grass down the process begins again. The grass goes into fast growth, breathing in carbon dioxide(CO2), breaking the carbon atom off and exhaling oxygen(O2). It does this until it’s either eaten again, or reaches full potential and goes dormant. Grasses going dormant is why undergrazing is just as bad for grasslands as over grazing.

Corn-Fed Beef is not Sustainable

While grass requires only 1 calorie to produce 2 calories of food, many crops, such as corn, require from 5 to 10 calories of fossil fuel for every 1 calorie of food produced.[7] The only reason this is even remotely feasible is because fossil fuel is cheap.

Corn is amongst the greediest of plants. It uses more fertilizer than any other crop grown on earth.[8] One reason is over-fertilization. Farmers apply up to twice the needed amount as a form of crop insurance. Sometimes this is necessary because the volatile nitrogen can be washed away by rain, evaporate into the air, or seep into the groundwater.

Cows are among the most inefficient at turning corn into meat. It takes on average 8 pounds of grain to put on 1 pound of weight.[8, 9] Pigs need only 3-4 pounds and chickens only need 2-2.5 pounds.[9] This is one reason for the rise in consumption of chicken.

Corn is not a natural food for cows. A cow digests food using fermentation. This is fine when the food is grass, but when a cow ingests corn, that fermentation becomes acidic. This can lead to acidosis, like heartburn. Feedlots have to give their animals special antibiotics to buffer the acidity. They also have to routinely use antibiotics to treat sick animals that probably wouldn’t be sick if they were still out on pasture.

Bloat is serious condition where the fermentation process is hindered by too much grain and not enough roughage. A layer of foamy slime forms in the rumen, which stops cows from burping. This gas continues to build up until pressure on the lungs suffocates the animal. Treatment requires shoving a tube down the animal’s throat to expel the gas. Does this sound humane to you?

100% Grass Fed Beef is More Humane

A calf born on a sustainable farm had a pretty good life. Farmers raising 100% grass-fed cows are focused on keeping their animals calm. Calm animals grow better, and taste better. This focus guides every part of the operation.

Most farmers aim to have their calves in spring. This is when the grass is at its best quality. If it’s a nice day, the cows can have their calve out on pasture. Out there the warm sun dries the calf gently and sanitizes the pasture.

Spring calving is also better for the mother. Spring grass is the most nutrient dense. That’s exactly what a newly lactating cow needs. Once she gives birth, her nutritional needs accelerate. But that’s why spring calving is so appropriate, her need accelerate at the same time that the grass is most ready to meet those needs.

When it comes time to wean, the farmer reduces stress by keeping as many things the same as they can. Once separated, they put the calves and mothers back in the same field as before, separated only by an electric fence. This allows them to see each other, but the calves can’t nurse. After a few days, the calves can be moved to another field and will hardly notice that their mothers are gone.

These cows stay on pasture right up until the day they’re shipped to the butcher. This is probably the only time they’re transported by truck, unless they were bought at a sale barn. They’re driven to the local processor, usually up to an hour or two away.

Many processors will take animals the day before butcher, to be kept overnight in tiny concrete stalls. This makes it easier on the farmer, but not the animals. Sustainable farmers like to bring their animals the same morning as they will be butchered. This is less stressful for the animal and more sanitary. Infact, one of the processors I used years ago insisted that we bring animal on the day of butcher instead of the night before. This was to prevent them from laying down in their own poop.

  This part might be a little stressful, but not nearly as stressful as conventional cows going to a massive slaughterhouse. Remember, grass-fed cows are used to people. They’ve been moved everyday. All of their experiences with humans have been positive. Unlike conventional cows. Cattle prods were made to move cows.

Feedlot Beef is Not Humane

A cow destined for a feedlot has a much rougher life. Conventional calves are born all year round. Feedlots need a steady supply of feeder calves all year. Some lucky calves are born during spring, others are born in the hot summer or during the cold of winter. Maybe the barn is heated, or maybe not. During winter, there is no fresh grass to be had for a couple months. Only dry hay. Not the most palatable thing to start off on.

Once the calves are born, life is pretty good, for about six months. Then it’s time for weaning. Most cattle ranchers accomplish this by separating the calves and locking them in a weaning barn. This sudden separation and change in location causes much stress for the calves and their mothers. You can always tell it’s weaning time by all the mooing and racket. Imagine if someone kidnapped your child. This is how the mother cows feel. One minute their calf is with them, the next minute it’s gone. That’s stressful.

Weaning is perhaps even more stressful for the calves. Weaning is a series of new and scary experiences, all at the same time. For the first time in their lives they are separated from their mothers, locked in a barn stall, taught to eat from a trough, and fed a new diet of corn. The stress of weaning and the change in diet make the calves prone to getting sick. This is when the medications begin.

Shipping fever, a viral infection common in feedlots, is the biggest killer of beef cattle. It’s caused by the stress of shipping calves long distances, which weakens their immune systems. Immune systems that were already weakened from weaning and their new diet. Then they are crowded together in large pens with cattle from other ranches. This exposes them to a host of new viruses.[10] Considering their living conditions, can anyone be surprised that feedlot cattle get sick?

Life in the feedlot is the real tragedy. Cows are herded into pens with around 90 others. When i say herded, i don’t mean gently prodded along. The aforementioned cattle prods are used on any cows who don’t cooperate. Ranchers are not asking permission. They’re not interested in what the cow wants to do, only what they need to do to grow the cows as fast as possible.

Once the cows are securely in their pens, they stay there for the next several months. These pens are about the size of a hockey rink. That may sound big, but when you have 90 cows, each dropping up to 50 pounds of excrement every day, that pen gets filthy in no time. You may have seen pictures of cows in feedlots standing on small hills, those hills aren’t made of dirt. While some feedlots try to clean their pens as often as every week, that still can’t keep up with 90 cows dropping manure every day.

Choose Local Beef

When you buy from a small local farm, you can be sure what you’re getting. Ask the farmer how they raise their beef. Do they feed any grain? Do they move their cows every day? Do they give them antibiotics or hormones? Can you come visit any time?

Go visit the farm. See the animals out on pasture. Get to know your farmer. Only by knowing them personally will you be able to trust them. You don’t need a fancy label or expensive certification to know your meat is good. Certifications aren’t guarantees. They may send an inspector out once a year, but who knows what the farmer does the other 364 days of the year. Not someone relying on that certification. Customer inspection is the best inspection.

 

References

  1. eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm
  2. www.consumerreports.org/cro/food/how-safe-is-your-ground-beef
  3. www.animalsciencepublications.org/publications/jas/articles/87/9/2961
  4. www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html
  5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_slime
  6. agrifoodscience.com/index.php/TURJAF/article/view/148
  7. www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/technical/nra/rca/?cid=nrcs143_014209
  8. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2016
  9. alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=29892
  10. eatwild.com/animals.html

We Don’t Eat Calories, We Eat Food

Posted in Food for Thought

Counting calories, it’s the basis for so many diets. If we cut calories, surely we’ll lose weight. Nutrition guidelines are based on how many calories we should eat per day. We focus so much on calories that we forget that there’s more to food than just calories.

The price of basic food items has risen only 3-5x in the last 60 years. However, the price of processed food has increased 10-15x. A small bag of potato chips costs you over $8.00 a pound.[4] Meanwhile, potatoes run about $1-$2 a pound. A 20oz soda also costs about $8.00 a gallon.[5] Suddenly, raw milk at $7.00 a gallon doesn’t sound so bad.

The calories per serving in modern processed food has gone up as well. But simply measuring how many calories a meal contains is not a good way to gauge how healthy it is. That’s like buying a car based only on how many horsepower it has. Is 350 horsepower enough? How about 600? At some point it becomes ridiculous when all you need is to get the kids to soccer practice.

Mythbusters did an episode on the myth that “There’s as much nutrients in the cardboard box cereal comes in than the cereal itself.” How did they test this? By counting calories. Not vitamins. Not minerals. Only calories. I’ll agree that there’s probably more nutrients in the cereal than the box. As long as you’re okay with synthetic vitamins.

There’s More to Healthy Food than Calories

Processed food contains more calories per dollar than ever before. Yet it makes us fatter than ever before. Is that healthy? Calories are cheaper now than they have ever been in history. These cheap calories are empty calories. This emptiness stems from the raw materials used to make them.

When you grow crops in soil that is deficient in nutrients, those crops are going to be deficient in nutrients. Chemical fertilizer contains Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. What they don’t contain is the hundreds or thousands of trace minerals and nutrients present in healthy living soil. Healthy soil contains millions of microorganisms that take organic material, rock, and other minerals and transform them into nutrients that a plant can use to grow. These are the same microorganisms that make compost work.

Eating nutrient free food is like building a house using rotted wood. You may have gotten a good deal on it. But it’ll cost you later.

Every time your child eats, their body uses that food as building material. Is that building material quality? Or is it the cheap rotted wood that cost half as much? Look at the pizza rolls in your freezer or the sugary cereal in your pantry. Do you seriously believe that this food is healthy? Are you confident that it is providing quality building materials for you child’s growing body? Are you satisfied with the synthetic vitamins listed on the nutritional guidelines label?

Build Your Body with Quality Materials

Local pasture raised meat and eggs are an excellent example of nutrient dense food. Grass finished beef has up to six times the Omega 3 fatty acids as feedlot beef. Grass finished beef has over four times the Vitamin E as feedlot beef.[1] The list goes on and on. But it boils down to one thing. You get more nutrients for your money with local pasture raised food.  

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial for Total cereal. You’d have to eat six bowls of one cereal or ten bowls of another cereal to get the same amount of vitamins as one bowl of Total. The same goes for pasture raised meats and compost grown vegetables. Properly raised local food is two or three times as nutrient dense as their supermarket counterparts. But that’s okay, you can just eat more, right? It’s cheap.

Overeating has become an epidemic. Eating disorders are now considered a mental disorder. It’s true than many people overeat or undereat due to negative feelings and thought patterns. But not everyone overeats due to an eating disorder. Sometimes we eat too much because we’re just plain hungry. Too hungry.

When you eat food lacking in nutrients, your body continues to crave more in the hopes that eventually you’ll eat enough food to satisfy the minimum amount of nutrients. If your body needs more calcium, you might crave ice cream or chocolate. If you need more salt, you’ll crave potato chips or some other salty food.

I think we can all agree that potato chips are not healthy. Sure they have more calories than raw potatoes. But most of those calories comes from the refined vegetable oil the chips are cooked in, not the potatoes. If theses oils are partially hydrogenated, they contain trans fat. Consumption of trans fats is associated with increased rates of cancer. Trans fats can also interfere with insulin receptors, thus triggering Type II diabetes. So much for merely being an empty calorie.

“But my chips are trans fat free.” That may be true, but in order to do that, industry had to replace partially hydrogenated oil with regular vegetable oil. When heated to frying temperature, the linoleic acid in vegetable oil breaks down into toxic substances such as hydroxynonenals. These include aldehydes, which interfere with DNA. Fnd formaldehyde, you know, the stuff morticians use to embalm dead people.[2, 3] It’s very toxic. That’s why they only use it on dead people

Sugar is another favorite food to crave. Sugar is highly addictive.[3] Why is that? Because, for thousands of years, when a human encountered a fruit or berry with fructose in it, that meant that the food was healthy. Berries and fruit that taste bitter are poisonous, sweet ones are not. Fructose in small amounts is healthy. Unfortunately, most Americans eat way more fructose than what’s healthy.

In the 1900s, the average person consumed about 15 grams of fructose a day. Today, people are consuming as much as 150 grams of fructose every day. Usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Altogether, the average person is consuming 22 teaspoons of sweeteners every day.[3] These sugars are even more likely to make you fat than, well, fat. Tootsie Rolls may be 100% fat free, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get fat if you eat a bag a day.

Eating nutrient dense food from local farms will leave you more satisfied. You may find yourself eating smaller portions or eating less often. This is because your body has received the nutrients it needs. All while consuming less calories. That’s the beauty of nutrient dense food. There’s more nutrients per calorie.

 

References

  1. www.eatwild.com
  2. The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz, 2014
  3. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/our-broken-food-system/
  4. 1.85oz bag for $1.00 = $8.64 for 16oz
  5. 20oz bottle for 1.29 = $8.25 for 128oz

Pasture Raised Eggs

Posted in Food for Thought

Local pasture raised eggs are easily the most popular sustainable food you can buy. They are easy to raise, easy to sell, and easy to see and taste the difference. I’m sure you already know that pasture raised eggs are better than supermarket eggs. But do you know why?

Why are store bought egg yolks a pale yellow? Because 10,000 hens locked in a barn with a small dirt yard have nothing to eat except the same old premixed chicken feed. Even organic chickens who are mandated outdoor access quickly scratch said yards down to dirt. There’s very little nutrition in a dirt yard.

Pasture raised eggs are far more nutritious than supermarket eggs. Pastured eggs have both Omega-3 and Omega-6 in nearly equal proportions. Conversely, supermarket eggs have as much as 19 times as much Omega-6 than Omega-3. These need to be in balance to be healthy. According to Mother Earth News, eggs raised on pasture contain ⅔ more vitamin A, 3 times more vitamin E, 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D, and seven times more beta carotene.[1]

Pastured eggs are laid by hens out on pasture. They get plenty of exercise out in the sun. 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. Not crammed into small wire cages with up to eight other hens. Not breathing fecal dust which gets into their lungs, causing inflammation and leading to infections.

Industrial Egg Chickens have Osteoporosis

A hundred years ago the average egg laying hen weighed about 6 pounds and laid around 150 eggs a year. Today, industrial egg layers weigh 3 pounds and lay 300+ eggs in a year. That’s twice the production out of half the weight. That may sound like progress, but it’s not healthy. These hens are much more fragile than heritage breeds that you will find on sustainable farms. They need a very exacting feed ration and can’t be allowed to run around much. they need that energy to go into egg production, not exercise.

In order to keep up the the calcium requirements needed to lay an egg every day, the hen’s body sacrifices her bones in order to get the needed calcium.[3] Egg shells are made of calcium. Being half the size also means less bone mass to pull from. These hens are not laying smaller eggs. Of course not, that would mean less money.

A standard large egg weighs 2 oz. An industrial hen weighs 48 oz. That’s a lot of weight to be dropping every day. Imagine a 150 pound woman having a 6.5 pound baby every day for a year. That’s all you need to imagine, because industrial laying hens don’t usually live longer than a year.

Is it any wonder that industrial eggs lack the vitamins and nutrients that pastured eggs have?

Animals are meant to be outside.

Not locked inside buildings. Small dirt yards are not enough. Genuine pasture raised chickens are moved every week – sometimes more than once a week – to fresh pasture. This is to keep them from eating up everything in sight. Anyone who has raised backyard chickens in a chicken yard know just how quickly chickens can turn a lush green yard into dirt. That’s what happens when chickens don’t move. Just imagine what 10,000 chickens could do to a yard.

When a farmer puts 10,000 hens in a building together, they’ve created a perfect environment for disease. Pathogens don’t like to travel very far. Their lifespan outside a host is short. They need to find another host soon. Lucky for them, there are plenty to be found in a commercial chicken house. It doesn’t help that living inside under constant light suppresses chickens’ immune systems.[2] To combat the disease problem created by confinement, commercial farms rely on antibiotics and other drugs.

These chicken farmers live in constant fear of an outbreak that could sweep through their flock leaving thousands dead in a matter of days. They take many precautions. Toxic footbaths and showers at every building entrance to kill pathogens. Screens and concrete to keep out mice, flies, or wild birds. No Trespassing signs and gates to keep out the disease carrying public. These actions come from a place of fear. Fear created by a flawed system.

Chickens raised on pasture don’t need drugs. They’re spread out. They have many times more square footage per chicken. This means that pathogens have a harder time finding a new host. Plus, being out on pasture also means sunshine. Sunshine is the worst thing for a pathogen. Sunshine is the great sanitizer. Sustainable farmers aren’t worried about disease constantly. Disease is rare on a sustainable farm. This, as much as anything, should be proof that sustainable farming is a superior model.

How do you know you’re buying truly pasture raised eggs? First, know the farmer who raises them. Some egg sellers claim pasture raised without knowing what it truly means. They think they’re raising chickens in a pasture when in reality the chickens merely have a large yard. Ask the seller for proof. Do they have any pictures? Better yet, go visit the farm. The best inspection is customer inspection.

 

References

  1. www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/eggs-zl0z0703zswa
  2. Kliger et al, 2000. “Effects of photoperiod and melatonin on lymphocyte activities in male broiler chickens.” Poultry Science 79:18-25.
  3. www.merckvetmanual.com/poultry/nutrition-and-management-poultry/mineral-deficiencies-in-poultry

Everything I Know About Food I Learned from PR Companies

Posted in Food for Thought

Coffee is good, now it’s bad, but it’s good again. No wait, it’s bad, we’re sure this time.

I’m confused. Can we make up our minds?

No, we cannot. Because Public Relations(PR) companies are responsible for most of the promotion these studies get. A Public Relations company working for the coffee industry is going to look for studies that lean toward coffee being good for us. A PR company working for someone else, say a tea or water company want the studies that say the opposite.

There are many food myths that have been propagated by means of PR.

  • Saturated Fat consumption is linked to heart disease
  • Red meat causes cancer
  • Raw milk is dangerous

These are just a few myths based on biased scientific studies and propagated by PR companies working for industries that will benefit. Once they find a study they like, it’s time for another useful tool, repetition. If you repeat something over and over again through enough different channels, people will begin to believe it. The tobacco companies used this tactic for years to stall regulations and judgements against them.  

Most of the studies we hear about are short term. A PR company finds one thing that proves a point they like, then they publish it. So why would the news media report such questionable studies? It comes down to money. Budgets are tight. Newspapers and networks do not have the staff to fact check everything.

The news media these days are busy, strapped for cash, and looking for stories. With the advent of 24 hour news channels networks suddenly have a lot of time to fill. It’s expensive to produce all these packages. So when a PR company calls offering a free news package, the channels scoop them up.

Newspapers are especially susceptible to this. With the rise of the internet, newspapers everywhere are in decline. They can’t afford to have a full staff anymore. They’re looking for way to cut costs and generate revenue. PR companies are more than happy to provide pre-written articles for free, or even paid for.

Native Advertising companies like Sharethrough or Outbrain proudly boast how they can get your ads posted on sites like: CNN, Fox News, fortune, New York Times, etc. Native Advertising has been shown to be much more effective than traditional advertising. They are piggybacking off the hard earned trust built by the publisher.

The next time you’re watching the local news, keep an eye out for a random feel good story. Probably something that happened in another city. Listen closely. Are they frequently naming one specific company throughout the piece? This is native advertising.

You can do the same thing with a newspaper or online news site. If you see an article touting the benefits of a certain product or company, you can be reasonably sure that it was paid for or written by a PR company.

Native advertising isn’t inherently evil. I’ve found many useful products through articles in magazines or on a website. It all comes down to trust. I knew these articles were probably native ads, but I trusted the publisher to vet the product before they promoted it. Companies have to advertise. Otherwise they will go out of business.

The next time you’re reading an article claiming scientific studies show that such and such food is bad for you, stop and ask yourself. Who benefits? When raw milk is called a health risk, the industrial dairy industry benefits. When claims are made that all milk is bad, who benefits? Soy milk, almond milk, or other alternative milk companies.

Big corporations have been using PR for years to sway public opinion. Let’s go over a few examples.

Myth #1: Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease

For years we’ve been told by our doctors and the government to eat less red meat, not eat butter or eggs. Eat fat-free foods (which tend to be high in sugar). We now know that these recommendations are wrong, but where did they come from?

In the late fifties, Ancel Keys gathered data on over 12,000 middle-aged men in 7 countries in Europe, Japan, and the United States. The study showed a correlation between intake of saturated fats and deaths from heart disease. Thus beginning the decades long vilification of fat.

Who benefits from this myth?  The sugar industry.

A recent article1 in the New York Times reveals that the sugar industry paid scientists up a year’s wage to publish handpicked studies that downplayed the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the cause. These studies became gospel and shaped the way we viewed fat for decades.

According to Nicole Hahn-Niman in her book Defending Beef, the Ancel Keys study is flawed. It shows a correlation between fat and heart disease. But what it fails to point out, is that there is an even bigger correlation between the consumption of sugar and heart disease.2

This study left out many countries in Europe, such as France and Germany, that did not show high signs of heart disease, despite high consumption of saturated fats. This study was clearly designed to shift the blame for heart disease away from sugar and blame it on saturated fat.

This myth has permeated every facet of traditional health advice. Suddenly anything with saturated fat or cholesterol was off limits. People were instructed to eat margarine instead of butter. Margarine is made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Let’s talk about vegetable oils.

Myth #2: Use Vegetable Oils Instead of Lard, Butter, or Beef Tallow

Eat margarine, not butter. Use vegetable oil for frying, not lard, not beef tallow. Vegetable oils do not contain saturated fats and therefore are heart healthy.

This advice has been promoted by the grain industry since the 1970s. These companies wanted americans to stop eating so much animal products and eat their products instead. It’s all about increasing market share.

Vegetable oils are produced by mechanical and solvent extraction. This leaves traces of solvents such as hexane in the oil. These oils go through a process of caustic refining, bleaching and degumming–all of which involve high temperatures or chemicals of questionable safety.3

Hydrogenated vegetable oil products such as shortenings and margarine contain trans fat. Even canola oil, touted for being heart healthy due to its high levels of omega-3, is not good for you. This is due to the heavy processing that canola oil must go through to become edible. During the deodorization process most of the omega-3s in canola oil are transformed into trans fats.4 They managed to turn something healthy into something unhealthy.

In the 1940’s, researchers found a strong correlation between cancer and the consumption of fat—the fats used were hydrogenated fats although the results were presented as though the culprit were saturated fats. For years saturated fats were lumped in with trans fats in various US databases used by researchers to correlate dietary trends with disease conditions. Despite being frequently studied together, saturated fat always got the publicity, trans fat was rarely mentioned.5

Myth #3: All chickens live in sunny fields surrounded by happy cows and pigs.

Just drive by any commercial chicken farm. You’ll see the truth. You’ll smell it too.

Myth #4: Raw Milk is Dangerous

Government agencies, encouraged by the dairy industry, have been warning that raw milk will make us sick. They claim that raw milk may contain pathogens and contribute to foodborne illness. This despite the fact that pasteurized milk is by the same logic also unsafe because it also may contain pathogens.

This myth is being propagated by the dairy industry. They do not want competition from small dairies taking market share away from them. Milk consumption is already on the decline. Again, market share is the motivating factor. Not science.

The FDA and other government agencies like being in control. Raw milk is produced outside of their control. They don’t trust small farmers or businesses. They believe that they are the only ones qualified to say what’s safe to eat and what’s not. Consumers are dumb, we have to tell them what to eat. After all, if consumers we’re truly free to choose the food they eat, the these government agencies would be irrelevant.

Reports on the dangers of raw milk are greatly exaggerated.6 In an analysis of reports on 70 outbreaks attributed to raw milk, the Weston A Price Foundation found many examples of reporting bias, errors and poor analysis resulting in most outbreaks having either no valid positive milk sample or no valid statistical association.

A government document published in 2003 indicates that on a per-serving basis, deli meats are ten times more likely to cause foodborne illness than raw milk.6 Surely you’ve heard about this. No? Well, you can thank the dairy industry.

Myth #5: The Food Pyramid Promotes Healthy Eating

In 1992 the USDA created the food pyramid. The base of the pyramid was the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group. It recommended 7-11 servings of this group. More than twice that of any other group. All of these food items contain mostly carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar during digestion.

The food pyramid lumps fats in with sweets. This is just another example of fat being considered as unhealthy as sugar. Meanwhile carbohydrates and sugar have been shown to be more likely to cause weight gain than animal fats.7

The food pyramid was developed using input and questionable science from industry funded experts. One such study fed mice soybean oil, hydrogenated coconut oil, sugar, and maltodextrin to make them obese. Only then did they study the effects of that obesity. Of course, no one talks about what caused the obesity, only what happened once the mice were obese.8

The takeaway you need to remember is that the government and news media do not perform their own studies. They merely review studies done at the behest of industry or independent groups. The government is highly influenced by industry by means of campaign donations, lobbying, and hiring of officials that have ties to the industry they are regulating.

The news media is likewise influenced by industry by means of large advertising campaigns and scientific studies that may or may not be biased. If a large corporation is spending many millions of dollars advertising with a single news company, that is going to have an effect on the news coverage. The writers, editors, and producers do not want to risk upsetting a major advertiser. They cannot afford to lose them as an advertiser.

Large companies have a lot to lose and a lot to gain, depending on what the public thinks about them. They have a lot of money to use to sway public opinion, and they do so every day.

On the other hand, small local farms do not have a lot of money. They don’t hide behind lawyers, no trespassing signs, and pretty packaging. They cant afford expensive PR companies, but that’s okay. They don’t need them. The truth is on their side, as is their army of happy customers.

 

References

  1. www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html
  2. Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman, 2014
  3. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/dirty-secrets-of-the-food-processing-industry/
  4. www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/the-skinny-on-fats/
  5. Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman, 2014
  6. www.realmilk.com
  7. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/our-broken-food-system/
  8. Death by Food Pyramid by Denise Minger

Are You a Plant Murderer?

Posted in Food for Thought

Are you a plant murderer? Do you systematically chop plants up and eat them? Never thinking about how the plant may feel about this? You always hear people claiming that meat is murder. Did you ever stop to consider that salad is also murder? How do you think that lettuce feels? Or the onions? Well they don’t feel anything anymore, because they’re dead now.

A continuous genocide happens every year in this country and all over the world. Billions of plants are grown then viciously chopped down in the prime of their lives. We commit this grievous crime in the name of survival. “We cannot live without food.” proponents claim.

But we are also biased in our consumption. We only eat certain plants which we have arbitrarily deemed fit for consumption. There are thousands of domesticated plants that are now nearly extinct because of our biased consumption. We no longer eat them. In 1910 there were 15,000 different types of apples growing in the United States. 100 years later, it has been whittled down to about 500. Most supermarkets carry less than 12 varieties.9

We import 20 million tons of bananas each year. Supermarkets buy them by the pallet. Walmart reported that bananas were the best selling item they carry. Yet bananas are one of the least nutritious foods you’ll find in the produce section. There are about 12,000 varieties of bananas grown across the world, yet Americans have chosen one banana, the cavendish, as the one they like best. 

Meanwhile, the pretty plants get a pass. How is that fair? Have you ever seen anyone eat a rose or a daylily? No, they get to live in our gardens for years to grow old and die.

“But, we can’t eat flowers.” apologists claim. Not true. Dandelions are very nutritious. But we don’t eat them. Why? Because they’re a weed. Here’s is another bigoted attitude that favors the killing of certain types of plants over others. If it’s too pretty, we don’t eat it. But we also won’t eat it if it’s too ugly. Just look at kale, who eats that?

Much of our eating habits as Americans is based on emotions. “I don’t eat meat, those poor animals.” So you’re saying you don’t eat meat because you feel bad. That’s fine, as long as you admit that. But most of us don’t feel bad.

The Vegetarian Argument

“But aren’t we, as humans, better that that? We don’t have to eat meat.” That’s an emotional argument. It’s an opinion. If it makes you feel better, that’s fine. You can point your nose at the sky and feel superior to the rest of us barbarians all you like. But you’re opinion doesn’t make you better than me.

It’s true that we can survive without eating meat, but that doesn’t mean we’re better off. Pound for pound, meat contains many times the nutrients of plants.1 In addition, many of the nutrients in plants cannot be efficiently used by the human body.2

Vegans and vegetarians point to soy as their savior. Processed soy, to be exact. Soy contains protein, which vegetarians are lacking due to not eating meat. Soy may contain protein, but it also contains trypsin inhibitors which hinder protein digestion.2 Soy contains anti-nutrients which can lead to deficiencies in other minerals and nutrients.2

In order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins from our food, we need to eat fat. Namely, animal fats. Studies have shown that consuming beta-carotene with beef tallow instead of sunflower oil increased the amount absorbed from 11 to 17 percent.

The American diet is laden with trans fats and refined vegetable oils as replacements to saturated fats. These vegetable based oils are vegetarian in nature, but they are poison to your body. The trans fats created by partially hydrogenating these oils have been linked to various conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc. Vegetable oil is no better. When vegetable oil is heated, like in deep fryers, toxic byproducts are created. Aldehyde and formaldehyde are two. These chemicals are normally used to preserve dead bodies.3

Research shows that eating animal fat raises your HDL-cholesterol – the good kind. HDL-cholesterol has a larger indicator of heart disease risk than LDL-cholesterol. The Framingham study showed that people with low HDL-cholesterol have a rate of heart attacks eight times higher than people with high HDL-cholesterol. Only animal fat has been found to raise HDL-cholesterol.3

A Confession

I must admit, I am also a plant murderer. But I don’t limit myself to plants. I also consume meat. And since meat is murder, i therefore, must be an animal murderer. But like many of you, i only eat the ugly animals. You know, “those” animals. The ones mankind has arbitrarily deemed okay to eat.

I eat chicken, not dog. I eat beef, not horse. Again, we’re letting our emotions dictate our food. Dogs and horses are cuter and prettier than chickens and cows. I understand why we don’t eat dogs, carnivore meat isn’t very healthy and it just doesn’t taste very good. But horses are herbivores, like cows. They taste very similar. I’ve heard.

“But horses are noble creatures. We ride them.” you’re probably saying. That may be true, but you can ride a cow also. My mom tells us stories of how she used to ride the family milk cow when she was a kid. Sure, she wasn’t winning any races, but she had fun. And when that cow got too old, they butchered it and ate it.

 

We need to refrain from demonizing and eliminating any one type of food. I am not advocating a plant-free diet. We should all eat plenty of meat, plenty of fruits and vegetables. Even grain has its place, namely sprouted grains. Don’t blindly follow the same shoddy science that demonized fat and promoted carbohydrates and vegetable oils as the replacement.3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Anytime you hear some news story demonizing meat, fat, or some other type of food, be skeptical. Chances are, that story was promoted by some industry looking to gain market share. And before you accuse me or my references of being shills for the meat industry, stop and ask yourself something. Who has more money, the processed food industry or a small group of local farmers? I’m telling you to stay away from industrial food. Truth doesn’t need millions of dollars in PR.

 

References

  1. www.westonaprice.org/vegetarianism-and-plant-foods/
  2. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/vegetarianism-and-plant-foods/myths-of-vegetarianism/
  3. The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz, 2014
  4. Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman, 2014
  5. Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, 2010
  6. Death by Food Pyramid, by Denise Minger
  7. Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, 2001
  8. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/know-your-fats/the-skinny-on-fats/
  9. Eating on the Wild Side, Jo Robinson, 2013
  10. www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/abcs-of-nutrition/nutritional-adjuncts-to-the-fat-soluble-vitamins

Quality Counts

Posted in Food for Thought

One of the most common complaints about organic and local pasture raised food is that it costs more. There are several reasons for this. The number one reason is quality. Food from local farms are more nutrient dense pound for pound than food from the supermarket. Industrial agriculture’s main focus is how to grow more and more food cheaper. You cannot have quality when your primary concern is how to make a product cheaper.

When someone buys a Mercedes, they aren’t looking at the price first. They’re looking at the interior, the high-end leather, the real wood veneer. They’re looking at reliability. They want to know that this car will not break down on the side of the road, even years from now. They are willing to pay more for this piece of mind.

When you grow crops in soil that is deficient in nutrients, those crops are going to be deficient in nutrients. Chemical fertilizer contains Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. There may be a few other minerals thrown in depending on the brand you buy. What they don’t contain is the hundreds or thousands of trace minerals and nutrients present in living healthy soil.

Eating nutrient deficient food is like building a house using rotted wood. Sure you may have gotten a good deal on it. But it’ll cost you later. If you’ve ever built a house, you’ve probably found that certain contractors are always busy. They’re booked up months in advance. These contractors are not the cheapest. In fact, they are usually among the most expensive. That’s because they offer quality. Quality costs money.

Every time your child eats, their body uses that food as building material. Is that building material quality? Or is it the cheap rotted wood that cost half as much? Look at the pizza rolls in your freezer or the sugary cereal in your pantry. Do you seriously believe that this food is healthy? Are you confident that it is providing quality building materials for you child’s growing body?

The difference in nutrient density can be seen most prominently in pasture-raised meat and eggs. Grass-finished beef has up to six times the Omega 3 fatty acids as feedlot beef. This is the one modern diets are lacking. Grass finished beef also has over four times the Vitamin E as feedlot beef. This difference in nutrient density is similar across all the nutrients.

Local pasture raised food may be more expensive, but you get more for your money. I’m sure you’ve seen the commercial for Total cereal. You’d have to eat six bowls of one cereal or ten bowls of another cereal to get the same amount of vitamins as one bowl of Total. The same goes for pasture raised meats and compost-grown vegetables. Much of the food you buy at local farms is two or three times as nutrient dense as their supermarket counterparts.

This problem of nutrient deficiency in supermarket food comes from the industrial mindset. Industrial agriculture focuses on grown more and more of less types of food. There are more than 7,500 known varieties of apples. Yet at any given supermarket you’ll find maybe 10 different varieties.

Over the course of human history, we’ve eaten over 80,000 different plants. More than 3,000 of those we eat consistently. However, our industrial agriculture system now grows only 8 crops to make 75% of the world’s food. Why is that? Because it’s cheaper to grow these 8 plants in giant monocultures using cheap fossil fuels. Economies of scale favor only having to process 8 different foods. These 8 foods are turned into hundreds of different food additives used to make all of the processed crap you find in a supermarket.

My dad used to joke that mexican food is just the same 6 or 7 ingredients rearranged to make each dish. Well, most of what you find in the supermarket is simply different arrangements of the same 8 basic foods.

The US has the highest rates of obesity and obesity-related conditions than any other country. Why? Because we eat more processed food than any other country. If food companies made processed food with nutritionally dense and sustainably grown grains and produce, it would cost twice as much. Ezekial bread costs $4.00 a loaf, not because they’re selling to elites, but because that’s what it costs to source quality ingredients.

The main reason corn syrup is cheaper than sugar is because corn is grown, transported, and processed using cheap fossil fuels. You cannot have quality when your primary concern is how to make a product cheaper.

I’ve seen this quality issue in the essential oil business. Health food stores have been selling cheap essential oils for years. I’ve heard many people say they’ve tried essential oils, and they didn’t work. I then have to explain to them that there’s a big difference between cheap oils and quality oils. There are several reasons for this. Cheap oils are frequently extracted using high heat and solvents to get as much oil as possible. This adulterates the oil, making it less effective and sometimes dangerous.

Some oils are synthesized in a laboratory. Wintergreen oil is a good example. Cheap wintergreen oil comes from a lab, not from the tree. Because of this, cheap wintergreen oil is poisonous. If you ingest it, you will likely die. We’ve been using essential oils from Young Living for over 15 years. These oils cost more because their quality is second to none. Young Living’s wintergreen is genuine oil from the wintergreen tree. It is not poisonous. I know, because I have ingested full capsules of Young Living’s wintergreen and not even gotten sick.

Lavender is another good example. There are several types of lavender plants. Genuine Lavandula Angustifolia can soothe burns and help them heal. Cheap lavender oil from the health food store is frequently made from Lavandin, a lavender hybrid. Lavandin is high in canfor which will make burns worse. A higher standard of excellence makes a difference. Remember, quality counts.

Who’s more trustworthy: Local farmers or migrants?

Posted in Food for Thought

I’m sure you’ve heard the debate on whether we should allow anonymous migrants into the country. Whether you agree or not, it’s clear that the government and people on the left insist that we should let them in. Essentially we should trust them. Trust them to obey our laws. Trust them not to be terrorists.

I’m not going to take sides on this issue. I’m all for trusting people. But here’s my problem.

According to the government, if a local farmer wants to raise tomatoes and turn them into salsa in their own kitchen, they are breaking the law. If they want to butcher the chickens they raised  on their own property, that’s illegal.

Why?

Because as a society, we don’t trust these local farmers. We don’t trust them to keep everything sterile. We don’t trust them to not adulterate that salsa. We don’t trust them to wash their hands on the way back from the bathroom.

Why are we willing to trust an anonymous migrant who we don’t know, but we refuse to trust a local farmer who’s lived here their whole life?

Why? Because they have the audacity to make money off their creations? Don’t think it’s about the money? Try making some pickles and giving them away at church, that’s okay. But try selling them at the farmer’s market and suddenly the government has all kinds of problems with those pickles. What changed? Not the pickles, only the money.

Why does a farmer suddenly become untrustworthy the moment money changes hands? Sure, you could say greed is the reason. But when we’re talking about a local farmer, the moment they screw up, everyone knows. That provides an incentive to do everything right. An even better incentive lies with the farm that is customer inspected. They welcome visitors. You won’t see any ‘No Trespassing’ signs, you’re more likely to see a ‘Park Here’ sign.

Both of those things put  tremendous pressure on the farmer. They have to keep everything clean. They have to treat their animals with respect. They can’t feed cheap grain if they’re promising NON-GMO. This relationship between the farmer and customer creates trust. The customer can see where their food comes from and can be sure that it is just as healthy as they were promised.

You won’t see this at large commercial farms. The moment you pull up to the driveway, you’re confronted by gates and a ‘No Trespassing’ sign. After all they can’t have you filthy customers coming in with all your diseases and such. You’ll kill all the animals. These animals are barely alive as it is, look at all the medication we have to feed them.

But these ‘No Trespassing’ signs provide another benefit to the farmer. They don’t have to worry about any of those annoying customers coming around and seeing the horrible conditions those animals live in. The farmer can do whatever they want. No one will see. Now who’s untrustworthy?

This matter of trust is a bit ridiculous when you think about it. How many stories have you heard of restaurant employees spitting, urinating, or otherwise adulterating the food they were preparing? All because they didn’t like a customer.

What’s to stop an employee at a processing plant from doing the same thing?

When a processing plant makes sausage, they have to use certified pre-mixed seasonings. These seasonings are packaged in tamper evident packaging to prevent some third party from tampering with it. I say third party because an employee at either the seasoning manufacturer or the meat processor have access to adulterate either the seasoning or the sausage. Who’s going to stop them. Inspectors can’t be everywhere.

The only way to truly trust someone is to know them. Get to know your local farmers. Come out and visit some time. They’d love to see you.

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