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Any Food Label You Can Use, Industry Can Use Better

Posted in Food for Thought

Organic, natural, grass-fed, pasture-raised, cage-free –  these food labels used to mean something. They meant food raised on small local farms. Food raised with care and respect. They meant that the farmer’s goal was improving the environment, not pillaging it.

But nowadays, you can’t be so sure. The food industry has taken these terms and twisted them to make their products appear to be the same quality as those from sustainable local farms. This co option of said terms dilutes their value. What is the average consumer to think? They see natural, cage-free, or grass-fed on a package and assume they’re getting the same quality as what they might get from a farmers market, but much cheaper.

Look! We’re Certified. Aren’t We Great?

Industry has millions of dollars to spend on branding, marketing and pr. They love certifications. Certifications are easy to slap on a label then hide behind it. Certifications also make it easy for lazy consumers to feel like they’re buying a superior product when in reality, it may only be marginally better, if at all.

Certification is no guarantee of quality. Many people buy organic because they think it’s healthier, that it has more nutrients. But that’s not necessarily the case. Organic certification has nothing to do with nutrients. Organic specifies what’s not in the food: GMOs, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. While eliminating these things is important, it’s only half the battle.

Most organic certified food is raised in the same systems as their conventional counterparts. Organic chickens are still raised in cramped buildings, I’m sorry “free-range barns”, as conventional chickens. Organic produce is raised in the same massive monocultures that you would be hard pressed to tell apart from conventional. That organic yogurt you bought at the store probably came from an industrial dairy. The only real difference required is the lack of antibiotics and that the feed is certified. Organic standards don’t specify that the cows must be on fresh pasture, access to a dirt yard will suffice.

There’s a pizza company in Iceland called Pizza Express, they released a brand called Artisana Range Pizzas. Sound’s artisanal, doesn’t it? That’s the idea, and the scam. Factory made pizza is anything but artisanal.

Many terms used to describe the healthfulness of food are not regulated. Anyone can call their products natural. Any meatpacker can call their beef grass-fed. Consumer Reports surveyed 1,000 adults and found that more people buy natural than organic. “We’ve seen time and again that majority of consumers believe the ‘natural’ label means more than it does,” says Urvashi Rangen, Ph.D.[1]

Everything is Natural

I had a friend who used to tell me this fifteen years ago. And he was right. Everything is natural, everything comes from the earth. That doesn’t make it inherently healthy or dangerous. But it does sell product. While, he used this as an excuse to eat whatever he wanted, food companies use it to whitewash their industrial processed crap. Are Twinkies natural? They could be. Depends on your definition.

Natural has been twisted to make even the most unhealthy food sound healthy. People believe that products labeled as ‘natural’ will contain no antibiotics, GMOs, artificial colors, etc. The fact is, ‘natural’ means nothing. There is no standard definition for the term. No one is regulating how it is used. So companies use it however they like. Hostess cupcakes contain ‘natural flavors’. Natural flavors sound good, don’t they? After all they’re natural. But the reverse is true. Natural flavors can mean a lot of things, one of them is MSG.

More Terms That Don’t Mean What You Think

Vegetarian Fed does not pertain to where the animal was raised, only what they were fed. GMO corn and soybeans are allowed. These animals are typically raised in the same confinement buildings and feedlots as their conventionally raised counterparts.[2] they have to be because Chickens are not Vegetarians.

Cage Free laying hens are taken from small cages and placed in crowded houses.[2] In fact, it’s probably the same house with the cages removed. There’s still thousands of hens, but instead of being stacked in cages, they’re all crammed on one floor. Also there may have a small door in the side that leads to a dirt yard. You know, because natural.

Pasture-raised – It’s true that these animals spend their time on pasture. However, the quality of that pasture is not specified.[2] Most cows on pasture are continuous grazing. Meaning that they stay on the same pastures until there may be no grass left. Or they selectively graze only the types of grass they like, leaving the weeds to take over. This type of grazing can destroy pasture. When grass is constantly eaten back down and cannot regrow, it dies out or grows thin. Properly managed pasture can have up to three times as much grass per square foot as poorly managed pasture.

Pasture-raised does not mean grain-free. Cows raised on said pasture can be fed as much grain per day as a feedlot cow.[2] Since cows prefer the high carbohydrate grain, they may eat very little grass. However, they will eat grass. This helps them tolerate some of the conditions that grain feeding create. So pasture raised is still better than feedlot raised.

No Routine Antibiotic Use – Sounds like they don’t use antibiotics, doesn’t it? Instead it means that the animals are not fed continuous antibiotics in order to stimulate growth or prevent disease. However, they can be given antibiotics if they get sick.[2] And getting sick is rather likely given the conditions they live in.

Local is supposed to mean from a small farm within a few hundred miles. But local can be twisted to mean just about anything.[2] A couple years ago a restaurant near us began buying meat from a local farm. Everything was great for a couple months, then they stopped buying. When the farmer investigated, the restaurant told them that they went back to buying from their distributor. The distributor said that there was a CAFO located about 100 miles away, so the meat was technically local. The restaurant got to continue using the word local to promote themselves, while buying the same cheap meat as any other restaurant. Meanwhile the customers are being duped and the local farmer is one customer closer to not being in business.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Certifications

Certified Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, Non-GMO. These certifications are only necessary when you don’t know where your food is coming from. Not to mention, certification is no guarantee. The USDA cannot possibly test and check every product labeled organic. No certification agency can watch every farm and food company all the time.

Putting all your trust in third party or government agencies is not a good idea. These entities can be infiltrated by industry to get concessions. Food companies are constantly lobbying to get loopholes and other concessions in the organic standards. The very existence of organic cheese puffs is proof that the organic standards have been diluted.

When you get to know your farmer, you don’t have to rely on third parties who may or may not be overworked. Customer inspection is the best kind of inspection. Let’s take a farm serving 200 households. Perhaps 50 of those customers will want to come see the farm. That’s 50 inspections. Many of them will be short notice or even a surprise. There’s nothing like having customers around to keep you honest.

So next time you’re at the farmer’s market, ask the farmers if you can come out and visit their farm. If they say, “Sure, come on out.” then you can be reasonably sure that they’re doing things right. You don’t even have to go out yourself. As long as you know that other customers are going to the farm, you can rest assured that your farm is customer inspected. No certifications necessary.

References:

  1. www.consumerreports.org/natural-foods/the-difference-between-labels-on-organic-and-natural-foods/
  2. http://www.gracelinks.org/499/glossary-of-meat-production-methods

Raw Milk

Posted in Food for Thought

Many Americans don’t know that there is such a thing as raw milk. They think all milk is the same. That it all comes from the grocery store in plastic jugs. Of course, this is exactly what the dairy industry wants. They’re the ones selling pasteurized milk.

Raw milk has been a staple food for humans for many thousands of years. Archaeological evidence shows that as long as 30,000 years ago, ancient people in the Sinai Peninsula were using fences to confine and breed antelope for their milk.[2]

Humans are mammals. A defining characteristic of mammals is that all females nurse their young with milk. The class Mammalia comes from the latin word ‘mamma’ which means breast.[1] We are designed from birth to be milk drinkers. Some people claim that we shouldn’t drink milk, but I think you’ll find that much of the problems identified with milk come from pasteurized milk.

Conventional Milk Should be Pasteurized

In confinement dairy systems the animals are often so sick that only the overuse of antibiotics allows milk production to continue in otherwise intolerable conditions. The most notable affliction is mastitis, which is an infection of the udder. Milk from a cow with mastitis will contain high amounts of bacteria and pus. This is not an uncommon occurrence. The National Mastitis Council states that as many 40% of all dairy cows have some form of mastitis.[5] That’s nearly half. Nearly half the milk coming to a processing plant contains pus. No wonder we have to pasteurize.

Somatic cell count (SCC) can be an indicator of mastitis(pus) in milk. According to a veterinarian at the University of Nebraska: “The normal SCC in milk is generally below 200,000 per ml…an SCC above 250,000 is considered abnormal and nearly always is an indication of bacterial infection causing inflammation of the udder.”[2] The Federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance allows an SCC of up to three times as much (750,000 per ml). In other words, pus in your milk is okay.

Distillery Dairies, The First Factory Farms

For thousands of years the idea of boiling or pasteurizing milk was unheard of. It wasn’t until the mid 1800s that mega dairies began opening up next to large distilleries making whiskey. The leftover slop from the whiskey production was disposed of by feeding it to the dairy cows. As these diaries grew they pioneered the use of confinement in the production of milk. I consider the distillery dairies to be the first factory farms.

The confinement of hundreds of cows in a single building led to sanitation issues. Dirty, contaminated milk was being sold. People began getting sick. In cities like New York and Philadelphia, the infant mortality rate for children under five went from 25%-30% in 1814 to over 50% in 1840.[2]

When the problems with distillery milk was identified, two solutions were implemented to solve it. Certification commissions were formed to certify milk from approved and trustworthy dairymen. These dairies were inspected to ensure the quality of their milk.

Pasteurization was the other solution. Pasteurization killed off most of the pathogens found in the distillery milk, making is safe to drink. In 1893, Nathan Straus began opening milk depots for the distribution of low priced pasteurized milk. He sold the milk at a loss in order to keep the milk cheap.

This led to the pasteurization of all milk, but certified raw milk. Enforcement of diary hygiene rules was practically impossible. New york city was supplied by over 40,000 dairies. Many other cities were in similar positions. The government couldn’t police all these farms. Pasteurization was seen as a technological fix that would solve the milk problem. If milk didn’t come from a certified dairy, it had to be pasteurized. Certified raw milk coexisted alongside pasteurized milk for 50 years.

In the late 1930s, corporate dairies began a publicity campaign against raw milk. They hired writers to make drinking raw milk seem barbaric. Articles ran in magazines and newspapers across the country. Articles in Ladies Home Journal and coronet claimed that thousands of cases of Undulant fever were caused by raw milk. This was a total fabrication. Record from the US public health service showed no more than 256 cases of Undulant fever between 1923 and 1944.[2, 4]

This campaign eventually worked. Raw milk sales were outlawed in all but a few states. And while pasteurization is an added expense, it’s cheaper than raising cows properly. Pasteurization allowed the distillery dairies to continue abusing their cows. Their inferior and infected milk was suddenly deemed safe for consumption. Instead of fixing their dairies and treating their animals with respect, they simply boiled their milk.

Pasteurized is Not the Same

Pasteurization has been successful in making cheap milk safe to drink. Unfortunately, it also makes it less nutritious, even if it was poor quality to begin with. Claims that pasteurized milk and raw have the same nutrient value is just wrong. The CDC even warns against using a microwave to heat breast milk because excess heat can destroy vital nutrients in the milk.[3]

Beta-lactoglobulin is a protein in milk that increases absorption of vitamin A. Heat destroys this protein and also degrades vitamin A.[9] Vitamin D assimilation is cut in half by pasteurization.[10] This is why vitamin D is usually added back to milk. Studies also show that vitamin B6 and B12 are poorly absorbed from pasteurized milk.[11] These are just a few nutrients that have been studied. But there is more than just nutrients in milk.

Raw milk contains various beneficial bacteria. These lactobacilli are likewise destroyed during pasteurization. Our bodies need good bacteria to survive. They help us to absorb minerals from our food, and much more.[9] I go into more detail about beneficial bacteria in Your Body is not Sterile.

Healthy Cows Make Healthy and Safe Milk

The healthfulness of a cow’s milk depends on what the cows eat. There’s a saying in the technology industry: “Garbage in, garbage out.” You can’t feed a cow slop and expect to get healthy milk. They have to get their nutrients somewhere, and a bag of synthetic vitamins won’t cut it. Cows are meant to eat grass. Grass is full of nutrients. Herbivores are uniquely designed to digest grass, not grain, not animal byproducts.

A Report by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that dairy cows that graze on grass produce higher levels of beneficial acids ALA and CLA. ALA is believed to reduce the risk of heart attacks and CLA is believed to have many positive effects on heart disease, cancer, and the immune system.[13]

Pasture also has an effect on the safety of the milk. When a cow is moved every day to fresh pasture, they leave behind their manure which may carry pathogens. By leaving it behind, the pathogens can’t spread between animals. The Journal of Dairy Science reported that milk from cows that had grazed on intensively managed pasture had lower bacterial counts than milk from conventional dairies.[8]

Raw milk has been shown to have a beneficial effect on allergies.[16] Children drinking raw milk had 41 percent less asthma and half the rate of hay fever. This was linked to whey proteins in milk which are damaged by heat.[14]

Milk allergies are becoming a big problem. Pasteurized milk has become one of the top ten allergenic foods. Milk allergy is usually attributed to casein intolerance. As I explained previously, pasteurization destroys the beneficial lactic-acid bacteria. These bacteria produce enzymes that break down the casein molecule. Therefore, it stands to reason that raw milk could be consumed by people with a mild milk allergy.[15]

Industrial Cows Aren’t Healthy

An industrial dairy cow’s diet leaves much to be desired. The grain provided is usually GMO and cheap. Feedlots typically put additives in the feed to increase milk production. Animal byproducts are not uncommon. The 1994 Feed Industry Red Book lists common feed additives like: blood meal, hydrolyzed poultry feather meal, fish meal, meat and bone meal, and poultry by-product meal ( necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines).

On the bright side, the dairy industry no longer grinds up whole dead cows to feed back to dairy cows. That practice led to the massive outbreak of mad cow disease. I wonder if feeding these other animal byproducts will lead to another such disease outbreak in the future.

According to the Journal of Dairy Research, “The more milk a cow produces, the more dilute the vitamin content of her milk.” Today’s super milk cows produce twenty times the milk required to sustain a healthy calf.[6] In 1910, the average dairy cow produced just over 2,900 pounds of milk per year. By 2005, the average milk cow produced a whopping 19,951 pounds of milk a year.[13] That’s almost 7 times as much! It’s not possible for this milk to contain as many nutrients as milk from lesser producing cows.

Now let’s talk about living conditions. Modern milk cows are raised in much the same conditions found in distillery diaries of the 1800s. Some dairies tether their milk cows inside a stall for her entire milk cycle. Even the cows in free range barns suffer. Concrete floors found in a dairy barn are are hard on a cow’s hoof. Veterinarians at UC Davis found that hooves wore 35% faster on concrete than on dirt.[2]

Allowing cows to roam freely inside a barn allows for even more damage. Excessive walking on concrete creates concussion damage and leads to sluggish blood flow and edema.[2] Perhaps that’s why some cows are tethered.

As you may have guessed, lameness is a major cause of suffering for milk cows.[2, 13] The combination of bigger cows on concrete floors is a recipe for problems. A report done for the state of minnesota showed that out of every 100 dairy cows, there were 35 to 56 cases of lameness annually.[13]  Milk from happy cows indeed.

Pasteurization can’t Fix Bad Milk

Pasteurization in not what you may think it is. First of all, pasteurization is not sterilization. It is not intended to kill all the microorganisms in food. It’s aim is to simply reduce the number of pathogens.[7] This is why pasteurized milk still has an expiration date and stays drinkable only slightly longer than raw milk. Another thing to consider, Bacteria does not simply disappear after pasteurization. Residue of dead bacteria remains in the milk.

But does pasteurization excuse such filthy conditions? After all, it doesn’t matter if the milk is dirty or contaminated, it’ll be pasteurized. It doesn’t matter if there’s pus in your milk, it’s dead pus. Well, most of it. What’s not dead does cause illness on occasion.

In 1985 and 1986 two waves of antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella typhimurium infections sickened over 16,000 people in Illinois. This was the largest outbreak of salmonellosis ever identified in the United States. Surveys suggest that as many as 197,581 persons may have been affected. Nearly 3,000 people were hospitalized and 18 deaths occurred.[17]

The cases were traced back to two brands of pasteurized milk from one dairy plant. The same strain of salmonella was confirmed to have caused both waves, suggesting that the bacteria had persisted in the plant, repeatedly contaminating milk after pasteurization.[17]

This is an example of why industrial agriculture is a problem. When food production is centralized in mega facilities, the amount of people affected is much larger. If a small raw milk dairy has an outbreak, at most a few hundred people might be affected. A widespread outbreak is nearly impossible with small decentralized farms.

Pasteurized milk may have something to do with Crohn’s disease. Paratuberculosis, suspected of causing Crohn’s disease is now routinely found in pasteurized milk (19% of samples tested).[18]

More Dangerous than Raw Milk

Raw milk is hardly the most dangerous food on the market. You are nearly 6,500 times more likely to get sick from other foods than from raw milk. According to a 2011 CDC article, there are 9.4 million episodes of foodborne illnesses each year.[20] With 312 million people in the US[21], that’s 1 out of every 33 people. According to Dr Ted beals, the average number of illnesses attributed to consuming raw milk each year is 42. In 2008 approximately 9 million people reported drinking raw milk.[19] This would put the illness rate at 1 in 214,285. (214,285 divided by 33 = 6,493 times more likely)

There are 515 times more illnesses from Listeria Monocytogenes due to deli meats and 29 times more from pasteurized milk than from raw milk. Per serving, deli meats are 10 times more likely to cause illness than raw milk.[22] These statistics matter since deli meats are consumed without further cooking.

But food isn’t the only place that bacteria can survive. Salmonella enteritidis can survive up to 9 days on coins and up to 17 days on teflon. E. Coli has been shown to survive for up to 11 days on coins.[23] In other words, wash your hands, and your cookware. And don’t forget, your cell phone is dirtier than your toilet seat.

Yes We Can Drink Milk

There are people who say that humans should not drink milk. Milk has gained a bad reputation in the last few decades. It’s been linked to iron deficiency, heart disease, obesity, constipation, excess mucus production, and other “western diseases”. I think I’ve thoroughly proven that these associations can only be made to pasteurized milk.

In 1929, Dr J. R. Crewe of the Mayo Clinic wrote an article entitled: “Raw Milk Cures Many Diseases.” Dr Crewe used raw milk for over 15 years in the treatment of various diseases such as tuberculosis, cardiovascular and renal conditions, and hypertension. He saw striking results in cases of the heart and kidneys.[24] In other words, Dr Crewe used raw milk to treat heart disease. Keep in mind, the Mayo Clinic was over 60 years old at this point.

Before that in 1909, Charles Sanford Porter, MD published Milk Diet as a Remedy for Chronic Disease. He treated over 18,000 patients in his 37 year practice.  Mr. W. F. Kitzele, a city official from Burlington Iowa, wrote to Dr Porter to report that he had lived for more than 50 years on raw milk alone. At the age of two, he drank concentrated lye which damaged his throat. Unable to eat any other food he could only drink milk.[2]

Veterinarians will tell you to never give cats milk. Once again, this is true when referring to pasteurized milk. Dr Francis Pottenger conducted extensive studies involving cats over the course of 10 years. Some cats were fed raw milk, others were fed pasteurized milk. The cats fed pasteurized milk became ill and eventually were unable to reproduce. Conversely, the cats fed raw milk were exceedingly healthy, producing generations of healthy offspring.[2]

Buy Your Milk From a Local Farm

I’m not saying that we should do away with pasteurized milk altogether. If people want to buy cheap milk, that’s fine. But everyone should have the option to buy raw milk if they choose. That said, i don’t think that raw milk should be sold in supermarkets. Because once you can buy raw milk in supermarkets, you lose the connection to the farmer. The disconnect between consumer and farmer has led to the disaster we now have as a food system.

Selling raw milk in supermarkets next to pasteurized milk would most likely lead to disappointment. Raw milk is typically two to three times the price of pasteurized milk. People shopping at a supermarket are typically price sensitive and not particularly health conscious. All it would take is one look at the prices and the raw milk would be left on the shelf.

Buying raw milk doesn’t have to require a three hour trip to a farm miles out in the country. Many raw milk farmers have set up scheduled delivery routes. You simply tell them where you are and they will find a delivery point near you. The farmer doesn’t mind driving 200-300 miles if it means delivering 100+ gallons of milk. It’s a win-win for everyone.

 

References

  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammal
  2. The Untold Story of Milk, Ron Schmid, ND, 2003
  3. www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm
  4. US public health service, “Summary of milk-borne disease outbreaks, 1923 – 1941”
  5. Dairy Cattle Science, M.E. Ensminger, 1993
  6. Jensen, S. K. “Quantitative secretion and maximal secretion capacity of retinol, beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol into cows’ milk.” J Dairy Res 66, no. 4 (1999): 511-22.
  7. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasteurization
  8. J Dairy Sci 75(1): 96-104).
  9. Said and others. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989;49:690-694; Runge and Heger. J Agric Food Chem. 2000 Jan;48(1):47-55.  
  10. Hollis and others.  J Nutr. 1981;111:1240-1248; FEBS Journal 2009 2251-2265.
  11. Studies from Randleigh Farms.
  12. BJN 2000 84:S91-S98; MacDonald and others. 1985
  13. Righteous Porkchop, Nicolette Hahn Niman, 2010
  14. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Online August 29, 2011.   
  15. Meisel and others. Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek. 1999;76(1-4):207-15
  16. Clinical & Experimental Allergy. 2007 May; 35(5) 627-630.
  17. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1987;258:3269 jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/369661
  18. Appl & Environ Microbiol 2002 May;68(5):2428-35
  19. www.realmilk.com/safety/those-pathogens-what-you-should-know/
  20. Scallan E, Hoekstra RM, Angulo FJ, Tauxe RV, Widdowson M, Roy SL, et al. Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States—Major Pathogens. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(1):7-15. https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1701.P11101
  21. US Population on Sep 1st 2011 – 312,097,413 www.census.gov/popclock/
  22. Interpretive Summary – Listeria Monocytogenes Risk Assessment, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Sept. 2003, page 17
  23. J Food Protection, 1999;62(7):805-7.
  24. Crewe, J. R. “Raw Milk Cures Many Diseases.” Certified Milk Magazine, January, 1923, 3-6

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

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

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.

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

10 Reasons to Eat Local Pasture Raised Meats

Posted in Food for Thought

You have a choice. You don’t have to support the industrial farming system anymore. There a plenty of local farms in your state producing pasture raised meat, ethically, while healing the environment instead of destroying it.

1. Pasture Based Farms are More Humane than Factory Farms

Conventional chickens and pigs live their entire life in a crowded building, stressed and desperate for fresh air. Even organic. Factory farms cut Chickens’ beaks off to reduce cannibalism in the crowded stressful environment. The same goes for pigs. A farmer will cut a pigs’ tail off to keep the others from chewing on them.

Even beef is not immune to the influence of the factory farm. Even though most cows spend a good portion of their early lives in the pasture, most are finished out in feedlots where they are forced to stand knee deep in manure. Feedlots feed the cheapest grains available mixed with various wastes from brewhouses, industrial food processors and even waste from slaughter facilities. So much for cows being herbivores.

This is not the case at pasture based farms. All animals live outside in the sunshine and fresh air. There is no need to feed animals antibiotics because they are not forced to live their lives wallowing in their own waste. Their beaks and tails can be left intact with no fear of fighting or cannibalism. This is accomplished by giving the animals plenty of room to move around.

Cows are kept in the pasture right up till the butcher date. As are chickens and pigs. This is where they want to be. All animals love grass, they also love sunshine. They get plenty of both on pasture based farms.

2. Pasture Raised Meats are Healthier than Conventional Meat

Animals were never meant to eat the same thing every day. Chickens are supposed to eat bugs, grass, and whatever it can scavenge. Pigs are meant to root in the dirt. Cows are meant to roam and eat grass. Many different varieties.

All of these things help pasture raised animals to have more nutrients and vitamins in their meat.

Wild animals don’t need antibiotics and synthetic vitamin supplements to survive. Why should livestock?

The only reason antibiotics are necessary is because conventional animals are raised in cramped conditions without moving. When animals are forced to live their life on top of manure that’s been there for days or weeks, can you expect anything other than disease?  Confined feeding operations are a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of disease and parasites.

Pasture raised animals can fight off disease just fine on their own. Their immune systems haven’t been torn down by constant antibiotics. Most of the antibiotics given to conventional livestock is given to animals that are not even sick.

All animals, including humans, have natural beneficial bacteria in their gut to help digest food. Antibiotics are designed to destroy all bacteria, including beneficial bacteria. This leads to animals that cannot digest their food properly. They can’t extract as many nutrients from it. Not that there is much to start with in the cheap grains they are fed.

Grass is very high in vitamins and other nutrients. When animals are allowed to graze on pasture, they are acquiring many times more nutrients than a conventional animal who may never see a blade of grass in their life.

Pasture raised eggs are a good example, they have: 1/3 less cholesterol, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and over 4 times as much vitamin D as the eggs you find in the supermarket. All because we put them out on a pasture. The chickens do the rest.

Pasture raised Chicken has twice as many omega 3’s, 50% more vitamin A, 20% less fat, and 30% less saturated fat than conventionally raised chickens.

Grass fed beef can have as much as six times the Omega 3 fatty acid and up to four times the vitamin E than feedlot beef. Grass fed beef also has less fat, and the fat it does have is good for you. Unlike the fat from feedlot beef.

3. Pasture Raised Meat Tastes Better

It’s hard to quantify better taste. You just know it when you taste it. When animals are allowed to move and eat foods that are natural for them, they develop deeper, richer-tasting meat. Meat that doesn’t need a bunch of seasonings, marinades, or chemicals to taste good.

Years ago, before I got into pastured poultry. I came up with a recipe for chicken soup that had 11 ingredients. One of which was, chicken broth because store bought chicken doesn’t have enough flavor by itself. The chicken soup I make with pasture raised chicken only needs 5 ingredients, plus whatever vegetables you want.

If for no other reason, do it for your taste buds.

4. You get More Value from Pasture Raised Meat

I’ve had several customers tell me that our chicken doesn’t shrink up in the frying pan like supermarket chicken does. There is a simple reason for this. Exercise. Our animals get exercise. Exercise builds muscle better than hormones. It builds denser muscle. Conventional meat from the grocery store is less dense that pasture raised meat. This spongy meat soaks up more water. This water comes out in the cooking process.

Pasture raised meat therefore loses less water during cooking. You get more of what you paid for. Water displacement test have been done that prove that one pound of pasture raised meat displaces less water than one pound of factory farm meat. But you can do your own test. Simply fry up some pasture raised chicken along with some supermarket chicken. See which one give you more value.

5. You Can See Where Your Food Comes From

Most conventional farms have No Trespassing signs at their gates. Not the case with your local farmer. They welcome your visit. Customers are encouraged to come see how their food is raised.

If a farmer is afraid to let you visit, you should be concerned about what he’s hiding.

Is he afraid to let you see what conditions his animals live in? This is definitely the case for concentrated animal feeding operations. If you saw how these animals were living, you’d never buy one again.

This may also be the case for a few local farms. Some farmers get lazy and don’t give their animals the attention they need. Allowing customers onto the farm is a great incentive to treat your animals with the respect they deserve.

Is he afraid you will make his animals sick? If that’s the case, then his animals are probably not very healthy to start with. Our animals don’t drop dead after a customer comes to visit. You don’t want to buy any animals that need to be quarantined their entire life.

Does he just not want to be bothered? If that’s the case, then he should go back to selling his animals to the feedlots and at the auction for the lowest possible price. If he wants to make a decent profit off his animals then he has to deal with people.

You can only know your meat is clean and healthy if you see where it came from.

6. Pasture Raised Animals Don’t Do Drugs

Pasture raised animals aren’t fed hormones. The farmers don’t mind their animals taking a little longer to mature. The meat tastes better, and the animals stay healthier when they don’t grow too fast.

Pasture raised animals are not fed antibiotics because they don’t need them. They live in a clean environment with fresh air and the sunshine to naturally sterilize everything. They’re not living in yesterday’s poop, where most of the disease lives.

Pasture raised animals are not breeding superbugs like their CAFO counterparts. Bacteria reproduce exponentially. They can form millions of cells in as little as a few hours. That’s a lot of chances for them to form mutations that help them survive the harsh antibiotics that are meant to kill them.

The old weak bacteria are killed off by the antibiotics, leaving only the new stronger bacteria that are immune to the antibiotics. These bacteria continue to thrive and form new mutations that make them even more dangerous. It’s survival of the fittest. And the fittest are the most dangerous.

7. Pasture Raised Meat is Cleaner Meat

Conventional Slaughter is not as Clean as You Think. Most industrial slaughterhouses use mechanical evisceration. During this process 95% of the time the intestines and stomach burst and contaminate the meat. This is considered acceptable because the industry uses chlorine baths and irradiation to sterilize the meat. Never mind that the meat has poop on it, it’s sterile.

Many states allow up to 10% fecal matter in the cooling vat. Not the kind of marinade you had in mind? Don’t forget the chlorine, that’s tasty too.

Pasture raised chicken is butchered by hand. This keeps the intestines intact so the meat stays cleaner. The meat is also carefully rinsed before going into the cooling baths. This keeps the water clean.

Pasture raised poultry is processed in small facilities. They might butcher 600 chickens in a day. Then they clean up. Conventional giant processing facilities operate around the clock and  process as many as 140 birds a minute. In five minutes they butcher more chickens that a pastured poultry facility does in a whole day. That many birds create a huge mess. It’s impossible to keep these facilities clean. Hence the chlorine and irradiation.

Beef and pork processors have much the same problem. Beef slaughterhouses process up to 400 beef an hour. Pork slaughterhouses process up to 1000 hogs an hour. These animals are much bigger than a chicken. Most of them are covered in feces, but are not washed prior to slaughtering. The contamination is inevitable. But again, chemicals and irradiation will make everything okay.

Local meat processors slaughter less than 100 beef or hogs in a day. Then they clean up. Most of these processors are too small to butcher more than one day a week. The rest of the week is devoted to cutting those animals up. Plenty of time to keep stuff clean.

8. Pasture Based Farms are Environmentally Friendly

Factory farms have a problem. A manure problem. Raising thousands of animals at a time means lots of manure. To make matters worse, this manure is contaminated with antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals. It is toxic and has to go through extra processes to dispose of it.

On pastured farms, manure is not a curse, it’s a blessing. Chicken manure is spread thinly across fields by means of daily moves. A similar process is followed with pigs raised in the woods and cows on the pasture. Never is manure allowed to build up to the point of becoming toxic. The only pile of manure you’ll find is the compost pile. Instead of polluting the environment, the manure feeds the pasture.

In addition, buying locally means that your meat and produce are not trucked thousands of miles before getting to you. That’s a lot of pollution saved.

Pasture raised cows, when managed properly, can help sequester carbon from the atmosphere. When a cow eats a stalk of grass, the plant has to restart its growth cycle. You probably learned back in elementary school that plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. They consume much more carbon dioxide  when growing. Once a grass plant reaches full growth, it goes dormant. Waiting patiently for an animal to come along and eat it, restarting the process over again, and sequestering more carbon.

9. Buying from Local Farmers Keeps the Money in the Local Economy

When you buy from a multinational company your money flies off to some distant city, never to be seen again. When you buy from a local farmer, it stays in the local economy much longer.

Food in the store has multiple markups on it. First there is the farmer who grew the food, then he sells it, usually on the commodity market, to an aggregator. The aggregator sells the food to a processor who turns it into a product. The processor then sells the product to a wholesaler. The wholesaler sells the product to a store who finally sells it to you.

That’s a lot of different people making money off one product. Most of them don’t live nearby.

When a major chicken company contracts with a farmer to raise their chickens, the farmer ends up making relatively little. It’s not uncommon for a conventional chicken farmer to have a job in the city to help pay the bills.

10. More Farms Means More Jobs

The industrial farming sector is obsessed with efficiency. “Look how many chickens one farmer can raise at a time”. “Look how many pigs we can slaughter in a day.”

The problem with these super efficient models is that no one can catch every problem. When a farmer has 40,000 chickens on their farm, they can’t possibly know how many are sick, how many are dying. They can only count the dead ones they find. The only preventative measures they have are medications.

When you scale down to a local pasture based farm. It is much more labor intensive. But I would consider that a good thing. When a farmer has only 1,000 birds at a time, he can take the time to look at every bird. He can take any sick birds and nurse them back to health.

In this economy, we could use some more jobs. So please, support your local farmer. That’s one more person that can support himself and his family. Isn’t that what we all want?