Skip to content

Tag: Local Grown

The Conventional Food System is Fragile

Posted in Food for Thought

Many people think that growing food the conventional way is the only way to feed the world. After all, that’s what they’ve been told for years. Conventional farming practices have created a system that is fragile because it relies on many outside factors to continue functioning. The failure of any one of these could lead to higher food prices or worse, the failure of millions of acres of crops or widespread death of livestock.  

Reliance on Drugs, Pesticides, and Herbicides

When an industrial farm crams thousands of animals into a building, they create an ideal environment for pathogens. The same goes for cropland. When you have thousands of the same plant in a relatively small area, pests that target that plant have a virtually unlimited supply of food.

In confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs) this requires the use of antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic resistant bacteria. Herbicide resistant weeds are showing up in croplands. Nature abhors a monoculture and is fighting back against these unnatural farming practices. Nowhere in nature will you find only one species of plant or animal. Nature thrives on diversity.

The question is, what happens when we run out of effective antibiotics? At our current trajectory, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Most confinement operations feed antibiotics on a continuous basis. Some of these antibiotics are not even necessary. Some operations feed antibiotics to speed growth. Others to prevent disease. All the while, bacteria are reproducing and mutating.

According to the CDC, overuse and misuse of antibiotics leads to bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics.[4] Once that happens, this bacteria quickly become the dominant bacteria since there is no other competition. It’s unclear how many drug resistant diseases were developed in factory farms. Some undoubtedly came from us. After all, livestock farms are not the only ones abusing antibiotics.

In 2013, the CDC published a report outlining the to 18 drug-resistant threats. Among them were: Clostridium difficile which causes 250,000 infections each year and 15,000 deaths. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) causes over 80,000 infections each year and over 11,000 deaths. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the leading cause of bacterial pneumonia and meningitis in the United States with 1.2 million infections and 7,000 deaths.

The Electricity Cannot Go Out

This is mostly a problem for industrial animal operations. Namely pig and chicken farms. These farms use electricity for ventilation, distributing feed, and monitoring the operation. These buildings need constant ventilation to keep methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and other toxins from building up. If the fans stop running for even a few minutes, the pigs or chickens will start suffocating.[1]

A few years back, a wind storm blew through northern Virginia. Most of the region was out of power for over a week. Many confinement operations lost thousands of pigs and millions of chickens. Meanwhile at polyface farm, a pasture based sustainable farm, most of the animals had no idea the power was out. The only real damage was from the wind storm itself. Many pasture shelters were blown away, leaving the chickens to wonder what happened to their shade. These chickens were quickly herded up in temporary shelters until their individual shelters could be rebuilt. Very few chickens died at polyface, because they did not depend on electricity.

What if the Water Runs Out?

Conventional farming uses a lot of water. You may have heard about the struggle between Los Angeles and the farmers upstream on the Colorado river. Los Angeles claims that the farmers are using too much water leaving them with a water shortage. The farmers claim that they need the water or they’ll go out of business.

High yield corn does not mean that a corn plant produces more corn per plant. What it really means is that you can plant more plants per acre. More plants need more water. Whereas an acre of corn decades ago might have been able to survive on rainwater, a high yield acre of corn needs to be irrigated. Either from groundwater or rivers.

You’ve likely seen the round fields of the Midwest. Many round plots next to each other. You might wonder why they don’t make them square to use all of the land. The reason they are round is that they are using a center pivots to water the crops. A long arm rotates around a center which provides water to sprinklers. Most of these center pivots use groundwater. And they use a lot.

“Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of groundwater.”[2]

David Pimentel, professor at Cornell University.

Cropland is Eroding Away

It may not surprise you, but bare ground is very susceptible to erosion. Without dense cover, rain and wind can easily break soil apart and carry it away. Think of grass like clothing. Grass is essentially clothing for soil. You wouldn’t go outside without clothes on, why should the Earth have to go without its clothes?

“Row crops are highly susceptible to erosion because the vegetation does not cover the entire soil surface.”

Food, Energy, and Society by David and Marcia Pimentel[7]

A project conducted by the Land Stewardship Project showed that pasture used for grazing can have up to 80% less erosion than cropland.[8] This is not a small problem. The estimated acreage for the four major crops, corn, soybean, wheat, and cotton is approximately 240 million acres.[10] This type of farming, which leaves its soil exposed for much of the year has caused the United States to lose as much as 30% of its topsoil in the last 200 years.[7, 9] Remember the dust bowl?

The saddest part about this, is that a majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the US are not necessary. Corn ethanol production is hopelessly inefficient. It takes more than a gallon of fossil fuel to make a gallon of ethanol. Feeding grain to cows is another waste. Cows are perfectly capable of living off nothing but grass, yet we burn millions of gallons of fossil fuel every year to grow and transport grain to feed them.

As disappointing as this is, it’s not surprising. After all, there are no subsides to raise cattle and conserve grasslands. All federal farm subsidies go toward grains, which require plowing.

Farmers are Getting Old

As of 2012, the average age of farmers in America is 58 years old.[6] This number has only been going up, and will probably continue to go up. Why? Because getting into conventional farming is expensive. To be a chicken farmer, you have to spend $200,000 to $400,000 up front to build the specialized buildings required by the poultry companies. Hog farmers face a similar situation.

Independence is being wrung out of modern farmers. Open markets have all but been eliminated. A hog farmer who doesn’t have a contract with a pork company will find himself getting even less money for his hogs at auction. Chicken farmers don’t even own their birds, so losing a contract means their expensive buildings sit empty, losing money with every mortgage payment.

Crop farmers have also faced the consequences of the USDA’s “get big, or get out” doctrine. With grain prices lower than the cost to grow the grains, farmers rely on subsidies to survive. Even with subsidies, many farmers still have to take on jobs to pay the bills.

Needless to say, many children of farmers are moving to the city to get higher paying jobs. And their parents aren’t necessarily upset. They would rather their children make a good living than struggle like they do every day.

Industrial Farming Needs Cheap Energy

Energy is cheap. In fact, energy is the cheapest it has ever been in the history of the world. Never before has it been so cheap to ship products across the country or the world.

It’s never been so cheap to farm. Tractors running on cheap fuel have revolutionized farming. An acre was originally defined as the amount of land a farmer with oxen could till in one day. One acre a day. Now a farmer can till many dozens of acres a day. All from the comfort of his climate controlled tractor.

This is only one small part of the whole system. The entire conventional food system relies on cheap energy. It needs cheap fuel to transport components thousands of miles. It needs cheap energy to run the factories. It needs cheap mining and cheap refining to provide cheap fertilizers.

If energy becomes expensive, several things happen. It suddenly becomes very expensive to transport food thousands of miles. Manufacturing of chemical fertilizer becomes expensive. Transportation costs turn cheap grain into not-so-cheap grain. All of this would lead to food prices going up, way up. The more processed a food is, the more cheap energy it needs.

We all know how volatile the price of oil can be. All it takes is a hurricane in Louisiana and the price of oil goes up by nearly $70 a barrel.[11] The more oil we pump out of the ground, the harder it becomes to find new sources. We’ve gone from finding oil literally spewing out of the ground to searching miles offshore in the ocean. Many experts worry that we will eventually run out of oil. If that is true, then say goodbye to cheap energy.

Sustainable Farming is Inherently More Resilient

When the electricity goes out on a pasture based farm, most of the animals wouldn’t even know. They’re all outside, or in shelters that don’t need electricity to operate. The small amount of electricity required to run certain parts of the farm can be supplied by generators until the power comes back on.

While cheap energy benefits sustainable farms like it does industrial farms, they don’t require it. Sustainable farms don’t need massive machines to operate. Many small sustainable farms don’t even have small tractors. With fuel usage so low, even a doubling in the price of oil would not significantly impact a sustainable farm. At Polyface farm, a sustainable farm in Virginia, Joel Salatin estimated that fuel cost only accounted for about 5% of their expenses. They could afford to pay 2 to 3 times as much for fuel and still be okay. Try paying twice as much for gas with a conventional farm.

Pests and disease cannot thrive in a diverse environment. When a chicken pathogen hatches out in chicken manure, it needs to find a chicken to infest. In a confinement farm this is easy. But on a sustainable farm, the chickens are moved everyday to new ground, leaving those newly hatched pathogens behind before they can infest a new host.

Water is another resource that sustainable farms do not need as much of, especially per acre. This is mainly because sustainable farms raise less animals per acre. Proponents of industrial farming would claim that this is less efficient, and that’s true. But is also easier on the environment. Nature is not designed to have thousands or millions of animals living on an acre in perpetuity.

Conventional farming may be facing a lack of new talent, sustainable farming is attracting a lot of folks who want to get out of the cubicle and help the environment. It isn’t even about the money for some, it’s about communing with nature. That’s the beauty of sustainable farming, not only is it good for the environment, it’s good for the farmers as well.

 

References

  1. Righteous Porkchop, Nicolette Hahn Niman, 2010
  2. news.cornell.edu/stories/2001/08/ethanol-corn-faulted-energy-waster-scientist-says
  3. www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/biggest_threats.html
  4. www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/about/antibiotic-resistance-faqs.html
  5. www.tesh.com/story/health-and-well-being-category/life-on-10-a-gallon/cc/6/id/12440
  6. agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Highlights/Farm_Demographics/#average_age
  7. Food, Energy, and Society, David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, 2007
  8. Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman, 2014
  9. Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, David R. Montgomery, 2012
  10. usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/Acre/Acre-06-29-2018.pdf
  11. oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/What-Affects-Oil-Prices.html

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

Local Food isn’t too Expensive, Conventional Food is too Cheap

Posted in Food for Thought

What is cheap? Think about that for a moment. Cheap is relative.

Is a coffee pot cheap? How about a refrigerator? A refrigerator costs a lot more than a coffee pot, but it can still be cheap. It really depends on what brand you buy or where you buy it. You can spend $10 on a coffee pot, or you can spend $500. $500 is expensive for a coffee pot, but not for a refrigerator.

Take gas as an example – is $2 a gallon cheap? You probably didn’t think so in 2002, when gas was in the $1.50 a gallon range. $2.00 a gallon is cheap when compared to $3.00 a gallon. But it’s expensive when compared to $1.50 a gallon.

How Much Should Food Cost?

In my article, What is Elitist, I explore how inflation affected the food industry differently than the rest of the economy.

When I look at the 1950s prices for food, then adjust them 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.[2]

I also discovered that 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 food prices have gone up by 1,300% or more. While at the same time, the amount of money the farmers make off this food has gone down.[2]  

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.[2]  

Is it any wonder so many people think that locally raised food is too expensive? We’ve become accustomed to cheap food. So, let’s explore how our food became so cheap.

Economies of Scale Favor Big Corporations.

When a processing plant butchers 250,000 chickens a day, paying several inspectors is cheap. However, when a small local processor only butchers 600 a day, paying even one inspector becomes expensive. But that’s not the only expense.

FSIS regulations require that every processing plant have a separate office and bathroom for the inspector. They wouldn’t want to soil themselves by using the lowly employee bathroom. This of course, means building two bathrooms, and an extra office. Not a problem when your plant is 30,000+ square feet. But for a local plant that may be 2,000 square feet, that extra 100 square feet is a much bigger cost.

Inspection is not a guarantee, unless you’re a mega processing plant. Small processors may employ one inspector a week, sometimes less. Meanwhile mega processors can easily employ half a dozen per week or more. This gives them priority over the small guys. If the inspector for a small plant calls in sick, the work has to stop. That’s not the case for a mega plant, they’ll just continue on with one less inspector.

Mass production is great for cars, coffee pots etc. because these things are not alive. Warehousing sheet metal in cramped buildings doesn’t hurt anyone. However, when you start viewing animals the same way you view sheet metal, you stop caring about what conditions they live in.

Abusing Animals

Cows aren’t cars. Pigs aren’t iphones.Chickens aren’t bottles of soda. You can’t just force millions of animals into a rigid system like you do a car, or a bottle of soda. Nature doesn’t do that. Can you think of anywhere in nature where thousands of chickens live in a small area with no other animals? I can’t.

But industrial agriculture doesn’t care about how animals live in nature. Conventional farming crams animals into warehouse like buildings where they are fed hormones, steroids, and antibiotics to make them grow fast. Then they are slaughtered quickly before they die.

These buildings can be smelled from a mile away. The poop buildup creates a noxious environment for the animals to live in. When you have 30,000 chickens or 5,000 hogs in a building, keeping them clean is impossible. These buildings require constant ventilation to keep the animals alive. If the ventilation fails for even a short period of time, methane buildup can occur, killing the animals.[12]

Studies have been done that link cruelty to animals with sociopathic tendencies. What could be more abusive that forcing animals to live in their own feces for their entire life. Death is a welcome relief for these animals.

Exploiting Farmers & Food Workers

A conventional farmer in the US makes a small percentage of a dollar spent of the food they raised. Why is that? The answer is simple. Middlemen.

Much of the processed food consumed today goes through as many a five different companies before it reaches the consumer. In order for this to be profitable, the farmer cannot be paid a substantial amount. After all, each one of the middlemen have to make a profit. No one cares if the farmer does. That’s what subsidies are for, right?

Workers at processing plants are also notoriously underpaid. Many processing plants have taken to hiring migrant workers who are more willing to accept low wages.

Workers at processing plants are hired to to a very specific task. Hang birds on hooks, cut the wings off a bird, etc. these tasks require very few moves, but need to be repeated very quickly. Many processing plants butcher up to 140 birds a minute. This breakneck pace causes repetitive stress injuries.[12]

Subsidies Unfairly Promote Big Corporations

The price you pay at the supermarket cash register is not the true cost. Much of it has been subsidized with tax dollars.

Let’s pretend that the government decided to subsidize every car sold in the US to the tune of $5,000 per vehicle. Except Toyota. because reasons. Would it be right to get mad at Toyota because their cars cost more? It’s not Toyota’s fault that the government decided to leave them out.

Grain subsidies have allowed the price of grain to go down over the last 40 years. This in turn has made meat and processed food cheaper. Meanwhile the cost to grow that grain has gone up along with everything else. In August 2016 a bushel of corn cost $2.88.[4] However, in August 1974 a bushel of corn brought $3.32.[3] That’s $16.00 in 2016 dollars.

I’m sorry, what? The price of corn has gone down over five and half times in the last 40 years. Who’s paying for that? Taxpayers and farmers. Grain subsidies come out of tax dollars. Every taxpayer is paying for them whether they want to or not. That means that vegans are paying for subsides to feed cattle and chickens that they’ll never eat.

Farmers are also paying for it. In the 1970s the USDA encouraged the consolidation of farmland. Farmers had to “get big or get out.”[1] In other words, farmers had to grow more crops to make the same amount of money. And it’s worked, farmers grow four times as much corn as they did in 1970.[1]

And while it’s true that economies of scale account for some of the price reduction, the question still remains. Do we really need 12 billion bushels of corn every year?

If you’re Tyson, then yes, you do. According to researchers Tim Wise and Alicia Harvie at Tufts, the lower prices of corn and soy have saved chicken producers $11.3 billion between 1997 and 2005.[6,7]

You might say: ‘Well that’s good for farmers.’ Not if they’re growing for Tyson. Tyson growers don’t buy the feed, or the chicks. They are merely paid to raise the chickens. Tyson alone is reaping the profits of low cost feed.

On the other hand, most local farms use NON-GMO or organic feed. Neither of which has subsidies. In other words, we’re Toyota.

Cheap Fuel & Cheap Pollution

When you truck food thousands of miles, you need cheap fuel. Bananas are cheap for one main reason. Mass transit using cheap fuel.

Currently our conventional farm system relies on mining the earth and oceans to make cheap fertilizer. This fertilizer is used on soil that has long since been depleted of its fertility. Hence the need for fertilizer. This fertilizer is made in chemical plants that pollute the environment.[11]

Farmers routinely over fertilize their fields. They call this insurance.[8] This extra fertilizer cannot be absorbed by the soil. It ends up being washed away by rain or irrigation. The fertilizer contaminated water makes its way to the nearest creek or river, eventually making its way to the mississippi river and out to the gulf of mexico. A dead zone occurs every summer in the Gulf of Mexico when runoff from industrial farming makes its way down the river.[9, 10]

The worst industrial disaster in history was caused by a pesticide plant. In 1984 the Union Carbide company operating in Bhopal india, had a gas leak. Over 500,000 people were exposed to Methyl Isocyanate. The death toll was at least 3,787, but more deaths are claimed.[5]

If more farming converted to Organic and subsequently we reduced our use of petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides we’d see petroleum prices drop. We would also see our environment improve and reduce associated costs.

Are You a Cheap Food Family?

If the only food you buy for your family is the cheapest food available, what message does that send? Does eating cheap food make your kids feel special? Or does it send the message: “you’re not worth buying good food for.”

Our children learn from our example. You can preach and lecture all you want, but your actions speak louder than your words. If you talk about eating healthy, but continue to buy cheap food, your children will see through your hollow words.

Every time your child eats, their body uses that food as building material. Is that building material quality? Or is it like building a house using rotted wood. You may have gotten a good deal on it. But it’ll cost you later.

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?

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.[13] 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.

 

References

  1. www.motherjones.com/food/2012/02/america-food-spending-less/
  2. www.thepeoplehistory.com/1950s.html
  3. www.iowaagriculture.gov/agMarketing/historic/1974GrainPrices.asp
  4. www.iowaagriculture.gov/agMarketing/historic/2016GrainPrices.asp
  5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Carbide
  6. grist.org/article/2010-03-25-corn-ethanol-meat-hfcs/
  7. grist.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/pb09-01sweeteningpotfeb09.pdf
  8. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan, 2016
  9. www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20110804_deadzone.html
  10. www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/aug/01/meat-industry-dead-zone-gulf-of-mexico-environment-pollution
  11. grist.org/article/miracle-grow/
  12. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, 2012
  13. www.eatwild.com

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

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

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