Tuesday, December 21, 2010
1 lb bulk pork sausage (can be either breakfast or Italian)
Test for doneness with by inserting a knife. If it comes out clean, it’s done!
If dairy sensitivities are not a concern, you can substitute 1 cup of ½ & ½ or heavy cream for the coconut milk beverage. And you could throw some cheese on top of the spinach layer, too!
How about a bacon cheeseburger version? Instead of the pork, use two pounds of ground beef. Cook and crumple a package of bacon and add it as an additional layer.
Friday, December 17, 2010
|Justus von Liebig, circa 1850|
Liebig was one of the first chemists to organize a laboratory as we know it today. He improved organic and inorganic analysis of compounds. With Friedrich Wöhler, he developed a theory of radicals and made the first experimental discovery of isomerism. Liebig wrote books about agricultural and animal chemistry where there was a practical application of organic chemistry to animal and plant science.
Liebig’s Theory of Mineral Nutrients for Plants reformed agriculture during the mid 1800’s. This theory made the following major points:
- plants take minerals up through their roots from the soil
- soil is fertile only if nutrients removed by the plant are replaced
- each kind of plant species requires different nutrients
- one nutrient cannot substitute for another, which led to the “Law of the Minimum”
Let’s apply this barrel analogy to a pasture-based livestock production system. I remember a visit to a pasture-based dairy farm in north western California. The farm’s pastures were subdivided into a number of smaller pastures, or paddocks. The farmer was concerned that the grass species he had planted were not persisting. He was renovating his pasture, by conventional tillage, on a five year rotation. “Perennial” pasture ought to last longer than five years!
As we walked across the paddocks, we saw that the grass-clover content increased from clover dominant (minimal grass) at the “head” of the paddock (where the animals are first turned in) to optimal in the middle, to grass dominant (with the grass too mature for dairy cow feed) at the far end of the paddock.
Each paddock had a single, fixed water source at the “head” of the paddock. These paddocks were managed, essentially, in a strip-grazing fashion. A portable fence would be set up ahead of the animals to give access to fresh feed. Each day the fence would be moved forward to provide a new grazing area. Each paddock would provide at least six days of grazing. Because of the fixed water supply, the animals could not be excluded from the previously grazed sections with a back fence and the animals would re-graze these sections. The grass at the head of the paddock was declining because it didn't have sufficient rest period after the initial grazing. The grass was dominant at the far end of the paddock because the cows preferred to remain closer to the water source and eat the higher quality herbage.
The majority of pasture Dry Matter (DM) yield is produced by the grass component. This farmer thought that his DM yield per acre (and therefore his milk fat production per acre) was limited either by the species (or varieties) of grasses he’d been planting, or by the fertility of soil in those pastures. He was prepared to pay a significant amount of money to address these conditions. In fact, the limiting factor was the lack of water in each grazing area. Given the costs of complete pasture renovation, the investment in improving the water supply system would produce the greatest economic return.
Now let’s apply Liebeg’s barrel analogy to human nutrition and health. The evidence indicates that the Standard American Diet (SAD) contains too much carbohydrate. Hyperinsulinemia (chronically elevated insulin) is a health problem for many. There are compelling, biologically plausible explanations for the more than 100 years of epidemiological observations strongly suggesting that highly refined carbohydrates are the most likely dietary cause of dyslipidemia, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic diseases of civilization.
If a typical American, eating the SAD were to merely switch their meat sources to grass-finished ones, while the rest of their diet remained the same, how much health improvement could they expect? Probably not much, since the differences in meat due to feeding practices are NOT the limiting factors. These differences are real. They are quantifiable and they've been well documented. But they are not the short staves in this situation. Making an investment of money and effort here will not produce the best response.
Okay, how about if they were to switch to grass-finished meat AND only consume organic vegetables, grain products, sweeteners, and vegetable oils? Again, the evidence strongly suggests that they will NOT see the greatest “bang for their buck.” The short staves in thier diet are the grain products, sweeteners, and vegetable oils. Their elimination from the diet is more important than how they were produced. Organic "carbage" is still carbage!
It's hard to talk about this without being mis-understood. Nancy and I enjoy locally produced, grass-finished lamb (from Cattail Creek Lamb) and beef, and our pork comes from a local producer (Heritage Farms Northwest) who fatten their Red Wattle pigs on hazelnuts. Most of the vegatables we enjoy are locally produced and organic (and non-starchy!). We are making conscious decisions about supporting our local farmers. We are blessed to be able to afford to eat this way. And because we've eliminated grain products, sweetners and vegetable oils from our diet, we're more likely to realize the benefits from eating these wonderful foodstuffs. We've addressed the "short staves."
Thursday, December 16, 2010
One of the group members videoed the presentation and kindly presented me with a copy on DVD. I finally learned how to overcome the technology hurdles to permit placing it on the web (if I had a 5 year old, it would have happened far sooner!).
You can view the presentation at this link, and the question and answer here.
Your comments are welcome!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Oregon Cattlemen's Association annual conference. The topic of my talk was "Grass Based Health - Food for Thought." I'm very encouraged by how it was received. Their feedback was positive and helpful, and their suggestions for future talks and projects have given me lots of ideas. Now comes the follow up!!
I took that material, removed the references to the Oregon Cattlemen and the beef industry in particular, and created an slide-and-audio video. It runs a little more than 16 minutes. I've posted it to Vimeo and YouTube:
Vimeo and to YouTube (Part 1, Part 2).
I welcome your comments.
Some of us may find ourselves, at some point in our lives, at a place where we realize that a change is needed (there are the unlucky ones who'll never realize or admit that a change is, in fact, needed). Here is my “moment of clarity,” Christmas of 2007. When I looked at myself I realized that I really had to do something. At my heaviest I was over 220 lbs (you get to the point where you stop weighing yourself, right?). At 5' 10 1/2" this meant that I was obese, according to the Body Mass Index. Several friends had been diagnosed with pre-diabetes and I learned that I had several risk factors for that condition as well. Over the years I'd tried various methods of losing weight, but without significant or lasting success. "Not much and not for long" well describes my experience. Sound familiar?
By this time my wife Nancy had already been on her own journey of research and dietary change for more than 2 years. She was smart enough to know that talking to me before I was ready to listen probably wouldn’t accomplish much. So when I was ready to listen, I had my own in-house expert. She directed me to the books and other sources of information she’d found helpful.
The first two books were Stop Prediabetes Now: The Ultimate Plan to Lose Weight and Prevent Diabetes by Jack Challem and Ron Hunninghake and The Protein Power Lifeplan by Micahael R. Eades, M.D. and Mary Dan Eades, M.D. Both books follow a similar plan of carbohydrate restriction. I started with Challem and Hunninghake's book but I've followed the Eades' plan for the most part. By following this information, I’ve lost more than 45 pounds and maintained that weight loss by adopting a way of eating that emphasizes animal fats and animal proteins while reducing carbohydrates.
Much of what I’ve been learning these past three years actually amounts to a review of material from my nutrition, physiology and biochemistry classes at the University of Kentucky in the early 80’s. As I’ve studied, I’ve come to realize that I had been the victim of a massive disinformation campaign that was waged upon the American people to convince us that a low-fat, reduced cholesterol, high carbohydrate diet is the healthy diet.
I'm grateful for the authors, physicians, and researchers who have fought against the tide of "conventional wisdom" to provide us with the truth. I'm supremely grateful to Nancy for her patience and support. I am humbled by the opportunity to help others find and apply this information in their own lives.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Those familiar with the concept of a Paleolithic diet will see the irony in this drawing by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). Though it goes against my agriculture school training, there is compelling evidence that agriculture has not been an unqualified blessing to mankind. Many will argue that the health of mankind has suffered. Paleolithic, or pre-agricultural, humans were of larger stature than their Neolithic, or agricultural, cousins. The fossils of Paleolithic and Neolithic humans can be differentiated by the presence of pathological conditions that were absent in Paleolithic humans. I came across Holbein’s drawing in the book Soil, Grass and Cancer by André Voisin. His hypothesis, seemingly supported by an impressive amount of data, was that people who ate the products of heavy clay soils suffered numerous health problems, such as thyroid disease and cancer, in spite of the fact that the soils were rich in minerals.
Voisin’s name is familiar to those who’ve read about intensive grazing management. His earlier book, Grass Productivity, is considered a classic in the subject. Born in France in 1903, André Voisin was both a biochemist and a farmer. He taught biochemistry at the National Veterinary School of France as well as at the Institute of Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Paris. But his great insights regarding soils and grass came to him in the hours he spent watching his own cows graze the pastures on his farm in Normandy. Although he was a scientist by profession, Voisin remained a farmer at heart. He understood that if the soils and grasses were managed with care, they would in turn take care of the animals who lived on them; and if our domestic animals were healthy and well fed, then those who consumed the animals and their products would also enjoy good health.
In Grass Productivity, Voisin documented the effect of the length of the “rest” period between grazings, and the length of the grazing sessions on green pasture dry matter production and green dry matter intake by dairy cows. His “Four Laws” of what he called “rational grazing” are applicable “whatever the soil conditions, climate, altitude, latitude or longitude.”
First Law: Before a sward, sheared with the animal’s teeth, can achieve its maximum productivity, sufficient interval must have elapsed between two successive shearings to allow the grass:
- to accumulate in its roots the reserves necessary for a vigourous spurt of re-growth;
- to produce it’s “blaze of growth” (or high daily yield per acre).
Second Law: The total occupation period on one paddock should be sufficiently short for a grass sheared on the first day (or at the beginning) of occupation not to be cut again by the teeth of these animals before they leave the paddock.
Third Law: The animals with the greatest nutritional requirements must be helped to harvest the greatest quantity of grass of the best possible quality.
Fourth Law: If a cow is to give regular milk yields she must not stay any longer than three days on the same paddock. Yields will be at their maximum if the cow stays on one paddock for only one day.
I’ve enjoyed getting re-acquainted with Grass Productivity. It’s been a while since I last read it. It was during a search for “Voisin” during an on-line search of the Oregon State University Library catalog that I came across Soil, Grass and Cancer. Healthy soil, according to Voisin, is more than a collection of minerals. His data seemed to suggest that people who ate the products of heavy clay soils suffered numerous health problems, such as thyroid disease and cancer, in spite of the fact that the soils were rich in minerals. He believed that organic matter served as the catalyst for mineral absorption. Minerals must first be consumed by earthworms and microscopic life and excreted as humus before they can be easily taken up by grazing animals, Voisin believed.
In addition, Voisin believed that soil nutrient balance was important. Application of concentrated fertilizers like potassium chloride and calcium nitrate to grassland, could result in a deficiency of sulfur. Voisin suggested that this deficiency would prevent plants from producing sufficient quantities of sulfur-containing amino acids and the health of the animals will suffer accordingly.
While I credit Voisin with being a visionary when it comes to dairy pasture management, I’m afraid he was mistaken in his beliefs regarding soil and cancer. His errors are similar to those of many who’ve followed him. Numerous hypotheses about the cause of cancer, and other chronic diseases, have been advanced over the years. All too often the hypotheses were based upon the weakest of data. Sadly several have become the basis of numerous regulations and official governmental policy. Shockingly they’ve done so in the face of a compelling counter-hypothesis that continues to gain scientific support. In a perfect world, it would now be considered a theory.
“Cancer, like insanity, seems to increase with the progress of civilization.”
Stanislas Tanchou was a physician who, following his service with Napoleon, entered private practice and studied the statistical distribution of cancer. Tanchou presented his complex statistical examination of malignancy to the Paris Science Society in 1843 (1). He documented evidence of increased malignancy with increased civilization. One of the prime indicators of a civilizing trend was a diet that included sugar and white flour. The greater the consumption of these foods, the greater the incidence of malignancy.
Tanchou was the first of many physicians to document what have been called "Western Diseases" or "Diseases of Civilization." The incidence of several diseases, including cancer, increases in direct proportion to the "civilization" of a nation and its people. Evidence has continued to accumulate that as populations shift from their traditional diets to diets that contain refined carbohydrates, diseases which had not been present begin appear. And as the amount of refined carbohydrate in their diet increases, the incidence of these diseases increases. This pattern has been observed in populations on every continent.
Richard Doll (the man that proved the link between cigarette smoking and cancer) and Richard Peto’s 1981 paper “The Causes of Cancer: Quantitative Estimates of Avoidable Risks of Cancer in the United States Today” made the following points: (2)
At least 75 to 80 percent of cancers in the U.S. would be avoidable with appropriate changes in diet and lifestyle.
Food additives, pollution and occupational exposures play a minimal role.
Diet plays the largest role – from 10 to 70 percent of all cancer.
Couple these points with the wealth of information about what causes Western Diseases and you’ll find what constitutes a cancer-avoiding diet – one that is low in carbohydrate. Unfortunately that message isn’t supported by Conventional Wisdom or by the United States Government.
A few years later John Higginson, the first director of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, wrote: (3)
“It appears that only a very small part of the total cancer burden can be directly related to industrialization.”
Remember, it wasn’t industrialization that introduced cancer and other Western Diseases to populations, it was refined carbohydrates! It seems so clear, yet official policy and legislation has been focused in other directions. In part because of faulty science, and in part because of competing interests.
Another quote from Higginson:
“If [environmentalists] could possibly make people believe that cancer was going to result from pollution, this would enable them to facilitate the clean-up of water, of the air, or whatever it is… to make cancer the whipping boy for every environmental evil may prevent effective action when it does matter.”
One of the implied benefits of “organic” food is that, since it was grown without pesticides (except for those approved “organic” pesticides, of course!) consumers will reduced their risk of cancer by consuming it. But if Tanchou and all the others have been right all along, it’s organic “carbage” (organic toaster pastries, breakfast cereals, sugar, white flour, etc) and conventional "carbage" that’s posing the greatest risk for cancer.
1- Tanchou S. 1843. Statistics of Cancer London Lancet. Aug 5, 593.
2- Doll R, Peto R. 1981. “The causes of cancer: quantitative estimates of avoidable risks of cancer in the United States today.” J Natl Cancer Inst. Jun;66(6):1191-308.
3- Higginson, J. 1981. “Rethinking the Environmental Causation of Human Cancer.” Food and Cosmetics Toxicology. Oct.; 19(5):539-48.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I frequently hear the "fact" that livestock production is an inefficient use of land, so I thought I’d have a little fun and dust off some of my old pasture management information. We can debate the numbers, but I don’t think I’m too far off ...
Let's assume the following:
- Dry matter yield from perennial ryegrass & white clover pasture of 10,000 lb per acre
- 75% of the pasture dry matter produced is consumed by the grazing animal
- A conversion rate of 14 lb of pasture dry matter per lb of hanging weight
- An edible yield of 65% of the hanging weight
- A cooked yield of 56% of the raw weight
- A per meal protein requirement of 4 ounces of cooked meat
- 3 meals per day
Under these conditions, a piece of pasture less than 209 x 209 feet could produce enough meat to supply a person's daily protein needs for 260 days (not to mention the lovely fat!). Remember that this land can be completely unsuited to the production of grains, fruits, or vegetables.
If we could bump the pasture yield to 15,000 lbs of DM per acre, we could produce sufficient meat to supply a person's daily protein needs for 390 days!!
Oh, and by the way, perennial pasture produces about as much root dry matter as it does above-ground dry matter, thus fixing more carbon. Even poorly-managed pasture is equal to woodland in terms of "fixing" carbon, while well-managed pasture is many times better.
This from a perennial "crop" that requires minimal fertilizer, pesticides, equipment, or petroleum to produce. But it isn’t “green” ‘cause it’s not vegetarian!
Friday, May 7, 2010
There are certain “givens” in this concept I call Grass Based Health. Here’s a few that I put down as a response to the “Diet-For-a Small-Planet” folks. You know them, right? They’re the ones that say that animal agriculture is an inefficient use of land and that grain-based diets are healthier for us. There are many points that could be made, but let’s start with these:
1. The vast majority of the earth’s land surface isn’t suited to the production of fruits, grain, & vegetables. But a significant portion of it is well suited to the production of high quality protein and fat via ruminant animals and managed grasslands. (That US-type agriculture feeds grain to cattle and sheep doesn’t refute this fact.)
2. Well-managed grass-based agriculture (the production of milk, meat, and fiber from perennial grasslands) is sustainable, and beneficial to the environment (again, the fact that the majority of agricultural practices in the US don’t model this reality doesn’t refute these facts).
3. Unlike fruits, grain, & vegetables, the high-quality protein and fat from animals provides all of the essential amino acids, and fatty acids humans require.
4. Eating the “Diet-For-a Small-Planet” diet is, therefore, the unsustainable, environmentally irresponsible, unhealthful choice that has lead/is leading the world into an epidemic of chronic disease that is awe-inspiring to contemplate – tooth & gum disease, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, Alzheimers, etc. What is/will be the impact of the resource demand for the treatment of these (and other) diseases that are now known (or strongly suspected) of being the result of high-carbohydrate diets?
One last point: It is possible that there would not have been a slave trade from Africa into the new world if the English and Europeans hadn’t been addicted to sugar …
Dietary choices and agricultural policies have far-reaching implications.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I wasn't aware of Dr. Scott Connelly or his Body Rx book and website. From the comments section of Tom's blog I understand that Dr. Connelly has been ill recently and his condition is seen in these videos. No matter, the information is solid and his presentation is good. I've got a slight problem with some of his language, but it's relatively mild.
Dr. Connelly: Talks About Insulin pt. 1
Dr. Connelly: Talks About Insulin pt. 2
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Last weekend I attended the combined meetings of American Society of Bariatric Physicians and Nutrition and Metabolism Society. Among the many great researchers I met was Dr. Stephen Phinney. Over dinner the topic of pemmican came up, and we shared our recipes. During his presentation he discussed the importance of pemmican in the diets of the people who inhabited the Great Plains of North America prior to, and for some time after, the arrival of European settlers.
Pemmican is produced by pounding or grinding dried lean meat and combining it with rendered fat. It is equal parts, by weight, of dried meat and fat. Pemmican kept indefinitely without refrigeration, had a greater nutrient density than any other food, and as such, was the ideal “trail-food”. It sustained the Plains people in extraordinary health for centuries, and fueled the European exploration of North America and beyond. And then the modern nutritionists decided it needed to be “improved.”
Convinced that this meat and fat mixture couldn’t be “healthy” without vegetable matter, they started formulating various mixtures with nuts, dried berries, dried fruit, and grains in varying proportions based upon their own unsupported theories. Whatever your belief about the essentiality of carbohydrates in the human diet (they aren’t!), one fact is clear: the addition of carbohydrate to traditional pemmican reduces its nutrient density.
Remember the story of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910, led by Robert Falcon Scott? Barry Groves explains in his book Trick and Treat that Scott was talked into supplying the party with this “improved” pemmican.
Anyone who’s been backpacking knows that the weight of your supplies is a limiting factor. Outfitting an expedition is a situation where nutrient density (amount of nutrients per pound of foodstuff) is critical. Returning from successfully reaching the South Pole (although they were beaten to the goal by a Norwegian team lead by Roald Amundsen), the three surviving members of Scott’s party died shortly after March 29, 1912 - 11 miles short of a major supply depot. Groves suggests that Scott and his party are among the first victims of the “modern” nutritionists.
Nancy read The Fat of the Land, by the Canadian Arctic explorer and ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefansson.
Stefansson lived among the Inuit and other northern peoples for extended periods. He reported that these people ate a diet consisting of animal fat and protein and were remarkably healthy. Again, the nutritionists disagreed. It couldn’t be true because they knew humans needed vegetable matter to provide “essential” nutrients. Stefansson ultimately proved his point by submitting to a year-long study where he ate an all-meat diet. But perhaps that’s a story for another post.
Armed with Stefansson’s description of pemmican as a 1:1 dried meat to fat mixture by weight, we began our experiment:
Starting with our oven-dried beef. Remove as much fat as possible, and slice it thin. Place it on racks in the oven at 150 F. Every half hour or so, turn the pieces to promote even drying. There are other methods. Dr. Phinney uses a microwave set on 10% power. I’m afraid I didn’t get all the details during our dinner conversation. I’ll try to get the full information. If I do, I’ll post it here.
Rather than pounding the jerky to produce shreds, I used the food processor to chop it up.
I’ll try to leave it a little coarser in the future.
Transfer the meat to a bowl and add an equivalent amount of melted fat.
We’ve used home-rendered beef tallow, but the flavor is a little strong for us. Instead, we use a 50-50 mix of tallow and lard which we render from our locally produced, grass-fed beef and pastured pork. Because of the lower saturated fat content of the lard, this pemmican is softer than pemmican made with tallow would be. We store them in the refrigerator, so that’s not an issue.
We use some inexpensive candy molds to make bite-sized pemmican pieces.
After cooling in the refrigerator, they pop out of the mold fairly cleanly.
Two of these are a lot to eat, approximately 5 grams each, 38 Kcal, 1.2 g Protein & 2.5 g fat. Compare that with those "100 Calorie pack" snacks items ...
Dr. Phinney appreciated the irony of the shapes. Heart-healthy! We’re not planning to apply for Heart Check logo approval …
Sunday, March 14, 2010
This is a "Blurb" I've used for a talk I've started giving to agricultural audiences. It seemed like a good thing to use for a "test-drive".
Grass Based Health: Turning the Food Pyramid Upside Down
Conventional wisdom, when it comes to human nutrition, tells us that we should be eating a low-fat diet, with restricted consumption of red meat. This advice became the official recommendation of the
Peter has an extensive background in forage production, utilization, and forage-based livestock production systems. He was the forage extension specialist at
And here's a .wmv file that I made by combining an audio recording of the talk I gave to the Central Oregon Hay Growers Association with some of the slides I used (I couldn't capture all of the animations from the PowerPoint slide deck ...)