Saturday, July 30, 2011

BBQ'd Mushroom and Spinach Salad

We got this recipe from Smoke and Spice: The Real Way to Barbecue by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. 


12 ounces portobello mushrooms
Coarse Kosher or sea salt


Dressing:
2 Roma or Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 scallions, sliced
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste


1 large bag of spinach, or equivalent
Crumbled feta cheese, optional
Sunflower seeds, optional


I've done this in my barbecue/smoker, but I guess you could use a covered grill using low, indirect heat.


Slice the mushrooms into large, bite-size pieces and salt them lightly. Arrange mushroom pieces on a small grill pan, rack, or a piece of heavy-duty aluminium foil.


Place in the barbecue and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until they ooze liquid and are cooked through.


While the mushrooms are cooking, mix the dressing ingredients.


Add the cooked mushrooms and mix lightly. Can be served warm or chilled.


Place a layer of spinach on a serving platter. Spoon the dressing over the spinach. Garnish with feta cheese and sunflower seeds, if desired. Alternatively, serve the cheese and seeds separately and let folks add them if they'd like.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Potluck options

Hard to believe that July is almost over. How's summer where you live? We're still looking forward to its arrival here in western Oregon ...

One challenge we frequently face is deciding what dish to take to a potluck (also known as a potluck supper, spread, Jacob's join, Jacob's supper, faith supper, coverd dish supper, bring and share, shared lunch, pitch-in, carry-in, bring-a-plate, smorgasbord, and dish-to-pass 1). We want to take something that we'll eat. That way, we know that there will be at least one item that fits our diet.This picture from the Wikipedia Potluck page is fairly typical, unless you're fortunate enough to be going to Grok potlucks. 
Carbfest, also known as a potluck (image from this site)

Carving station, complete with carbs! (source)
What kinds of dishes fit the paleo / primal / low carb philosophy, short of bringing a full carving station? Cost is an issue. Protein and fat are more expensive than carbohydrate. Breaking out the grass-fed ribeyes probably isn't practical. Prep time can be an issue, too. And sometimes it's best to avoid the whole diet / health / nutrition conversation. Mark Sisson's 80/20 Principle definately applies here. Some of these may not be your choices for everday fare, but they're far better than what we typically see at the potlucks we attend. So here's a list of the options we've come up with so far:

Pre-made party tray - I recently found these at our regional supermarket, composed of two kinds of lunch meat along with two kinds of cheese, already cut. Also included were a container of mixed olives and some packages of crackers. The price was reasonable.

Mixed nuts - Another buy-bring-open option. Pretty much self-explanitory.

Veggie tray - If you're certain that others will be providing animal protein and fat, you could opt for a plateful of plant parts. Obviously you could make this yourself or buy it pre-made.

 
Deviled eggs - These take a little time to prepare, but their cost can be quite reasonable. You don't have to use your locally-sourced pastured eggs.

 Pre-made meatballs and spaghetti sauce - This is a little more involved than the previous options, but not much. We buy a bag of frozen Italian meatballs at our supermarket, put them in the Grokpot and add a jar of the store's spaghetti sauce. Be sure to allow for enough time to thoroughly heat.

Beef sausage in BBQ sauce - Buy the beef sausage (like Hilshire Farms) when it's on sale, at this option becomes an even better deal. Slice the sausage into 1 - 1 1/2 inch pieces, put them in the Grokpot, and add a bottle of prepared BBQ sauce (Be careful with these sauces. They're typically loaded with various sweetners. But it's not like you're drinking the stuff. If you'd like, you could use your own. You can find my recipe here.)

Spinach salad with BBQ'd portobello mushrooms - I'll have to post the recipe for this, but we got it from Smoke and Spice: The Real Way to Barbecue by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  [Update - the recipe is posted here.]

Nancy's all meat chili - Another recipe that I'll post soon.

Pulled pork - For extra-special occasions I've brought a Grokpot of my real pulled pork. I posted my recipes for the spice rub and BBQ sauce here.

I'd love to hear your suggestions.

References:
1 Wikipedia. Potluck. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potluck

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sustainability Reality Check

The nutrition and public health quagmire in the United States has, like a virulent contagion, infected many other topics. “Sustainability” is one of them. Sustainability is a "dialogue of values that defies consensual definition" (Ratner 2004).  Let’s look at the following paragraph from the “Food” section of the Wikipedia page for sustainability (Wikipedia, 2011):

The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a "sustainable food system"[86][87] as "one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities."[88]

Lots to feel good about in that statement, but not a lot to sink your teeth into. On the face of it, it’s hard to argue with. But we have to dig deeper. Just what do they mean by “healthy food,” “healthy ecosystems,” “negative impact,” “nutritious food,” “accessible and affordable,” “humane,” and “just”? Who gets to decide? Perhaps the next section of that paragraph will provide some insight …

Concerns about the environmental impacts of agribusiness and the stark contrast between the obesity problems of the Western world and the poverty and food insecurity of the developing world have generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.[89]

Here we have the flawed belief that overeating and sedentary behavior cause obesity. Once again, the “experts” have conveniently overlooked the fact that obesity is NOT caused by affluence and that obesity and under-nutrition have frequently been observed in the same unbelievably poor populations (Taubes, 2010). Continuing with the paragraph …

The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on many factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production.[90][91][92][93] The World Health Organization has published a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health report which was endorsed by the May 2004 World Health Assembly. It recommends the Mediterranean diet which is associated with health and longevity and is low in meat, rich in fruits and vegetables, low in added sugar and limited salt, and low in saturated fatty acids; the traditional source of fat in the Mediterranean is olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fat. The healthy rice-based Japanese diet is also high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Both diets are low in meat and saturated fats and high in legumes and other vegetables; they are associated with a low incidence of ailments and low environmental impact.[94]

The WHO got it wrong with Livestock’s Long Shadow. (see my earlier post). The circular reasoning of far too many is that since the consumption of animal products is bad for our health, the production of animal products must be bad for the environment. Many others reason that since the production of animal products is inherently bad for the environment, the consumption of animal products must be bad for the environment. Of course these are myths, based upon the great lies of American conventional wisdom on nutrition and health (Diets low in meat promote health and longevity; Physical activity is key to health; Low fat (high carbohydrate) diets are “healthy”) and vegetarian-influenced environmentalism (The production of vegetables, fruits, cereals and pulses (or legumes) is more environmentally friendly than the production of animal products).

Grass fed, NOT lean!
The clear testimony of the archeological record and anthropological research confirms that the human diet has been and should be based upon animal products. The mistaken belief that the healthy diet is a plant-based one, in other words one based upon carbohydrates, has produced an epidemic of chronic disease in the United States. Any conversation about “sustainability” that does not take this into account is pointless and fatally flawed .

The fiscal crisis currently facing the United States is, to a significant degree, driven by the dramatic increase in health care spending. US health care expenditures surpassed $2.3 trillion in 2008, more than three times that spent in 1990, and over eight times that spent in 1980 (CDC, 2010). The share of the U.S. economy that Americans spend on health care has increased from 7.2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1970 to 17.6% of GDP in 2009 (CDC, 2010). Chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and Alzheimer’s disease – in other words, metabolic diseases – are taking a heavy toll on health while taking an increasing portion of the health care spending. Chronic diseases account for $3 of every $4 spent on healthcare. That’s nearly $7,900 for every American with a chronic disease (CDC, 2010).

Seventy percent of deaths in the US are due to chronic diseases (CDC, 2010). Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are the leading causes of disability and death in the US. About 25% of people with chronic diseases have some type of activity limitation, including restrictions in employment and education (Partnership for Solutions, 2004).

Conventional wisdom states that obesity increases the risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.  An opinion informed by recent research understands that obesity is a metabolic disorder and is associated with other metabolic disorders, such as diabetes and heart disease. Obesity is not a cause of metabolic syndrome, it is one of metabolic syndrome’s conditions. This fundamental misunderstanding contributes to obesity epidemic we’re now experiencing .

The rate of obesity in adults has doubled in the last 20 years. It has almost tripled in kids ages 2-11. It has more than tripled in children ages 12-19 (CDC, 2011). Without big changes, 1 in 3 babies born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime (ADA, 2011). Average healthcare costs for someone who has one or more chronic conditions is 5 times greater than for someone without any chronic conditions (Partnership for Solutions, 2004).

Let’s look at the yearly costs due to a handful of conditions associated with metabolic syndrome:

        Heart Disease and Stroke $ 432 Billion (Mensah and Brown, 2007)
        Diabetes $ 174 Billion (ADA, 2011)
        Obesity $ 147 Billion (Finkelstein, et al., 2009)
        GERD (2005) $ 2 Billion / week, $ 104 Billion in lost productivity (IFFGD, 2008)
        All cancers, except lung and lymphoma $ 100 Billion
        Alzheimer’s  $ 148 Billion (AA, 2007)

More than 1 trillion US dollars are represented by this partial list of conditions now thought to be associated with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is most effectively treated by adopting a low carbohydrate, high fat way of eating. It’s likely caused by eating diets high in carbohydrate (Taubes, 2008). Until that is officially accepted by the massive disease treatment industries and agencies, health care costs will continue to be unsustainable and will threaten the long-term sovereignty of this country. To say nothing of the pain and suffering of millions of people.

Given all this, “sustainable” food production looks a little different. Clearly “sustainable” production of grains, pulses (legumes), starchy vegetables and sugary fruit begs the question “Who cares if we can produce these sustainably if we can’t sustain the health impacts of consuming them?” And the issue of “sustainable” production of animal products begs the question “Can we produce enough of them?”

Grass grows were other crops can't.
Cattle grazing the slopes of the Columbia Gorge. 
The USDA’s Economic Research Service provides census statistics for the individual states. For 2007, they reported there were 44.3 million acres of pastureland, pastured woodland, and pastured cropland in the 26 states east of the Mississippi (including Wisconsin) (USDA ERS, 2011). How many people could be fed from animal products produced on those acres? To answer that question, you need to make some assumptions. One can argue these one way or the other, but they should serve well enough for this exercise.

Consumed forage dry matter (DM) yield pounds per acre (lb/A) = 12,500 (Hofstrand and Edwards 2009)
Conversion rate = 14 lb DM/lb carcass weight (Lincoln University)
Edible yield = 0.76 lb/lb carcass weight (Jackson Frozen Food Locker)
Cooked yield = 0.65 lb/lb edible yield (Canadian Beef)
Cooked meat per meal  = 4 ounces (oz) (Eades and Eades, 2000)
Meals per day = 3

Given the above, 1.6 people could be supported per acre. So if all of the various forms of pasture land east of the Mississippi were managed to this degree, we could feed 71.5 million people. The current population of the US is 307 million (US Census Bureau, 2011). What about the remaining 235.5 million people? How about if we added all of the various pasture land in Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Missouri? That would be enough to feed 108 million people. Okay, how about if we took all of the cropland in these states and converted it to pasture, bringing the totals to 247 million acres of pasture land would theoretically allow us to feed 398.2 million people.

That still leaves a great deal of the United States, but much of it will be less productive and it will be needed to produce the young growing animals needed by this vast pastoral enterprise. It should be pointed out that these assumptions are rather generous ones. They represent high forage DM yields and high levels of grazing management. In The Vegetarian Myth, Lierre Keith cites Joel Salatin’s production from 10 acres of his Polyface Farm in Virginia:

3,000 eggs
1,000 broilers
80 stewing hens
2,000 pounds of beef
2,500 pounds of pork
100 turkeys
50 rabbits

Keith calculates that this is enough to fully feed 9 people for a year. Compare this figure of 0.9 person persons fed per acre and the preceding exercise’s  value of 1.6 persons fed per acre. It should be pointed out that, while Salatin’s pigs and poultry are on pasture, he feeds grain to the pigs, chickens and turkeys. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve written before about how the differences between grain- and grass- finished animal products have been over-sold. But if we’re going to feed grain to livestock, it has to be grown somewhere. In my exercise, I assigned all of cropland east of the 95th meridian, and a bit west of it, to pasture.

Western Oregon pasture and hay ground.
Tremendous potential remains
There are 473 million acres of privately owned pastureland in the US . In addition, the Bureau of Land Management manages livestock grazing on 157 million acres of public lands (BLM,2011). Add to that the 361 million acres of cropland that could be converted into highly productive pasture, and one begins to see just how vast this country’s pasture resource is.

Anthony Bourdain poses a telling question in his book Medium Raw.

“If, somehow, we manage to bring monstrously evil agribusinesses like Monsanto to their knees, free up vast tracts of arable land for small, seasonal, sustainable farming, where’s all the new help coming from? Seems to me, we’re facing one of two scenarios. Either enormous numbers of people who’ve never farmed before are suddenly convinced that waking up a five a.m. and feeding chickens and then working the soil all day is a desirable thing. Or, in the far more likely case, we’ll revert to the traditional method: importing huge numbers of desperately poor brown people from elsewhere – to grow those tasty, crunch vegetables for more comfortable white masters. So, while animals of the future might be cruelty-free, which would allow those who can afford to eat them to do so with a clean conscience, what about life for thos who will have to shovel the shit from their stalls?”

It takes a while to become a good grazier. One really good pasture-based dairyman told me that a New Zealander told him it would take 20 years, and his experience has confirmed that estimate. Where are these folks going to come from? How will they get access to the land? How will they acquire the animals? It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another to do it. It’s a blessing to be able to afford the extra cost of local, organic and/or sustainable food products, but what if that is not an option? And that, of course begs the question, “Is it worth it?”

And what about the 6.3 billion people in the rest of the world (CIA, 2011)? If the world’s population is going to feed itself appropriately, people will have to learn how to produce animal products that are appropriate to the regions where they live. Research and demonstration will be needed. This will require a great deal of new thinking, purged of the contamination of American dietary and environmental conventional wisdom.

References:

Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures 2007. Alzheimer’s Association Web site. Accessed July 19, 2011.

American Diabetes Association. 2011. Diabetes Statistics. Accessed July 19, 2011.

Beef Information Centre. Virtual Beef Nutrition Counter. Canadian Beef. Accessed July 19, 2011.

Bureau of Land Management. 2011. Fact Sheet on the BLM’s Management of Livestock Grazing. Accessed July 19, 2011.

Bourdain, A. 2010. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. Harper Collins. New York, NY

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010. Chronic Disease Overview: Costs of Chronic Disease. Accessed July 15, 2011.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. Overweight and Obesity. Accessed July 15, 2011.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary, National Health Statistics Group. 2010. National Health Care Expenditures Data.

Central Intelligence Agency. 2011. The World Factbook. Washington, DC. Accessed July 19, 2011.

Eases, M.R. and M.D. Eades. 2000. The Protein Power Lifeplan. Warner Books, Inc. New York, NY.

Finkelstein, E. A., J. G. Trogdon, J. W. Cohen and W. Dietz. 2009. “Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: Payer- and service-specific estimates.” Health Affairs 2009; 28(5): w822-w831.

Hofstrand, D. and W. Edwards. July 2009. Computing a Pasture Rental Rate. Iowa State University Extension. Accessed July 19, 2011.

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders .2008. GERD Costs America Nearly $2 Billion Each Week in Lost Productivity. Accessed July 17, 2011.

Jackson Frozen Food Locker. Ask the Meatman. Accessed July 19, 2011.

Keith, Lierre. 2009. The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability. Crescent City, CA: Flashpoint Press.

Lincoln University. Farm Technical Manual. Lincoln University Press. Christchurch, NZ.

Mensah G, Brown D. An overview of cardiovascular disease burden in the United States. Health Aff 2007; 26:38-48.

Partnership for Solutions. 2004. Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care, September 2004. Accessed July 17, 2011.

Ratner, B.D. 2004. "Sustainability as a Dialogue of Values: Challenges to the Sociology of Development." Sociological Inquiry 74(1): 50–69

Taubes, G. 2008. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. Anchor Books, New York, NY


Taubes, G. 2011. Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. 2011. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.

United States Census Bureau. 2011. Population of the United States. Accesses July 19, 2011.

United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. 2011. State Fact Sheets. Accessed July 18, 2011.

Wikipedia. Sustainability. Accessed July 19, 2011.

References from Wikipedia quotes:

86. Feenstra, G. (2002). "Creating Space for Sustainable Food Systems: Lessons from the Field". Agriculture and Human Values 19 (2): 99–106. doi:10.1023/A:1016095421310.

87. Harmon A.H., Gerald B.L. (June, 2007). "Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and Nutrition Professionals Can Implement Practices to Conserve Natural Resources and Support Ecological Sustainabiility" (PDF). Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107 (6): 1033–43.. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2007.05.138. PMID 17571455. http://www.eatright.org/ada/files/Conservenp.pdf.  Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

88. "Toward a Healthy, Sustainable Food System (Policy Number: 200712)". American Public Health Association. 2007-06-11. http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1361. Retrieved : 2008-08-18.

89. Mason & Singer (2006).

90. McMichael A.J., Powles J.W., Butler C.D., Uauy R. (September 2007). "Food, Livestock Production, Energy, Climate change, and Health." (PDF). Lancet 370 (9594): 1253. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61256-2. PMID 17868818. http://www.eurekalert.org/images/release_graphics/pdf/EH5.pdf.  Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

91. Baroni L., Cenci L., Tettamanti M., Berati M. (February 2007). "Evaluating the Environmental Impact of Various Dietary Patterns Combined with Different Food Production Systems." (PDF). Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 61 (2 ): 279–86. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602522. PMID 17035955. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~choucc/environmental_impact_of_various_dietary_patterns.pdf.  Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

92. Steinfeld H., Gerber P., Wassenaar T., Castel V., Rosales M., de Haan, C. (2006). "Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options" 390 pp. Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

93. Heitschmidt R.K., Vermeire L.T., Grings E.E. (2004). "Is Rangeland Agriculture Sustainable?". Journal of Animal Science. 82 (E-Suppl): E138–146. PMID 15471792.  Retrieved on: 2009-03-18.

94. World Health Organisation (2004). "Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health." Copy of the strategy endorsed by the World Health Assembly. Retrieved on: 2009-6-19.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What's for Lunch?

The cafeteria at my workplace offers some selections that fit my diet, but they’re pricey. There are a number of fast food and chain restaurants nearby that could do in a pinch, but their cost and the time required make those options unacceptable, too. Packing a lunch is my best option, but I've had to learn a few tricks to make that a part of my routine. Taking leftovers is the simplest choice, but we don’t always have them. My solution is to grill a large batch of meat or poultry and freeze it in meal-size portions.

We buy London Broil in the large, extra savings package when it’s on sale. I season them with a 50:50 mix of coarse ground black pepper and Kosher salt.

I brown them over direct heat for approximately 2 ½ minutes per side, turning them three times for a total of about 5 minutes per side.
Once browned, I move them to the side and allow them to cook via indirect heat until the internal temperature reaches ~137F. While they’re cooking, I can cook some other meat – country style ribs, for example.
When done, I place them on a cooling tray for approximately 30 minutes. (I find it amusing that we use our old jellyroll pans for meat preparation and cooling ...)
After the meat’s rested for half an hour, I move it to the refrigerator and leave it there until the next day. Once it’s fully chilled, I dice it into ½ inch pieces.

I portion this cubed meat into snack-sized zip lock bags. I’ve calculated my per-meal protein requirement, based on Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades’ Protein Power Lifeplan, to be the equivalent of 4.25 ounces of cooked meat. Your portion size may vary.
I then place the individual portions into a labeled gallon size zip lock bag and place it into the freezer.
My typical lunch consists of a salad with one of these meat portions. They usually thaw by lunch time (I pack my lunch in an insulated bag with a re-freezable ice pack). If it hasn’t, 10 seconds in the microwave does the trick.


In addition to lunches, these handy portions make breakfast easier. While I defrost a portion of cooked beef in the microwave, I sauté some onions in lard or clarified butter. Once the onions are nicely browned, I add the beef. One the beef is heated, I add 4 eggs and scramble the whole mixture. This makes 2 breakfast portions.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Agriculture - Curse or Cure?

Jared Diamond has described agriculture as "the worst mistake in the history of the human race." (Diamond, 1987) "Recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence." 


Inequality and despotism have been, and still are, undeniably present in this world. But we should always remember that association does not prove causation. Might there be other forces leading to these conditions?  Could there be forms of "agriculture" that would not produce them?


The term agriculture includes the production of animal products from managed grasslands, not just the production of "cash crops." As I discussed in a previous post, human manipulation of the environment to favor food production (in other words, agriculture) was a long-standing practice in pre-Columbian America. 

“When Lewis and Clark headed west … they were exploring not a wilderness but a vast pasture managed by and for Native Americans.” (Lott, 2002) 

Converting cellulose into fat and protein
Today we face an epidemic of chronic diseases in the United States, and throughout the world. Kelly Brownell would have us believe that obesity and other metabolic diseses are the result of a “toxic food environment.” (Brownell, 2002) Too much cheap food (including fast food) causes us to eat too much. It’s easy to entertain such flawed theories when people are well-fed on less than 10% of their disposable income (USDA ERS, 2002). But as Gary Taubes has documented in Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, there are numerous examples of obesity and malnutrition existing in the same impoverished populations at the same time. Their condition was NOT the result of too much food, or a life that didn’t include sufficient exercise. 

The conversation about diet, health and human nutrition has been dominated by those who believe that obesity is the result of over-eating and sedentary behavior, that eating animal products causes various chronic diseases, and that animal agriculture is bad for the environment. Various “experts” who hold these world views have allowed their innately human “belief engine” to form incorrect conclusions from the associations they’ve perceived in dubious observational studies (Park, 2002). These fallacies have so thoroughly contaminated the “conventional wisdom” that they’ve influenced the “new conventional wisdom” held by members of the paleo / primal / low carb communities. Our message ought to be that replacing carbohydrates with fat from animal products, regardless of how they’re produced, will improve the health of most people. Instead it can be heard to mean that unless you buy more expensive organic or grass-fed vegetables and animal products, you shouldn’t bother. Our message becomes one for the relatively well-off, instead of a message for everyone.
Spring grazing in western Oregon

The evidence strongly suggests that the epidemic of obesity and related metabolic diseases should be laid at the feet of the high-carbohydrate-low-fat experts and not at agriculture's. Many desire to “return to a simpler time.” Something in the paleo message may tap into that desire. But how “paleo” can one be when one isn’t actually doing the hunting and/or gathering? How are we going to deal with today's problems, not the least of which is a massive and growing world population? The solution to today’s problem cannot be found in going back, we must go forward. The good old days weren't necessarily all that good. In order to go forward we need to consider the language we’re using.

What do the phrases “eat real food” or “all things in moderation” actually mean? Just how does one convert such feel-good messages into actual practice? “Sustainability” is in danger of becoming such a meaningless term, if it hasn’t already. Too often the bounds on the system are defined to the advantage of the one promoting their own approach. As I researched the material for my post on hormones, nitrites, and antibiotics, I ran across statements to the effect that the use of improved genetics, high concentrate finishing, subtherapeutic antibiotics, and hormone implants in beef cattle resulted in greater meat production from fewer animals and that, since this represented an environmental benefit, it was more “sustainable.” On the other hand there are the piously environmental, those for whom “being green means eating organic veggies and recycling the wine bottles.” (Rosen, 2010) They are green “so long as it doesn’t affect their home heating, TV viewing, or car driving.” (Rosen, 2010) 

Thanks to folks like Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, Gary Taubes, Tom Naughton, Dr. Richard Bernstein, Dr. Jay Wortman, Jimmy Moore, and organizations like the Metabolism Society I now understand the fallacy of the thinking exemplified by Brownell and others. I’ve come to understand how our misinformed environmental understanding has influenced policy, debate and awareness in our society. And I’m developing a greater awareness of just how greatly the vegetarian ethic has influenced the thinking of the experts and the consumers. The irony is the likelihood that our easy access to so many high quality animal products at such low cost is, in fact, agriculture’s great blessing and offers the likely solution to today’s epidemic of chronic diseases.

“A liberal meat supply has always been associated with a happy and virile people and invariably has been the main food available to settlers of new and undeveloped territories. Statistics show that per capita meat consumption decreases with density of population.” (Romans and Ziegler, 1974)

References:

Brownell, K. D., 2002. The Environment and Obesity. In Eating Disorders and Obesity, Second Edition: A Comprehensive Handbook. C. G. Fairburn and K. D. Brownell. The Guilford Press. New York, NY.

Diamond, J. 1987. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. In Discover Magazine. Accessed at

Lott, D.F. 2002. American Bison: A Natural History. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Park, Robert. 2000. Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. Oxford University Press, inc. New York, NY.

Pearson, A.M., and T.A. Gillett. 1996. Processed Meats. Chapman & Hall. New York, NY

Romans, J.R., and P.T. Ziegler. 1974. The Meat We Eat. Interstate Printers & Publishers, Inc. Danville, IL

Rosen, N. 2010. “Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America.” Penguin Books. New York, NY.

United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. 2008. Briefing Rooms: Food CPI and Expenditures: Table 7. Washington, DC. Accessed at http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/CPIFoodAndExpenditures/Data/table7.htm, June 18, 2011.