Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cattle "Emissions"

Ancestral Health Symposium 2012 is now history. The symposium took place at the Harvard Law School August 9th-11th. Not a bad gig for a forage agronomist! The title of my presentation was The Reality of Ruminants and Liebeg’s Barrel: Examining the New ‘Conventional Wisdom'. All of the presentations were video taped, and will be freely available.
My title slide. Cattle mob grazing a pasture under center pivot irrigation.
Photograph by Dawn Gerrish.
One of the themes of this year’s symposium was sustainability. I don’t see that term in the simplistic way many do, in part because I remember being told by leaders of the sustainable agriculture movement that “animals have no place in sustainable ag!”

The truth is that the production of animal products from perennial forages is the sustainable agricultural system. Many, however, are concerned about the carbon dioxide and methane “emissions” from livestock in general, and cattle in particular. Some folks don’t seem to understand that a cow grazing grass can only emit carbon that was originally in grass, and that the carbon in grass has to have come from the atmosphere. So it’s a cycle not an “enrichment.” But there’s more to it than that!

Under the following assumptions:

Carbon:Nitrogen ratio = 17 and 3.4% N, giving 57.8 % C
3% of body weight daily dry matter (DM) intake; 1,000 lb cow = 30 lb DM per day
70% utilization - 30 lb DM eaten / 0.70 = 42.8 lb DM offered
Equal above and below ground DM distribution
90% of C consumed is “emitted” 

We’d see:

42.8 lb DM above ground, 42.8 lb DM below ground – 85.6 lb DM total
57.8% C in DM – 49.5 lb C total
17.3 lb C consumed
15.6 lb C emitted

Thus, for every pound of carbon “emitted” by a cow on grass, 3.2 pounds of carbon are fixed in plant roots, uneaten plant debris, or the cow herself or her calf. Even if we say that 100% of carbon she ingested is emitted (a biological impossibility!), there’d be 2.9 pounds of carbon fixed for every pound emitted! Beef cattle are carbon negative!

Someone (perhaps Todd Becker?) asked me what happens to methane in the atmosphere. A good question, and one I wasn't completely sure about. So I went looking and found the following at this site:
"In the lower part of the atmosphere, below about 10-12 km (the troposphere), the key cycles are mediated above all by the presence of what are called OH radicals — colloquially known as the atmospheric detergent. All hydrocarbon chemical species that are emitted can be eventually broken down (or oxidized) by these radicals to CO2 and H2O, and methane is no exception. An average molecule of CH4 lasts around eight to nine years before it gets oxidized. This is a long time compared to most atmospheric chemicals but is fast enough so that there can be significant year-to-year variability."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ignore the Evidence

[This is another piece I wrote for my “Taking Out the Carbage” column in Kit Pharo’s “Pharo Cattle Company Update.”]

Hilda Bruch, a young German pediatrician, moved to America and settled in New York City. She was “startled” by the number of fat children she saw – “really fat ones, not only in clinics, but on the streets and subways, and in schools.”1 Indeed, fat children in New York “were so conspicuous that other European immigrants asked Bruch about it, assuming she would have an answer. What is the matter with American children? they would ask. Why are they so bloated and blown up? Many would say they’d never seen so many children in such a state.” 1

The public health “experts” usually point their fingers at fast food, computers, TV, and even prosperity as contributing causes. But Hilda Bruch moved to New York City in 1934, “two decades before the birth of fast food franchises and a half century before supersizing and high fructose corn syrup.”1 This was during the Great Depression, an era of soup kitchens, bread lines, and twenty five percent unemployment. Sixty percent of Americans were living in poverty. Twenty five percent of children in New York City were said to be malnourished.

The observation that obesity and under-nourishment occur simultaneously in very poor populations is not limited to Bruch’s experience. This phenomenon has been repeatedly documented throughout the world. Obesity is a form of malnutrition. So how do the experts reconcile these observations with their opinions? They ignore the evidence. They have to. The evidence disproves their hypotheses. 

Makes you wonder what else they’re ignoring …

1. Taubes, G. 2011. “Why We Get Fat, and What to Do About It.” Knopf. New York, NY.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Eating Right on the Road

Take-along Primal/Paleo food
My job requires frequent travel. Maintaining my way of eating while on the road has presented some challenges. I've attended conferences where the “free” meal wasn’t worth the price – breaded chicken, corn, mashed potatoes with starchy gravy, and sugary dessert. I’ve learned to “just say no.” Eating at restaurants on the road reminds me how good our local restaurants are. When asked what kind of restaurant I’d like to go to, my answer is “one that serves meat!” So far, I’ve been able to find choices that fit my needs. Nancy and I have learned several lessons about ordering when we eat out, and those apply on the road, too. Some restaurants, like the DeRico Brazilian Grill in Springfield, Missouri are wonderfully easy!
Air travel, and time spend in airports, presents the greatest challenge to finding appropriate food while away from home. It also provides some head-scratching moments. The complimentary “food” (“pretzels, peanuts, or cookies?”) service on a recent flight provided these:
Really?!? Who would have thought that a bag of roasted peanuts would have been produced in a facility that processes peanuts?!?!?
Where do I start with this messaging on the napkins they handed out? What’s “THE heart TRUTH”? It’s a registered trademark of the Department of Health and Human Services. Those same folks who help bring us the Dietary Guidelines. Nice to know that “Participation by Coca-Cola does not imply endorsement by HHS/NIH/NHLBI”! I’m sure Coca-Cola’s participation has no influence whatsoever …
Food choices at airports are generally expensive and typically not low carb/primal/paleo-friendly. The few options that might fit my requirements are mega-sized. So we’ve been looking for some take-along options.
Tanka Bars – These are a tasty combination of buffalo jerky and cranberries. The first time I tried one my thought was “meat candy!” The packages are easy to open, but there is the potential for mess. Another issue is that they’re low fat – a fact they promote in marketing their product (there’s SO much work to do …). So I’ve learned to combine them with a pre-packaged bag of raw almonds from Trader Joe’s. These 1.25 ounce packages help me with portion control, and they’re not much more expensive that Trader Joe’s raw almonds in larger packages.
Nick’s Sticks – Each package contains two sticks, or sausages. Together, they provide 10 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fat in 1.7 oz (47g). Enough to be a very effective snack. These are easy to open, with a nice grind and texture, and they’re made of grass-fed beef with sea salt and no MSG. Nancy says “they’re delicious!” and I agree.
Disclosure: Nick’s father is a co-worker at Barenbrug USA. I have no commercial relationship with Nick or Wallace Farms, Inc. I have no relationship with any of the other products. I’ve received no consideration for my opinion.
In general, I’ve found airports to be poor grounds for hunting and gathering, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found Gary West - certified angus beef black pepper steak strips at Portland International Airport. This product is easy to open, and didn’t produce a mess. The quality of the ingredients is good.
A Complementary Carbfest
Most of the motels I stay in offer a complimentary breakfast buffet. For the most part these are carbohydrate-heavy affairs. But I can still find some acceptable choices. At location pictured above, I scored some scrambled eggs and sausage, melon, cream cheese to mix into the eggs, hard boiled eggs for later (it pays to carry plastic baggies!), and slivered almonds (the were next to the oatmeal).
I can be a challenge to maintain my way of eating while I'm on the road, it isn't impossible.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Radio Interview

On Thursday, July 5th, I had the pleasure of being interviewed live on News/Talk 1290 CJBK from London, Ontario. Andy Oudman and Pam Killeen made it a relaxed and enjoyable time. I'm looking forward to meeting Pam at Wise Traditions this November. A recording of the interview is posted here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Taking Out the Carbage

[This piece was written for my “Taking Out the Carbage” column in Kit Pharo’s “Pharo Cattle Company Update.” I’m "leveraging" it here in the hope that it will help me get back into regular contributions to this blog …]

“Title page of "La Physiologie du Goût" ("The Physiology of Taste") by French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) with a portrait of the author. 1848 edition.” From Wikipedia

"Shun anything
made with flour, no matter in what form it hides; do you not still have the roast, the salad and the leafy vegetables?"

This quote from Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of Taste, published in 1825, makes three points:

1. Carbohydrate restriction is not a new concept. The notion of the fattening carbohydrate has been around for almost two hundred years. Nor is it a "fad" diet. Its status as the most effective means of treating obesity was thoroughly established and well accepted by researchers and clinicians until the 1960s.

2. Those genetically predisposed to fatten (us "easy keepers") who want to be as lean as their genetics will allow them to be (and those exhibiting the various conditions of metabolic syndrome) should limit their carbohydrate intake. The degree of restriction will be individually determined. The easiest place to start is by avoiding added sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages. But we must also limit starch. Starch, when digested, is sugar (glucose).It doesn't matter if it comes from "healthy whole grains" or refined white flour. Its effect on blood sugar is quite similar.

3. Any diet that includes "the roast, the salad and the leafy vegetables" can hardly be called boring! People typically do not suffer hunger on this type of diet, and since they experience greater weight loss and improvements in metabolic markers, it is an easier diet to maintain than low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets.

"Oh, Heavens!" all you readers of both sexes will cry out, "oh Heavens above! But what a wretch the Professor is! Here in a single word he forbids us everything we most love, those little white rolls ... and those cookies ... and a hundred other things made with flour and butter, with flour and sugar, with flour and sugar and eggs! He doesn't even leave us potatoes, or macaroni! Who would have thought this of a lover of good food who seemed so pleasant?"

"What's this I hear?" I exclaim, putting on my severest face, which I do perhaps once a year. "Very well, then: eat! Get fat! Become ugly, and thick, and asthmatic, and finally die in your own melted grease: I shall be there to watch it."

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1825

edited 10:06 6/18/2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Truly "Heart-Healthy!"
To mark Valentine’s day, I propose - with tongue firmly in cheek - a new “Heart Check” logo. What do you think?

I’m posting again after a long absence. A lot has been happening and a great deal has changed. My goal is to publish regularly, but the nature of my posts may need to change. I really won’t know that until I actually start writing again, so here goes!

Last September I changed jobs after more than 16 years. I am now Barenbrug USA’s Forage Product Manager. Every day presents multiple learning (and re-learning!) moments with frequent calls to the long-term archive for information I used to have a firm grip on. It’s great to be working in forage agriculture again, but the seed industry is new to me. Barenbrug, a family owned company founded in 1904, is among the top 20 seed companies, worldwide. The vast majority of our business is grass seed. Barenbrug is truly “Great in Grass!” And they support my continued “Grass Based Health” activities. I presented a paper, “Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: Health Hazards or Vital Nutrients?” at the 2012 American Forage and Grassland Council Conference in Louisville, KY, January 10. I’ve posted a video that combines a slide set with an audio recording here.

As I’ve walked through this time of transition, I’ve become aware of all the anxiety, conflict, and frustration I’d been living with in my previous job. I wasn’t consciously aware of it then, but now that I’ve made the move it’s obvious. It’s similar to the time I realized, while carrying two twenty pound bags of bird seed to my car one day, that I used to carry more than that around with me all the time. Sometimes we need a push to make a change.

One effect of the anxiety regarding the impending career change was a loss of focus on my dietary discipline, I’m afraid. And I experienced the completely predictable results. So I’m applying the principles and re-establishing the practices that worked before and are working again. Nothing magic, just basic carbohydrate restriction and intermittent fasting. I hope to get to my goal weight by May.

Why May? Because Nancy and I will be on the 5th Low Carb Cruise! Neither of us have been on a cruise before, and we’re looking forward to meeting folks whose books and blogs have helped us on our journey. A perfect way to celebrate our 35th anniversary.

Last August I presented a poster at the first Ancestral Health Symposium. This August I’ll present “The Reality of Ruminants and Liebeg’s Barrel: Examining the New ‘Conventional Wisdom’” at Ancestral Health Symposium 2012!

I’ve been invited to speak at the Wise Traditions 2012 on the “Science and Art of Pasture Feeding.” This will be their 13th annual conference, held in Santa Clara, California Nov 9-12.
Primal / Paleo Valentine
So, let’s all walk forward into whatever this New Year brings our way. If you’ve fallen short of your resolutions, you can always start over. It’s never too late. A re-evaluation may be necessary to make sure they’re realistic. A resolution to lose 30 pounds in a month probably needs to be re-thought. But great changes can be accomplished, one step at a time. Last weekend we saw a friend who’s lost 180 pounds, and is off all cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes medications!