April 12, 2012
Finally one small aspect of our failed Industrial Food Production System has gotten some attention as the Wall Street Journal, the Nations leading business publication, the NY Times and others began reporting on “Pink Slime”. The Industry formerly used the meat scraps ligaments, bone particles, etc. left after butchering for dog food. Some time in the mid two thousands the industry with USDA approval began high speed blending of this material for use as a cheap hamburger filler. Among other advantages was the reduction in cost to the Federal school lunch program by 3 cents a pound. They also added ammonia hydroxide to kill the e-coli, which was becoming an increased Public Health risk. The e-coli bacteria develop as a result of feeding corn in lieu of grass to cattle and destroying their rumen’s natural digestive ability to kill bacteria. Ground meat is particularly vulnerable to extensive contamination because the e-coli on the surface become mixed throughout. The mixture was dubbed pink slime by employees because of its appearance. Tyson’s CEO said the controversy is hurting beef sales but he thought it to be a short-term event. History suggests he is right.
Since 2009 the three major world cancer organizations have been reporting a strong connection between high corn fed red meat consumption and both cancer and heart disease without any significant affect on meat sales. For decades environmental groups have been reporting the connection between corn production used primarily for feeding farm animals and the destruction of our soil and water resources including the Chesapeake Bay without any adverse effect on meat sales.
In a few weeks grain farmers will again start the yearly cycle of destruction by tilling vast acres and applying 3 times more fertilizer to corn than it can utilize to produce corn the raw material for sugar and meat. The consumed volume of sugar is primarily responsible for our obesity and diabetes epidemics and the consumed volume of red meat both beef and pork is the primary cause of heart disease and cancer. The tillage and the excess fertilizer are primarily responsible for massive erosion and the nutrient and sediment contamination of our rivers and estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay. This cycle of destruction receives modest attention and certainly has not affected meat sales. What is it about Pink Slime that has raised such a public outcry and will it cause changes in the way we produce food? History indicates that it will be a two-week event as the Industry expects.
March 19, 2012
At the time of the documentary King Corn in 2006, 70% of field corn production was used to feed animals in confinement meat production and 30% was used to produce high fructose corn sugar and ethanol. Since that time the proportional uses of corn have changed, the total production has increased and the damage caused by nutrient contamination and sedimentation of Chesapeake Bay and other major estuaries has dramatically increased.
While the #1 use of field corn continues to be feed for meat production, we now see increased connection between meat consumption and poor health. Fox News aired a well publicized feature interview on Sunday March 18, between one of their medical staff doctors and a surgeon from New York’s Mt. Sinai Medical Center who pointed to recent research making the strong connection between red meat, processed meat, cancer, and heart disease. This science is substantially stronger today than when studies were first released by the National Cancer Institute in 2009 and the Studies published by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer research in 2010. Also the science connecting overuse of corn based high fructose corn syrup in cheap sugary drinks as the primary cause of obesity and diabetes is much stronger today. The use of corn based ethanol as a fuel additive continues to destroy small engines despite the reduction of government subsidies.
None of this destruction is necessary! We the consumers can bring about change! Pasture raised animals which consume minimal amounts of corn are becoming available. Chipotle Mexican Grille, a National fast food chain, made the transition in 2000. Forward looking restaurants are beginning to change. Natural sugar sweetened drinks are becoming available. We can all help this transition by buying only healthy food, requesting healthy food from retailers and avoiding unhealthy corn based products. We will all benefit not only from lack of exposure to major diseases but by improving the health of our Natural resources including the Chesapeake Bay and all the rivers East of the Rockies
February 16, 2012
In reporting on the American food production system most of the news is bad particularly over the last few years with medical reports connecting red meat to cancer and heart disease and record sediment and nutrient contamination of Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico caused by overuse of fertilizer, short cuts in soil management and a glut of CAFO manure. It is therefore indeed good news reported by the Soil and Water Conservation Society in distributing the Chipotle animated tape featuring Willie Nelson which was aired last week at the Grammy awards showing farmers dismantling their food animal confinement operation. These so called factory farms and the corn feed that drives them are the single largest source of pollution in the US and a fast food chain is leading the way to healthier food and a healthier environment as well. Kudos to Steve Ells and Chipotle.
January 13, 2012
Former FDA Commissioner David Kesslor in his book, “The End of Overeating” explains how consumers are manipulated by food companies to eat their products using just the right amount of sugar, fat and salt to appeal to the consumers pleasure center and overcome the bodies natural mechanism to control overeating. On December 27th the 60-minute program showed these food technologists tasting various combinations of flavors and making the decision on which food would appear on the supermarket shelves. The host questioned whether this process was in the best interest of a population suffering from epidemics of obesity and diabetes. That question was answered in the Harvard debate of December 20th (see our blog post) by two of the top nutritionists in the Country who agreed that 75% of the food on supermarket shelves is unhealthy. The World Council on Genetics in the attached paper explains that agriculturist and food technologists make these decisions based on the food that they want to produce and sell. Increasingly that food is corn based. Our genetic makeup was formed beginning 10,000 years ago when people ate mostly vegetables and the animals were all grass fed. Our Genes were formed when we had an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 0.79-1. Today the healthier societies such as the Greek orthodox societies who have restrictions on the amount of animal products and the Island of Japan have n6 to n3 ratios between 2-1 and 4-1 while corn based societies have unhealthy ratios of 15-1 with the US approaching 17-1. The food on supermarket shelves is therefore not compatible with our genetic makeup and is the cause of our epidemics of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. In addition the grain, mostly corn is produced using too much fertilizer, pesticides, and soil production shortcuts which cause the destruction of water quality and massive soil loss in the US and other producing Countries.
December 27, 2011
Since early 2009 when the National Cancer Institute published their dietary study of 500,000 older Americans (our reference #16) we have had many research studies showing the strong connection between red meat consumption and early death caused by cancer and heart disease, including the American Cancer Research Institute’s study of the Worlds Cancer research and long term epidemiological studies published by Harvard University. Last night on 60 minutes we were introduced to direct physical evidence of this strong connection. The 2000 plus monks who have lived isolated in the monasteries on Mount Athos in Southern Grease for nearly 2000 years have never had cancer nor heart disease. They grow their own food, tend their own vineyards, consume plenty of their own wine, and eat a lot of fish from the Aegean Sea. They have two 10-minute meals per day and do a lot of physical work. They eat no red or white meat.
But corn fed meat consumers in addition to exposing themselves to cancer and heart disease also bear the major responsibility for loss of our topsoil, water quality and species loss in all the rivers and estuaries East of the Rockies, caused mostly by short cuts in soil management, overuse of fertilizer to grow corn feed and the glut of manure from CAFO’s. Maybe realization of the real cost of meat will cause consumers to think twice before ordering their next fast food bacon burger, hot dog, sausage, or Philly cheese steak. We can only hope the consumer will wake up to this reality because government agencies responsible for protecting our natural resources and our health have abdicated their responsibility under pressure from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute, The Corn Growers Association and some Academic Institutions who still support our failed Industrial Agricultural Production System.
December 21, 2011
Chipotle Mexican Grille opened a new fast food restaurant in Easton, Maryland last week. We attempted to eat there on December 20th but the lines were too long. By using organic vegetables and pasture raised meat, locally raised if possible, Chipotle is setting a much higher standard of quality for all restaurants. Steve Ells the founder decided to use pasture raised animal products, after visiting Factory Farms (CAFO’s) in 1999. Another benefit of pasture raised animals is reduction in corn feed production which along with CAFO manure is primarily responsible for the nutrient contamination of every river and estuary East of the Rockies including the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay. Both of these estuaries had near record oxygen dead zones in the summer of 2011. Short cuts in soil management to produce corn have caused the U.S. Corn Belt to lose half its topsoil. Chesapeake Bay had record sediment intrusion in March of 2011. Long-term studies by Harvard University, the National Cancer Institute, the American Institute for Cancer Research, and the World Cancer Research Fund cite overconsumption of red meat and process meat, mostly CAFO raised, along with high fructose corn sugar and refined grains as primarily responsible for our epidemics of cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Why are lines so long in Easton as well as the restaurants on M street in Washington, DC and in Annapolis? Certainly it is not the ambiance. The tacos and burritos are served on paper plates with plastic utensils and it is bench seating with little or no privacy. Could it be that young people (most of the customers are in their 20’s) are interested in healthier food that is produced in a way that is sensitive to the welfare of animals and restoration of the environment? We went next door to Bob Evans which was half empty. I did have the opportunity to suggest to the manager that he tell ownership of this shift in demand for higher quality food.
November 9, 2011
The Harvard School of Public Health Debate held Oct. 20, 2011 on the health impact of the US food system plus environmental Impact notes in bold added by the writer.
SUMMARY BY PARTICIPANTS:
Walter Willett the Chair of the Nutrition Department at The Harvard School of Public Health. – Judging by its impact on human health the American grain based food supply is a disaster with 75% of supermarket food unhealthy. We have too much refined grain, too much sugar and too much red meat in the American diet.
Barry Popkins Professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. – We did it to ourselves. In the 50’s we ate healthy food and the American people were healthy. We believed that animal protein was healthy. The science changed but the grain based food system and the lobbies that support it remained. Today 75% of the food supply has too much sugar, too much fat, too much salt and is unhealthy. Also in the 50’s, the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico. Pamlico Sound, and all Eastern Estuaries began to suffer from hypoxia and sedimentation due to excess fertilizer applications particularly to nitrogen uptake inefficient corn and mismanagement of tilled farming systems. By the 70’s the underwater grass (SAV’s), which provided habitat and food for Bay species, disappeared. Today all species have declined substantially and the system is facing ecological collapse. Record Oxygen dead zones and record sediment intrusion occurred in both the Gulf and Chesapeake Bay in 2011. These Eastern Estuaries are thermometers for the ecological health of nearly 50% of the US. Land area.
David Ludwig Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. – The mother of an 8 year old girl patient who weighs 200 pounds caused by diet not genetics tells me the child is influenced by icons on the food at the supermarket due to clever marketing by children’s TV programs. We evolved from a diverse system of many foods to a food system using four grain based raw materials: corn, soy beans, wheat, rice and the animals which eat these raw materials. We eat a lot of high calorie food, which has little nutrient value. Example: nuts are high in calories but are of value because they are also high in protein and other nutrients.
Gary Williams Agricultural Economist at Texas A&M and a defender of the status quo. – He was dead wrong in his theory that low income causes poor food habits. Many studies including China studies by Barry Popkin and Cornell University’s China Study show that increased consumption of grain based meat and sugar causing poor health increases with affluence. His assertion that unhealthy food tastes better than healthy food is again not true. We eat a lot at a Northern Italian restaurant in Easton MD. owned by a world-class chef formerly of Harry’s Bar in Venice and Paris. This food makes the steak and potatoes based food at Ruth Chris Steak House seem like the junk food served by MacDonald’s. He made two valid points (1) can we produce sufficient healthy plant food in the climate and soil of the US corn belt which requires research into the ultimate capacity of greenhouse production now in its infancy in the US but showing great promise? And (2) will China step in and produce bad food if we do not? Judging by the number of Countries involved in the ongoing world cancer study including China and the recent move by Denmark to tax pizza and other unhealthy Western foods, I believe a world agreement on restricting unhealthy food production is possible.
Rather than taxing unhealthy food an approach being tried in New York and Denmark, which concerns some people. I believe a better approach is public education (see the HSPH My Plate recommendations) combined with nationwide regulation of fertilizer application rates, mandated cover crops, and the many public health and environmental issues associated with CAFO food animal production. These actions will make unhealthy food more expensive. Everyone on the panel agreed that price has an affect on food choices.
Opinions of the writer are in bold Clik on Harvard Debate to see the full video debate
October 29, 2011
Harpers Bazaar Magazine published by Hearst Magazines is a leading women’s fashion magazine. Since being thin is fashionable and compatible with the clothing that they advertise they often feature articles under the heading Bazaar Diet. The article in the November 2011 issue titled “Eat your Way Thin” included many foods to avoid. Foods to eat included: “Organic free range chicken, turkey, and eggs and grass fed beef, bison and lamb. For quality protein avoid mass produced meats. Factory farmed animals are kept in close quarters and fed things they aren’t supposed to eat like corn, soy and hormones. This fattens them up quickly but also makes them sick so they are given antibiotics. When you eat the meat you ingest what they eat” Wendy Schmid the author of the article got most of it right except that the “free range label does not preclude confinement production. A better term is pasture raised for chicken as well as beef and other red meat. She apparently is not aware of recently published long term epidemiology studies by Harvard University and the World Cancer Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research which concludes that many cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes are caused by over-consumption of factory farmed beef, pork and processed meat. She is apparently unaware of record oxygen dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay in 2011 caused by nutrient contamination of all Rivers East of the Rockies mostly from corn production and Factory-Farm manure. It is encouraging to see a major publication begin to understand the truth about our failed Industrial Food Production System.
October 25, 2011
I was watching the World Series the other night. The camera was focused on the crowd of 50,000 people. Everyone appeared to be eating either a hamburger, a ball park hot dog, a sausage sandwich or a Philly cheese steak. Everyone had a large corn based sugary beverage as well. My thought process in watching this chopping and sipping was; how many ecosystems are being destroyed? How many arteries are being clogged? How many cancerous tumors are being developed? How many animals were abused? How much fertilizer is required to fulfill the pleasure of these fans? I guess friends and relatives are right when they say. “Don’t spoil my pleasure by exposing me to the truth”. Finding the right eating lifestyle, while not easy, is the only way to save this planet and our collective health.
Last night in watching the World Series again the intermissions featured a cancer fundraising campaign showing ex-ballplayers all standing up 2 cancer including the Philly cheesesteak king and cancer survivor Jon Kruk. If they read the World Cancer study they would know that eating beef, pork and processed meat is the major cause of many tumors. Grilling meat produces 2 known carcinogens. All these people need to do in order to stand up to 2 cancer is avoid ball-park food. Major League Baseball along with other big stadium sporting events are a major cause of our environmental and health disaster.
October 11, 2011
There is no disagreement among scientists that the following 3 issues are of vital importance. However, there is significant disagreement on solutions.
- Americans are statistically among the unhealthiest in the world with epidemics of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and out of control health care cost.
- In 2011 we experienced record oxygen dead zones and sediment intrusion in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay. These Watersheds representing over half of the Nations land area are facing ecological collapse.
- Excess greenhouse gases mostly coming from food animal production threatens global warming, and tidal level increases with unknown ramifications.
Recently as posted earlier, we had an e-mail debate between leading agronomists, and environmental scientists and a leading nutritionist. The agronomists and environmentalists proposed various solutions including increasing the uptake efficiency of corn, reduced fertilizer application rates, cover crops and etc. The lead nutritionist at Harvard University proposed significant dietary changes. Reducing consumption of grain based red meat and reducing corn based sugar would solve all three Issues. He suggested a healthier Italian diet, which would cut grain production and fertilizer application in half. Vaclav Smil writing about the glut of world nitrogen in his book “Enriching the Earth” published in 2004 reached the same conclusion. He suggested that a healthier Mediterranean diet would solve the world glut of nitrogen. The USDA “my plate” initiative as modified by the Harvard School of Public Health website is a big step in this direction. Will Americans modify their diets or will major restrictive dietary regulation be required as recently instituted in Denmark? Doing nothing is not an option.