We are almost there. In part 1 we learned that malnourishment and dis-ease or altered health states go hand in hand. Part 2 focused heavily on the processing of food and how that reduces available nutrition. In part 3 we further investigate how nutrition is lost in the raising of animals and the growing of plants (fruits and vegetables). All is not bad, we also discover sources of real whole food and what questions to ask.
CAFO vs Free Range / Pastured: Many people are horrified by how animals are treated in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). It is more than understandable because we know in our hearts it is wrong and cruel. One of the signs of being human is empathy. Not just empathy for fellow-man, also empathy for all living creatures. The environmental impact of CAFOs is immense and troubling (a suggested book is CAFO: The Tragedy of the Industrial Animal Factories). Regardless of how disgusted you may be about this method of “food” production, it is not a reason to go vegan. There are other options that allow you to continue to consume the nutrient density of animal products without the cruelty. Grass-fed, free-range and pastured food is not only humane but also more nutritious and tasty.
Living takes life. No species can survive without the sacrifice of other living organisms. How large, smart, cute, etc. does an organism have to be before it is deemed unacceptable to kill and consume? I am a carnivore and proud of it. I thank the animals I consume and invite them in to nourish and heal me. I thank and appreciate the farmers that raise these animals.
A quick note regarding veganism. I am sure this will offend someone, but the truth is the truth and I am sticking to it. There are very few people who can achieve and maintain health, much less optimal health on a diet devoid of animal products. Before you try to argue the benefits of being a vegan, please do two things: First, read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price and two, find me a multi-generational vegan or even vegetarian culture that has endured at least 5 consecutive generations. I will give you a hint…it does not and never has existed. More depth into this topic will require a separate article.
Cows are designed to eat grass. Grass is the reason that a cow’s stomach have multiple compartments. As Joel Salitin (a leading sustainable farmer) has describes it, he raises a salad bar of grasses. The animals are there to feed upon the grass.
You cannot get health from an unhealthy animal – Paul Chek
Anything that cows are fed other than grass goes against their design and degrades their health and is unacceptable if you wish to build your health. Anything you hear about marbling and its benefits is a marketing ploy to justify the side-effects of feeding an animal the wrong diet. The reason for the massive use of antibiotics and other medication is due to the inappropriate diet and the stress of living a CAFO lifestyle.
Grass fed beef tastes different, namely because it has taste, you don’t need seasonings and rubs and smoke and marinades. That taste will differ according to the season and the geographical location as food sources vary and different grasses are consumed.
Grass fed beef also cooks differently, typically requiring less heat and less time. A great source of information and recipes is Tender Grass-fed Meat: Traditional Ways to Cook Healthy Meat by Stanley A. Fishman. He also has a great followup all about BBQ if you really want to get involved in cooking. Use real wood charcoal, not gas or the charcoal briquets loaded with chemicals and binders, etc.
If you wish to see just what the nutritional differences are between CAFO (grocery store-bought) manufactured and Pastured Farm Food, I would strongly suggest you visit http://www.forksfarmmarket.com/Downloads/nutritiontable.pdf . This is just one example. Mother Earth News magazine has done multiple labs tests confirming the significant difference in nutritional content of chicken eggs from many of its readers and your grocery store eggs.
Chickens are meant to consume bugs, insects, green leafy stuff, seeds etc. To do this, they need to be wandering around outside in pasture. If you can have them follow the cows they get even healthier.
- The cow eat the grass and then leaves a gift, we will call it a “cow patty.” The chickens wander through a few days later and break up the cow patty into small pieces while eating all the bugs and worms and grubs etc. They in turn leave their own gift package which further breaks down and fertilizes the soil allowing more grass to grow in healthier soil. It is a rather effective and efficient cycle.
- How this health manifests is in the quality of the egg. The nutritional value is significantly higher and the egg tends to be sturdier. When broken into a pan it is less likely to break and stands up higher and holds its shape. The yolk is also a darker golden-orange.
- Of course modern egg producers realize the yolk color is often associated with nutrition, so what they have done, similar to farmed salmon is add coloring / dye to the feed to alter the color. Some also feed flax-seed to boost omega 3 fatty acids. The problem is that while the product may appear as healthy as the pastured egg, it is all smoke and mirrors.
Pigs are happiest, not when they are in mud as we imagine it. Rather they are healthiest and happiest when they are rooting around in the woods eating a variety of vegetation, nuts, seeds, roots etc.
- As with other farmland animals, their diet can alter their taste. This taste can vary from season to season depending upon what food sources are available and consumed.
- It is great to see farmers responding to consumer demand and old habits and begin to raise the pigs in wooded lots and getting them out of the enclosed pens. There is more work involved but the taste and benefits are worth it.
Poor Soil / Poor Farming Practices: Prior to WWII practically all farming was organic. We did not discover the “benefits” of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphate and Soluble Postash) until we had to do something with all the munitions waste material after the war.
- Nitrogen (N) promotes overall grass shoot growth
- Phosphate (P2O5) promotes strong root growth
- Soluble Postash (K2O) helps grass withstand stress, drought or disease
While NPK which are the primary ingredients off fertilizer helps a plant grow, it does not ensure that the plant contains any degree of nutrition. The nutrients are based upon the health of the soil. Healthy soil is alive and contains innumerable living organisms and structure that the plant’s root system breaks down and consumes.
At a microscopic level, plants are carnivores! They kill and consume living organisms. This brings us back to the living takes life, even in the plant kingdom.
Unless proper farming practices are followed, the rotation of crops, utilizing winter ground cover, proper fertilization with composting, etc., the soil slowly loses its vitality and dies. You then have two choices: move further west to “greener pastures”, as they did throughout the 1800’s or start fertilizing with modern chemicals that further degrade soil energy while producing a plant that appears to something healthier than it is.
Unknown to most people is that many modern foods contain significantly fewer nutrients than they did a century ago. According to Donald Davis, a retired chemist from the University of Texas, many studies have shown that fertilizers, irrigation and other inputs, applied in the pursuit of higher crop yields have led to diluted protein, vitamins and minerals.
Davis also points out that plant breeders, focusing on increasing yield, have actually given us higher-yielding varieties that are less nutrient dense. His 2004 study “Changes in the USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crop, 1950 to 1999,” showed the average nutrient decline in fruits and vegetables was about 15 percent. Protein content in wheat and barley declined 30 to 50 percent since the 1930’s.
Get To Know Your Farmer: The best way to ensure high quality nutrient dense whole foods is to get to know a farmer, or two or three. Have resources available that will be able to meet your food needs.
The best way to find your farmer is to visit local farmer’s markets, try food from vendors and ask questions.
- Are the animal’s pastured or free range in that they spend most of their time outside on grass wandering freely?
- What are the animals eating? If supplemented with feed, is the feed GMO free?
- Do you proactively use antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals to keep illness levels low (this is a bad thing)?
- Do you spray pesticides or fertilizer on the fields? If yes, find out what is used and google the product
- Do you compost and spread it to nourish the crops
- Can I visit the farm or get a tour of the farm?
Any farmer worth buying from is more than happy to talk about how they farm. They are proud of what they do and enjoy visitors. If they are hesitant, give excuses or don’t really answer question, assume they are hiding something and go elsewhere. There are always options
CSA’s or Community Supported Agriculture is a great source of fruits and vegetables and they are popping up all over the place as demand increases. CSA’s function by offering the public the ability to buy a share or percentage of all food grown. You pay in advance and receive food weekly throughout the season. This is a great option for families or you can go in with a neighbor and split a share.
Eat For Your Metabolic Type: I have written numerous times about Metabolic Typing. I can’t stress enough that eating the right foods for your type is vital in the process of achieving optimal health.
There is a reason that the Inuit (Eskimos) could consume a diet almost entirely of animal protein and fat and have optimal health and the !Kung of Southern Africa could be equally healthy consuming mostly seeds and nuts along with fruits and vegetable and some fat and protein. The reason is that their unique genetically based nutritional requirements are being met. Swap the diets and both will suffer altered health and dis-ease states within a generation. They may very well develop the same dis-eases while consuming opposite foods.
There are NO real whole food inherently good for everyone or any food inherently bad for everyone. Everyone does have a diet consisting of real whole foods that are ideal for them. Bill Wolcott the founder of Metabolic Typing® has been able to scientifically take the inherent wisdom of our ancestors and apply it to the modern melting pot that this world has become. There is no reason anyone should not be able to meet their genetically based nutritional requirements and achieve optimal health.
While malnourishment in America is not as remote as we would think, it is also not inevitable. We have the means to supply more than enough whole food to the masses according to their needs.
Being healthy is a challenge. It takes time and is a lifestyle that permeates everything you do. If you are not happy with your current state of health, you have to alter your lifestyle choices. Trust me, while the journey is challenging, it is worth it. I will leave you with one last thought……
If you are what you eat….why be cheap, fast and empty of value?