This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
I remember when I was a vegetarian and I first encountered literature on veganism that described the dairy industry. When I learned about how older cows and unwanted calves were sent to slaughter, it made sense to become a vegan. To this day, beyond people who don't like meat or who come from a vegetarian cultural tradition, vegetarianism doesn't make much sense to me. Even for people who are religious vegetarians, the dairy produced in most of the US is a far cry from that traditionally consumed in India.
Even the beef cattle from the worst farm gets to spend part of their lives, usually most of their lives, on pasture. It's a far cry from factory egg and milk production, where animals are often in a state of continuous overcrowding in filthy low-quality conditions. This is true confinement agriculture.
In confinement dairies, after cows have reached the end of their "production cycle" they are normally sent to the slaughterhouse. This was in the news recently because some animal rights activists exposed the mistreatment of a dairy cow at a slaughterhouse. The video is worth watching if you can stomach it, but the cow was a "downer" cow, meaning she was sick and was lying down. The video shows workers torturing her with electric prods. It's sickening.
Beef from dairy cows is 6 percent of all beef production in the U.S. and about 18 percent of ground beef, but the amount varies. I'd imagine that because of the drought, more and more farmers will send their cows to slaughter as feed prices continue to soar.
Typically this isn't exactly premium beef, but it doesn't have to be this way. The NPR article notes:
Veterinarian Richard Wallace, who spent 15 years at the University of Illinois before joining Pfizer Animal Health in 2010, has led the campaign. "Slaughter is not a place to dump animals," he says.He tells dairy farmers to think of their older cows differently — not as "cull animals," but as potentially valuable beef cattle. And instead of going directly from milk barn to slaughterhouse, Wallace says farmers should coddle those animals for a few weeks. After ending their milk production, the cows should just get to rest and eat. The result, Wallace says, is a healthier cow, higher-quality meat — and more profit for the farmer.
If you are buying from a local dairy this might be a great opportunity to get some decent grass-fed beef for pretty cheap. I find that a lot of people, particularly people who eat grass-fed beef for health reasons, don't care all that much about getting the very best quality. For example, my family slaughtered an older cow and the beef was a little lean and chewy. At $3 a lb, it sold out immediately, mainly to the Crossfit types. I ate it too. It was fine, and even very good in certain dishes like Chili or Ropa Vieja, which means "old clothes" so it's quite fitting.
Another great option is pastured veal. Now this isn't the kind of veal you feel bad about buying. It's from young steers that grazed with their mothers on pasture, not from confined grain-pap fed calves. It's actually really really good and I think it is going to become a trend, because the cuts are so much smaller and so easier to fit in a small freezer.
Indeed, the method of chaining and crating veal calves is a new practice, established in the years following World War II when the agricultural communities of the United States began their dramatic move from the small, intimate and self-sustaining farms they were to feed-lots and monocropping. Dairy farmers moved male offspring, who otherwise held little value, indoors to save space and costs in an era when young farmers were encouraged to “modernize.” Tradition, as is often the case, was lost under the effort to modernize the agriculture of America’s heartland. Prior to this change, veal calves were raised alongside their mothers in open pasture, under the sun and with access to clean air and fresh water before their brought to harvest at about the same time lambs are traditionally slaughtered. Thanks to the renaissance of truly traditional and sustainable farming practices – and, in a way, to the raw milk movement – humanely raised veal is increasing in availability.
I don't know anyone who eats confinement veal and it amazes me that they still produce it. The dairy farm next to me has about 20 calves in teeny tiny pens. It's not as bad as a PETA video, but I do not think it is a production method that respects the animal. This dairy farm is also a small family farm, so once again proof that this is no guarantee that such an operation is a good one.
A commenter on my last post pointed out that craigslist is a good source for finding some affordable beef, if you don't mind the animal having had some grain in its life. One of the first results for Chicago was a pastured Jersey steer for $1.40 a lb. Surprisingly big though at 1000 lbs, but I wonder what the yield on this breed is. The yield is the actual weight of the meat since there are things you obviously aren't getting in your freezer order like skin/hooves/horns/etc. It's an on-farm pickup which is great too, since you can see what the farm is like, though obviously it would be awkward if you got there and it was not to your liking. Maybe this calls for a new post on interviewing your food suppliers...
Jersey cattle in the UK from Wikimedia
I think referring to conventional feedlot cattle as "grain fed" is unfortunate. I think it's an insult on small local family farmers who raise their cows mainly on pasture, but supplement a little grain here and there. Sometimes I buy this kind of beef. It's not terribly different nutrient-wise from completely 100% grass-fed beef. And many people prefer the taste. Furthermore, it's often very affordable, as low as $2-$4 a lb if you buy in bulk.
Such cattle might also have received antibiotics, but for sicknesses, not to promote growth or to make up for unsanitary conditions like in a feedlot. If you have a sick cow and only a few cows in your herd...you are going to want to give the cow the medicine it needs.
Conventional feedlot cattle receive much more than just grains, they often receive antibiotics, hormones, antimicrobials, and nasty industrial byproducts. Just like my post on how Americans aren't eating meat, they are eating sugar-coated soybean-oil drenched garbage, industrial cows aren't eating grains, as much as they are eating crap.
The difference between these cattle and the cattle that receive a little supplemental whole grain is like the difference between someone eating a standard American diet and someone who eats a "paleo" diet and has tacos a couple of times a week.
I was reminded of this today when I saw the headline "Farmer feeds candy to cows to cope with high corn prices"
The worst drought in decades has destroyed more than half the U.S. corn crop, pushing prices to record levels and squeezing livestock owners as they struggle to feed their herds.
To cope, one Kentucky cattle farmer has turned to a child-tested way to fatten his 1,400 cows: candy...
The chocolate and other sweet stuff was rejected by retailers. It makes up 5% to 8% of the cattle's feed ration, Smith said. The rest includes roughage and distillers grain, an ethanol byproduct.
Yum? I'm not crazy about ethanol byproducts in feed either.
Now, meat and bone meal from cows is explicitly banned from cow diets. But it ends up in chicken feed; a significant amount of it spills into bedding and ends up in poultry litter; and poultry litter gets fed back to cows.
Official numbers on just how much poultry litter ends up in bovine diets is hard to come by. But with corn and soy prices at heightened levels in recent years, feedlot operators are always looking for cheaper alternatives, and poultry litter is very much in the mix. Consumer Union's Michael Hansen claims that 2 billion pounds of chicken litter are consumed by cows each year—as much as a third of which consists of spilled feed, including bovine meat and bone meal.
So much for "grain fed" beef.
It does raise the question of what exactly should be done with America's massive amount of chicken waste? Maybe we should eat less chicken? Or as much as I hate to think about, pigs are at least better equipped biologically to eat such "food."
So if you are having a hard time affording good beef, considering buying from a local farmer that is not 100% grass-fed, but who doesn't finish on a conventional feedlot. It can be hard to find such farmers though since a lot of them tend to be older and not think of promoting their product in the many online directories that exist like Local Harvest or Local Dirt. Often such cattle are sold word of mouth to family friends and through old-fashioned social networks like churches.
But if you have a freezer, you should stock up ASAP because cattle prices are on the rise thanks to the aforementioned droughts.
A week or so ago I got an email advertising a new "paleo" product. I've written several times about various products parasitically riding the "paleo" bandwagon. Most of them suck.
We are about to launch a AMRAP Nutrition Paleo Refuel Bar and would LOVE it if you guys would help us out by being a taste tester and possibly write up a review in your blog regarding your thoughts about the bar. Our bars are completely raw and and in our opinion, the most nutritious and delicious paleo bar available:) The ingredients include the following: almond butter, egg whites, almonds, coconut, honey, sesame seeds, flax seeds cinnamon and sea salt.
I was genuinely curious, but I also have a troll streak and so I responded
Thanks for the offer. I have a few questions. Are the egg whites raw too? Are they sourced from pastured hens?
No reply so far.
Just because I'm not a vegan anymore doesn't mean I don't care about what happens to animals. In fact I care about it even more because I need good animal products for my diet.
In Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, he notes that the egg industry is definitely one of the worse of all the industrialized forms of animal agriculture. Feedlot cattle at least enjoy some of their lives outside, whereas the average factory laying hen will never see the light of day, crammed into a tiny cage. Male chicks are discarded, often ground up while still alive. Animal factory farms also often do not discard waste properly, polluting their local landscapes. I don't like supporting this. I don't think it's a good way to produce animals and I sincerely doubt the finished product is as good as a true free range egg.
Who knows where they get their eggs. Even if they are from truly pastured hens, I would wonder how they keep them fresh in bar format. The form of a product often can determine food sensitivities. I react to powdered milk, but not to fresh milk, for example.
Flax is a hilarious example of what happens when people demonize specific foods. Soy is soooo bad because it has phytoestrogens. Man boobz amirite? Turns out flax seed has even higher levels of phytoestrogens than soy! Also would you like an enormous amount of omega-6 fat? Because you will get them from the almond butter.
Either way, I'm sure this company would say that some people need a bar because people are so busy and would you rather have them eating McDonalds. Luckily there are already plenty of good products on the market. Even if some aren't completely transparent with their sourcing (baby steps, I suppose), they at least are using grass-fed and/or organic animal ingredients. Nearly every locality has a grass-fed jerky company at this point. In NYC I sometimes bought from Kings County Jerky. In the Midwest we have Grassfed Gourmet (and several others). You can get pastured bison Tanka bars at a lot of places. Lara Bars are a decent on the go snack, though carrying a fair amount of sugar and sometimes omega-6. Same goes for delicious Hail Merry pies and macaroons.
But I do think there is definitely room for innovation. There are lots of things I'd love to see in the grocery store for when I'm traveling or busy. There isn't really a good non soy/canola mayo on the market right now for example. What would you like to see at the grocery store?
If you are really into healthy eating, a trip to the grocery store can be kind of depressing. It often seems like most of the food they sell isn't even really food. A couple of weeks, in a lazy mood, I combed the grocery stores shelves for a mayonnaise that didn't have high omega-6 vegetable oil. I even would have accepted an oil with high-oleic vegetable oil, but none of the mayos fit the bill. My time already wasted in that futile search, I cracked open Ferran Adria's Family Meal cookbook and made my oil aioli with an immersion blender, finally managing to hit the emulsification without splattering the walls and my hair with olive oil and egg.
I find these days I get some raw ingredients from the grocery store, but increasingly I find myself purchasing from the food underground, tiny businesses that could never find their way through the monolith of regulations. They are foods, god forbid, cooked in people's kitchens. You know, kind of like the food mom made, but for some reason it's OK if mom does it, but not OK to sell it to other people. It seems kind of strange to me that the bagged raw chickens that a farmer slaughtered in his backyard are legal for me to buy (small farm poultry exemption), but not the craft beer or the kombucha made in someone's kitchen. Raw chicken is way more dangerous than beer could possibly be and what if I don't cook it right? With the craft beer, even if it's made in a licensed kitchen, there are all kinds of weird licensing loopholes to jump through. I thought it was hilarious when in NYC some native Wisconsinites were busted for selling New Glarus beer because it's not licensed for sale in NYC. What is the purpose of busting people for that? Is New Glarus beer more dangerous than Six Point beer? I don't think the government even pretends it's protecting people from anything anymore. Once something is a law and a bureaucrat is on the payroll, it tends to stick around.
Some people have tried to come up with creative solutions for complying with government regulations, like shared licensed kitchen spaces, but not surprisingly, the government often isn't terribly supportive. That's what happened with Logan Square Kitchen in Chicago. Some people have focused on the food safety regulations that LSK struggled with and there are legitimate arguments about that, but the fact that they had to deal with business licensing, which often doesn't have anything to do with even pretending to protect people, surely compounded these struggles. Maybe you should need a license to operate some kind of dangerous machinery, but why does anyone need a license to have a business?
Over and over we heard, “you did everything right.” See the Alderman before building purchase. All City Depts approve us through Green Building Permit Program. Go to BACP in advance of applying for license, completely disclosing the business model. Spend 3 months talking about what licenses we needed. Apply as directed. Told we ‘misrepresented’ our business. Told we can’t have license caused we’ve failed our “furniture inspection.” Correct that, and get licenses contingent on conditions we can’t meet. Then the Zoning folks try to shut us down. 20 health inspections. 18 months wrapped in red tape. Enduring intimidation and harassment, the resources we set aside to ramp up the business were instead used to pay lawyers and our mortgage while we were denied the right to operate.
It's not about safety, it's about control. Another depressing case has been in the news lately, that of noted tea expert David Lee Hoffman, who is possibly going to lose his farm and home because the buildings he has on his properly are "unapproved."
Life is always so full of strange twists and turns and usually happen with unpredictable spontaneity. Forty years of labor on my property have left me with a tired back, two bad shoulders, and thirty or so unpermitted structures. The finish of my laboring career was so close I was even pondering the location for a hammock that I’ve been keeping for just that occasion. But rather than living out days of leisure retirement in the garden, I find myself in another realm, something akin to a tragic Greek Fable when I’m told after four decades of hard labor, rather than receiving an award for accomplishment, I am ordered by the Great Power to now tear it all down!
I remember a farm I worked on that had "unapproved" buildings. They were gorgeous and innovative experimental structures. They couldn't get permits for them because codes didn't exist for strawbale buildings or composting toilets. In a rental building perhaps I am happy to have some building codes, but experimenting on your own property in buildings you live in should not be illegal.
Some localities are trying to put into place "cottage food" ordinances that would allow for some exceptions. I actually don't think this is a good idea because it draws the attention of bureaucrats who will want to extract their "rents" somehow. Or as in Illinois the local cronies can decide they just don't like the law and tie you up in paperwork forever.
Thank god for the internet, where people are just not bothering trying to get legit in the first place. These days you can find cottage businesses through social networking sites, send an email, and have your homemade kombucha/raw milk yogurt/home-brewed beer delivered to your apartment. I have to admit here that at this point I buy much of my food this way. It's immensely freeing in so many ways. I get to know each producer personally and can interact with them in a way that allows me to get the best products possible. I can even custom order things to my liking. It requires I be somewhat engaged with my food buying and probably takes more time than going to Trader Joes, but sometimes it's cheaper and the food is always better in every way possible.
The best meal I've ever had? It was at an underground supper club here in Chicago. And let's be honest here, I felt more comfortable eating that food, out of a kitchen I could clearly see, than I do eating food from most restaurants. Restaurants get inspected maybe once a year? How is that supposed to even pretend to enforce safety? And what is safety anyway? Why is it OK for a restaurant to re-use frying oil containing trans fats, which slowly kill people? But not OK to use beef slaughtered by the chef on a local farm in full-view of customers?
How do I find these things? Twitter, Facebook, going to food events and networking with people. Crossfit gyms have also becoming powerful networks for this.
Wild boar tacos at Nite Market
Last week I went to a rather large underground market organized by a grad student that featured unlicensed food vendors. It was wonderful to see the variety of microbusinesses featured there. You could get all kinds of delicious things from kiwi kombucha to liver pate to kale chips.
But I suffer from this fear that the small underground businesses I enjoy so much will go the way of the Greenpoint Food Market, a vibrant little fair full of delicious and innovative foods. I've seen increasingly sneaky entrapment-like methods being used against buying clubs, specifically raw dairy sellers. Will there come a day when I have to wrap myself behind three proxies to send an email about picking up homemade yogurt?
I also think sometimes about the situation Americans are in health-wise. I probably wouldn't eat some of the things I eat (the raw meat and dairy in particular) if I were still sick because I was on immune-system suppressing medications like proton pump inhibitors and corticosteroids. Millions of Americans are on these kind of medications.
Whenever there is a food poisoning outbreak we hear so much about people getting sick, but what about the people who eat that same food and don't get sick? Shouldn't we be thinking a little more about them? What does it mean that they didn't get sick? Seth Roberts posted a few days ago about how we are approaching the antibiotic resistance problem the wrong way. Instead of fretting about antibiotics being overused for sicknesses, why aren't we thinking about why Americans are so sick all the time? Why aren't we focusing on boosting immune systems?
People keep sending me The Myth of Sustainable Meat by James McWilliams. If you've followed this blog long enough you'll know I've blogged about James before. I'm also a regular commenter on his articles on the Atlantic. I've been enough of a nuisance that I've gotten his attention and he's written about me too.
Apparently the New York Times has an issue finding qualified writers to write on this hot topic. This seem to mainly employ a cookbook author, Mark Bittman, on the subject. Here we have James McWilliams who is a historian. I must say though, that he's learned a lot since when I first started reading him. Back then he was just pretending to be an anti-locavore and hadn't come out with his main motivation, which is animal rights. He even admits that sustainable agriculture works best when using animal manure as a fertilizer. But the rest is still just a hashup of his normal shtick over and over again.
Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.
Brazil is its own special situation, a perfect storm of inept government and corporate thievery. I don't think any sustainable agriculture advocates are saying we should get our beef from there.
And then we have a straw man, that is the idea that we'd have to take up almost half the country to produce grass-fed meat. Not only does that use a static 10 acres per cow, which is not always true, but it just wouldn't happen. It's just not a danger that our country is going to be taken over by cows. Never mind land-use patterns, when we switch to a more expensive model of production, demand will drop.
The chickens are a red herring. He mentions them again, saying how Joel Salatin has to use grain to produce chicken. I've written before that this model is unsustainable. It's not possible to produce truly pastured American-style chicken. But what about cattle, goats, and other ruminants? The attack on chicken is a total misdirection.
"Sustainable" agriculture is not a monolith. There are a variety of philosophies and methods that are very different from each other. It's possible to find good and bad at every farmer's market.
Finally, there is no avoiding the fact that the nutrient cycle is interrupted every time a farmer steps in and slaughters a perfectly healthy manure-generating animal, something that is done before animals live a quarter of their natural lives. When consumers break the nutrient cycle to eat animals, nutrients leave the system of rotationally grazed plots of land (though of course this happens with plant-based systems as well). They land in sewer systems and septic tanks (in the form of human waste) and in landfills and rendering plants (in the form of animal carcasses).
This is nonsense. The point is that the goal is to have a net positive on the pasture when you are grazing animals. Of course it's possible to do it wrong, to end up with a poor nutrient cycle, but then you are doing it wrong. And the animals reproduce so they are replaced. Some of the crop they fertilize also fix nutrients themselves. Simon Fairlie's book has an excellent chapter about this and about sustainable use of carcasses. Needless to say, humans produce waste not matter what they eat. And since I, like most Americans, don't have a septic tank, I don't think I'm contaminating one.
I would say that there are some efforts to do no-kill agriculture with animals, notably pioneered by a rich Indian family that owns a chain called Otarian, but I read about it several years ago and I don't think it ever got off the ground.
It's overall just a silly article that I'm sure will generate a lot of page views and forwards from smug people.
So after the silly article in NPR, a lot of people simply said that paleo is definitely not about grain-fed meat. But I find a lot of people who purchase "alternative" products are eating grain-fed meat without even knowing it, simply because it's pretty hard to do commercially viable chicken or pork without it. I and others have worked on models, but they aren't coming to a store near you anytime soon.
And for poultry, even if it's from a farmer's market, it's not often free-range in the way you might think of it. In NYC there was one farm selling poultry and I read about how they wouldn't allow people tours to their farm. When I looked closer, I realized that was because while the poultry wasn't in individual cages, they were kept in dark sheds. But it was a small family farm, so what can you say? I guess it's hard for people to believe that such a place could do wrong.
Philosophically, I like to have livestock living as close to how an animal would live in nature as possible. I know people will argue that chickens are safer in dark sheds, but people argue people are safer with irradiated food. In a natural system, some animals don't come home. Some animals die. They fall prey to raccoons or coyotes or accidents. That's a loss economically, but philosophically I'd rather have the animals survive on their own terms, fully using all their muscles and ancient survival instincts, than shut up in a shed. Perhaps I'm more sentimental than I give myself credit for.
Historically chickens and pigs were secondary production methods. They ate waste from the other crops produced on the farm. This was a sustainable method and what is highlighted in Simon Fairlie's book.
But if I were supplying a cafeteria this way, most of the time they wouldn't get chicken and when they did, it would be a smaller mostly-dark meat chicken. As I've written before, I think it's not a bad thing to have less chicken or pork, as these meats are generally nutritionally inferior to ruminant meats. I think these birds are delicious and most of the world agrees with me, but Americans want their chicken breasts.
And so even small sustainable farmers are giving it to them. And I think it's at the expense of making the pastured model truly grass-fed and truly pastured. If you are putting deformed modern industrial chicken breeds (the Persians or Pugs of chickens in terms of their deformities and health problems acquired because of breeding to please humans rather than overall function) in a cage on pasture and feeding them grains...that's better than factory farming, but how much?
Here are some pictures of farms I've dealt with:
This is the chicken tractor with Cornish Cross method Salatin made famous. These birds are being produced for a "green" restaurant that serves chicken every night. I didn't talk with this farmer about the behavior of these chickens, but at these densities I think bullying becomes an issue, but maybe not since this breed is basically a catatonic walking breast. In Eating Animals, a pastured poultry farmer named Frank Reese says:
Michael Pollan wrote about Polyface Farm in The Omnivore’s Dilemma like it was something great, but that farm is horrible. It’s a joke. Joel Salatin is doing industrial birds. Call him up and ask them. So he puts them on pasture. It makes no difference. (113)
"OK," he concedes. "You know what, that's fine if you want to do that. I'm not opposed to heritage breeds. We have some heritage breeds. Here's the problem though: marketability. When you say: 'Can we feed the world?', we're not going to turn around the system by feeding only 10% of the population. We gotta feed 90%."
You don't think people will pay…
"Double?" he says, finishing my question. "No, they won't. And besides, it's all dark meat. No double breast. Hey, 40 years ago, every woman in the country – I'll be real sexist here – every woman in the country knew how to cut up a chicken. When we started doing these pastured chickens, it was a moot point. Nobody asked for breast – it didn't exist! I mean as a separate item. Now 60% of our customers don't even know that a chicken has bones! I'm serious. We have moved to an incredibly ignorant culinary connection."
Salatin is hitting his stride now. "We tried heritage chickens for three years and we couldn't sell 'em. I mean, we could sell a couple. But at the end of the day, altruism doesn't pay our taxes. And I'm willing to say: 'You know what? I don't have all the answers and I pick my battles and compromises.' If you want to get brutally honest, in my opinion we shouldn't even have egg sales in America! Every restaurant and every home should have two or three chickens. I mean, you got a parakeet, why not have two chickens? You get eggs instead of a parrot keeping you awake at night. In a perfect world, that's how it would be."
Which sounds exactly like the arguments factory farmers or Barbara King make. Is this really all going back to bare efficiency? Maybe we should rethink chicken's place in the production system in the first place. Thousands of pastoral cultures did grass-fed quite fine without it. But Salatin would not be able to sell to conventional restaurants if he didn't use this method probably. How many restaurants are willing to have chicken on the menu only 1/8th of the year and mainly in the form of broth?
These chickens are on Veritas farm in New York. They are eating apples that were damaged in a hail storm. They go pretty much wherever they want.
And these are chickens on my family's farm, hanging out stupidly with cows. They also go wherever they want. Luckily, as heritage breeds, they are a little smarter. Of course both these examples also eat grain, but not human-food-quality grain and not a lot compared to other models. And it's possible to go-grain free on this model with some ingenuity. Socially, they are much less interested in pecking at each other because a bullied chicken can easily go elsewhere on the farm.
Truly free range chickens like these are going to have more dark meat (which I like). If you consume chicken this way, you don't consume it often, though you make great pains to extend it by making soup from the bones and other less-edible parts. You won't have enough of them to eat them every week or possible even every month.
Maybe if you can't produce something well in a commercially viable way, you shouldn't produce it at all?
Here in the District of Columbia, children were being fed meals manufactured in a suburban factory until Chartwells in the fall of 2009 introduced something it called "fresh cooked." As I discovered while spending a week in the kitchen at my daughter's elementary school, what that entailed was reheating pre-fabricated meal components such as chicken nuggets and tater tots. For breakfast, children were often consuming up to 15 teaspoons of sugar in the form of processed cereals, flavored milk, cookies and muffins...The manufacturers of those sugar-laden products pay hefty rebates--some call them "kickbacks"--to giant food service companies as an inducement to purchase their highly processed goods. But I have now learned it's not just the lousy food that's fueled by rebates. Just about everything that goes into running a public school cafeteria comes with a rebate check that helps make sure the industrial version of food wins out.
This makes me furious because any nutritionally sane person would abhor these foods. But nutritionally sane people are few and far between. I've seen interviews with dieticians that excuse sugar in kid's food because they say kids wouldn't drink their low-fat milk without it. What's even more scary to me is that all these food service companies, from odious Chartwell to somewhat "sustainable" Bon Appetit Management company are owned by the same "Compass Group." Compass Group serves the world 4 billion meals a year.
But the list of companies providing rebates is a great resource because if I could engineer a diet to make people sick, these are exactly the foods I'd pick:
$ 41,218.07 General Mills: breakfast cereals (mmm sugar flavored sugar)
$ 36,165.78 Kraft General Foods: salad dressings, condiments (mm vegetable oils!)
$ 34,991.20 Country Pure Foods-Ardmore Farms: fruit juices (it has fruit in the name, so it must be healthy right?)
$ 24,561.45 Schwan's: frozen pizza
$ 21,377.88 Otis Spunkmeyer: muffins
$ 20,717.38 Kellogg's: breakfast cereal
$ 14,324.32 Frito Lay: chips and snacks
$ 13,974.08 JAFCO Foods: breaded chicken
$ 4,388.70 Cargill Meat Solutions: processed beef
I’m pissed that my students spend almost a quarter of the year taking tests and that the annual 30 hour test is longer than the Bar Exam, the MCATS, the teacher certification test and pretty much every other test required of adult professionals. And I’m pissed that when a teacher points out the flaws of the test, he or she is accused of “low expectations” and trouble-making.
I’m pissed that the laws are formed by transnational corporations who create curriculum, “advise” on standards, push for accountability and then provide the resources, tutoring and conferences that help people reach a standard that they cannot attain (as long as every question is re-normed for fifty percent). It’s more rigged than a casino and Chuck-E-Cheese combined.
I'm glad to see that the government has found a way to make public schools into corporate subsidies.
Cops have busted a group of oddball poachers in Prospect Park — a band of vagrants that was trapping and eating ducks, squirrels and pigeons.
Parks officers wrote four tickets — two for killing wildlife and two for illegal fishing — totaling $2,100 in fines during a two-day period last week.
The city would not immediately release details of the incidents, which occurred on July 17 and 18 — just days after park-goers told rangers about a “Beverly Hillbillies”-like scene on the southeast side of the lake, near the ice skating rink.
“This is a dodgy group,” said park-goer Peter Colon, who spotted one of the men catching a pigeon while his friend started a fire. “They are the most threatening people in the park.”
The disheveled — and possibly homeless — tribe in question uses “makeshift” fishing poles and traps to catch the critters, then grills them over the fire, according to park watchdogs.
“One woman uses a net to bag the ducks,” said wildlife advocate Johanna Clearfield.
How dare those vagrants eat animals! A host of sanctimonious commenters says they should go down to the food bank and get themselves some normal stuff, like Chef Boyardee (that was the kind of stuff they had at the food bank I briefly volunteered at before it made me too depressed to be motivated). Or wait in line for hours at the food stamp office only to be turned down because they don't have their original birth certificates, or a real address, or some other nonsense. Or as one commenter said, they should just be vegans like her friend.
Personally I wouldn't eat the animals there because of the fact that the city is poisoned by pollution, but honestly they are probably healthier to eat than whatever is served up at the local soup kitchen.
Let's all be reminded that the government regularly kills the geese in the park and ships them to ANOTHER STATE to feed the homeless. Remember, it's only OK if the government does it.
Whatever happened to "teach a man to fish?" Maybe they should go back to stealing like in the old New York City? So far a rise in crime hasn't accompanied the economic difficulties of The Great Stagnation, but it could happen.
I have to give credit to the sane comments too. A lot people reminiscing about how their grandparents caught vermin to service the Depression.
There are many reasons I became a vegan, but one of the main reasons was that I didn't want to support the industrial meat system, which is cruel to both animals and people, as well as destructive to communities and the environment. I know this point of mine has been controversial before, but I do believe that conventional meat is more unhealthy, not just because of the fatty acids, but because of other feed additives, hormones, antibiotics, and the continual stress animals are subjected to. I believe science will vindicate this position more and more in the future. The beginning evidence is there, it just needs to be further investigated.
While I no longer believe that eating animals is immoral and I am no longer vegan, I do believe that animals that share characteristics with us like empathy deserve to be treated with empathy. The industrial meat industry treats neither humans nor animals with empathy. Foragers kill perhaps an animal a day or less, often offering that animals prayers of respect. Slaughterhouse workers kill hundreds of animals a day. It's not acceptable to kill fewer. In fact I know of a slaughterhouse that was shut down because they weren't killing enough animals a day and the USDA said it was inefficient to provide them with an inspector. The consequence is that slaughterhouse workers suffer repetitive stress injuries and there are some that suffer unusual autoimmune conditions as well, though the meat industry has done plenty to cover this up. But another consequence is callousness about life. Some studies have shown that presence of people who kill hundreds of animals a day in a community is associated with higher levels of crime. That doesn't surprise me at all. I've seen the undercover videos of factory farms and the brutality these animals are subject to. Only someone conditioned to accept brutality (or a psychopath) could commit acts like that.
And let's talk about community. As someone with a farm in the family and the desire to live a rural life, I'm loathe to support a system that destroys rural communities, driving small producers out of business (currently the matter of an antitrust investigation) and polluting the land and waters with waste.
Last year Don Mastesz from Primal Wisdom did a paleo on a budget series that I just remembered. The series advocated the consumption of supermarket industrial meat. I remember being rather disappointed, but not saying anything because I don't like getting into political arguments. It was based on a rather callous idea in the first place. He saw a poor family in Food Inc. and didn't believe their claim that they couldn't afford healthy food. He decided to design a low-carb diet based on spending as much money as food stamps provide.
Some background: When I moved to New York City it was to work in public service. I accepted a salary that placed me below the poverty line. Millions of New Yorkers eat badly. Afford is such a loaded word. Perhaps a lot of these people actually could technically afford decent food if you just looked at their income. But many of them are caught in cycles of debt, not only from perhaps injudicious spending, but from our dysfunctional and uncompassionate health care system. Yes, the government will feed you garbage in public school for free, but when your medical bills come from the diabetes you acquired when you were only 25, it doesn't always pay them. Having gone to the ER when poor before, it's a bit like gambling. You might get your bills dropped when you apply for financial aid and you might get some medicare coverage, but you might not. Then these illnesses also affect many people's ability to work.
Then there is the area of privilege. Yes, I ate decently when I was poor, but I am also very educated about nutrition and I grew up with a mother who attempted to teach me at least a few cooking skills. Not everyone has these things.
So the Food Inc people got it wrong. That family doesn't need to eat at fast food joints. They could follow my plan, the whole family would lose body fat, the father would lose his diabetes, they would stop needing dental repairs, and they would then have the money he spent on medications for upgrading the quality of their food.
I wonder if Don would volunteer to come to East New York and actually work with a family on food stamps. The odds are that mom works full time and she was raised by public schools that shovel garbage into children's mouths and teach them the food pyramid without teaching them how to shop or cook. The odds are that there is no dad. The odds are that their apartment does not have the sort of kitchen most of us enjoy nor do they have good access to grocery stores. Given the state of public housing, the odds are that the stove is in disrepair, but maybe they have a microwave. I honestly don't think Don's experiment said much about the state of how the poor could eat, nor did it involve very good food. I really don't think that telling people to eat more factory farmed meat is a good solution to our current food system woes. I honestly believe such people would be very healthy on an affordable no veg oil/sugar diet that includes animal products from good farms in small enough amounts to be affordable. That's how the majority of tradition cultures eat. The truth is that we are going to have to get that into public service food projects (like those that deliver to elderly/homebound people), soup kitchens, and schools. And perhaps a return to home ec in schools would help.
I try my best to not eat factory-farmed meat and I've been a higher carb advocate for some time now. Eating high-carb allowed me to survive on $10,000 a year while maintaining my commitment to grass-fed meat from small local farms. I also honestly feel better on a higher-carb diet. Meat has important nutrients, but you don't need a lot of it to get these.
I've also resisted the assimilation of primal/paleo/ancestral with the low-carb community, since I believe they have different ideals and that low-carb has very little to do with the paleolithic or what foragers actually eat, besides the tiny sliver of the paleolithic where humans lived in far north environments and the few foragers of questionable health who eat mainly meat. The stupidity of some of these people is staggering. When I presented extensive evidence that even their beloved Inuit ate plenty of plants, all they could do is say "but vilhjalmur stefansson sayz." Never mind his habit of lying and why are we even talking about this since most foragers and cultures mistakenly cited by "paleo" diet advocates eat large amounts of carbohydrates?
When Don wrote his Farewell to Paleo post, saying he was leaving paleo for a high-carb diet (lol because the evidence that the paleo diet would have been high-carb is pretty damn strong) because of health problems, I didn't connect the dots. But now that I'm remembering his budget diet, it doesn't surprise me that it happened. There are lots of zero carb trolls that claim they are healthy on a supermarket meat diet, but as far as I know, all of those are men. For women, hormonal balance can be a much more tenuous matter. If you don't believe that the hormone-injected animals effect hormone balance, I guess you would also point to the fact they were eating cheaper meats that tend to be higher in omega-6 like chicken and pork.
Thankfully, Don has come around and posted an update to his posts advocating industrial meat:
7/13/11 update: I decided that I don't want to endorse or appear to endorse the use of any meat produced by conventional methods of feeding the livestock grains, primarily corn and soybeans. Since animals consume 80% of the grain and soy produced by U.S. agriculture, this system drives the ongoing destruction of our topsoil both through crops and through grazing. Animal food production consumes 87% of all freshwater used in the U.S. each year, and thus is the primary driver of depletion of water reserves. This system also produces most of the water pollution occurring in the U.S. Our conventional livestock production system has enormous costs detailed in this article from Cornell University. Since I have known of these costs for more than 20 years, I feel embarrassed and remorseful that I wrote this series and other articles that endorsed the use of conventional animal products.
His wife has also written that she regrets forgetting compassion. This is great news. It's a bit of a shame that Don has gone on to advocate a very low fat diet and Chinese medicine for everyone, but I think it's great that he changed his diet in response to how it made him feel, whereas some low carb advocates would rather dose up with supplements than admit that a good diet probably wouldn't give them constant cramps and other health issues. And I'm glad he's fighting some of the paleo!stupidity, which means the paleo diet made up by people to fit their bias rather than one based on the real data.
So you've heard eating animals is bad for the environment. The scientific and economic reality is that sustainable food is more complex than cutting out animal products- some animal foods are good for the environment and sustainable to produce. An extensive academic treatment of what this means.