Friday, March 02, 2007

"You are what you eat, and what you eat eats" - Michael Pollan

If you've ever wanted to crystallize in your mind why it is important to eat grass fed meat, or wild game instead of standard grocery store fare - you need look no further than Pollan's book - The Omnivore's Dilemma.

He uses beef as a focus to detail two fundamentally different food chains: industrial, and grass. Here is a basic breakdown:

Grass: this involves the basic process of ruminant animals' consumption of green matter. The sun strikes the leaves of grass in the ground, providing the required energy to synthesize inorganic nutrients taken from the soil into organic matter... that is, grass grows by way of the sun, water and soil. Grazing animals - cows especially, but also buffalo and deer, etc. - can then eat the grass, and turn it into meat, bone, etc. We the people can then slay an animal and eat the meat. This is a basic food-chain process... a foundation of life on Earth, to put it simply.

Industrial: this food chain aims to get you a product similar in appearance to that provided by the grass-based chain (animal flesh as a meat meal), but it is overrun with shortcuts, and ultimately ruin. It starts with a black desert; there is no need for it to be green all the time, as a new energy source is the base here: synthetic fertilizer. That fertilizer is a petroleum-derived product. So this food chain starts in the Persian Gulf, from a well of fossil fuel (true, this is also the sun's energy, but in an ultra-concentrated form that allows us to cheat and shortcut on a short-term basis). It then moves to synthetic fertilizer, and then to a grain of corn. This corn - being more full of energy than an equal acreage of grass - is basically forced on beef livestock, to speed along the fattening process. Despite the fact that cows are ruminant animals - grassophiles - their diets are abruptly shifted to corn-based feed so they can reach slaughter weight in 150 days instead of a couple years. The trouble is - the biology of the cow can't handle the grain - they naturally reject it... so force-feeding them the stuff basically makes them chronically ill. Thus, they are regularly given antibiotics to keep them walking and gaining weight. So you have your corn base, mixed with Rumesin and Tylosin (antibiotics), liquid vitamin and protein supplements, and synthetic estrogen making up the feed that hurries these industrial beef cattle to the slaughter. All in the name of speed and maximization of profits... get the cheapest product out there to as many people as possible - as long as it LOOKS good, folks will think it IS good. And the consumers reinforce the whole deal, for as Pollan notes: "farmers who get the message that consumers care only about price will themselves care only about yield. This is how a cheap food economy reinforces itself."

So that's it - my interpretation of Pollan's information. Which sounds better to you? Would you be willing to pay $4 for a pound of unadulterated food chain instead of $2.50 to eat petroleum?

I'll type some Pollan here verbatim to sum this up:
We’ve come to think of “corn-fed” as some kind of old-fashioned virtue, which it may well be when you’re referring to Midwestern children, but feeding large quantities of corn to cows for the greater part of their lives is a practice neither particularly old nor virtuous. Its chief advantage is that cows fed corn… get fat quickly; their flesh also marbles well, giving it a taste and texture American consumers have come to like. Yet this corn-fed meat is demonstrably less healthy for us, since it contains more saturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of animals fed grass. A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with corn-fed beef. (Modern-day hunter-gatherers who subsist on wild meat don’t have our rates of heart disease.) In the same way ruminants are ill adapted to eating corn, humans in turn may be poorly adapted to eating ruminants that eat corn. p.75

"You are what you eat" is a truism hard to argue with, and yet it is, as a visit to a feedlot suggests, incomplete, for you are what what you eat eats, too. And what we are, or have become, is not just meat but number 2 corn and oil. p.84

If you want to eat meat (I do) - the best things you can do, in my opinion: shoot a deer, catch a fish, and buy a side of beef from your buddy who raised it in an unhurried, un-industrial fashion.


Blogger spilseth said...

Very interesting.

Well, I want to eat grass fed meat from now on. Too bad the structure of the supply chain makes that basically impossible. If I go to a restaurant, they don't have grass fed meat on the menu. At Ralph's there is no meat labeled "grass fed". Whole Foods may have something like that, I'll have to check, but I doubt it.

This reminds me of that Turkey article I sent out a few years back.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Whole Foods will have it... it's pretty easy to come by if you look around. I'd say that especially in CA you're in good shape.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Justin, that's some great info. Quite illuminating as well...

Our family is in the process of changing how we buy our food, and more importantly how we eat.

Thanks for this. I'll have to check out that book.


8:07 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Good comments...

I do agree that, as Ted notes, "the structure of the food chain" makes this difficult (surely not impossible though - if you poke around Ted, you can find any kind of food you want). I fully acknowledge that it's more troublesome at this time and in this place to eat well. It seems though, that when more people decide it's worth it, it will become less troublesome... if enough people demand grass fed beef, it will probably become more available. It takes folks who are willing to look a little harder and pay a little more to gradually chip away and change something as big as the meat production system in our country.

I read that Argentina does not feed any grain to cattle. It can be done.

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple more pieces of the puzzle, if you're at all interested in the Pollan - Whole Foods debate:

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And this one on the cover of Time Magazine,9171,1595245-1,00.html

12:30 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

My husband sometimes thinks I'm a bit obsessed with food ingredient labels, but this is exactly the reason why. We have managed to eliminate a lot of processed foods from our diet over the last couple of years, and we were fortunate to find a local source of grass fed beef at $2.50/lb. Of course you have to buy almost 200 pounds at a time, but it's cheaper in the long run.

I've been meaning to read that book; thanks for the reminder.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

Thanks for the links and good comments. I've been so damn busy I've still not finished the book... but I've gotten through three of the four meals. I will reiterate - it is an amazing text - please read it.

12:54 AM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

longchamp outlet online, true religion, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton outlet online, red bottom shoes, burberry outlet online, michael kors outlet, nike air max, kate spade handbags, louis vuitton handbags, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses, jordan shoes, longchamp handbags, ray ban outlet, prada outlet, coach outlet, christian louboutin, louis vuitton outlet, gucci handbags, coach outlet, oakley vault, cheap oakley sunglasses, chanel handbags, nike free, tory burch outlet, nike shoes, coach outlet store online, burberry outlet online, polo ralph lauren outlet, christian louboutin shoes, true religion outlet, coach purses, michael kors outlet store, kate spade outlet online, prada handbags, longchamp outlet, nike air max, louis vuitton, tiffany jewelry, tiffany and co jewelry, christian louboutin outlet

11:41 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

sac vanessa bruno, nike free, michael kors canada, timberland, michael kors uk, air max, nike air force, air jordan, true religion jeans, ray ban pas cher, louis vuitton pas cher, louis vuitton uk, nike air max, sac michael kors, abercrombie and fitch, lacoste pas cher, nike roshe run, ray ban uk, true religion outlet, longchamp, oakley pas cher, nike roshe, mulberry, new balance pas cher, north face pas cher, converse pas cher, hollister, tn pas cher, north face, lululemon, nike blazer pas cher, barbour, ralph lauren, hermes pas cher, nike air max, hollister, sac louis vuitton, chaussure louboutin, nike free pas cher, burberry pas cher, guess pas cher, longchamp pas cher, louis vuitton, scarpe hogan, vans pas cher, ralph lauren pas cher, air max pas cher

11:44 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

chi flat iron, mac cosmetics, soccer shoes, jimmy choo shoes, birkin bag, rolex watches, ferragamo shoes, canada goose, vans outlet, instyler ionic styler, uggs outlet, canada goose outlet, soccer jerseys, north face jackets, babyliss pro, wedding dresses, p90x workout, giuseppe zanotti, mcm handbags, ugg outlet, asics shoes, celine handbags, ghd, nike huarache, bottega veneta, insanity workout, abercrombie and fitch, herve leger, ugg boots, nike trainers, ugg soldes, marc jacobs outlet, beats headphones, hollister, mont blanc pens, reebok shoes, canada goose outlet, lululemon outlet, valentino shoes, longchamp, north face outlet, nfl jerseys, new balance outlet, roshe run, ugg, canada goose outlet, uggs on sale

11:47 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

baseball bats, nike air max, ray ban, parajumpers outlet, toms outlet, timberland shoes, converse shoes, replica watches, moncler, hollister, lancel, moncler, juicy couture outlet, moncler, links of london uk, wedding dress, louis vuitton canada, ugg, vans, moncler, pandora charms, canada goose uk, louboutin, canada goose, oakley, juicy couture outlet, hollister canada, pandora jewelry, moncler outlet, iphone 6 case, ralph lauren, canada goose pas cher, pandora uk, coach outlet, moncler, montre femme, converse, swarovski uk, uggs canada, supra shoes, hollister clothing, karen millen, swarovski jewelry, thomas sabo uk, canada goose, air max, gucci, moncler

11:51 PM  
Blogger dalia said...

Lucky me I came across your website

2:10 PM  
Blogger omar ail said...

I like all of the points you have made

5:21 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

سباك بالكويت

2:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

longchamp bags
hugo boss sale
adidas yeezy
jimmy choo shoes
nike huarache
ralph lauren outlet
ray ban sunglasses

10:34 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

salomom shoes
uggs outlet
christian louboutin shoes
canada goose outlet
coach outlet
michael kors outlet online
kate spade outlet online
pandora charms outlet
golden goose shoes

9:51 PM  
Blogger 5689 said...

ralph lauren outlet
christian louboutin shoes
kate spade
ralph lauren outlet
nike soldes
issey miyake perfume
oakley sunglasses wholesale

10:15 PM  
Blogger chenlili said...

polo ralph lauren
coach outlet online
coach outlet
michael kors outlet
oakley sunglasses
cheap ugg boots
canada goose outlet
michael kors outlet
cheap jordans
cheap ray bans sunglasses

3:33 AM  
Blogger ouch said...

0820jejeSource de basket nike pas cher blanche l'article: est vraiment un moyen sain d'obtenir un soulagement du pied et de réduire adidas zx flux pas cher rose fluo l'arthrite. Jackson, qui a remplacé Doug Collins à titre d'entraîneur-chef, asics gel femme decathlon a été en mesure de mener son groupe à la acheter air jordan 6 femme victoire tout au long de sa toute première période chaussure nike presto garon comme entraîneur-chef du groupe. Il va au-delà des couleurs chaussures nike air max tn requin dans le style et le confort qui est présenté à travers la jordan nike air chaussure.

1:27 AM  
Blogger omar ail said...

Your site is very helpful

11:03 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home