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Posts Tagged ‘food’

When Good Intentions Result in a Big Fat Lie…

My local grocery store, regional chain Roundys, has started offering organic, free range, vegetarian, chicken.  Which I’m all kinds of in favor of.  I like the choice to buy, for an elevated price, humanely raised, chemical and antibiotic free, chicken.  I have a major problem with it though.

“What could that possibly be?”  You ask, with a shocked look on your face I assume.

Let me tell you.  You can’t have truly “free range” and “vegetarian” chicken.

I know, free range is a marketing term that in reality means that the chicken spends some time outside of its cage.  This is a good thing because it means that the chicken gets some exercise and grows much slower.

“Why is that a good thing?”

Well, normal cage raised chickens, who are given growth hormones and antibiotics in order to fatten up really fast, usually grow so fast that their seldom used legs cannot support their weight.  The result is that when the birds try to stand, they break their legs.  This is not a humane way to raise chickens.  So chickens that are “free range” at least have a fighting chance at a better life.  That said, factory free ranging is little better than caging chickens.

Factory free range chickens are usually kept in barns.  And there can be thousands of chickens in that barn, crammed in wing to wing, barely able to move about.  Certainly not the bucolic picture of the chicken coop with the hens and chicks scratching in the dirt outside with the rooster standing watch on a fence post.

This is the reality of terms like “cage free” and “free range”

They really can’t move around all that much, but at least they can move.  They also won’t suffer from broken legs or being debeaked.  Don’t even get me started on that barbaric, inhumane, despicable practice.  Unfortunately in those close quarters, they also can’t give themselves dust baths, which help them prevent lice infestations, they’re prone to easily transmitting diseases, and violent behavior and cannibalism are prevalent.   What does that matter though, they’re free range and cage free.

The other term I’m opposed to is vegetarian.

Chickens are not vegetarians.

Let me repeat that.  CHICKENS ARE NOT VEGETARIANS!

Chickens are omnivores.  Just like humans.  In those bucolic pictures of chickens in the farm yard, scratching in the dirt, those chickens are doing a couple of things.

First, they’re scratching up grit to eat.  Grit is just what it sounds like, dirt and small stones.  A chicken’s stomach, gizzard, is not really well suited to grinding up its food for digestion.  Beaks are not really meant for much more than cracking things open and picking thing up, and chickens have no teeth so they can’t chew their food.  Grit works through the muscle action in and around the gizzard to grind the food so the chicken can extract the nutrients from what they eat.

Second, the chicken is scratching looking for bugs.  Yes chickens eat bugs, they’re especially fond of June bugs I’m told by my chicken raising friends.

So, a vegetarian chicken just isn’t one hundred percent natural.  And the only way you can ensure that a chicken gets only a vegetarian diet is to make sure that it never has access to the soil.  Barnyard soil has all sorts of bugs and small creatures in it that chickens will happily eat for you.  What they’re really telling you when they say that the chicken is vegetarian is that the farmer is not feeding it any animal byproducts.

“What kind of animal  byproducts could they be feeding chickens?”

Good questions.  Because chickens being fed a diet of corn, greens and seeds need extra calcium, a common practice is to add ground up egg shells and bone meal to the food.  Now bone meal is nothing more than what it says, ground up bones.  Those can be beef, pork or even chicken bones.  And to boost the protein in their food, they’ll also add in things like eggs, and meat byproducts.  Again, meat by products can come from any thing; beef, pork, chicken, etc.  What do chicken farmers have in abundance to make bone meal and meat byproducts from?  You got it, chickens.  So between the egg shell, albumin, bone meal, and meat byproducts, is it any wonder that that chickens in over crowded conditions become cannibalistic?  This is also one reason why caged chickens are debeaked, if they don’t the chicken will start eating itself.  Now there is nothing natural about that.  That is simply a sign of an animal in severe distress.  One of the big problems with animal byproducts in animal feed is that it isn’t always the highest quality nor cleanest, as a result things like arsenic are added to the feed to kill parasites. So vegetarian only means that the chicken isn’t being fed anything but vegetables and grit.

But a vegetarian diet is not the chicken’s natural diet.  Even if the chicken isn’t caged, it won’t be as healthy as a chicken allowed to eat bugs and scratch in the dirt.

Given all the above, what should we really be looking for in chicken.  If you’re willing to buy the organic, free range, vegetarian, chicken for a premium from the grocery store, take the extra step and go to a farmer’s market.  The chicken there is usually a little less expensive than the grocery store organic chicken, even if it is vegetarian.  But talk to the people selling chicken there.  Ask them how their chicken is raised and what its fed.  Specifically ask if the birds are pastured and allowed time outdoors in the sun and dirt.  If they are, the birds will do what comes naturally and eat the plants and bugs.  By the way, also ask your egg man these same questions.  The eggs will be so much more flavorful.  Did you know that a pastured, and properly fed, chicken’s egg will have a yoke that is almost orange rather than yellow.  It will also be naturally high in omega 3 fatty acids.  You know the stuff that’s good for your brain, heart and arteries.

 

I Can’t Say This Any Better…

March 21, 2012 Leave a comment

So I’ll just post the whole thing here. I’m sure they won’t mind me helping to get the word out.

 

The science is clear. BPA is dangerous. It’s time for FDA to stop allowing BPA to be used in our food packaging. Send a message to the FDA before its March 31st decision.

The FDA decides on March 31st if it will ban BPA in food packaging.
Dear Friend,

The toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) was recently banned in California from being used in baby bottles and sippy cups.

But thanks to the lobbying of the American Chemistry Council and other chemical manufacturers, BPA continues to be allowed in food and beverage packaging including the lining in most canned food and soup.

The FDA can put a stop to it. The agency will decide on March 31st whether or not to continue allowing bisphenol A (BPA) to be used in food packaging. It needs to stand up to industry pressure and protect us from this dangerous chemical.

Tell the FDA: No BPA in food packaging!
BPA is a hormone disruptor that has been linked to a long list of serious health issues, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, early puberty, miscarriages and brain and heart disorders.1

It’s so ubiquitous, it’s even used in things like store receipts and plastic bags, and it is estimated that BPA can be found in 90% of our bodies.2

FDA’s deadline comes in response to a formal petition filed in 2008 by the Natural Resources Defence Council. FDA failed to respond, and finally in December, a federal judge said it must make a final decision on BPA in food packaging by March 31st.3

Early last year, FDA admitted that BPA use raised “some concern,” reversing a long maintained position that BPA was safe in low doses, as evidence mounted rapidly of BPA’s health risks, which in addition to increased propensity for some diseases, include infertility and behavioral problems in children.

The science on BPA is clear, and its health impacts are far reaching, and deeply concerning. BPA isn’t safe to be used in food packaging and the FDA needs to take action to protect us from BPA:

Take Action Now

Thank you for fighting to keep us safe from toxic chemicals.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Oil…

February 29, 2012 2 comments

This will make eating more expensive.

I don’t think there is a any part of the food chain that oil doesn’t effect.  No, I’m not talking about Extra Virgin here.  I’m talking crude.

This article from Yahoo finance discusses some of the reasons why gas prices are likely to rise in the coming months.  That’s only gas prices though.  Unfortunately the price of oil and gas effect far more than just what you put in your car.  The things you have to really think about in the cost of food, are all the other things that go into getting that food from the farm to your table.  Some form or distillate from oil goes into pretty much every aspect of food production.  From chemical fertilizers to transportation, to packaging.  All of it involves oil.  So if the price of gas goes up, you can bet that the price of all other petroleum based products will rise as well.

For example, it takes 1.2 gallons of oil to produce a single bushel of feed corn.  Because of government subsidies, corn is by far the cheapest way to fatten animals quickly.  The cattle industry says it takes about 16 pounds of grain (corn) to raise 1 pound of meat.  Most beef cattle are slaughtered at somewhere around 1200 pounds.  That would mean that a steer would be fed somewhere around 19,000 – 20,000 pounds of grain in it’s lifetime.  At 60 pounds per bushel, that comes to 316  to 335 bushels of grain (corn) per animal.  If it takes 1.2 gallons of oil to produce 1 bushel that comes to 380 to 402 gallons of oil just to raise the cow.  There are 42 US gallons in 1 barrel of oil, this means every cow raised for beef needs 9 to 10 barrels of crude oil.  At this point we haven’t done any more than bring the animal into this world and feed it.  With the current average cost of a barrel of crude being about $113, that means up to this point the cow has cost in oil somewhere between $1017.00 and $1130.00.

No, I’m not calling on people to be vegetarians.  It takes as much if not more money to bring enough variety of vegetables to the table to make a vegetarian diet healthy.  So that isn’t the answer either.  The reality is that because of the price of oil and gas, we are also on the brink of a food crisis.  We produce so little of what we buy in the supermarket locally.  Not only do we get food trucked in from factory farms in California, Texas, and Florida, we also have it flown in from other parts of the world.  Tomatoes and grapes from Chili are common in the markets during the winter months.  Also because size and appearance are much more important that nutritional value and sustainability, we’ve consolidated the majority of our food production to certain areas.  Idaho potatoes, Washington Apples, Wisconsin Dairy (currently being usurped by California), Florida Oranges, all these areas are known for their products for a reason, and it has little to do with quality and more to do with what grows best there and what would bring the biggest subsidies.

I don’t know that I have a real solution though.  The best answer is to find local growers and buy from them.  Better still would be to grow as much of you’re own food as you can using heirloom seeds so that you aren’t tied to Monsanto and its evil genetically modified, franken seeds.

Categories: Bad Ideas Tags: , , , , ,

New Research Every Day…

January 6, 2012 Leave a comment

On a daily basis I read articles, see news stories, hear pundits, experts and crackpots, telling me what to eat.

Eat these five foods to prevent cancer.

Foods to eat now to jump start your weightloss.

End obesity now, eat this.

Prevent heart disease by eating more of this.

New foods high in antioxidants.

I’ve always believed that food is good medicine, but this is taking it way too far.  The way some of these read you would expect that the FDA to have them classified as drugs.  Some of them, if the claims are to be believed, should require a prescription.  Other ones you would think should be illegal, classified as a drug.  Wouldn’t be funny to see the police busting down doors and hauling people away for having an ounce of pomegranate seeds.

The biggest problem I see with all these kind of articles and stories is that they all seem to espouse the same thing.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  Eat even more whole grain foods because these are the magic foods that will make you thin, live forever, and keep you from having any kind of cancer.  While I can get behind the eating of more vegetables, I can’t agree with eating more grain.

You see, the plagues of the modern age, heart disease, cancer, obesity, began long ago when man started farming and domesticated grains.  And its only gotten worse through genetic manipulation of grain plants, making the yield greater.   Dr. William Davis, discussed this in his book Wheat Belly.  He says that there is a certain physical shape, that of the belly being distended and bloated, that he sees in his practice that indicated a diet high in wheat and grain products.  Dr. Davis, is a cardiologist by the way.  His patients are predominantly over weight, heart disease sufferers.  I, like he, see the correlation between a diet high in grains, whole or otherwise, and obesity and heart disease.  Yet the USDA and FDA still push the company line that grain is good.

The best advise I can give for people wanting to lose weight, prevent heart disease, and all the problems of aging.  Don’t eat grains.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas…

December 24, 2011 6 comments

No need to bring us some figgy pudding.

This afternoon I made my own.

For those not familiar with this dessert, its the old English  pastry sung about in the song We Wish You A Merry Christmas.  By US standards, its not really a pudding.  Its more of a dense cake.

While the recipe was good, and produced an acceptable pudding/cake.  I wasn’t completely satisfied with the texture and flavor.  I would have liked something that kept the density of this one yet somehow seemed lighter in texture but richer in flavor.  I would also have liked to make it paleo friendly or at the very least gluten free.  This being my first attempt at it though I followed the recipe, there is time for tweeking before next Christmas.  I’ll have to see what I can do over the year.  Off hand, sugar can be replaced with honey and or maple syrup.  Its really the flour that will cause the most problems.  Nut flours don’t hold together as well, and coconut flour might be way too dense.  I’m going to have to experiment on different flour combinations.  I’m sure I’ll get it figured out for next year though.  So periodically I’ll post the test results.

Such the eventful time we’re in…

Well, if you haven’t figured it out just yet, the Rapture was a non-event.  Reverend Camping was wrong again just like when he predicted the world would end in 1994.  Oh yes, his calculations were off in 1994.  And this time his calculations were just a little off, but his version of god used this past Saturday to make his choices of who lives and who dies.  Other than that, he’s now going to shut up about it.  He probably should have done that 17 years ago.  Here’s an idea, momma should have kept her thighs together 90 years ago.  And by the way, keep your dooms day predictions to yourself.

On far more important and pleasant news, the USDA has actually made a ruling that doesn’t screw the public in favor of big agribusiness.  They’re now saying that pork is safe to eat pink.

Cooked to 145 degrees farenheit then allowed to rest for at least 3 minutes.  This leaves the pork pink, and juicy while still being perfectly safe to eat.  While I can agree with this in theory because foods cooked to an internal temperature in excess of 140 will kill germs and bacteria.  That’s all well and good.  My problem with it is that too many chefs are going to now push the “new” standard.  For many people raised on well done pork that will be a completely unacceptable.  As for myself, I like my pork cooked to 150 and then rested.  This leaves it very juicy yet only ever so slightly pink.

Really its a texture thing.  I like the pork to be firm yet juicy.  The new standard leaves it soft and distinctly pink.  My preferred higher internal temp produces a firmer, lighter flesh with only a hint of blush.  It preserves the juiciness while providing a piece of meat that looks like it was cooked much longer.  Of course I don’t have my food sitting under heat lamps either.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,

School Food…

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

A heartfelt apology to anyone who ready my last post and was waiting for the post I promised for Monday night.  I hurt myself and just couldn’t concentrate through the pain.  Dang, the big toe really hurts when you smash it good.  On the other hand, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t because I would have missed adding my comments on the new season of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution which started Tuesday night.  That and this article about Chicago’s Little Village Academy.

By now, most everyone has heard that the Little Village Academy has banned brown bag lunches except for those students who have specific allergies.  As a parent of an elementary school child, I’m not so sure this would be the best thing.  A common lunch at my daughter’s school is pancakes and syrup, or french toast sticks and syrup along with tater tots, or if they’re lucky, cheese pizza.  Apparently a slice of cheese pizza meets the USDA’s guidelines for a complete lunch.  You see it has bread (crust), vegetables (sauce), protein (cheese), and dairy (cheese), which makes it a complete meal.  Pancakes, syrup and tater tots also seems to constitute a complete and balanced meal.  I’m not entirely sure being that there is no protein in this “meal” at all.  After talking with my daughter, fruit is in syrup in a plastic cup, vegetables are optional, and the salad bar is used only about 5 days of the month.  If Little Village Academy is anything like this, I can’t see that they offer better than a parent can pack for their child.  I suspect that they’re making this a requirement in order to be able to get the government funding they want.  You see, it really is all a numbers game.  If you don’t have enough students getting the school provided lunch, the government cuts funding to your school for lunches.  In addition, they sound like they’re one of the higher end public schools, like the STEM schools in my area, with a lower rate of subsidized lunches meaning fewer students who “need” lunches.  So if fewer low income students means less demand for lunches, that means less government grants for the lunch program.  How do you offset that?  Ban brown bag lunches and charge more for the required school provided lunch.  Currently, school lunches cost $1.80 per day at my daughter’s school, the Little Village Academy charges$2.25.  You may say, “Well that’s not that much different and they’re in a big city so the cost of living is higher.”  The USDA is saying that they give $2.72 per subsidized lunch, so the unsubsidized student should pay about the same.  A compromise for the 2011 – 2012 school year puts the price of an unsubsidized lunch per the USDA at $2.46.  Little Village is still lower than next years planned price, but that’s next year I’m sure the price will go up to match the USDA at least.

To put it bluntly, I think there’s more to Little Village’s ban on brown bag lunches than just the nutritional needs of the children.  I honestly think it’s more a fiscal matter than a way of helping the kids.  Of course if the kids do get better food for the effort it would be a good thing, but then you just ban certain foods from the school, not all personal foods.

Now, on to the Food Revolution.  Last season when Jamie announced his revolution, I was one of the very first to sign up and sign his petition to reform school lunches.  I fully support his efforts and as a result, have had my daughter taking her lunch to school every day.  I only wish that I had the time to go to the school, district and school board and demand that they make better choices for all students.  That said, after seeing last night’s premier of season 2, I’ll admit that the LA school lunches have to be the absolute worst crap you could serve a child.  I’m sure the California prison system gets better food than the students.  I know that the Wisconsin prisons get the same crap as the schools do because the same company, Sodexo,  provides “nutrition” for both.  If that doesn’t tell you something about the connection between nutrition and criminal behavior I don’t know how else to make that connection.

I’ve been following Jamie’s adventures in LA via Twitter for the past year, so nothing being shown is that much of a surprise for me, but seeing a school bus over filling with sugar from a week’s worth of school lunches was just shocking.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see a similar result if salt had been the example either since all that processed food is high in sodium.

Jamie, if you should somehow manage to see this, my promise to you is that when my daughter goes into middle school next year, I will find the time to go after the school and make sure that the lunch program is nutritionally supportive of the children’s learning.