Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Saturated Fat Consumption Not Related to Heart Disease

Well blow me over! Of course, this is nothing new for most of us, but I can't help wondering why mainstream medicine keeps touting the same old disproven factoids about the dangers of saturated fats even when their own colleagues and medical journals are publishing information that say otherwise? I mean, it doesn't surprise me that Dr. Margarine isn't curled up on his sofa with a copy of "Good Calories, Bad Calories", but again and again, we see studies being published in peer reviewed journals that go largely ignored. Yet another reason to educate yourself.

Speaking of educating yourself, here's a few articles I've particularly enjoyed reading over the last couple weeks:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's ENVIROPIG!!

I'm stunned silly. I wish I could come up with some great monologue about the new, genetically modified pig that's awaiting approval from Health Canada to be allowed into our food system. I wish I had a little more faith in the food regulators to do what is right and not just profitable, but having been given the rubber stamp of approval from Environment Canada, it looks like the transgenic pig is one step away from your dinner plate.

Photo: University of Guelph:  "Furthermore, the technology is simple, if you know how to raise pigs, you know how to raise Enviropigs!"  Golly, I'll have two, please!

The problems with industrialized, factory farms are many. They produce toxic waste by the mountain-full. They raise sick animals, confined to small cages. Animals that are fed antibiotics and growth hormones in their pesticide laden food. They are toxic, environmentally destructive, and completely unsustainable. Concentrating animals into such small quarters also amplifies the problem of waste. With pigs, there's the problem of phosphorous in that concentrated manure and the toxic effect it has on water tables, rivers, and creeks nearby.
Photo: The Epoch Times  "Aerial view of hog confinement operation in Saskatchewan. Such facilities typically consist of a sow barn containing an average of 5,000 sows, a nursery barn with about 19,000 piglets, and a finishing barn with 12,000 to 14,000 pigs. 

What should we do about these factory farms raising sick animals and then dumping the meat into our food supply? Well, we could look at sustainable farming practices that pay farmers a decent wage to produce food that nourishes us. We could look at supporting local farmers that are taking the time to raise animals to maturity on green pastures, in the sunshine, eating forages that are native to that animal. We could look at the dysfunction of factory farming and learn from our mistakes.

Environment Canada and some other financially interested parties have decided that they have a better way.

Why do things the right way when you can keep doing things the way you are, but easier? Enter Enviropig... hmm.. how do I put one of those little TM things with the circle around it in there? Anyway, read that as Enviropig trademark, please.

Enviropig is a genetically modified piggy capable of shooting green lasers out of its eyes and pooping out wads of cash  letting factory farms keep factory farming while pretending that they are environmentally friendly by raising transgenic animals that have been genetically messed with to make them produce less phosphorous in their manure.  Wow!  How do they do that? Simple, they just splice a little bit of mouse DNA with a little drop of piggy DNA, whip it up, throw it in the oven for 9 minutes and you got yourself a nice, fresh roasted Enviropig!  Yummy, can I have seconds, mommy?

Like all other GMO foods in North America, transgenic animal products will not be labeled at the grocery store. If you'd like to say something about this, now is the time to do it. Health Canada is deciding when farmers can start sneaking these critters into our grocery stores.  Let the Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq know what you think of Mr. Enviropiggy. More importantly, what you can do involves what you do with your money. Don't buy grocery store meat. Refuse to support factory farms. Seek out your local farmers and purchase animals that were raised outdoors, in healthy living conditions. I know, I sound like a broken record, but consumers wield a lot more power than they realize!
Oink Squeak Oink Squeak
Further reading:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Little Pinch of This, a Dollop of That

Photo:  Macleans
I've been doing a cross between a WAPF/Primal/Paleo/GAPS style of eating for a long time now.  Whatever it's called, it's low on the carbs, void of nuts and grains, ample with cultured and fermented foods, and full of pastured animal products and healthy fats (no thanks to the refined veggie oils). I've lately been entertaining the idea of changing things up a bit by dropping the raw cheese (especially now that I finally clued-in that my favourite organic, raw cheese brand is coming from cows that are being fed grain which likely includes corn and soy). I don't think the cheese is really adding anything to my nutrition. In fact, the cheese is likely the culprit behind my stalled weight loss. Sigh..

I like WAPF for its focus on healthy fats, grass-fed meats, fermented and cultured foods, and on the quality of the food.  I also greatly admire and respect the support they show local, small scale farmers. Where I have a divergence in opinion is on the consumption of grains and nuts. I'm not a fan of either and don't understand how a food that needs such preparation to rid them of their 'anti-nutrients' can really be all that great for me. WAPF is also way too high in carbs for me.

Primal/Paleo eating is probably closest to how I eat right now with the exception of the aforementioned cheese. I also consume cultured dairy products which I attribute to my healing from leaky guy syndrome. While not emphasized on some versions of paleo/primal style eating, I think that cultured and fermented foods are integral to health. There can be a wide variation of opinions on the so-called "caveman diet" about the amount of fat one should consume with some touting low-fat meat, others suggesting we need plenty o' fat. There can also be the tendency to start making all sorts of little treats out of nuts and other goodies in the name of being 'primal'. That can be a problem.

GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet) was a God-send to me when I was dealing with that ole leaky gut of mine. I learned about the power of healing foods and it reconfirmed, for me, the magic of bone broth. Bone broth remains an integral part of our diets to this day. It was while on GAPS that I realized how negatively grains had been impacting our health. If you are suffering from any digestive issues or health ailments, I strongly recommend investigating the GAPS diet.

Suffice it to say that I don't think we can go wrong when we observe how our food is making us feel. Ask yourself if you are stronger/leaner/healthier/clear-minded/calm/happy when you eat certain foods. I don't think that there's a person on this planet that wouldn't benefit from dropping the sugars (in all of their magical forms) and refined foods from their diets. That's always the easiest place to start. After that, things get a little more personal.

Macleans recently did a decent story on a Paleo type way of eating, "Cavemen Who Walk Among Us".

Saturday, March 6, 2010


The National Film Board of Canada Presents Crapshoot: The Gamble With our Wastes

Friday, March 5, 2010

Grass or Grain Finished

I received a great question from Robert about grass or grain finished meat. I took the opportunity to blab away a little too long and Blogger decided to put a cap on my comment. Nonplussed, I decided to just plop the whole comment here for anybody else that may get something out of my exchange with Robert.
Beef from an animal solely raised and finished on pasture.
Robert wrote:
From the comment above you wrote, "Healthy fat sources include saturated fats from grass fed (and finished) meats..."

From what I've read over the last couple years, grass-finished meat is supposed to be better for you regarding the EFA proportions.
A downside to that seems to be the leanness of the resulting (grass-finisished) meat.

I was going through my Nourishing Traditions book recently and was surprised to find in the "Beef & Lamb" section this statement:
"It is entirely appropriate for these animals to be fattened on grain during their last few weeks. Such practices imitate natural processes, as ruminant animals get fat on seeds and grains in their natural habitat during summer and fall. Grain feeding is an ancient practice that ensures that red meat contains ample amounts of fat.

It sounds as though they mean that during those last few weeks, the animal is on pasture, but is given a good amount of grain as well.

None of the grass-finished (red) meat producers I'm familiar with have mentioned this grain feeding during that last few weeks. Maybe some of them don't do it because they still don't have the whole picture: that it's not just about omega 3's and 6's, but about total fat content as well.

As long as the EFA ratios didn't get badly warped, I wouldn't be one to complain about fattier meat. I'll take all I can get.

What are your thought on this?

Hi Robert,

Grass-finished meat can be leaner than grain finished beef, but there are wide variables to consider. If a farmer is raising beef cattle, using the modern genetics we find in our common breeds today, there can be some difficulty in getting that animal to 'finish' on grass. These beef cattle have been bred to fatten on grain, quickly and cheaply. The 'industrial' beef cattle are mammoth, fat, barrel-bellied creatures that are used for the quick amount of time they can get to slaughter and the size they are able to pack on, making the financial return greater.

I have made the mistake of purchasing beef from farmers who are working to do the right thing, feeding on pasture, but who don't quite have their genetic lines figured out yet. It was a tough experience - literally. The meat just didn't have the flavour, texture, or taste that I was used to.

We move a lot, so that means always sourcing new farmers for our meat. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what the difference was in the beef animals I was filling my freezer with.

I'm sure you know that before about 10,000 years ago no animal, including us, were eating grains. So, when we start looking at wild game and grass finished meats, we see that while the meat is leaner in comparison to the cows fed grains, we can also see that perhaps that overly-fat beef is not the ideal.

Having said that, my previous point about genetics, is this: find the right farmer using the right lines and you will understand everything with one bite! I've learned to ask farmers what breed of beef cattle they're raising and asking for a sample steak before I purchase the whole darn thing. I have farmers that raise Dexter, Galloway, and even a heritage Angus herd. Normally, the newer angus lines leave me unimpressed with the grass finishing, but the beef from the older genetic lines is beautiful.

My last point is that cows are meant to eat grass. Their physiology requires grass, they have no effective way of dealing with grain in their diet and thus they develop acidosis. The farmers that I know that don't finish on grain refrain from doing so because it took them an incredibly long time to get that animal to weight on pasture. They certainly wouldn't want to ruin the final product by burgeoning that animal with a grain diet.

Just to be clear, grain is fed to fatten an animal fast. Grain causes inflammation and changes in the animal's rumen that can, and does, cause acidosis in the animal. I worked on a farm last year and we did a lot of butchering animals that were raised there (on pasture) and others that came from local farmers who were feeding grain or just finishing on grain. The difference was fascinating. The grass fed beef smelled pleasant, and had a firm texture with yellowed fat. The grain fed animals all, without exception, smelled sour and they were tough to butcher as the meat had a an almost greasy consistency because of the difference in fat texture. I wish everybody could see the difference because when you do, something instinctual tells you that there's something wrong with that grain-fed meat.

Does that steak look too lean to you? Look at that deep yellow, vitamin A rich fat! That animal never saw an ounce of grain its entire life. If I could, I would give you some of that steak and you would just inherently know that is the way meat should taste and make you feel.

There are a lot of great studies you can access online regarding inflammation, acidosis and all that good stuff. The Journal of Animal Science is a good jumping off point. Here's a study you may want to start with that showed the differences between finishing steers on pasture or grain were significant.  While we want fat, healthy fat, there is a difference between overall fat and the types of fat animal products are composed of.  The key is in the quality of that fat.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate you stopping by.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sludge on Your Plate

I was talking to a friend, yesterday, about some of the things that I witnessed while working on some local farms last year.  The farms, all organic, were busting with fresh, beautiful produce.  It was the goings-on in the periphery that disturbed me so.

There were days when I went to the farm only to be smacked in the nose by the most putrid smell.  Sure enough, the sludge spreader was out in full force.  Sludge, for the uninitiated, is the human waste that is separated from the water at treatment facilities. The treated water gets sent back into the water system, but what to do with the solids?  Well, if you were with me last summer, you would see what they do with it.  They spread it on the land.  The land that grows our food.

Aside from the fact that this is human shit we're talking about, let's consider how contaminated the stuff in the toilet truly is.  The Environmental Protection Agency has tested sludge that has found its way onto agricultural land and, yes, into garden centres being sold as "organic compost".  The sludge, or "biomass" as the politically correct like to call it, is full of pharmaceutical drugs, heavy metals, pathogens, chemicals, solvents, viruses, and antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Unfortunately, the plants grown in these soils bioaccumulate the toxins.  Then, as it goes, either we eat the plants directly or indirectly via the animals that ate them first.
"...high quality, nutrient-rich, organic Biosolids Compost."  Makes you want to eat something, doesn't it?

But it's not only sewage that composes the sludge, industrial abattoirs push the waste products from the killing floor directly into the water treatment system.  These are the same industrial animals that are fed antibiotics every day in their feed, a known source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  These diseased animal guts, blood, feces, and tissues are simply washed down the drain to join up with the rest of the sludge (composed of poop, condoms, tampons, etc..) that is going to be put onto fields that grow food.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has a snazzy new name for the sludge.  They now call it "non-agricultural source materials" (NASM).  Sounds better than 'shit', I guess.

Environment Canada acknowledges that the spreading of sewage sludge is a risk factor in ground water contamination.  Think of all the wells dotting the rural landscape.  And yet, the practice continues.  It's economics.  The landfills are filling up, municipalities and cities need somewhere to dump their sewage that's cheap and so, they offer sewage sludge free to farmers or even, in some cases, offer to pay the farmers to take it off their hands.  Farmers, not thoroughly warned of the hazards, assured the sludge is safe, and often operating under very tight financial margins, apply it to their land.

Another critical reason to know where your food is coming from.  If you are eating commercially raised animal products, there's a pretty good chance that their feed was doused with human waste (besides being GMO).  It's also important to visit the farms, check out not only what they're doing, but what's going on around them.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yet Another Reason Not to Support the Heart and Stroke Foundation

Sarah Polley has pulled her name from a short movie she shot for The Heart and Stroke Foundation.  Polley agreed to make the movie, believing that she was supporting the foundation and its work.  When she later learned that the movie short, due to air during the Academy Awards, would be used to promote one of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's major sponsors, Becel margarine, Polley removed her name from the project.

Right, you read that correctly.  The Heart and Stroke Foundation is working with Unilever, Becel's parent company, to tell us what to eat to keep our hearts in tip-top shape.  Margarine.  Unilever has emphasized the 'heart healthy' effects of Becel because, they say, it has no trans fats.  What they don't talk about is what is in there: a plastic tub full of modified palm oils, genetically modified organisms in the highly sprayed canola and sunflower oils which are rancid to begin with, monoglycerides to smoosh it all up together, and some artificial flavour (MSG).
Heart and Stroke Foundation: Eat more margarine it plumps our bottom line is good for you.

So, Unilever and The Heart and Stroke Foundation want us to believe that a vat of rancid, bleached, GMO, pesticide laden, artificially coloured oils that have been "modified" are what our bodies were designed for. This is the stuff that our bodies, in all of their magnificent complexity, use to build our bones, run our immune systems, use as fuel to think, move, and grow? It's just common sense that this can not be so. Well, common sense and a load of science.

Way to go, Sarah!

Further reading:

  • If you're purchasing store bought ice-cream, you may want to do some investigating into what's really in there.  If it's made by Unilever, expect GMO fish proteins. You may be surprised by how many brands of ice-cream Unilever actually claims.
  • Corporate Watch takes a peek at what Unilever is up to.
  • They may technically label it "trans fat free", but it's just a label.  They're still altering these fats to get them to do what they want - last a long time and fool your taste buds.  Interesterification to the rescue! Seriously, there is nothing that man can do to improve a food when it hits the manufacturing plant.  Those of us in the natural health world knew about trans-fats decades before it became a buzz word and the health agencies decided to start letting the cat out of the bag.  Stick to food the way it was grown or raised, with no processing (minimal, traditional processing is fine, I'm talking about the refined products we see filling our grocery store shelves), and you really can't go wrong.
  • It's a Butter Vs. Margarine Showdown over at the Whole Health Source corral.
  • Butter is Better.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Pesky Bones" and Other Brilliant Posts

Whole Health Source has an interesting post about a study showing a correlation between omega-6 consumption and obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and a bunch of other commonly seen diseases here in the Western hemisphere.  "Dissolve Away Those Pesky Bones".  Great title, Stephan!

Dr. Art Ayers, over at Cooling Inflammation, takes a look at gut health with his post, "Constipation, Gut Flora, and Health".

"What's Wrong With Paleo"?  Well, nothing if you don't try to make a paleo/primal style of eating mesh with your addiction to all things sweet.  No, our ancestors did not have bags of coconut flour, honey, and nuts to whip together some fantastical treat.  While you're over at Carnivore Health, check out Danny's post, "Are Humans Natural Meat Eaters".  I like the obese, cartoon pig part.