Happy cows come from California. Right? Every time I recall my drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco with a friend, I reflect on this commercial. In the commercial, it shows only several cows…clean and plump…roaming around bright green, grassy fields. Well, big business is about profit margins and sales, and they will make a sale by any means necessary…including if the means mean fooling the heck out of you and me! Sales and profits have nothing to do with telling the truth.
I digress. Let me tell you what I saw somewhere mid-way between LA and San Francisco. Well, I should tell you what I smelled long before I saw anything…I smelled ammonia. Ugh. The air suddenly became so acrid with that ammoniated smell of cow urine…we had to roll the windows up (“Roll” the windows up- what a 1970s term) and put the air on re-circulate, and we still couldn’t breathe. How in the world could the cow urine be that thick? And then, as our car descended over the summit…a brown sea of wall-to-wall cattle, their backs festering and blistering in the sun. These cows were literally standing side-to-side…thousands upon thousands of cattle standing in thick sloppy dirt muddied with their urine, in the open desert sun. There were a few water troughs dispersed throughout this malaise, and even fewer overhead sun guards. There was not a blade of grass in sight.
This is agribusiness. This is factory farming of beef. If you are eating it, then you are buying it…and if you are buying it, you are funding and supporting this massively cruel and abusive existence for these cows. This is not even to begin to mention what you are actually ingesting by eating the flesh from these very unhappy cows. Let’s talk about that for a moment.
We, as a people, have never in time been so absolutely disconnected from how our food is produced and from where it comes. I really marvel at how mindlessly we can put food in to our mouths without thinking once about the conditions under which this food came to be. What is the environmental/social impact? What are the hidden costs? How far did the food have to travel to get to your plate? And- is it actually food, or some chemicalized, plasticized, hyped-up version of a food product whose main purpose is to garner profit for some large “food” company? Our ancestors had to work a lot harder and be a lot more respectful of the food they had. In the distant past, having food naturally meant you knew where it came from, because you probably had something to do with procuring it!
I’ll tell you one thing our ancestors probably didn’t do…they probably didn’t feed their cattle grains and other cows. If you don’t know the cause of Mad Cow Disease- it’s due to the cow consuming animal flesh. Some cattle farmers chose to put some of the by-products from the slaughterhouse back in to the animal feed. Save money. You know. Cows not being carnivorous….this makes them sick. This also makes you sick. You just might not see it right away.
Commercial cattle are also routinely fed grain. Grain is also not a natural part of a cows diet, and causes much gastrointestinal distress for the cow. It fattens them more quickly- which is desirable to the farmer. However, due to the way that a cow’s stomach is, the grain sits in there and ferments and rots. This also makes a cow sick. This also makes all of us sick. You know those food recalls you see on the news- like when spinach is contaminated with E. Coli? It is often the case that the spinach (or other vegetable victim) was subjected to run-off from a cattle farm where the cows are being fed grains. The feces of these cows contains bad bacteria, like E. Coli….because they are not supposed to be eating grain!!
Cows eat grass. Happy cows live on a biodynamic farm and they have room to move and breathe and they eat grass. There are not a lot of farms like this in this country- by comparison.
I’ll say this once, and I will say it a thousand times…where we spend our money is where we put our vote. If people continue to endlessly consume commercially farmed beef, for instance, these horrible practices will continue. If everyone would say “I don’t support this, I’m not buying it anymore…”, this type of business would go out of style. This doesn’t even begin to talk about the amount of resources involved with cattle farming, the destruction of the rain forest, or the fact that all the grain being used to feed all these cows could be put to better use feeding the starving people in the world. Did you know that cattle farming is responsible for one fifth of all the greenhouse gases being emitted, and that the United States is the most culpable? This country produces enough beef to feed each person 5 times what they are already consuming.
When it comes to protein- Americans have been shown to be over consuming. Most people grossly overestimate the amount of protein a body needs. One serving is about 4oz., or what fits in to the palm of your hand. And you don’t need more than that in a day. Overconsumption of animal protein creates a toxic load for our bodies, which burdens our kidneys and also creates an acidic environment in our bodies. This is another topic for another paper- but it is not desirable to be in an acidic state- our bodies need to be alkaline for optimal health. Sugar, meat, processed foods, breads- acidic.
The problems with the beef industry run much deeper than what I’ve mentioned, and I encourage you to research it further. I’ll move on to poultry. Let’s think about happy chickens. Would a happy chicken want to live in a copy paper sized cell stacked next to, over and under a whole bunch of other chickens? Fed arsenic and hormones and antibiotics and tranquilizers? Tranquilizers so that the chickens don’t get too aggressive from being packed against each other and peck each other to death. Antibiotics to fight off infection from when they do peck each other. Arsenic to plump up and make the meat appear pink. Hormones to make them grow as quickly as possible. And do you know that their poop is pulverized and fed to factory-farmed fish? YUMMY!
Without going further in to the issues here, it suffices to say that buying organic means a lot more than a higher sticker price. We really need to be looking at all the hidden costs to buying cheaper, commercially farmed foods. The costs are actually enormous. If you could quantify the costs to your health and the environment and add that to the sticker price of some Perdue chicken….that chicken may cost $100 a pound…versus the $8.99 a pound for some organically raised chicken. All these chemicals and hormones do get in to your body when you ingest the meat, and they are harmful. What really upsets me is that they are harming me, too, in spite of the fact that I eat organic chicken, because all of these chemicals and hormones become a part of our soil and water. They are not isolated, and they are not safe. For example, there is a reason that young girls, on average, are beginning puberty much earlier than they did a few decades ago. There is a reason that many fish downstream of commercial farms have been found to be sexually mutated.
Here’s something to end our meat discussion: Do you know that the U.S. is an exporter of horse meat? Go ahead and look that one up…
In summary, we all have different protein needs, and we are all different as far as how those needs are best met for each of us. It is important to realize, though, that almost everything we eat has some amount of protein in it. Vegetables have protein. Clearly they don’t contain “enough”, nor do they contain complete proteins, but savvy vegetarians lead very healthy lives just by understanding where to find protein rich vegetable based foods.
Beans, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of vegetarian protein. Brown rice, or other grains, combine with beans to make a complete protein. However, beans are one of the most difficult foods to digest, which makes them difficult to assimilate the nutrients. It is very important to understand “anti-nutrients”, and to prepare your foods accordingly. There is a discrepancy between the nutrients contained in a food, and the amount of nutrients that our body absorbs from the food. We can take measures to gain the most nutrients possible.
In a nutshell (pun intended), nuts, beans and grains all contain phytic acid, which is meant to protect the plant from germinating. The phytic acid is something that actually binds with other nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc. in our foods and flushes them right out of our body. It is possible to eat a ton of brown rice and become nutrient deficient. These anti-nutrients also exist in breads, cereals…any shelved or packaged grain foods.
What is the trick? Sprouting, soaking and fermenting! I find it fascinating that our ancestors just knew what to eat, and how to prepare it. Our ancestors typically sprouted, soaked and fermented their grain foods to make them more digestible. How is it that we have more knowledge and technology than ever, but have become really un-intelligent about applying it to our own well-being? Maybe we are losing our intuitiveness. It’s simple- soak your brown rice overnight, throw out the soaking water, cook your rice….phytic acid is mostly gone.
Another thought on the grain family: I often hear CARBS mentioned as a dirty word. This is interesting, because it is also not based in intelligent intuition. Carbohydrates are a vital part of nutrition. Our bodies absolutely need carbs for important things, including brain function. Grains contain so many nutrients, including the very important B-vitamins.
I think people may be confusing healthy carbs with packaged bread and cereal products. It is true that loaves of bread and boxes of cereal are not essential to health, however, grains absolutely are. I also beg to differ that “carbs make you fat”. This does not hold true if you look at this idea culturally. For example, Japanese people eat a largely rice-based diet, as well as starchy vegetables, and are some of the thinnest people I have ever known.
Like choosing meat, it is also important to choose organic grains and vegetables. It is true that we are what we eat. If we are eating tons of pesticides and chemicals, well… Not to mention, the United States still routinely uses pesticides that have been banned in Europe due to their carcinogenic and reproductive harm. I consider Europeans to be a wise bunch, I am sure there is a lot of merit to this ban. Why does the U.S. continue to use these chemicals?
Further, we have to remember that how we spend our money is how we vote. People don’t like to pay a few cents more, or a few dollars more, for organic foods…but we need to start looking at the bigger picture! What is the long-term cost of NOT choosing organic foods? What does it cost our health and our environment? There are so many hidden costs to the food industry- it is dizzying!
I was recently listening to a woman on NPR who actually had her blood and urine checked for certain known cancer causing and reproductive damaging chemicals. The chemicals were present in large amounts. She then eliminated these things from her diet, choosing only organic foods, as well as toothpastes, soaps, etc. She then had her blood and urine re-checked just two weeks later, and the level of these chemicals in her system were dramatically reduced. It does make a difference, especially long-term. I found this information to be very inspiring- as well as validating!
We can all enjoy better health! Our planet and our children deserve it! They deserve a brighter future! And all of you deserve to feel great, to look great, to have the energy you need and want, to be free from the diseases (like diabetes and heart disease) that have become so prevalent in our culture…and to live the best life you can!