|Getting Wild Nutrition from Modern Food|
Note: Find earlier bulletins in our Archives. Also, click on the links in the left margin to find information that has been sorted into our four main categories—“Benefits for Animals,” " Benefits for the Environment,” "Benefits for Farmers,” and “Benefits for Your Health.”
Jo Robinson, Eatwild founder, featured in The New York Times
From the moment that our hunter-gatherer ancestors started domesticating livestock and choosing particilar fruits and vegetables to plant in their gardens, they began making selections that reduced the overall nutritional content of our diets. The good news is that today's technology now gives us the power to measure the nutritional qualities of our food in very precise detail, and can point us to those specific varieties that will provide us with the most health benefits.
Jo Robinson, founder of Eatwild, has written a new book that outlines the many choices we can make in our supermarkets to begin reclaiming many lost nutrients. Eating on the Wild Side will be available beginning on June 4, 2013. In the meantime, read her article Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food in the May 26th issue of The New York Times.
Are those eggs really farm fresh?
It seems that all the eggs on the market are guaranteed to be “farm fresh,” whether you’ve paid a dollar a dozen at a discount grocers or five times that much at a farmer’s market. How can you tell if an egg is truly fresh?
The quickest test is to crack an egg into a pan of slowly simmering water. The egg is fresh if the white is thick and clings to the yolk. The egg is old if the white is thin and spreads out into the water. A poached fresh egg presents a very tidy package.
Boiling an egg gives you more clues. Fresh eggs lay flat on the bottom of the pan. Older eggs tend to tilt upward. That’s because air has had time to infiltrate the shell and form an internal bubble. The bubble levitates one end of the egg. The older the egg, the steeper the incline.
Once your boiled eggs are done, peel one of them. The egg is very fresh if it’s difficult to peel and some of the cooked white pulls away with the shell. An older egg peels like a breeze. Fresh eggs make raggedy looking deviled eggs.
How spreadable is your butter?
Take a cube of butter from your refrigerator, slice it with a knife, and spread it on a slice of bread. Did it coat the bread evenly or did it remain in hard lumps? Researchers have determined that the easier butter spreads, the better it is for your health.
Why is this? The firmness of butter depends on its ratio of saturated and unsaturated fat. At refrigerator temperatures, saturated fat is hard and unsaturated fat is soft, or even liquid. Therefore, butter that is relatively easy to spread has less saturated, artery-clogging fat and more (healthier) unsaturated fat.
In addition, a 2006 study shows that the softer the butter, the more fresh pasture in the cow’s diet. Cows that get all their nutrients from grass have the softest butterfat of all. Butter from grass-fed cows also has more cancer-fighting CLA, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids than butter from cows raised in factory farms or that have limited access to pasture.
“The Linear Relationship between the Proportion of Fresh Grass in the Cow Diet, Milk Fatty Acid Composition, and Butter Properties.” Journal of Dairy Science, 2006. 89:1956–1969. [Note: this study is available free of charge at the Journal of Dairy Science website.]
Making sense out of meat labels
Ever wonder what all those meat labels really mean? For example, what is meant by non-confined? natural? source verified? cage free?
The folks at The Sustainable Table website have taken the time to figure it out and compile the information in a comprehensive, downloadable, easy-to read glossary of meat labels. Click here to view a copy.
Candy Recommended as a Substitute Cattle Feed During a Drought
Joseph Watson, the owner of the United Livestock Commodities group, recommends feeding stale candy to cattle when corn is scarce or expensive. There are nutritional advantages to this scheme, according to Watson, because candy is higher in fat and sugar, helping to fuel the growth of the animals. In practice, the candy is fed in its wrappers. (It’s expensive to unwrap all that candy.) That’s okay, too, because paper is a bulk filler.
Sweet-Tasting Grasses Speed the Growth of Cattle and Sheep and Lowers Greenhouse Gasses
British Agricultural Minister Jim Paice announced the results of a new study showing that raising cattle and sheep on high-sugar grasses can lower their greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.
Everyone benefits from the sweeter feed. The ruminants like the taste of the grass and eat more of it. The sugars allow them to make more efficient use of the proteins in the grass. As a result, the animals reach market size weeks earlier, producing less methane overall.
Minister Paice said: “It is very exciting this new research has discovered that simply changing the way we feed farm animals we have the potential to make a big difference to the environment.”
The study was carried out by Reading University and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences. High-sugar pasture grasses are now available for sale.
Grass-fed meats improve fat levels
Eating moderate amounts of grass-fed meat for only 4 weeks will give you healthier levels of essential fats, according to a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition.
The British research showed that healthy volunteers who ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and decreased their level of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. These changes are linked with a lower risk of a host of disorders, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and inflammatory disease.
Interestingly, volunteers who consumed conventional, grain-fed meat ended up with lower levels of omega-3s and higher levels of omega-6s than they had at the beginning of the study, suggesting that eating conventional meat had been detrimental to their health.
British Journal of Nutrition (2011) Red meat from animals offered a grass diet increases plasma and platelet N-3 PUFA in healthy consumers. Volume 105, pages 80-89.
Healthy Eggs: What we knew in 1932
In the 1930s, scientists and food producers were creating the first plans to take poultry off family farms and raise them in confinement. To enact their plans, they needed to create “feed rations” that would keep the birds alive and productive even though they were denied their natural diet of greens, seeds, and insects. It was a time of trial and error.
In a 1932 experiment conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, breeding hens were taken off pasture and fed a wide variety of feed ingredients. When the birds were fed a diet that was exclusively soy or corn or wheat or cottonseed meal, the chickens didn’t lay eggs or the chicks that developed from the eggs had a high rate of mortality and disease.
But when birds were fed these same inadequate diets and put back on pasture, their eggs were perfectly normal. The pasture grasses and the bugs made up for whatever was missing in each of the highly restrictive diets.
“The effect of diet on egg composition.” Journal of Nutrition 6(3) 225-242. 1933.
According to a July 2011 study conducted by the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, a 10,000 cow confinement dairy in Idaho produces staggering amounts of greenhouse gases. Every day, 37,075 pounds of pollution spew into the air. This breaks down into 33,092 pounds of methane, 3,575 pounds of ammonia, and 409 pounds of nitrous oxide. Most of the emissions come from the bare dirt lots where the cows spend their time between milkings. The 25-acre manure holding pond is the next biggest source.
Ranchers who raise their cattle on grass from birth to market do not send their animals to large slaughter houses such as the Hallmark Meat Packing Company where extreme cases of abuse were recently documented. (See post directly above.) Instead, they slaughter the animals on the farm or take them to small, independent slaughter facilities.
Ranchers who drive their grass-fed cattle to an abattoir go to great lengths to keep the animals calm. Some bring along cattle that are not earmarked for slaughter to give the animals the comfort of being with their herd mates. Many ranchers watch the entire slaughter process to ensure that their animals are being treated humanely every step of the way.
Some ranchers practice “field slaughter.” In this case, they approach the animal out on the pasture, making sure not to trigger alarm. Then they kill it with a bullet to the head. The animal dies instantly and has no opportunity to experience pain. Other ranchers contract with a specially designed mobile slaughter facility that comes to the farm and manages the entire process from killing the animals to preparing the carcass for the aging process.
Typically, a grass-based ranch has fewer than 150 animals, and the owners can identify each animal by sight. Their goal is to make sure all the animals are well fed and cared for and do not experience unnecessary stress at any time of their lives.
To find a pasture-based rancher in your area, click here. Ask the farmers about their slaughtering protocol.
Great Milk! And a Healthier World
Raise dairy cows outside on pasture—the time-honored way—and the world benefits. This is the conclusion of a just-released study conducted by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
Compared with dairy cows raised in factory farms, letting Bossie graze in the fresh air lowered the amount of ammonia released into the atmosphere by about 30 percent. It also cut emissions of other greenhouse gasses, including methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Furthermore, the carbon footprint of the pasture-based dairy was 6 percent smaller than that of a high-production dairy herd kept indoors. The milk of grass-fed cows is much healthier for you as well. (Read Jo Robinson’s article Super Natural Milk.)
Follow this link http://wwwars.usda.gov/is/AR/2011/may11/cows0511.htm to read more about the ARS study of dairy cows and the environment.
This is not your everyday fried eggs and potatoes. The orange-yolked eggs were laid by pastured hens and cost $5.00 per dozen. The potatoes are organic French fingerling potatoes—a creamy red-skinned potato that costs twice as much as Russet potatoes. The salt is a French sea salt celebrated for its flavor. The black pepper is freshly ground. The potatoes and eggs were fried in two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. The fresh garlic chives and thyme were snipped from the garden. The total cost of this heavenly breakfast is about $2.00. The breakfast Egg and Cheese Bagel from McDonald’s costs $2.10.
The meal pictured on the right has some hidden values as well. The chickens that laid the eggs are healthy hens free to forage for bugs, greens and seeds and lie down and spread their wings in the sun. The French fingerling potatoes give you three times more antioxidants than the common Russet, and they’re pesticide free. And how does it taste? Try it and see.
Antibiotic growth promoters lose money for chicken industry
Many large-scale chicken producers feed antibiotics to their birds to speed their growth. This unnecessary use of antibiotics increases the likelihood that bacteria will become resistant to the drugs, making the antibiotics ineffective for veterinary and human medicine.
Now we know that this much-criticized practice is also costing the industry money. Researchers from John Hopkins examined financial records from a study involving 7 million chickens. Their analysis showed that the antibiotics did indeed speed the growth of the poultry, but the drug use cost the producers more than they gained from the sale of the bigger birds.
Raising chickens without antibiotic growth promoters is better for the birds, consumers, and—surprise, surprise—the poultry industry itself.
Jay P. Graham, et al, Public Health Reports, “Growth Promoting Antibiotics in Food Animal Production: An Economic Analysis.” 122:1, 2007.
Link between hormone implants in cattle and breast cancer?
Grass-fed Beef Higher in Total Antioxidants
Researchers in Argentina compared key antioxidants in meat from pasture-fed and grain-fed cattle. The grass-fed meat was higher in vitamin C, and vitamin E, as you can see by the chart below. It was also 10 times higher in beta-carotene.
As a result of this antioxidant bonus, meat from pasture-fed animals is slower to “oxidize” or spoil. It also provides more antioxidants for consumers.
“Influence of pasture or grain-based diets …on antioxidant/oxidative balance of Argentine beef,” Meat Science 70 (2005) 35-44.
Three times more CLA in a grass-fed hamburger
A lean hamburger from grass-fed cattle has two and a half times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than an equally lean hamburger from cattle raised in a feedlot. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a healthy fat that has been shown to fight obesity, cancer, and diabetes in lab animals. Human studies are now underway.
“A literature Review of the Value-Added Nutrients Found in Grass-Fed Beef Products.” Nutrition Journal, June 2006 (In Press.)
Milk from Grass-Fed Cows Higher in Vitamin E
Cows that get all their nutrients from grazed grass—their natural diet—produce milk with 86 percent more vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) than cows fed a standard dairy diet, according to a study.
The standard dairy diet consists of large amounts of “concentrate,” which is typically a dry mixture of corn and soy. Some organic dairies raise their cows on pasture and supplement them with organic concentrate; others keep their cows indoors and feed them organic concentrate and stored grasses. The more freshly grazed grass in a cow’s diet, the more vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and CLA. Organic Valley is a nation-wide organic dairy that emphasizes grazing.
Leiber, F., M. Kreuzer, et al. (2005). Lipids 40(2): 191-202.
Eggs from Pastured Hens Better for Your Eyes
A report reveals that eggs from hens raised on pasture are higher in lutein and zeaxanthin than eggs from chickens raised in confinement. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are natural substances similar to beta-carotene that protect your eyes from cataracts and a common cause of blindness called "macular degeneration." They may also protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Read more...
FDA bans use of antibiotic Baytril in poultry
The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of the poultry antibiotic Baytril, made by Bayer. Many farmers treat their whole flocks with the antibiotic in order to treat or prevent respiratory disease in the birds.
The use of Baytril, claims the FDA, makes it difficult for doctors to treat human patients with food poisoning. When bacteria are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics, they become resistant. When humans eat or handle contaminated meat, they may pick up the drug-resistant bacteria.
Baytril is a member of the class of drugs called fluoroquiolones. This class of drugs, which includes the drug Cipro, is considered valuable for treating serious infections in people. The FDA first proposed the ban against Baytril five years ago.
Mother Nature knows better once again
The concentration of carbon dioxide in our air is rapidly rising, a condition that contributes to the greenhouse effect and potential global warming. The more of the carbon that can be contained in the soil, however, the less that escapes into the air. A report released by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service finds that soil stores 2 to 3 times more carbon when the grass was grazed than when it was harvested for hay or not harvested at all.
Another benefit of grazing, the researchers noted, was that grazing also reduces costs by lowering needs for herbicides and producing income from the livestock. They estimated that even putting as little as 10 percent of existing cropland into rotation with grazing would produce significant cost reductions.
More information is available online at http://ars.usda.gov/is/pr.
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