Archive for June, 2009

Potatoes

Posted in Fast Food, Industrialized Farming on June 27, 2009 by Powered By Produce

Americans consume more potatoes than any other food behind dairy products and wheat flour. In 1960, the typical american ate 81 lbs of fresh potatoes and 4 lbs of frozen french fries in one year. Today, we eat 49 lbs of fresh potatoes and 30 lbs of frozen french fries per year. 90% of these fries are from fast food restaurants. French Fries are the most widely sold fast food item in the US.

McDonalds switched from fresh to frozen fries in 1965. Customers didn’t notice a difference in the taste, and this cut out the labor of peeling and cutting potatoes, making fries one of the most profitable items on the menu (far more than hamburgers). Fast food restaurants purchase frozen french fries at about 30 cents per pound, then sell them for about $6 per pound. Only three companies control 80% of the market for frozen french fries. These three companies compete heavily for fast food chain contracts which, to the benefit fast food chains, lowers their prices, making french fries even more profitable.

Since 1980, the number of potatoes grown in Idaho has nearly doubled. The huge rise in supply has caused significant drops in price, severely affecting potato farmers. Of every $1.50 spent on a large order of fench fries at a fast food restaurant, only about 2 cents goes to the farmer who grew the potatoes. In the past 25 years, Idaho has lost about half of its potato farmers, but the amount of land for potato farms, and number of potatoes produced, has increased. Family farms continue to fold as corporate farms grow and stretch for thousands of acres. Today there are only about 1100 potato farmers left in Idaho – few enough to fit in a high school auditorium.
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Breakfast: English muffin
Lunch: Microwavable pasta bowl
Dinner: An artichoke (my favorite!) & salad
This is a bit more complicated that what I do, but here’s some instructions on how to cook and eat an artichoke (I completely skip steps 1-3, I steam it without a steaming basket-just place it in about 1 inch of water, I don’t add stuff to the water, and I dip it in melted butter with garlic.)

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I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

Posted in Animal Welfare, Industrialized Farming on June 24, 2009 by Powered By Produce

The only son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, John Robbins was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin-Robbins and the immense wealth it represented to “…pursue the deeper American Dream…the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”

John Robbins’ many bestsellers include Healthy At 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. Widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on the dietary link with the environment and health, John’s work has been the subject of cover stories and feature articles throughout the national media. His life and work have also been featured in an hour long PBS special titled Diet For A New America.

John’s awards include the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, and the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award.

His life is dedicated to creating an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on this planet.

Fast Food Facts

Posted in Fast Food on June 21, 2009 by Powered By Produce

In 1970, Americans spent $6 billion on fast food. In 2001, we spent $110 billion. Americans spend more money on fast food than on higher education, new cars, personal computers, or computer software. We spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and music, combined. On any given day, about one-quarter of the adult population visits a fast food restaurant.

In 1968, McDonald’s had about 1,000 restaurants. Today it has over 31,000 and opens almost 2,000 new ones a year. An estimated one out of every eight workers in the US has at some point been employed by McDonald’s. The company hires 1 million people annually, more than any other American organization, private or public.

McDonald’s is the nation’s largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes, and the second largest purchaser of chicken. The McDonald’s Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. McDonald’s spends more money on advertising and marketing than any other brand and has replaced Coca-Cola as the world’s most famous brand. McDonald’s operates more playgrounds than any other private entity in the US and is one of the largest distributors of toys.

The restaurant industry is America’s largest private employer, yet it pays some of the lowest wages. The 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum wage earners in the US. The only Americans who consistently earn lower hourly wages are migrant farm workers.

In 1975, about one-third of American mothers worked outside the home. Today about two-thirds are employed. The entry of so many women into the workforce has greatly increased the demand for “traditional housewife” services including cooking, cleaning, and child care. A generation ago, three-quarters of the money used to buy food in the US was spent to prepare meals at home. Today, half of the money used to buy food in the US is spent at restaurants(mainly fast food).

In the 1950’s, a hamburger and french fries became the quintessential American meal, thanks to the promotional efforts of the fast food industry. The typical American now consumes approximately three hamburgers and four orders of french fries every week. What we eat has changed more in the last forty years than in the previous forty thousand.

The steady barrage of fast food ads, full of thick, juicy burgers and long, golden fries, never mention where these foods come from or what they contain. Much of the taste and aroma of fast food is now manufactured at a series of large chemical plants off the New Jersey Turnpike. The potato fields, processing plants, ranches, and slaughterhouses show the effects of fast food on our nation’s rural life, environment, and workers.

The fast food chains stand on top of a huge food-industrial complex that has gained control of American agriculture. During the 1980’s, large corporations were allowed to dominate one commodity market after another, causing farmers and cattle ranchers to lose their independence and essentially become hired hands for these agribusiness giants, or else be forced off their land. Family farms are a thing of the past, replaced by gigantic corporate farms. The hardy, independent farmers, whom Thomas Jefferson considered the bedrock of American democracy, are a vanishing breed. The US now has more prison inmates than full-time farmers.

The fast food industry’s vast purchasing power and demand for uniform product caused fundamental changes in how cattle is raised, slaughtered, and processed into ground beef. These changes made meatpacking, once a highly skilled, highly paid occupation, the most dangerous job in the US, performed by armies of unskilled, poor, transient immigrants, whose injuries go unrecorded and uncompensated.

These changes also introduced deadly pathogens, such as E. coli, but the federal government lacks the power to recall contaminated, potentially lethal meat. Again and again, meat industry lobbyists have obstructed this authority with help from their allies in Congress.

Hundreds of millions of people buy fast food every day, unaware of the subtle and not so subtle ramifications of their purchases, because it has been so carefully designed to taste good, to be convenient, and to come cheap. But the real price never appears on the menu.
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Breakfast: Egg McMuffin… JUST KIDDING! Bagel with veggie spread.
Lunch: Went to a BBQ & ate the sides: beans, potato salad, cole slaw, corn, salad, bread, and Blue Bell Ice Cream (yep, imported from Texas!!) mmm.
Dinner: Sandwich with broccoli rabe and provolone (from Taylor’s on H Street – delicious and Philly themed!)

Rules And Regulations

Posted in Government Regulations on June 17, 2009 by Powered By Produce

To address a question I received…

How can the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) possibly allow crap-filled meat to enter the market?

Well, the meat industry is regulated by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), not the FDA. And unfortunately, the USDA is operating under a conflicted mission: to promote the sale of American beef on behalf of U.S. meat producers and, at the same time, guarantee its safety.

The USDA is also a very incestuous organization, employing former meat and dairy executives, then expecting them to regulate their former co-workers, friends, and cash cows (pun intended). In a 2004 article, “The Cow Jumped Over the USDA.,” Eric Schlosser wrote that, “you’d have a hard time finding a federal agency more completely dominated by the industry it was created to regulate.”

Even worse, the USDA has a “voluntary recall” policy in which the Federal Government does not have the authority to recall meat. Yes, you read that right. Our government can recall everything from car parts to toys, but not tainted meat. Instead, the USDA can make a recommendation to a supplier that its meat should be recalled and the supplier must recall its own product – and just how often do you think that happens?

Oh, and don’t forget that the USDA is severely underfunded. Even if they wanted to uphold legitimate safety standards, they are unable to provide enough inspectors to thoroughly check all of the meat-packing plants, and they’re using out-dated technologies to test for contaminations.

Coincidentally, there a food safety bill going through Congress right now which would give the FDA the authority to recall meat. Obviously, the meat industry is against it.

Colin Woodall, executive director of legislative affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said “meat producers are concerned about the precedent this bill could set in giving the Food and Drug Administration regulatory authority over the industry, which is currently watched over by the Department of Agriculture.” The cattlemen’s group takes issue with mandatory recalls and says voluntary recalls work better. “The industry worries that the bill would require government inspectors on farms,” Woodall said. We can only hope!!

“There is no need to have FDA inspectors come on farms or cattle operations,” Woodall said. “There are too many other processes and steps between the time it leaves the farm and gets to the consumer, including the way the consumer handles the product when they get it home. It would give a false sense of security to the consumer.” A false sense of security is what we already have. What we need now is some real security, starting with FDA inspectors in our meat-packing plants.

Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, said his group has a number of concerns about the legislation, with on-farm inspections being among the top. “FDA doesn’t not have the personnel, and it doesn’t have the expertise,” he said. Ya, I’m sure he’s very concerned about the personnel issues at the FDA.

The meat industry makes VERY LARGE campaign contributions to Congressmen which, unfortunately for us, have been paying off for them. We’ll see what happens this time…
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Breakfast: We had a “waffle-fest” at work this morning!
Lunch: Chipotle burrito bowl. If you get it meatless, you get FREE GUAC!
Dinner: Spaghetti and meatless-meatballs (from Trader Joe’s)

Meat’s Not Green

Posted in Meat's Not Green on June 12, 2009 by Powered By Produce

To most people, “going green” means recycling, switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, using cloth grocery bags, and carpooling. What most people don’t know is that eating vegetarian is just about the greenest thing you can do.

The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook states that “refusing meat” is “the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.” Researchers at the University of Chicago found that going vegan is more effective in countering climate change than switching from a standard American car to a Toyota Prius.

A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” The report revealed that the “livestock sector” generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships, and planes in the world combined.

The livestock sector is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide is considerably more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.

Environmental Defense estimates that, “If every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads. Having one meat-free day per week would be the same as taking 8 million cars off American roads.”

Just like the rest of the green initiative, every little bit helps! Consider something like a Meatless Monday to help our environment (and your health, and the animals).

Future posts coming about the destruction the meat industry causes to our air, land, and sea.
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Breakfast: Strawberries
Lunch: Salad bar at Harris Teeter
Dinner: Tacos with soy chorizo (best item ever sold at Trader Joe’s!), cilantro, soy cheese, salsa verde, and delicious tortillas from San Antonio

Meet Your Meat: Cows

Posted in Animal Welfare, Meet Your Meat on June 12, 2009 by Powered By Produce

This video pretty much sums it up – please watch it:

http://www.goveg.com/swf/255-mym_cattle_dairy.swf

The one thing the video leaves out is how we’ve even turned something as simple as feeding the cows into an act of abuse and cruelty. For more on what we feed our cows and how it makes them sick, see my posts Feeding Our Food (Part 1) and Feeding Our Food (Part 2).

The unimaginable treatment of these animals is enough to make me quit meat, but on top of that, I am flat out disguted by the fact that the beef we buy comes from sick, diseased, unhealthy animals that are raised in manure up to their ankles. I mean, that’s just gross.
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Breakfast: English Muffin with spray butter, which blatently violates my advice to Eat Food
Lunch: Microwavable brown rice & veggie bowl
Dinner: Pasta with zucchini, tomato, garlic, fresh parsley, pine nuts, and olive oil

What’s Really In Your Hamburger

Posted in Fast Food, Health on June 10, 2009 by Powered By Produce

In the early 1900’s hamburgers had a reputation similar to hot dogs: tainted, unsafe to eat, food for the poor, sold only at carnivals (not in restaurants), made from old meat, laced with preservatives. In the 1920’s, White Castle, the nation’s first hamburger chain, worked extremely hard to reverse this image, even naming their chain something that sounded pure. The 1950’s and the rise of drive-ins and fast food restaurants is when the hamburger’s image really turned. The fast food industry marketed hamburgers as an ideal meal for children – convenient, inexpensive, hand-held, easy to chew. By the early 1990’s, the average American ate 3 hamburgers per week, more than 2/3 of these were from fast food restaurants. Thanks to some excellent marketing tactics, the hamburger had become America’s national meal.

Although the reputation surrounding hamburgers has changed, their actual content has not. So, here’s the truth about what’s really in ground beef.

First, lose that image of a huge, brown, beef steer because the majority of ground beef comes from dairy cows that can no longer milk. Dairy cattle can live as long as 40 years, but most are slaughtered at the age of 4, when their milk output starts to decline. The stresses of industrial milk production makes these cows even more unhealthy than cattle from large feedlots and they are more likely to be diseased and riddled with antibiotic residues. Secondly, ground beef is largely responsible for the roughly 200,000 people that are sickened every year by foodborne diseases. The nontheraputic use of antibiotics in livestock feedlots has fueled pathogen mutation and the huge feedlots, slaughterhouses, and meat packing plants have proven to be an extremely efficient way to spread diseases.

The literature on the causes of food poising is full of scientific terms (colifom levels, aerobic plate counts, sorbitol, etc), but the bottom line behind why eating a hamburger can make you sick is: There is shit in the meat.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli) is a mutation of a bacterium found abundantly in the human digestive system, but this mutated version attacks the lining of the intestine, causing diarrhea, abdominal cramps, possibly vomiting and fever. In 4% of E. coli cases, the toxins enter the bloodstream causing kidney failure, anemia, internal bleeding, seizures, neurological damage, or strokes, leading to permanent disabilities (like blindness or brain damage), or death. E. coli is now the leading cause of kidney failure among children in the US. (Children ages 7-13 eat more hamburgers than any other age group.)

E. coli was first isolated in 1982 and has received a large amount of public attention in the past 2 decades because of the significant number of cases. Efforts to eradicate E. coli have failed because of its resistance to acid, salt, and chlorine, its ability to live in fresh water or seawater, its ability to live on kitchen countertops for days, or in moist environments for weeks, its ability to withstand freezing and withstand temperatures up to 160 degrees, and its ability to spread easily – through stool.

People have been infected by drinking contaminated water, swimming in contaminated water (even at water parks), crawling on a contaminated carpet, and most commonly by eating contaminated ground beef. Outbreaks have also been caused by contaminated vegetables, fruits, and milk – all of which most likely came in contact with cattle manure, although the pathogen can also be spread by feces of deer, dogs, horses, flies, and humans (person to person transmission accounts for a significant portion of E. coli cases).

The way our meat is processed has created an ideal way for pathogens like E. coli to spread. The feedlots are essentially manure recirculation plants. Not only do the animals live amid pools of manure, but they are also fed manure. In Arkansas alone, nearly 3 million pounds of chicken manure are fed to cattle per year. (See also Feeding Our Food.)

The slaughterhouses and meat grinders only spread the contaminations further. As the hide is pulled off the animal by machine, if the hide was not cleaned properly, chunks of dirt and manure will fall from it onto the meat. When the stomach & intestines are removed, if it is not done properly, the contents will spill out onto the meat and the table. With the quick assembly line and the unskilled workers, manure spillage occurs in about 1 in 5 carcasses. A single gut splatter can quickly spread as hundreds of carcasses quickly move down the line. A contaminated knife will spread germs to everything it touches and the overworked, often illiterate slaughterhouse workers do not always practice stellar hygiene. Meat that falls onto the ground (where, by the way, factory workers are known to urinate – after all, there are large drains for the blood) is picked up and placed back on the conveyor belt.

The odds of contamination grow exponentially in ground beef because beef from many animals is mixed together, increasing the chance of an infected animal being part of each hamburger. A single hamburger contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of different animals. A single cow infected with E. coli can contaminate 32,000 pounds of ground beef. A USDA study found that 78.6% of the tested ground beef contained microbes that are spread primarily by fecal matter.

Anyone bringing raw ground beef into their home should consider it a biohazard. A study by Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, found that due to beef and poultry contamination, the average American sink contains more fecal matter than the average American toilet. According to Gerba, “you’d be better off eating a carrot stick that fell in your toilet than one that fell in your sink.”


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Breakfast: Cereal with soy milk
Lunch: Bean burrito at Anita’s Mexican restaurant
Dinner: Avocado sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and Italian dressing, french fries on the side