Jamilla Deville
Aerial, pole, cabaret, burlesque performer
Internationally awarded pole instructor

PROTEIN & NUTRITION

NUTRITION & PROTEIN: FULL ARTICLE

PART ONE: INTRODUCTION

If you’ve followed my social media lately, you’ll have seen that I have been hunting tenaciously for the truth (so far as we have it) on nutrition. I have always been passionate about health and optimal well being; another part of my drive has been suspicion at the volume of pressure coming from the media in general for us to switch to a plant-based diet. So-called documentaries have sprung up one after the other, rarely if ever discussing the other side of the issue and thus hardly to be qualified as true documentaries. Let’s call them movies. Entertainment. Nonetheless, it seems they are having a considerable effect and many are making the choice to walk away from eating meat. Is this truly an optimal choice? I think it makes pure sense to understand the full picture before making any kind of radical diet change. To know that, we need to understand the actual high-quality data and numbers coming from experts (hint: not Hollywood movie stars who built their careers on steak and steroids).

Question everything: isn’t that the basis of science? Unfortunately the speed and convenience of modern life has left us with a tendency for lazy thinking, to accept whatever the loudest voice is saying, and to accept a simplified version of things. Shock value sells, and what is declared to be “scientific consensus” is not only not science (which is based on data, not popular agreement), but it may well not be referring to “all” experts either. On top of this, current nutrition guidelines such as the RDA are not pointing us to optimal health (more on that later).

A social media friend pointed this out the other day: “Binary perceptions are the plague of our century. Everything must be oversimplified, People do not want to think for themselves and make a tiny bit more sophisticated choices that are actually optimal”. This is so spot on. How do you know that what you are being told is correct and the full version of the story? The answer is that you don’t until you look deeper than just voices with the same agenda (or further than the latest Netflix movie). You need to come with an inquiring mind, and ideally be able to discern the difference between opinion and low-quality findings, and real, high quality data. It takes more than just repeating slogans and memes. That is, if you are quite serious about your health and the health of your loved ones as being priority, and you are not just following an ideology.

I believe that my community, primarily the pole and crossfit world, IS very much focussed on health. On top of this, we tend to be willing to encompass a reality more complicated than the limited “norm”. We don’t mind stepping away from the herd. We’re used to not being comfortable! Having that willingness to come from an inquisitive and open mind makes it possible to stay at the forefront of science as it evolves.

This is just Part One. Over the next few articles I’m going to address the various aspects of the choice we have as a first world community to engineer our nutrition according to our preferences. How we feed ourselves sets the foundation for our health and well being as a whole, from now and onwards as we age. Many of us are athletes, coaches, and performers. We make huge demands on our bodies, and our bodies deserve to be well nourished. Essentially, nutrition is an act of love towards ourselves, and the consequences of how well we love ourselves will come with time.

COMMON TERMS

It’s essential in terms of a common footing to start with definitions. I’ve also found it useful in general to become familiar with these basic terms, as so much that I’m interested in involves science of some kind.

Correlation measures the degree to which two variables move in relation to each other.

Causation is quite self explanatory: it refers to the process of causing (an outcome).

Epidemiology, or population studies, or observational studies, are useful and a stepping stone on the way to bigger answers; but with little to no compliance and many uncontrolled factors, they provide low quality data. These nutritional studies often involve participants filling in a questionnaire about what they ate along with other factors (exercise, general health etc) over several years or more. For others, participants are “observed” over a period of time, often years. As I’m sure you can imagine, it is not possible to observe all participants 24/7. There is thus little to no control for variables. Participants could forget facts, lie, or otherwise answer inaccurately, and there may be variables not included in the questionnaire. Without better controls, it’s impossible to pinpoint causation. Essentially, epidemiological studies can only show correlation. This is weak evidence at best, designed only to generate hypotheses for further, more rigorous investigation.

Interventional studies, or randomized controlled trials, control the inputs of the study so that causation can much more accurately be ascertained. For example, rat studies have been conducted in the lab in which all rats were kept in the same environment and fed the same calories and the same macros, with only protein quality being different. (The finding? The quality of your protein source matters.) These studies are considered as providing high quality evidence.

And finally, the concept of Scientific Consensus. The word is thrown around quite a lot these days. Here is a quote from an actual scientist:

“There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”
“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with consensus.” – Michael Crichton, MD.

That makes sense, doesn’t it. What are relevant are reproducible results, with reference to the real world.

So now we have an idea of what we’re looking for in terms of evidence that bears real weight; evidence worth paying attention to.

One other note before we start: the argument that studies are funded (by the meat industry/ big agriculture/ processed protein powder producers/ processed food corporations) … well, yes. ALL studies, all science, has to be funded. It happens on all sides of the spectrum. You cannot knock out an argument simply because someone put money behind the study. That said, yes, there is bias. It’s everywhere. We all have our biases and our assumptions, the way in which we’ve chosen to perceive the world that makes us comfortable. In the end, what counts is high quality data. The numbers don’t lie.

If you’ve already stayed with me this far, thank you. I’m offering this work and this information to you because to me this knowledge can be the different between mediocre and exceptional health, in the long run. And I know health is everything to you, as it is to me.

PART TWO: MYTHS AND MISINFORMATION I

Some myths are so ingrained into what we think we “know” that we resist the truth when it appears, especially if we’re emotionally dedicated to our food choices. Over the decades the scientific recommendations for nutrition have swung from one side to the other. It’s hard to believe that at one point we were told that low fat/ high sugar foods were better for us! Yet at one time, that was the recommendation and common practice (and look at the result: a sharp increase in obesity and diabetes). The key is high quality evidence.

There are no randomized controlled trials demonstrating a causative effect of eating meat on poor kidney function, on heart disease, or on cancer. All of the studies suggesting such a connection are epidemiological only. In fact there is high quality data available suggesting that eating meat improves kidney function (just as exercise, a body stressor, improves heart function). Although the fact that meat is the problem may be all you have heard until now, I challenge you to find one high quality (controlled) study proving this causation. There isn’t one. The animal studies suggesting this were flawed, as I’m about to discuss.

Here is one study showing “no evidence of a detrimental effect of high protein intakes on kidney function in healthy persons after centuries of a high protein Western diet”. And another, a meta-analysis from scientists at McMaster University, showing “that there’s just no evidence to support this hypothesis (that higher protein diets cause kidney disease) in fact, the evidence show the contrary is true: higher protein increases, not decreases, kidney function”.

Likewise, the concept of meat or high protein causing heart disease has no foundation in high quality data, the latest of which shows that inflammation, in particular oxidized LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, is responsible for heart disease. This is exacerbated by free radicals, including those found by eating foods cooked with vegetable oils. Moreover, saturated fat does not clog the arteries. For more on this, see this article explaining in (mostly) layman’s terms.

When addressing cancer, we need to look at the highest nutritional factors: excess calories and insulin levels. Insulin spikes with sugar and carbohydrate intake. Again, high protein intake has NOT been directly connected with cancer in any high quality study finding.

All of the studies talking about this connection are either low quality, epidemiological studies or studies in animal models, where the animals were chronically overfed. Mice and rats overeat by 40% if left to their own devices. They graze constantly, which chronically stimulates insulin. With current research, it’s now becoming obvious that the problem is with chronic insulin stimulation, rather than protein intake. In fact, we have reduced our red meat intake progressively since 1978 (when the Food Guide Pyramid was published) and we haven’t seen any improvements from that. In fact, the numbers are worse.

Even the notion that fiber improves gut health is now being challenged. Here’s a great article on that from Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac..

Plant based advocates constantly claim that plant and animal proteins are the same. When we talk about protein, we are really talking about the amino acids our bodies take from that protein. While it is true that you can find the entire amino acid spectrum in plant food, animal food is by far the superior choice in terms of the correct range, volume, efficiency, nutritional density and bioavailability of those amino acids. For example, you would need to consume approximately 4 cups of quinoa to equal the amount of protein you would get from 4 ounces of beef (and more if you consider the bioavailability of the plant protein). That’s 888 calories of quinoa in one sitting, compared with around 300 calories for the beef. Speaking of excess calories and cancer risk … Beyond this, plants also contain anti-nutrients such as phytates, oxalates, leptins and saponins, which can bind to proteins, vitamins and minerals in plant food and prevent their absorption. Plant nutrients are simply not as bioavailable as those from animal food.

PART THREE: MYTHS AND MISINFORMATION II

The focus of this article is to clarify some important points surrounding the topic of nutrition, with a specific view on protein. In the body, protein is broken down into its basic building blocks, which are amino acids. Non-essential amino acids can be created within the body, while essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and must be sourced form the diet.

The human requirement for essential amino acids is met by animal food, which is considered “complete” protein. Plant food is considered “incomplete” because no plant contains the correct amount and ratio of amino acids to meet human needs. Which makes sense, if you consider that plants make amino acids for plant function, and animals make amino acids for animals, which includes humans. Without the essential amino acids in the right amounts, as adults we are unable to maintain, repair or grow our tissue. While it is possible to design a plant-based diet providing the protein we need, animal food, like it or not, is considered to provide the highest quality nutrition available to us, the most efficiently.

Finally, the very limiting idea that there are only two choices: to support factory farming, or to take animals out of the equation altogether and go vegan. We have all seen and heard of the awful conditions under which factory farmed animals live and how they are treated. Show me one person who can see that kind of abuse and want it to continue. Factory farming is far from optimal. But is this the only way in which modern farming practices are destroying and working against Nature?

No. it is estimated that the topsoil of the Earth can sustain around 60 more harvests: that’s it. Sixty harvests more before the soil is dead; devoid of nutrients and unable to sustain further crops.. Crop monoculture practices (i.e. plant food production) have done nothing but pull nutrients out of the soil without replacing them. Land traditionally used for grazing has been taken for more of this due to higher consumer demand. Mass use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and fungicides have further poisoned the food, the soil, and the water, destroying native insect populations (like bees) at the same time. Plant food has been genetically altered to cope with pests and other environmental threats. What has that done to the nutritional content/ general quality of this food?

So are we left with nothing but the vegan option? To remove animals altogether from farming? Not at all. I would propose that this oversimplification of food choices is driven by big money and supported by those who haven’t looked further. It is also dangerous to the environment and detrimental to the sustainability of the soil, for reasons I will cover in more detail later in this article. A quick online search for Regenerative Agriculture will immediately reveal the intermediary choice, a whole new movement of farmers who have learned to work with Nature, and not against it. This is a “new” attitude to farming which is really old wisdom brought into the modern world, bypassing the chemical/ mass mono-crop production models that became so prevalent over the last century. Take a look and see who is thriving now. Animals, including ruminants, are an essential part of the cycle of life in farming, regenerating the soil, putting nutrients back into it via manure, a natural fertilizer, and creating better soil water retention where mono crop agriculture creates soil erosion and water loss. There is absolutely a way to address the oncoming disaster of “dead” and eroded topsoil. It’s happening now, but it’s not likely that the mega agricultural producers and those heavily invested in mass crops and processed foods will want to support or promote it, since it doesn’t align with their models.

And so we come to the purely ethically-based choice to remove animal food from the diet. Let’s keep this, for now, separate from the conversation. We are blessed with the economic freedom to choose the way we wish to feed ourselves, which is a wonderful thing. Each to their own choices.

So essentially it’s not simply a question of eating only animal or plant food. Through thousands of years of ancestry humans evolved as omnivores, with the relative amounts of animal or plant food in our diet highly dependent on the local environment. These days we have the luxury of fossil-fuel-driven transportation of foods to us, sometimes from halfway across the world: pineapples and papaya from Hawaii; avocados from Mexico; seafood from northern Europe or Asia or New Zealand. We are lucky enough to have choice.

While there is a strong public push currently underway for a plant-based diet, along with assumptions about the science as per the above, many see regenerative agriculture as being the most nutritious, ethical and sustainable. In the regenerative life, there is a place for both plants and animals.

There are other myths around food, but I will leave them for a later section of this article.

I understand that we are all just doing the best we can with the information we’ve been given. But just because the voice you’re listening to is the loudest, and most repeated, does not mean that that message is the whole truth. It’s possible to take this information and use it to refine your choice of diet.

Once we examine the myths of nutrition, of which these are only a few, we can start to loosen the grip we have on old, unproven ideas, and open our minds to the best data we have and the best options available to us, no matter how we choose to feed ourselves. In the end, isn’t the choice to honor our bodies, in their biological reality, in the most optimal way?!

PART FOUR: MUSCLE: THE ORGAN OF METABOLIC CURRENCY*

*Muscle as the Organ of Metabolic Currency is directly taken from and credited to Dr Gabrielle Lyon. It was listening to Dr Lyon and other dedicated health experts that spurred me on to write this article.

IN A NUTSHELL!

  • Muscle is the largest organ of the body, responsible for regulating blood sugar, glucose metabolism, lipid oxidation, and anti-inflammatory myokine secretion. It is vital for health and longevity.
  • As we age we develop anabolic resistance; it becomes progressively harder to grow and maintain muscle. The loss of muscle can lead to disability, disease, and difficulty healing.
  • Protein metabolism requires a specific amount of the essential amino acid leucine. Animal foods contain the highest levels of leucine, meaning that we can achieve the threshold amount without consuming an excess of calories, as we would have to with plant food. Excess caloric intake is a known risk factor for disease.

WHY FOCUS ON PROTEIN FIRST?

Our muscle is in fact the largest organ of the body. Consider this:

  • Muscle is an endocrine organ, secreting anti-inflammatory myokines throughout the body.
  • Muscle is the largest site of glucose metabolism. The carbohydrates you eat are taken up by the muscle. The relationship of how much muscle you have to your intake of carbohydrates is therefore highly relevant.
  • Muscle is also the largest site for lipid oxidation, or fatty acid oxidation. This has a direct relationship with obesity.
  • Muscle is the amino acid reservoir of the body. For any healing process, the body takes the building blocks of healing from the muscle.
  • Bone is actually a protein matrix filled with calcium. Protein literally forms the scaffolding of our bones. A recent meta-analysis found that bone mineral density was lower for vegans and vegetarians than for omnivores. This would suggest that protein quality matters.

It’s obvious that muscle is important for an array of vital functions determining our health and longevity. So how do we maintain and grow healthy muscle?

During our youth, muscle protein synthesis, or protein metabolism, is driven by hormones, particularly insulin. However, as adults, our hormone levels drop, and the process can then only be stimulated in two ways: exercise and diet. Specifically, we need to move, and we need to consume high quality protein.

Here is an important confounding factor. As we age, we develop anabolic resistance. Our hormone levels drop and our muscle becomes resistant to the stimuli of the metabolic process. In other words, we can get away with a bad diet when we’re young, but it gets progressively harder to grow and maintain muscle as we age. This has been observed in subjects as young as 25, so it’s not confined to what we usually consider as “old”. Ideally we would implement optimal nutrition and exercise from our younger years to lay the foundation of muscle that will be with us for life. Once you lose it as an adult, it’s incredibly difficult to restore.

Protein metabolism is triggered by the essential amino acid leucine. Specifically, it is now understood that we need to consume around 2.5g of leucine, per meal, in order to trigger protein synthesis. This is a threshold amount: less will not trigger it. More will not create “more” of the process as once the trigger is pulled, the process kicks in and has been seen to peak at around 90 mins, and to then slow and stop at around 2-3 hours after eating.

This is where the statement that not all proteins are equal, becomes crucial to understand. The foods with the highest levels of leucine are all animal foods. That means that in order to derive enough leucine from plant foods, you would have to consume higher overall calories; in many cases, a considerable amount more.

For example: 100g of cooked quinoa is 120 calories and contains 4.4g of protein. The leucine content is 261mg, meaning that you would need 9500g, or 9.5kg of cooked quinoa to reach the leucine threshold. That’s 1140 calories. That’s a lot of quinoa, renowned as a supposedly “complete” high protein plant food for containing the entire essential amino acid spectrum, in one meal. There are other plant options, such as tofu, lentils and other legumes, but plants also contain anti-nutrients, and soy in particular poses multiple health risks.

This is not optimal, considering that excess calories and insulin are the two highest risk factors for cancer and disease. The flip side of this, not meeting the leucine threshold per meal, can result in the loss and degradation of muscle tissue.

For comparison, a 5 ounce serving of beef contains 4g of leucine. This is approximately 378 calories.

Here we have seen that weight loss/ being slim or looking good on the scale, is not the be all and end all. We need to look at lean muscle mass. Dr Donald Layman, PhD, specialist in muscle metabolism with 30 years of research under his belt, says, “If you starve yourself or go on a low-calorie low-protein diet, you will lose fat and lean mass at a 1:1 ratio which is profoundly antithetical to optimal health. If you reduce your calories and increase your protein, you can shift that proportion of weight loss almost exclusively to fat”.

Many who switch to a plant-based diet will talk about feeling better and experiencing improved health. An appropriate question to ask here would be, what is that due to? One possible answer is the switch to whole foods, along with a reduction in overall caloric intake, which can absolutely be of benefit; junk food, overeating and obesity is in fact an issue with a large percentage of the western population. However, as we can now see, simply reducing calories is of itself not necessarily a recipe for optimal health in the long term. Focusing on that in combination with high quality protein intake is.

PART FIVE: ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS: WHY THE PUSH TO REJECT MEAT?

* The claim that it takes 425 gallons of water to produce one 1/4 pound beef burger is misleading at best.

* There are several types of water, with different sources, which must be differentiated in order to form a correct water input analysis.

* Grass-finished beef uses far less water than rice, almonds, sugar or walnuts.

* Grass-covered soil has less erosion and holds water far better than ploughed crop land.

* Ruminants are an essential part of the balance of the ecosystem we live in.

Apart from nutritional concerns with meat, what comes up equally as often are environmental concerns. The two most prevalent issues are water usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

There is plenty of information available in the media, on government websites and on Netflix movies pushing these ideas as having weight, and of needing urgent action. Those voices are by far the loudest, best funded and most repeated. It wasn’t until I went looking and dug a little deeper that I discovered the experts in sustainable farming, regenerative agriculture and related sciences who have a different story to tell. Once you sit down, listen, read and consider the facts that they present, the story starts to take a different shape.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: WATER

Headlines such as “Is the Livestock Industry Destroying the Planet?” are sensational and tend to be particularly attention-grabbing. Jump onto any social media thread about the environmental impact of animals in food production and there’s sure to be a line up of comments insisting that cattle require a disproportionate and unjustifiable amount of water. There’s obviously a lot, repeated often, for so many to be so moved as to give it their attention and to be able to recite the facts they’ve read or heard.

So then, what are the facts being delivered by mainstream sources, and what is their validity? Let’s look at one such example.

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A quick look at the Meatless Monday website shows some infographics looking impressive, but lacking logic (or source references). They claim that a single 1/4 pound burger takes 425 gallons of water to produce, or “enough water for 1700 thirsty people”. Ooo, thirsty people. That grabs attention, doesn’t it. As with much of the anti-animal media, perhaps that’s the point. But for all that my sources are demanded of me with this article, has anyone bothered to check the sources here? Look again: NONE are given. So why then do so many put their faith in claims like these?

Let’s think more rationally about this. What does that even mean?! How does it make any sense to compare 1700 people having a drink of water once with a process taking months or years and involving many stages of production? What is the comparison with equally nutritious food sources? Are there equally nutritious food sources? Once you look at what is being presented to you, it’s possible to consider the issue with a little more clarity.

Meatless Mondays, and other such organizations, are presenting facts without making important distinctions which would, if they were included, completely change the way we receive this information.

For example: the “total water” is all that we are given, without any mention of the difference between green and blue water; nor is the grey water footprint discussed. If you’re not yet familiar with these terms, but you have already formed an opinion based on media-driven, guilt-laden information on water usage, then perhaps it’s time to step back and rethink what you’re being told.

It’s vital to separate the three distinct terms for water usage in agriculture in a water input analysis.

Green water “is rainfall and naturally occurring precipitation that is temporarily stored in the soil or on top of the soil. It does not runoff into other waterways or infiltrate the soil to reach groundwater storage basins like aquifers“.
Blue water is “fresh surface and groundwater … in freshwater lakes, rivers and aquifers”.
The grey water footprint “is calculated as the volume of water that is required to dilute pollutants to such an extent that the quality of the water remains above agreed water quality standards”. (Source: WaterFootPrint.org)

So considering these distinctions, “the overwhelming majority of water attributed to beef production is rain that would have fallen regardless of whether cattle were being produced or grazing on the pasture where the water fell“.

Cattle spend the majority of their lives on pasture. Grass-finished beef remain on pasture their whole lives, while the others only spend “on average the last five months of their lives in a feedlot” (Sacred Cow).

Livestock use 94% and 97% rainfall respectively for typical and grass-finished. Essentially, that means that it only takes 280 gallons of water to produce a pound of typical beef. For grass-finished beef, estimates are between 50 and 100 gallons per pound. That’s considerably less than the 1700 gallons claimed here (425 gallons for a 1/4 pound burger). For comparison, a pound of rice uses 410 gallons. It’s time we stopped spreading misinformation from places like this and started digging a little deeper. It’s important because one story is persuading millions to remove a valuable food group from their diet, while simultaneously endangering the balance in our ecosystems in the long term.

Beyond this, ruminant agriculture returns nutrients to the soil via manure; grass-covered (ruminant) soil retains water and is not eroded as crop agricultural soil is, thus saving a valuable resource from runoff.

14% of the Earth’s surface is classified as rangeland. This is land unsuitable for crops. Only 4% of the Earth’s surface is suitable for cultivation. (Source: The Ruminant Animal: Digestive Physiology by D.C. Church)

Ruminants take what is, for us, inedible food (cellulose) and, via anaerobic microbial fermentation, turn it into the most high quality nutrient dense food available to humans. Ruminant agriculture is essential to the balance of the ecosystem we live in. Without them, we wouldn’t exist as we are today.

For more on this, there is no better or clearer resource than Sacred Cow, who are bringing together all of the questions about health, nutrition, ethics, and environment surrounding the raising and eating of animals. With their special permission, I have included their poster below. The poster is an incredible resource, bringing together the many facets of the animal agriculture issue with references. If you are able, please go to their site and support them in the making of the Sacred Cow movie (I do not have any professional affiliation with Sacred Cow and I do not receive anything from promoting them. I am simply in awe of their work and dedication in the interests of sustainable food production).

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Sacred-cow-flyerDownload

Another great mind on the issue of ruminant agriculture is Peter Ballestedt. Here is one of his many great talks on the topic. It’s eye-opening.

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Image Courtesy SacredCow.info | IG @sustainabledish

PART SIX: EMISSIONS

The second area of concern in terms of environment is emissions, with CO2 of course being the prominent demonized gas. If you’d like to hear a little more about the story of CO2 and carbon in general, take a listen to Dr William Happer, Physicist at Princeton University, who has a lifetime of study of carbon behind him. If you listen to this and other talks from Dr Happer (such as this) and still want to talk CO2 emissions as an issue, then let’s go on.

  • Contrary to mainstream claims, according to the E.P.A., agriculture is only 9% of global emissions.
  • Methane, another Greenhouse Gas, is part of a cycle; within about ten years it returns to the soil.
  • Regenerative Ruminant practices actually sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the soil, whereas crop production releases CO2.

It’s commonly proclaimed that cattle and beef production generate more Greenhouse Gas (GHG) than all car and airplane usage. Take this article for example, which claims that “Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together”. That sounds awful, doesn’t it. More than all transport?! And if the word of publications like the Independent is taken as gospel (and in many cases it certainly is), then a resulting public push to reduce animal agriculture should come as no surprise.

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Let’s take a deep breath and go straight to the EPA’s own graph showing total GHG emissions per sector. At a glance it’s quite easy to see that Agriculture as a whole makes up 9% of total GHG, while transportation is 29%. “All of animal agriculture contributes less than half of this amount, representing 3.9% of total US greenhouse gas emissions.” The beef industry itself makes up around 2%. 3.9% for all animal agriculture leaves the biggest chunk by far, 5.1%, for plant food production. Look again at what The Independent is claiming and think about what stories are being presented to you all day, every day. One could argue that you are literally being fed the equivalent of animal poop in terms of quality of information and evidence.

Methane is the main component of natural gas; it has no odor or taste and cannot be seen, except when it is burnt in oxygen; it then appears as a blue flame. Methane forms part of what we know as Greenhouse Gas. There are many ways in which it is released into the atmosphere, of which cow burps (not farts!) is only one. Methane actually cycles; livestock eat plants and burp methane out; it is released into the atmosphere, oxidized into CO2, and returned into the earth in about ten years. This is quite different from the burning of fossil fuels, which is an enrichment of CO2 in the atmosphere.

CARBON CYCLING: SEQUESTERING CARBON BACK INTO THE SOIL!

“Carbon sequestering, or the long term capture and storage of carbon from the atmosphere, typically as carbon dioxide, is a method of reducing GHG emissions.”

Modern day crop production practices, including tilling the soil and intensive grain crops, have released large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. As today’s farmers return to traditional practices like rotational grazing and composting, and use natural fertilizer via manure, carbon is being taken back out of the atmosphere and into the soil.

Regenerative agriculture practices such as these are NOT the climate culprits they are made out to be; they are not only carbon neutral, but they are in fact carbon negative, decreasing the load of carbon in the atmosphere. There are many great articles detailing these practices and the research behind them even further, such as this and this.

All of this information and more is, again, presented in an easy to understand format via Sacred Cow and discussed by agronomist Peter Ballestedt, who has years of experience in Forage and Ruminant Agriculture. Below is a list of just a few of the fantastic resources for this and much, much more quality information and science surrounding regenerative agriculture, ruminants, and nutrition.

It’s time to dispel the myths and rethink our relationship with Nature.

Dr Donald Layman, PhD
Researchgate
Dr Gabrielle Lyon – MUSCLE-CENTRIC MEDICINE
Website
IG https://www.instagram.com/DRGABRIELLELYON
FB https://www.facebook.com/doctorgabriellelyon
Sustainable Dish: Diana Rodgers, RD
Website https://www.sacredcow.info/
IG https://www.instagram.com/SUSTAINABLEDISH/
FB https://www.facebook.com/SustainableDish
Peter Ballestedt: Grass Based Health
FB https://www.facebook.com/GrassBasedHealth
IG https://instagram.com/grassbased
Dr Ryan Lowery
Website https://drlowery.com
Ketogenic.Com https://ketogenic.com
IG https://www.instagram.com/ryanplowery
FB https://www.facebook.com/drryanlowery
Food Lies: Brian Sanders
Website https://www.foodlies.org
IG https://www.instagram.com/food.lies
FB https://www.facebook.com/FoodLiesOrg
Primate Kitchen: James Connolly
Website https://www.instagram.com/primatekitchen
IG https://www.instagram.com/primatekitchen
Paul Saladino, MD
Website: https://carnivoremd.com
IG http://instagram.com/carnivoremd
FB https://www.facebook.com/carnivoreMD

PART SEVEN: ETHICAL CHOICES

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The first and most important point for me to make here is that if all we do is make nutrition about plant vs animal then we will end up nowhere, fast. Humans have evolved as omnivores. In this first world of convenience and plentiful availability and variety of food, we have the economic freedom to feed ourselves and our loved ones as we see fit. Our food choices are our own.

Once you’ve seen the science of nutrition and food production as provided by protein expert Dr Donald Layman, the EPA, and other reputable sources, what is left are the ethics you hold behind your choices.

Let’s look at what we’ve seen so far. Sources and references can be found in each section of my article to date.

  • The message from many official organizations, the media, social media, and Netflix movies is that meat is somehow “bad” and we should reduce consumption or remove it from our diet altogether
  • There are no high quality studies proving a direct causal link between meat and poor kidney function, heart disease, or cancer.
  • Studies show that it is of benefit to us to center our concept of health and healing around muscle, as multiple health-regulating processes happen here including anti-inflammatory myokine secretion, fat oxidation and glucose metabolism.
  • As we age we develop anabolic resistance, making it progressively harder for us to build and maintain muscle. It’s imperative for optimal health that we nourish ourselves with high quality protein.
  • There are controlled trials showing that approximately 30g of high quality (animal) protein per meal stimulates muscle protein synthesis. The same cannot be said for plant protein, which would need to be consumed in higher amounts to get the same effect.
  • These studies show us that you need to consume approximately 2.5g of the essential acid leucine per meal to trigger muscle protein synthesis.
  • You can achieve the leucine threshold using plant food, but you would need to consume more calories in the process. The protein from plant food is less nutrient dense than that in animal food and therefore inferior for human consumption. Moreover, plant food contains anti-nutrients that bind to proteins, vitamins and minerals and prevent their absorption in the body. Animal food does not.
  • Studies show that the highest risk factors for cancer and obesity are excess calories and over stimulation of insulin.
  • Carbohydrates stimulate the greatest insulin response in the body.
  • Although some claim that beef production uses up to 2400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat, these figures are misleading as they do not differentiate between water sources. The actual calculated water input findings refute that. In fact, grass-finished beef is estimated to use only 50 to 100 gallons of blue (surface or groundwater) water per pound of meat, far less than almonds, walnuts, rice, or sugar.
  • Despite claims that beef production emits more CO2 than the entire transportation industry, the EPA’s own data records that while transportation is 29% of global emissions, the entire agricultural industry is only 9%; 3.9% of which is animal, and 2%, beef.

These are all facts, figures and data. They can of course be discussed and disputed, as can any scientific findings (no science is a closed book – that would make it dogma); but as I showed in my first article, in science, the weight is in high quality data: controlled trials carry the most weight. That should be considered first; Food Frequency Questionnaires and other epidemiological methodologies are low quality, leaving room for error and mostly making it possible for us to form further hypotheses for testing.

Description: http://www.jamilla.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/field-1024x532.jpg

So finally we come to the “ethical” choice to avoid high quality protein, i.e. meat. This typically centers around an honest, credible wish to show compassion and respect to animals. Amen to this, to thinking beyond ourselves and to the lives of sentient beings sharing the earth with us. Unfortunately, our convenience-loving, general population has lost connection with the land and the cycles of life and death inherent in nature. Farmers, on the other hand, see this in action every single day. For example, in order to till (plough) a field to grow plants, thousands of small animals and insects are slaughtered under the blade. Bee populations are decimated by the chemicals used to grow massive mono crops. Farmers will kill on sight, any local animal seen to threaten their crops. Plant agriculture is far from free from death or destruction. We may not eat the animals killed in the process, but they are certainly destroyed nonetheless. Let’s be clear here: I am not suggesting that factory farming is the way forward by any means. Nor is mono crop agriculture. Both are destructive and unsustainable and there must be a better way.

Food is a free choice, but using low quality data and its suggestions about meat being dangerous to our health and the environment to create an entire anti-animal narrative is not honest to the discussion, nor to those who choose to eat meat and are simply following the wisdom of thousands and indeed millions of years of our ancestors. And there is a LOT more to the process of food production than what we modern, privileged, grocery-shopping people often care to consider. Taking a stand of moral superiority based on poor data and a limited view of the righteousness of either choice could be somewhat shortsighted. With a broader perspective, the concept of ethics takes on a whole new dimension.

At this point I need to defer to the writings of an actual farmer, living on the land and doing her best to live sustainably and compassionately. I take my hat off to her for her dedication to living her best life in harmony with nature. The following is written by Jenna Woginrich.

An Open Letter From a Farmer to Angry Vegetarians
07/18/2014 08:39 am ET Updated Sep 14, 2014 – Jenna Woginrich

“About once a week I get an email or comment from the Animal Rights contingent. It is expected and usually I do not engage. I need to remember that when I published my first book I was a vegetarian raising a few laying hens and pet rabbits. Readers who knew me as the 25-year-old girl they read about (at the time just farm-curious and toying with the idea of homesteading) meet a very different woman on my current blog. To read that book and then pop into a blog where just seven years later that same vegetarian is raising hogs, lambs, and poultry for meat is unsettling and shocking to some readers. And so I get these notes from what I call the Angry Vegetarians. The folks who feel personally betrayed, not just for my change of diet but my change in ideas. Yesterday I was called a murderer. I’ve been called that many time, and in some emails, that is the nicest part of the correspondence.
The following is a letter to that Angry Vegetarian and to any others who may feel the same way. But before you read it please understand that this letter is not directed at the vegetarian diet in general. I have no qualms with it, at all. Millions of people avoid meat for religious, health-related, or various reasons of preference. This letter is not directed at them. This is a letter for the angry folks who think not eating meat makes them morally superior to those of us who do. 

Dear A.V. Club,
I recently received your note, the one that accused me of being a murderer. I understand why you are angry and I applaud your compassion. I understand because I was a vegetarian for nearly a decade, the same breed as yourself actually. Meaning; I chose the diet because of a love for animals, passion for conservation, and concern for our diminishing global resources. Avoiding meat seemed to be a kinder, gentler, and more ecological choice. I supported PETA. I had ads in Vegan magazines for my design website. I am no longer a vegetarian and do raise animals on my small farm for the table, but we have more in common than you may realize.
It would be foolish for me to try and change your mind about eating animals, and I have no interest in doing so. The vegetarian diet is a fine diet. We live in a time of great abundance and luxury, and that means choices! Never before in the history of the human animal have so many options for feeding ourselves been presented like they are now. If you want to eat a gluten-free, dairyless, low cholesterol, and mid-range protein diet based on whey extracted from antibiotic free Jersey Cows- you can. Your great grandparents could not. There was no almond milk at the Piggly Wiggly and ration cards kinda ruined that conga line anyway. But now there is so much food and your diet is as much a personal a choice as your religion and sexuality, possibly even more personal. So understand I am not writing you this open letter because you don’t eat meat. I’m writing you this letter because you called me a murderer.
Murder is a legal term, meaning the unlawful and premeditated act of taking a life, usually with malevolent intent. To call me a murderer is to imply that I broke the law and there is malice intended in my actions. When animals are harvested here for food, I assure you there is none. There is only gratitude, respect, and blessed relief. I do not enjoy taking animal lives and the bulk of my supposed premeditation include looking up recipes. I am not a murderer.
But I am a killer.
You are 100% correct. I kill animals. I raise chickens and rabbits from young fluffballs in the palms of my hands and mindfully bring them to the age of harvest when they are killed and stored for food. If I don’t do the killing myself I hire a professional butcher to come to my farm and harvest the pigs I raised for myself and friends. I am also a licensed hunter in the state of New York, where I stalk deer and wild game of all sorts. I also do this with the intention of harvest. I am a killer for my table and I fully understand the seriousness of that statement. I also understand why you are disgusted by it. You are disgusted because you see me as taking sentient lives when there are alternative choices as bloodless and innocent as the down on a Muscovy duckling.
I know that I do not need to eat meat to survive, but I also know now that it is impossible for me to live without killing. It is impossible for you, too. I think this is the heart of our misunderstanding. This is why PETA and the FTCLDF are not working together to be one giant powerhouse for good and ending animal suffering. Most animal rights activists do not acknowledge (or perhaps are not aware) that every meal includes death. The simplest backyard salad from your own organic garden to the fake bacon in your shopping cart — both take lives. I have simply chosen to take lives in a way that causes the least amount of suffering and causes the least amount of wasted global resources. And yes, it means there is blood on my hands now.
I know that is hard to understand. It was hard for me, too.
I was a vegetarian and animal activist before I was a farmer, but that was all about passion for me and did not include much science. The only things I read about meat and the environment were based on giant corporate farms. I did not understand anything about ecology, biology, wilderness, and the personal responsibility of eating local. But what I really didn’t understand was agriculture. I mean I was totally ignorant. I did not think about anything but ingredients on the package, never questioning the methods or politics behind them or the larger picture. As long as my dinner did not include animal flesh or animal products I was content in my righteousness. I was a pro-choice vegan. To be blunt, I didn’t think things through.
The truth is there is no meal we can eat without killing. None. A trip to your local grocery store for tofu and spinach leaves may not include a single animal product but the harvesting of such food costs endless animal lives. Growing fields of soy beans for commercial clients means removing habitat from thousands of wild animals, killing them through deforestation and loss of their home. Songbirds and insects are killed by pesticides at legion. Fertilizers are made from petroleum now, and those fields of tofu seeds are literally being sprayed with oil we are fighting wars over. Deer died for that tofu. Songbirds died. Men and women in battle died. And then when the giant tofu factory harvested the beans they ran over those chemical oil fields of faux-food with combines that rip open groundhogs, mice, and rabbits. Tear apart frogs and fledgling birds. It is a messy and bloody business making tofu or any of that other non-murderous food.
What about organic tofu and vegetables? That doesn’t include chemical fertilizers and the companies are mindful? Right? Well, that is correct. But if you are not using oil to fertilize your crops then you are using organic material: manure, blood, bone, fish, etc. You may be a vegetarian but your vegetables are the most voracious of all carnivores. That small farm at your local green market needed to lay down a lot of swine blood, cow bone, and horse poop freeze-dried in bags marked “ORGANIC” to grow those carrots so big and sweet. Animals are an integral part of growing food for us, as food themselves or creating the materials that feed the earth. And the earth must be fed.
And let us not forget the miles on the road these vegetarian options must travel. That oil-free organic tofu sure needs a lot of diesel to get here to New York…
You can not ignore this. You can’t call a small farmer a murderer and turn a blind eye to the groundhog ripped in two, the owl without a nest, or the blood spilled for oil halfway across the globe through military force. I mean, you can ignore it, of course you can. You can also search the internet for people killing pigs and call them names, but that doesn’t make you right. There is nothing you or I eat that wasn’t once alive save for some minerals. Plants and mushrooms are living things, just as alive as animals. And we take their lives wholesale and without regret. In the words of Joel Salatin, “ …By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?” Though I know you may not appreciate that quote. After all, Joel is a murderer, too.
I eat animals I raise myself because I want to eat local food that causes less animal suffering and empowers my local community. I live in upstate New York. A place where farming vegetables does not make sense. This is a far cry from southeast Asia or southern California. Our growing season is around 100 days. What we can grow here in bulk is grass, and by extension the meat that eats the grass. We can let hogs range our woods and eat grubs, vegetation, and nuts. We can buy local non-GMO feed grown by our neighbors and give our animals full lives, outdoors and on pasture! Eating meat here is eating in a way that respects our region’s food shed.
We can graze our animals in ways that returns good nutrients to the soil and heal the earth. We can grow two or three harvests of those grasses and feed them to animals like sheep, cows, and goats all winter. This is what my part of the world eats if they are serious about saving the environment. We can do this without using a lot of oil, close to home, and harvest the animals we know without driving to a store to waste gas, plastic bags, and pave another parking space. When I kill a chicken I end one life. A life I was present for, grateful for, and worked hard for. I have a hard time taking criticism seriously from someone who swipes a credit card for a bag of groceries they have convinced themselves is more righteous, having never weeded a row or hefted a bag of feed. A really hard time.
My “murdered” pigs were raised from babes, seen to several times a day, carefully tended and lived a life of ample space, porcine company, sunshine, mud puddles, and rooting their snoots in the dirt. They were raised with the help of a small village of folks who bought shares of the pigs to help pay for my livelihood. These people are counting on me to help them buy good food that isn’t laced with antibiotics or factory farm atrocities. And while raising these pigs I purchased feed from neighbors raising non GMO field corn and soy, a rarity these days. I employed a small butcher and his staff to come to my farm so these pigs never have to be loaded into a truck and driven away to a slaughterhouse. They have had one bad day, one bad moment actually, and that moment surprised the hell out of them.
Eat in whatever way invokes respect and gratitude in your soul. Be grateful we live in this time of contrived and soon-to-be over luxury and abundance. But do not come to battle here, accusing those of us raising good meat of murder. Those are fighting words, unkind words, and for someone so intensely passionate about treating animals well you seem to have no issue treating human beings like crap. I’m an animal, too. I would appreciate some ethical treatment.
So, yes. I am a killer. I take lives and eat the flesh of sentient beings. I farm and fish. I hunt and stalk. I fully embrace this primal and beloved part of my person. I do this with great joy and appreciation, savoring every bite of effort, community, time, and grace those meals include. Each slice of bacon or bite of roasted chicken comes with a couple dozen faces of neighbors and friends. It comes with stories of carrying buckets in the rain, of catching escaped piglets, of never leaving for a vacation or even visiting my family for Christmas. I am a solider for my soil, stationed here at these 6.5 acres to create mindful, healthy, food because I think it makes a better and more peaceful world. And that world is not found in the fake meat section of the grocery store, darling. Life is not a storybook where you get to ignore the fact that the Three Little Pigs boiled a wolf alive. Eating meat you raised means eating food infused with integrity, sweat, loyalty, determination, love, friendship, memories, loss, perseverance and respect. And none of these things are ingredients you will find on a package of tofu no matter how close you look.”

PROTEIN & NUTRITION

PART SEVEN: ETHICAL CHOICES

The first and most important point for me to make here is that if all we do is make nutrition about plant vs animal then we will end up nowhere, fast. In this first world of convenience and plentiful availability and variety of food, we have the economic freedom to feed ourselves and our loved ones as we see fit. Our food choices are our own.

Once you’ve seen the science of nutrition and food production as provided by protein expert Dr Donald Layman, the EPA, and other reputable sources, what is left are the ethics you hold behind your choices.

Let’s look at what we’ve seen so far. Sources and references can be found in each section of my article to date.

  • The message from many official organizations, the media, social media, and Netflix movies is that meat is somehow “bad” and we should reduce consumption or remove it from our diet altogether
  • There are no high quality studies proving a direct causal link between meat and poor kidney function, heart disease, or cancer.
  • Studies show that it is of benefit to us to center our concept of health and healing around muscle, as multiple health-regulating processes happen here including anti-inflammatory myokine secretion, fat oxidation and glucose metabolism.
  • As we age we develop anabolic resistance, making it progressively harder for us to build and maintain muscle. It’s imperative for optimal health that we nourish ourselves with high quality protein.
  • There are controlled trials showing that approximately 30g of high quality (animal) protein per meal stimulates muscle protein synthesis. The same cannot be said for plant protein, which would need to be consumed in higher amounts to get the same effect.
  • These studies show us that you need to consume approximately 2.5g of the essential acid leucine per meal to trigger muscle protein synthesis.
  • You can achieve the leucine threshold using plant food, but you would need to consume more calories in the process. The protein from plant food is less nutrient dense than that in animal food and therefore inferior for human consumption. Moreover, plant food contains anti-nutrients that bind to proteins, vitamins and minerals and prevent their absorption in the body. Animal food does not.
  • Studies show that the highest risk factors for cancer and obesity are excess calories and over stimulation of insulin.
  • Carbohydrates stimulate the greatest insulin response in the body.
  • Although some claim that beef production uses up to 2400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat, these figures are misleading as they do not differentiate between water sources. The actual calculated water input findings refute that. In fact, grass-finished beef is estimated to use only 50 to 100 gallons of blue (surface or groundwater) water per pound of meat, far less than almonds, walnuts, rice, or sugar.
  • Despite claims that beef production emits more CO2 than the entire transportation industry, the EPA’s own data records that while transportation is 29% of global emissions, the entire agricultural industry is only 9%; 3.9% of which is animal, and 2%, beef.

These are all facts, figures and data. They can of course be discussed and disputed, as can any scientific findings (no science is a closed book – that would make it dogma); but as I showed in my first article, in science, the weight is in high quality data: controlled trials carry the most weight. That should be considered first; Food Frequency Questionnaires and other epidemiological methodologies are low quality, leaving room for error and mostly making it possible for us to form further hypotheses for testing.

So finally we come to the “ethical” choice to avoid high quality protein, i.e. meat. This typically centers around an honest, credible wish to show compassion and respect to animals. Amen to this, to thinking beyond ourselves and to the lives of sentient beings sharing the earth with us. Unfortunately, our convenience-loving, general population has lost connection with the land and the cycles of life and death inherent in nature. Farmers, on the other hand, see this in action every single day. For example, in order to till (plough) a field to grow plants, thousands of small animals and insects are slaughtered under the blade. Bee populations are decimated by the chemicals used to grow massive mono crops. Farmers will kill on sight, any local animal seen to threaten their crops. Plant agriculture is far from free from death or destruction. We may not eat the animals killed in the process, but they are certainly destroyed nonetheless. Let’s be clear here: I am not suggesting that factory farming is the way forward by any means. Nor is mono crop agriculture. Both are destructive and unsustainable and there must be a better way.

Food is a free choice, but using low quality data and its suggestions about meat being dangerous to our health and the environment to create an entire anti-animal narrative is not honest to the discussion, nor to those who choose to eat meat and are simply following the wisdom of thousands and indeed millions of years of our ancestors. And there is a LOT more to the process of food production than what we modern, privileged, grocery-shopping people often care to consider. Taking a stand of moral superiority based on poor data and a limited view of the righteousness of either choice could be somewhat shortsighted. With a broader perspective, the concept of ethics takes on a whole new dimension.

At this point I need to defer to the writings of an actual farmer, living on the land and doing her best to live sustainably and compassionately. I take my hat off to her for her dedication to living her best life in harmony with nature. The following is written by Jenna Woginrich.

An Open Letter From a Farmer to Angry Vegetarians
07/18/2014 08:39 am ET Updated Sep 14, 2014 – Jenna Woginrich

“About once a week I get an email or comment from the Animal Rights contingent. It is expected and usually I do not engage. I need to remember that when I published my first book I was a vegetarian raising a few laying hens and pet rabbits. Readers who knew me as the 25-year-old girl they read about (at the time just farm-curious and toying with the idea of homesteading) meet a very different woman on my current blog. To read that book and then pop into a blog where just seven years later that same vegetarian is raising hogs, lambs, and poultry for meat is unsettling and shocking to some readers. And so I get these notes from what I call the Angry Vegetarians. The folks who feel personally betrayed, not just for my change of diet but my change in ideas. Yesterday I was called a murderer. I’ve been called that many time, and in some emails, that is the nicest part of the correspondence.
The following is a letter to that Angry Vegetarian and to any others who may feel the same way. But before you read it please understand that this letter is not directed at the vegetarian diet in general. I have no qualms with it, at all. Millions of people avoid meat for religious, health-related, or various reasons of preference. This letter is not directed at them. This is a letter for the angry folks who think not eating meat makes them morally superior to those of us who do. 

Dear A.V. Club,
I recently received your note, the one that accused me of being a murderer. I understand why you are angry and I applaud your compassion. I understand because I was a vegetarian for nearly a decade, the same breed as yourself actually. Meaning; I chose the diet because of a love for animals, passion for conservation, and concern for our diminishing global resources. Avoiding meat seemed to be a kinder, gentler, and more ecological choice. I supported PETA. I had ads in Vegan magazines for my design website. I am no longer a vegetarian and do raise animals on my small farm for the table, but we have more in common than you may realize.
It would be foolish for me to try and change your mind about eating animals, and I have no interest in doing so. The vegetarian diet is a fine diet. We live in a time of great abundance and luxury, and that means choices! Never before in the history of the human animal have so many options for feeding ourselves been presented like they are now. If you want to eat a gluten-free, dairyless, low cholesterol, and mid-range protein diet based on whey extracted from antibiotic free Jersey Cows- you can. Your great grandparents could not. There was no almond milk at the Piggly Wiggly and ration cards kinda ruined that conga line anyway. But now there is so much food and your diet is as much a personal a choice as your religion and sexuality, possibly even more personal. So understand I am not writing you this open letter because you don’t eat meat. I’m writing you this letter because you called me a murderer.
Murder is a legal term, meaning the unlawful and premeditated act of taking a life, usually with malevolent intent. To call me a murderer is to imply that I broke the law and there is malice intended in my actions. When animals are harvested here for food, I assure you there is none. There is only gratitude, respect, and blessed relief. I do not enjoy taking animal lives and the bulk of my supposed premeditation include looking up recipes. I am not a murderer.
But I am a killer.
You are 100% correct. I kill animals. I raise chickens and rabbits from young fluffballs in the palms of my hands and mindfully bring them to the age of harvest when they are killed and stored for food. If I don’t do the killing myself I hire a professional butcher to come to my farm and harvest the pigs I raised for myself and friends. I am also a licensed hunter in the state of New York, where I stalk deer and wild game of all sorts. I also do this with the intention of harvest. I am a killer for my table and I fully understand the seriousness of that statement. I also understand why you are disgusted by it. You are disgusted because you see me as taking sentient lives when there are alternative choices as bloodless and innocent as the down on a Muscovy duckling.
I know that I do not need to eat meat to survive, but I also know now that it is impossible for me to live without killing. It is impossible for you, too. I think this is the heart of our misunderstanding. This is why PETA and the FTCLDF are not working together to be one giant powerhouse for good and ending animal suffering. Most animal rights activists do not acknowledge (or perhaps are not aware) that every meal includes death. The simplest backyard salad from your own organic garden to the fake bacon in your shopping cart — both take lives. I have simply chosen to take lives in a way that causes the least amount of suffering and causes the least amount of wasted global resources. And yes, it means there is blood on my hands now.
I know that is hard to understand. It was hard for me, too.
I was a vegetarian and animal activist before I was a farmer, but that was all about passion for me and did not include much science. The only things I read about meat and the environment were based on giant corporate farms. I did not understand anything about ecology, biology, wilderness, and the personal responsibility of eating local. But what I really didn’t understand was agriculture. I mean I was totally ignorant. I did not think about anything but ingredients on the package, never questioning the methods or politics behind them or the larger picture. As long as my dinner did not include animal flesh or animal products I was content in my righteousness. I was a pro-choice vegan. To be blunt, I didn’t think things through.
The truth is there is no meal we can eat without killing. None. A trip to your local grocery store for tofu and spinach leaves may not include a single animal product but the harvesting of such food costs endless animal lives. Growing fields of soy beans for commercial clients means removing habitat from thousands of wild animals, killing them through deforestation and loss of their home. Songbirds and insects are killed by pesticides at legion. Fertilizers are made from petroleum now, and those fields of tofu seeds are literally being sprayed with oil we are fighting wars over. Deer died for that tofu. Songbirds died. Men and women in battle died. And then when the giant tofu factory harvested the beans they ran over those chemical oil fields of faux-food with combines that rip open groundhogs, mice, and rabbits. Tear apart frogs and fledgling birds. It is a messy and bloody business making tofu or any of that other non-murderous food.
What about organic tofu and vegetables? That doesn’t include chemical fertilizers and the companies are mindful? Right? Well, that is correct. But if you are not using oil to fertilize your crops then you are using organic material: manure, blood, bone, fish, etc. You may be a vegetarian but your vegetables are the most voracious of all carnivores. That small farm at your local green market needed to lay down a lot of swine blood, cow bone, and horse poop freeze-dried in bags marked “ORGANIC” to grow those carrots so big and sweet. Animals are an integral part of growing food for us, as food themselves or creating the materials that feed the earth. And the earth must be fed.
And let us not forget the miles on the road these vegetarian options must travel. That oil-free organic tofu sure needs a lot of diesel to get here to New York…
You can not ignore this. You can’t call a small farmer a murderer and turn a blind eye to the groundhog ripped in two, the owl without a nest, or the blood spilled for oil halfway across the globe through military force. I mean, you can ignore it, of course you can. You can also search the internet for people killing pigs and call them names, but that doesn’t make you right. There is nothing you or I eat that wasn’t once alive save for some minerals. Plants and mushrooms are living things, just as alive as animals. And we take their lives wholesale and without regret. In the words of Joel Salatin, “ …By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?” Though I know you may not appreciate that quote. After all, Joel is a murderer, too.
I eat animals I raise myself because I want to eat local food that causes less animal suffering and empowers my local community. I live in upstate New York. A place where farming vegetables does not make sense. This is a far cry from southeast Asia or southern California. Our growing season is around 100 days. What we can grow here in bulk is grass, and by extension the meat that eats the grass. We can let hogs range our woods and eat grubs, vegetation, and nuts. We can buy local non-GMO feed grown by our neighbors and give our animals full lives, outdoors and on pasture! Eating meat here is eating in a way that respects our region’s food shed.
We can graze our animals in ways that returns good nutrients to the soil and heal the earth. We can grow two or three harvests of those grasses and feed them to animals like sheep, cows, and goats all winter. This is what my part of the world eats if they are serious about saving the environment. We can do this without using a lot of oil, close to home, and harvest the animals we know without driving to a store to waste gas, plastic bags, and pave another parking space. When I kill a chicken I end one life. A life I was present for, grateful for, and worked hard for. I have a hard time taking criticism seriously from someone who swipes a credit card for a bag of groceries they have convinced themselves is more righteous, having never weeded a row or hefted a bag of feed. A really hard time.
My “murdered” pigs were raised from babes, seen to several times a day, carefully tended and lived a life of ample space, porcine company, sunshine, mud puddles, and rooting their snoots in the dirt. They were raised with the help of a small village of folks who bought shares of the pigs to help pay for my livelihood. These people are counting on me to help them buy good food that isn’t laced with antibiotics or factory farm atrocities. And while raising these pigs I purchased feed from neighbors raising non GMO field corn and soy, a rarity these days. I employed a small butcher and his staff to come to my farm so these pigs never have to be loaded into a truck and driven away to a slaughterhouse. They have had one bad day, one bad moment actually, and that moment surprised the hell out of them.
Eat in whatever way invokes respect and gratitude in your soul. Be grateful we live in this time of contrived and soon-to-be over luxury and abundance. But do not come to battle here, accusing those of us raising good meat of murder. Those are fighting words, unkind words, and for someone so intensely passionate about treating animals well you seem to have no issue treating human beings like crap. I’m an animal, too. I would appreciate some ethical treatment.
So, yes. I am a killer. I take lives and eat the flesh of sentient beings. I farm and fish. I hunt and stalk. I fully embrace this primal and beloved part of my person. I do this with great joy and appreciation, savoring every bite of effort, community, time, and grace those meals include. Each slice of bacon or bite of roasted chicken comes with a couple dozen faces of neighbors and friends. It comes with stories of carrying buckets in the rain, of catching escaped piglets, of never leaving for a vacation or even visiting my family for Christmas. I am a solider for my soil, stationed here at these 6.5 acres to create mindful, healthy, food because I think it makes a better and more peaceful world. And that world is not found in the fake meat section of the grocery store, darling. Life is not a storybook where you get to ignore the fact that the Three Little Pigs boiled a wolf alive. Eating meat you raised means eating food infused with integrity, sweat, loyalty, determination, love, friendship, memories, loss, perseverance and respect. And none of these things are ingredients you will find on a package of tofu no matter how close you look.”

NUTRITION & PROTEIN

Image Courtesy SacredCow.info | IG @sustainabledish

PART SIX: EMISSIONS

The second area of concern in terms of environment is emissions, with CO2 of course being the prominent demonized gas. If you’d like to hear a little more about the story of CO2 and carbon in general, take a listen to Dr William Happer, Physicist at Princeton University, who has a lifetime of study of carbon behind him. If you listen to this and other talks from Dr Happer (such as this) and still want to talk CO2 emissions as an issue, then let’s go on.

  • Contrary to mainstream claims, according to the E.P.A., agriculture is only 9% of global emissions.
  • Methane, another Greenhouse Gas, is part of a cycle; within about ten years it returns to the soil.
  • Regenerative Ruminant practices actually sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the soil, whereas crop production releases CO2.

It’s commonly proclaimed that cattle and beef production generate more Greenhouse Gas (GHG) than all car and airplane usage. Take this article for example, which claims that “Livestock are responsible for 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together”. That sounds awful, doesn’t it. More than all transport?! And if the word of publications like the Independent is taken as gospel (and in many cases it certainly is), then a resulting public push to reduce animal agriculture should come as no surprise.

Let’s take a deep breath and go straight to the EPA’s own graph showing total GHG emissions per sector. At a glance it’s quite easy to see that Agriculture as a whole makes up 9% of total GHG, while transportation is 29%. “All of animal agriculture contributes less than half of this amount, representing 3.9% of total US greenhouse gas emissions.” The beef industry itself makes up around 2%. 3.9% for all animal agriculture leaves the biggest chunk by far, 5.1%, for plant food production. Look again at what The Independent is claiming and think about what stories are being presented to you all day, every day. One could argue that you are literally being fed the equivalent of animal poop in terms of quality of information and evidence.

Methane is the main component of natural gas; it has no odor or taste and cannot be seen, except when it is burnt in oxygen; it then appears as a blue flame. Methane forms part of what we know as Greenhouse Gas. There are many ways in which it is released into the atmosphere, of which cow burps (not farts!) is only one. Methane actually cycles; livestock eat plants and burp methane out; it is released into the atmosphere, oxidized into CO2, and returned into the earth in about ten years. This is quite different from the burning of fossil fuels, which is an enrichment of CO2 in the atmosphere.

CARBON CYCLING: SEQUESTERING CARBON BACK INTO THE SOIL!

“Carbon sequestering, or the long term capture and storage of carbon from the atmosphere, typically as carbon dioxide, is a method of reducing GHG emissions.”

Modern day crop production practices, including tilling the soil and intensive grain crops, have released large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. As today’s farmers return to traditional practices like rotational grazing and composting, and use natural fertilizer via manure, carbon is being taken back out of the atmosphere and into the soil.

Regenerative agriculture practices such as these are NOT the climate culprits they are made out to be; they are not only carbon neutral, but they are in fact carbon negative, decreasing the load of carbon in the atmosphere. There are many great articles detailing these practices and the research behind them even further, such as this and this.

All of this information and more is, again, presented in an easy to understand format via Sacred Cow and discussed by agronomist Peter Ballestedt, who has years of experience in Forage and Ruminant Agriculture. Below is a list of just a few of the fantastic resources for this and much, much more quality information and science surrounding regenerative agriculture, ruminants, and nutrition.

It’s time to dispel the myths and rethink our relationship with Nature.

COMING NEXT: ETHICAL CHOICES

Dr Donald Layman, PhD
Researchgate
Dr Gabrielle Lyon – MUSCLE-CENTRIC MEDICINE
Website
IG https://www.instagram.com/DRGABRIELLELYON
FB https://www.facebook.com/doctorgabriellelyon
Sustainable Dish: Diana Rodgers, RD
Website https://www.sacredcow.info/
IG https://www.instagram.com/SUSTAINABLEDISH/
FB https://www.facebook.com/SustainableDish
Peter Ballestedt: Grass Based Health
FB https://www.facebook.com/GrassBasedHealth
IG https://instagram.com/grassbased
Dr Ryan Lowery
Website https://drlowery.com
Ketogenic.Com https://ketogenic.com
IG https://www.instagram.com/ryanplowery
FB https://www.facebook.com/drryanlowery
Food Lies: Brian Sanders
Website https://www.foodlies.org
IG https://www.instagram.com/food.lies
FB https://www.facebook.com/FoodLiesOrg
Primate Kitchen: James Connolly
Website https://www.instagram.com/primatekitchen
IG https://www.instagram.com/primatekitchen
Paul Saladino, MD
Website: https://carnivoremd.com
IG http://instagram.com/carnivoremd
FB https://www.facebook.com/carnivoreMD

NUTRITION & PROTEIN

PART FIVE: ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS: WHY THE PUSH TO REJECT MEAT?

* The claim that it takes 425 gallons of water to produce one 1/4 pound beef burger is misleading at best.

* There are several types of water, with different sources, which must be differentiated in order to form a correct water input analysis.

* Grass-finished beef uses far less water than rice, almonds, sugar or walnuts.

* Grass-covered soil has less erosion and holds water far better than ploughed crop land.

* Ruminants are an essential part of the balance of the ecosystem we live in.

Apart from nutritional concerns with meat, what comes up equally as often are environmental concerns. The two most prevalent issues are water usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

There is plenty of information available in the media, on government websites and on Netflix movies pushing these ideas as having weight, and of needing urgent action. Those voices are by far the loudest, best funded and most repeated. It wasn’t until I went looking and dug a little deeper that I discovered the experts in sustainable farming, regenerative agriculture and related sciences who have a different story to tell. Once you sit down, listen, read and consider the facts that they present, the story starts to take a different shape.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: WATER

Headlines such as “Is the Livestock Industry Destroying the Planet?” are sensational and tend to be particularly attention-grabbing. Jump onto any social media thread about the environmental impact of animals in food production and there’s sure to be a line up of comments insisting that cattle require a disproportionate and unjustifiable amount of water. There’s obviously a lot, repeated often, for so many to be so moved as to give it their attention and to be able to recite the facts they’ve read or heard.

So then, what are the facts being delivered by mainstream sources, and what is their validity? Let’s look at one such example.

A quick look at the Meatless Monday website shows some infographics looking impressive, but lacking logic (or source references). They claim that a single 1/4 pound burger takes 425 gallons of water to produce, or “enough water for 1700 thirsty people”. Ooo, thirsty people. That grabs attention, doesn’t it. As with much of the anti-animal media, perhaps that’s the point. But for all that my sources are demanded of me with this article, has anyone bothered to check the sources here? Look again: NONE are given. So why then do so many put their faith in claims like these?

Let’s think more rationally about this. What does that even mean?! How does it make any sense to compare 1700 people having a drink of water once with a process taking months or years and involving many stages of production? What is the comparison with equally nutritious food sources? Are there equally nutritious food sources? Once you look at what is being presented to you, it’s possible to consider the issue with a little more clarity.

Meatless Mondays, and other such organizations, are presenting facts without making important distinctions which would, if they were included, completely change the way we receive this information.

For example: the “total water” is all that we are given, without any mention of the difference between green and blue water; nor is the grey water footprint discussed. If you’re not yet familiar with these terms, but you have already formed an opinion based on media-driven, guilt-laden information on water usage, then perhaps it’s time to step back and rethink what you’re being told.

It’s vital to separate the three distinct terms for water usage in agriculture in a water input analysis.

Green water “is rainfall and naturally occurring precipitation that is temporarily stored in the soil or on top of the soil. It does not runoff into other waterways or infiltrate the soil to reach groundwater storage basins like aquifers“.
Blue water is “fresh surface and groundwater … in freshwater lakes, rivers and aquifers”.
The grey water footprint “is calculated as the volume of water that is required to dilute pollutants to such an extent that the quality of the water remains above agreed water quality standards”. (Source: WaterFootPrint.org)

So considering these distinctions, “the overwhelming majority of water attributed to beef production is rain that would have fallen regardless of whether cattle were being produced or grazing on the pasture where the water fell“.

Cattle spend the majority of their lives on pasture. Grass-finished beef remain on pasture their whole lives, while the others only spend “on average the last five months of their lives in a feedlot” (Sacred Cow).

Livestock use 94% and 97% rainfall respectively for typical and grass-finished. Essentially, that means that it only takes 280 gallons of water to produce a pound of typical beef. For grass-finished beef, estimates are between 50 and 100 gallons per pound. That’s considerably less than the 1700 gallons claimed here (425 gallons for a 1/4 pound burger). For comparison, a pound of rice uses 410 gallons. It’s time we stopped spreading misinformation from places like this and started digging a little deeper. It’s important because one story is persuading millions to remove a valuable food group from their diet, while simultaneously endangering the balance in our ecosystems in the long term.

Beyond this, ruminant agriculture returns nutrients to the soil via manure; grass-covered (ruminant) soil retains water and is not eroded as crop agricultural soil is, thus saving a valuable resource from runoff.

14% of the Earth’s surface is classified as rangeland. This is land unsuitable for crops. Only 4% of the Earth’s surface is suitable for cultivation. (Source: The Ruminant Animal: Digestive Physiology by D.C. Church)

Ruminants take what is, for us, inedible food (cellulose) and, via anaerobic microbial fermentation, turn it into the most high quality nutrient dense food available to humans. Ruminant agriculture is essential to the balance of the ecosystem we live in. Without them, we wouldn’t exist as we are today.

For more on this, there is no better or clearer resource than Sacred Cow, who are bringing together all of the questions about health, nutrition, ethics, and environment surrounding the raising and eating of animals. With their special permission, I have included their poster below. The poster is an incredible resource, bringing together the many facets of the animal agriculture issue with references. If you are able, please go to their site and support them in the making of the Sacred Cow movie (I do not have any professional affiliation with Sacred Cow and I do not receive anything from promoting them. I am simply in awe of their work and dedication in the interests of sustainable food production).

Another great mind on the issue of ruminant agriculture is Peter Ballestedt. Here is one of his many great talks on the topic. It’s eye-opening.

COMING UP NEXT: ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS: GREENHOUSE GASES

NUTRITION & PROTEIN

PART FOUR: MUSCLE: THE ORGAN OF METABOLIC CURRENCY*

*Muscle as the Organ of Metabolic Currency is directly taken from and credited to Dr Gabrielle Lyon. It was listening to Dr Lyon and other dedicated health experts that spurred me on to write this article.

IN A NUTSHELL!

  • Muscle is the largest organ of the body, responsible for regulating blood sugar, glucose metabolism, lipid oxidation, and anti-inflammatory myokine secretion. It is vital for health and longevity.
  • As we age we develop anabolic resistance; it becomes progressively harder to grow and maintain muscle. The loss of muscle can lead to disability, disease, and difficulty healing.
  • Protein metabolism requires a specific amount of the essential amino acid leucine. Animal foods contain the highest levels of leucine, meaning that we can achieve the threshold amount without consuming an excess of calories, as we would have to with plant food. Excess caloric intake is a known risk factor for disease.

WHY FOCUS ON PROTEIN FIRST?

Our muscle is in fact the largest organ of the body. Consider this:

  • Muscle is an endocrine organ, secreting anti-inflammatory myokines throughout the body.
  • Muscle is the largest site of glucose metabolism. The carbohydrates you eat are taken up by the muscle. The relationship of how much muscle you have to your intake of carbohydrates is therefore highly relevant.
  • Muscle is also the largest site for lipid oxidation, or fatty acid oxidation. This has a direct relationship with obesity.
  • Muscle is the amino acid reservoir of the body. For any healing process, the body takes the building blocks of healing from the muscle.
  • Bone is actually a protein matrix filled with calcium. Protein literally forms the scaffolding of our bones. A recent meta-analysis found that bone mineral density was lower for vegans and vegetarians than for omnivores. This would suggest that protein quality matters.

It’s obvious that muscle is important for an array of vital functions determining our health and longevity. So how do we maintain and grow healthy muscle?

During our youth, muscle protein synthesis, or protein metabolism, is driven by hormones, particularly insulin. However, as adults, our hormone levels drop, and the process can then only be stimulated in two ways: exercise and diet. Specifically, we need to move, and we need to consume high quality protein.

Here is an important confounding factor. As we age, we develop anabolic resistance. Our hormone levels drop and our muscle becomes resistant to the stimuli of the metabolic process. In other words, we can get away with a bad diet when we’re young, but it gets progressively harder to grow and maintain muscle as we age. This has been observed in subjects as young as 25, so it’s not confined to what we usually consider as “old”. Ideally we would implement optimal nutrition and exercise from our younger years to lay the foundation of muscle that will be with us for life. Once you lose it as an adult, it’s incredibly difficult to restore.

Protein metabolism is triggered by the essential amino acid leucine. Specifically, it is now understood that we need to consume around 2.5g of leucine, per meal, in order to trigger protein synthesis. This is a threshold amount: less will not trigger it. More will not create “more” of the process as once the trigger is pulled, the process kicks in and has been seen to peak at around 90 mins, and to then slow and stop at around 2-3 hours after eating.

This is where the statement above that not all proteins are equal, becomes crucial to understand. The foods with the highest levels of leucine are all animal foods. That means that in order to derive enough leucine from plant foods, you would have to consume higher overall calories; in many cases, a considerable amount more.

For example: 100g of cooked quinoa is 120 calories and contains 4.4g of protein. The leucine content is 261mg, meaning that you would need 9500g, or 9.5kg of cooked quinoa to reach the leucine threshold. That’s 1140 calories. That’s a lot of quinoa, renowned as a supposedly “complete” high protein plant food for containing the entire essential amino acid spectrum, in one meal. There are other plant options, such as tofu, lentils and other legumes, but plants also contain anti-nutrients, and soy in particular poses multiple health risks.

This is not optimal, considering that excess calories and insulin are the two highest risk factors for cancer and disease. The flip side of this, not meeting the leucine threshold per meal, can result in the loss and degradation of muscle tissue.

For comparison, a 5 ounce serving of beef contains 4g of leucine. This is approximately 378 calories.

Here we have seen that weight loss/ being slim or looking good on the scale, is not the be all and end all. We need to look at lean muscle mass. Dr Donald Layman, PhD, specialist in muscle metabolism with 30 years of research under his belt, says, “If you starve yourself or go on a low-calorie low-protein diet, you will lose fat and lean mass at a 1:1 ratio which is profoundly antithetical to optimal health. If you reduce your calories and increase your protein, you can shift that proportion of weight loss almost exclusively to fat”.

Many who switch to a plant-based diet will talk about feeling better and experiencing improved health. An appropriate question to ask here would be, what is that due to? One possible answer is the switch to whole foods, along with a reduction in overall caloric intake, which can absolutely be of benefit; junk food, overeating and obesity is in fact an issue with a large percentage of the western population. However, as we can now see, simply reducing calories is of itself not necessarily a recipe for optimal health in the long term. Focusing on that in combination with high quality protein intake is.

COMING NEXT: OTHER ISSUES AND FINAL THOUGHTS