Monday, August 8, 2011

Not to beat a dead horse,'s my post on food production

**Disclaimer: This post is not directed at one person or group of people in particular.  It is meant to address some words and phrases I've seen thrown around on many different mediums by many different people.  I'm sure most people have their minds made up on this issue, but I feel obligated to present a side that you may not hear in the pop culture.

There's been a lot of blog and facebook dialogue going on since Mary's post last week on nutrition.  I'll leave the science to the professional, but there are three specific issues that have jumped out at me in particular.  Those three issues are: 1) that poor and underprivileged people are too stupid or don't have the resources to make healthy eating decisions; 2) the demonization of corn and soy; and 3) the demonization of factory farming (which I’ll touch on here briefly, but intend to write a whole separate post about).

I'll start with #1, not only because it’s numerically obvious, but also because it's the easiest to tackle.  First of all, I grow tired of this "blame the fast food industry" mentality.  Does anyone think that poor people really and truly don't know that a bag of apples at the grocery store is healthier than a Big Mac?  It's not a matter of being uneducated.  I watch the Biggest Loser.  Those people didn't get on campus out of pure ignorance.  Most of them are obese due to deep-seated emotional, self-confidence, and self-control issues.  Sure, not everyone understands the ins-and-outs of nutrition like Mary does, but that's why she's a professional!  But there is also a lot of common sense that factors into eating healthy.

So why do some people continue to eat unhealthy fast foods?  Chalk much of it up to personal responsibility, please!  There's no government conspiracy at work here.  In fact, I'd argue the government is trying to overregulate us in the opposite direction with all the overreaching they do with trans-fats, salt, menu labeling, and such.  But I digress....  I'll add that even fast food restaurants are catching on to consumer demand for healthier options!  You can get a salad at almost any fast food chain.  They even have options for apples, oranges, yogurt, and bottled water!  So even if you do need to eat at a fast food restaurant, you have choices.  Anyone who argues otherwise is just making excuses.

Since I’ve started eating healthy, I’ve been utterly shocked and pleasantly surprised at the options available to us in 2011.  There are healthy swaps for almost every food out there!  There are dozens of free online nutrition journals available with recipes, fitness tips, and calorie counters.  Don't know how to cook?  I was at the library with Jack recently.  The internet is free at the library.  Cookbooks and cooking magazines abound.  They hold classes and workshops.  Mine even has a brochure noting all of the area's farmers markets.  There's so much information there, it's almost overwhelming (in a good way)!

Then I got home and checked out our local Cooperative Extension office.  I noticed there is an extension agent for a Food & Nutrition Education Program.  So I looked for more information and found this plethora of information from my alma mater.  Especially check out the topics they teach and the participant comments.  If this isn't the perfect opportunity for the underprivileged to learn about nutrition, I don't know what else to tell you!  It's 2011.  Most “poor” people even have cell phones they can use to call their local extension office.

So if poor people aren't making healthy decisions, I have to believe it's because they choose not to, whether out of apathy or laziness.  Either way, it's none of my business.  I mean, if someone asks me for information, I'll certainly give it to them!  I've helped my own brother lose 56 lbs by showing him how to make better and healthier choices!  And I loved every minute of it!  But short of more government regulation (enough already!), I'm not sure what some of you are proposing we do to get people to make better choices.

So…that was a tad longer than expected.  Sorry!  Now on to #2.  Corn and soy.  I've heard a little bit about how evil soy is because it affects the thyroid.  I'm also aware that soy possesses a specific allergen that affects about 10% of the population.  Mary addressed this really well in the comment thread of her post.  But I'll just add that, while I'm sure soy does affect certain people adversely, many other foods do too!  That doesn't mean soy is harmful all-around!  If it were, I would think there would be a major thyroid epidemic in Asia.

And as for corn.  It's hard for me to believe that humanity survived beyond the early settlers in this country, since corn is pretty much the only crop they grew back then. 

"But corn and soy are different now!  They're genetically modified," you say (this is the only other reason I can think that corn and soy are demonized, besides the whole subsidies issue, which I'll get to later).  Why, yes, they are.  The world's population is also exponentially larger than it was back then.  We've evolved past the days of backyard gardens and we need to feed the masses now.  We also need to export to third-world countries, and we do that extremely well in America!  It's something I'm very proud of our food production industry for continuing to innovate!

Biotechnology or GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) has been invaluable to America's food production in the last decade.  There is a lot of outcry about GMOs, mostly stemming from political agendas overseas and environmental activists.  But the ironic part about this outcry is that GMOs have enabled us to create more pest-resistant crops, which means fewer pesticides and chemicals being used on our food!  There have been no significant health or environmental issues associated with using GMOs.  I’ve seen some stories about animals dying after eating fields of GMO crops, etc, but literally ZERO of those stories have happened in the U.S.  They all happen in countries that have little or no regulations, so who knows what these animals are really eating.  In fact, the GMOs in the U.S. must meet very high safety standards prior to commercialization.

In fact, another ironic twist on the environmental argument is that GMO actually helps to protect natural wildlife habitats.  When we can yield more crops from existing acreage, we eliminate the need to infringe upon wildlife habitats with more acreage to produce lower-yield crops.

From the National Corn Growers’ Association’s Agriculture Biotechnology Reference Guide:

"Biotechnology (GMO) allows farmers around the world to help feed a growing population. It helps increase yields while decreasing the need for inputs such as water and fertilizer. It provides improved pest control methods that are more compatible with the environment, including drastic reductions in the need for pesticides.  And it helps to produce more with less – less land use, less labor and less risk of total crop loss, a key issue in many parts of the world."

  "With a world population projected to top 8 billion people by 2030, farmers need to produce enough food to feed an additional 2 billion people. In fact, according to the United Nations Population Fund, farmers will need to produce about 75 percent more food per acre by 2020 to meet the anticipated demand.  Biotechnology increases crop yield, lessens the negative effects on the environment and decreases stress placed on existing cultivated land.

   A recent report from the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) summarized the results from 40 case studies of 27 biotech crops. Agricultural biotechnology increased yields by 14 billion lbs., improved farm income by $2.5 billion and reduced pesticide use by 163 million lbs."

Not only do GMOs cut down on the need for pesticides, but they also actually produce better-tasting and more nutrient-rich crops.  Some GMO crops have already been created to contain 35-45% more protein, a soy allergen has been nearly eliminated (see quote below), and even more health benefits from GMOs are currently being explored.

In addition, GMO corn is lower in mycotoxins, which is a toxin that kills horses and pigs and is a probable carcinogen in humans.

Some quotes from the experts:

“The responsible genetic modification of plants is neither new nor dangerous. The addition of new or different genes into an organism by recombinant DNA techniques does not inherently pose new or heightened risks relative to the modification of organisms by more traditional methods, and the relative safety of marketed products is further ensured by current regulations intended to safeguard the food supply.”
Statement by 20 Nobel Prize Winners and 3,200 international scientists, 2003

  “This is probably the first time a dominant human allergen has been knocked out of a major food  crop using biotechnology.”Elliot M. Herman, USDA plant pathologist, on a 2003 report that the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service is one step closer to removing the allergen in soybeans that impact 6-8% of children and 1-2% of adults.

  “If imports like these [biotechnology crops] are regulated unnecessarily, the real losers will be the developing nations. Instead of reaping the benefits of decades of discovery and research, people from Africa and Southeast Asia will remain prisoners of outdated technology. Their countries could suffer greatly for years to come. It is crucial that they reject the propaganda of extremist groups before it is too late.”Former President Jimmy Carter in The NY Times, August 26, 1998 (and you know I must really mean it when I quote Jimmy Carter)

Bottom line, there's a market for GMO and a market for non-GMO.  Crop biotechnology is highly regulated and overseen by the proper authorities, so no, there's no "Frankenfood" going on (sure there are some rogue growers out there who do their own genetic modification w/out regulation, but those growers are not approved by the USDA or FDA).  And again, it must meet very strict health and safety standards to be able to enter the food supply.  Be very careful about what you read.  Most of the anti-GMO information is a bunch of speculation about what might happen decades down the road.

But without GMO, many countries would greatly suffer, and the scare tactics are just that - tactics.  Do you want people to starve tomorrow, or do you want people to eat tomorrow on the very off chance that they’ll be affected 20-30 years from now?  Much of the outcry from oversears is just geo-politics, not what’s in the best interest of starving people.  GMO has brought us so far in food production and it IS a GOOD THING.  (And I’ll be more than happy to provide any more info for anyone who is interested.)

Getting on to #3 – factory farming.  I’m actually going to do a whole separate post on this because there are SO many lies and myths out there regarding this industry.  My sister actually works in this industry and is going to do a guest post on it for me.  But let me just dispel a couple of the major myths quickly with some bullet points:

  1.     Please remember – farmers are not running petting zoos.  They’re running businesses.  So yes, animals are kept in tight quarters as opposed to frolicking in a meadow.  Think of it like a field: You wouldn’t just throw some seeds out in the dirt like you throw a baseball, you plant them tediously in rows because they’re easy to tend and harvest.  To farmers, livestock is like a crop.  They have to raise them tediously and efficiently.
  2.      In fact, my family often jokes that the pigs have it better than we do!  When the power goes out, we get a phone call and there’s an elaborate security system that ensures the pigs are able to be fed and stay cool/warm when the power goes out.  Meanwhile we’re all sitting there freezing in the ice storm!
  3.      Regarding grain-fed animals – yes, livestock is MEANT to eat grains!  If they weren’t, they wouldn’t eat it!  Pretty simple.  It’s not like we’re feeding livestock broken glass and acid.
  4.      Yes, farmers are trying to turn a profit!  No secret there.  This IS a job, after all…not a hobby.  I’ll contend that unlike my husband’s law job, farming is much more than a job, it’s a way of life.  But it IS still a business that puts food on the table. 
  5.      But just because farmers need to make money doesn’t mean they’ll go to any extreme for the almighty dollar.  Farms are highly regulated, and when those rules are broken, there are extreme consequences.  Do you really think that in the age of animal rights and gov’t regulation, that farms would be exempt from these??  Seriously.
  6.      Sure there are some bad practices out there, but that’s true for any industry.  Is it perfect?  No!  But what human institution is??  Not even the Catholic Church!
  7.      Please don’t watch Food, Inc. and think it’s without an agenda.
  8.      Without factory farming, please provide a solution on how to feed 7 billion people.  Please!

Finally (honestly), I’ll very briefly touch on the elephant in the room – farm subsidies.  I’m generally against farm subsidies.  I’m generally against any subsidies.  I don’t believe it’s the government’s job to save the family farm.  I believe it’s up to the free market that any industry survive or cease to exist.  But farm subsidies do not determine the price of food.  The market determines the price of food.  And the price of food determines subsidies.  Corn and soy appear in a lot of our food not because the government subsidizes them.  They appear in our food because they grow well on our land, they’re cost and land efficient, they’re high yield, and they’re versatile.  And I still can’t understand why that’s so terrible!  Again – I’d love to know – how would YOU feed 7 billion people?

I’m sure that some of you will easily dismiss some of my facts here, just due to my sources, but I tried to provide some not-so-obvious sources as well.  And as usual, my main source was my dad.  He’s not only my dad, but he’s owned and operated a corn, soy, and livestock farm for over 40 years, he’s won numerous awards for outstanding farming practices, and he’s the chairman of the Indiana House of Representatives Agriculture Committee.  I can only hope that’s enough street cred for ya!

**Disclaimer 2- I wholeheartedly believe in a family's right to choose to eat organic, free-range, foods, or even processed and fast foods!  Do what's best for your family!  But please don't demonize the alternatives with half-truths and pseudo-science.


  1. Totally agree you can eat healthy on a tight budget. And IMO its worth the extra work. I learned how To cook and eat healthy by reading books at b&n and the library. There are Great resources out there!

  2. Wow- this is quite a long post! I've been looking forward to your presentation of it!

    You wrote:
    "But short of more government regulation (enough already!), I'm not sure what some of you are proposing we do to get people to make better choices."

    I TOTALLY AGREE!!!!!! At my holistic moms group (insert eye roll here :)) last week the topic was ingredients added into our foods. Seems like each ingredient was outlawed somewhere- France, Sweden, Netherlands... The implication was, "Step it up, US Gov! Ban it here, too!" At the end of the class I spoke up. "I don't want the government to ban these ingredients. But I do want them to stop subsidizing them." (I know we disagree on that...but you get my gist.)

    You wrote:
    "GMOs have enabled us to create more pest-resistant crops, which means fewer pesticides and chemicals being used on our food! " The truth that is often ignored! I've read that it prevents soil erosion, as well, since you don't have to plow for weed control. I'm grateful for this technology which allows so many more people to be fed. But I do hope we keep testing this technology to study long term effects. Though I am impressed with what I see so far, it does make me nervous to alter a plant at it's genetic level. It feels like we're "messing with" God's creation- perhaps because we are. And we, as Christians, know that just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. It's a giant experiment.

    You wrote:
    " yes, livestock is MEANT to eat grains! If they weren’t, they wouldn’t eat it! " We're not meant to eat junk food, and yet we do... Isn't it true that grain-fed beef has less saturated fat (omega 3) and more vegetable fat (omega 6)? Doesn't it flip the omega 3 and 6 ratio?

    You wrote:
    "Please don’t watch Food, Inc. and think it’s without an agenda." I'm recording it this week and KNOW there's an agenda behind it. I've already researched the criticism and am curious about the actual documentary.

    You wrote:
    "That doesn't mean soy is harmful all-around! If it were, I would think there would be a major thyroid epidemic in Asia." But there is!!! There ARE higher rates of thyroid cancer and problems in Asia!

    Plus, soy is not the staple in Asia that people think it is. Overall the usage is very low. It's a condiment- like mustard is in America. And they eat enough seafood and seaweed which contains iodine. Iodine counteracts the isoflavones in soy.

    Are GMOs approved for human consumption or just animal/livestock feed as well as ethanol?

    Great post and discussion starter, Nicole! I'm looking forward to your sister's guest post!

  3. From what I've read of soy the difference is between soy and fermented soy, which is apparently the difference between how we're eating it now and the way its 'always been eaten' - especially in Asia.
    I have other points but I don't have my sources in front of me right now. Plus, I don't know if this was the kind of post where you want discussion afterwards?

  4. Great post Nicole! Thank you for putting into clear and well supported words what my "gut" has always told me about food production and these latest food trends. Great job!

  5. Oh, and I just bought sweet corn at the store and the sign said "Indiana grown!" Fine with me, I thought! And then I thought, maybe it's from Nicole's dad!!!

  6. I am all for the GMO that is the seedless watermelon. Let me shake the hand of the person that came up with that one! Thanks for a great post Nicole. A wise Catholic woman once told me "good people can disagree on these types of issues" and I happen to *agree* with her.

  7. I like that Danya, about good people being able to disagree on these types of issues. I like that a lot.

    I feel like there is a trend going on within the church recently (or maybe not but I've just started noticing it myself) where certain things seem "immoral" when they're really just preferences. It's not just with what we're eating, but how we choose to school our children, feed our infants, even whether or not we find out the gender of our unborn babies. Is it me? Am I opening a can of worms here? Just something I've noticed lately.

  8. And I don't mean it's specific to these blogs AT ALL! It's something I've noticed in our church families as well.

  9. Hey everyone! Thanks for all the awesome comments (MatchingMoonheads, yes, I'd love discussion!). Sorry I haven't been involved...I have family in town and my internet has been down most of the day (of course)! But I intend to delve into this tonight and respond to some comments. Really appreciate all your input! Back soon!

  10. What do you think of Monsanto?

    I guess my question is, have campaign contributions from Monsanto influenced your father's viewpoint on GMO and yours as well?


  11. Ok! Finally have some time to dig into this. I'll respond point by point:

    Lauren, on your first point - WOW! I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I guess I really am that so many in your moms group think certain foods should be BANNED!!! Insane and sad!

    You're right about the soil erosion too. Another benefit. My dad also pointed out that plants genetically modify, or evolve, naturally!

    Mary has some good info on your next point, about the grain fed beef. I'm going to let her respond to that since she's the nutrition expert! I guess my point was just that feeding livestock isn't inhumane - they actually like it!

    Glad you're pre-informed about Food, Inc! :)

    Mary also has some good points about the soy article. Will let her address that.

    Yes! GMO's are approved for food consumption and are currently in our food supply, which is why there is a big push to have it on nutrition labels (which I don't have a problem with).

    Matchingmoonheads - Not sure about the fermented vs. non-fermented but that very well could be. Hopefully Mary will address that.

  12. SC and Danya – thanks! I knew not everyone agreed on this topic, but I just really felt like people needed to hear from the side of the growers and farmers – a side that’s not heard from much in the mainstream.

    Gwen – aaaaand I wondered how long it would take someone to bring up Monsanto! My dad’s influence comes from being a grower and a man who wants to see the world get fed. As a legislator he has voted often times against a particular issue that is supported by a particular donor. A campaign donation is no guarantee of support, especially when it comes to my dad.

    As far as Monsanto itself, I believe it’s a company whose technology and innovation is feeding the world, and without its biotechnology, there would be millions more starving people in the world. Is it a huge corporation looking to make profit? Sure! But isn’t that what a corporation does? That doesn’t make it evil with sinister intentions.

  13. Let me also just add that if you're looking to get informed on these issues, please don't forget to visit the sites of the growers, producers, and seed companies. Of course they're pushing a "product" but you HAVE to get both sides of the issue before you can make an informed decision. Most of the "anti-" resources have agendas too, don't forget. They're either pushing animal rights, organic farms, etc.

    Here are some good sites:

    Corn Growers:
    Soy Growers:
    Beef Council:
    Pork Producers:
    Chicken Council:
    Dairy Council:
    Heartland Institute:
    Heritage Foundation:

  14. Oooh Gwen! Opening a can of worms over there! :)

    Have y'all ever seen John Stossel's take on organic food and psuedo-science? He tries to get people to sign up to ban "Dihydrogen monoxide". After all, Dihydrogen monoxide:

    is called "hydroxyl acid", the substance
    -is the major component of acid rain.
    -contributes to the "greenhouse effect".
    -may cause severe burns.
    -is fatal if inhaled.
    -contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.
    -accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.
    -may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.
    -has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.

    Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
    -as an industrial solvent and coolant.
    -in nuclear power plants.
    -in the production of Styrofoam.
    -as a fire retardant.
    -in many forms of cruel animal research.
    -in the distribution of pesticides.
    -Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.
    -as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.

    So yes. Let's ban WATER.

  15. Lauren your soy study link says:
    "Protective factors against thyroid cancer may include the consumption of cruciferous vegetables, antioxidant vitamins, and phytoestrogens (14, 15,16, 17) ."
    (Phytoestrogens= in soy)
    "Dietary differences also play a role, with isoflavone and carotenoid consumption perhaps most important. Isoflavones are weak estrogenic compounds found in plants or derived from plant precursors. In addition to antioxidant effects, they have been shown to exhibit antiestrogenic effects and inhibit the growth and proliferation of estrogen-dependent cancers (21 , 22) . Isoflavones are found primarily in soy-based foods, such as tofu and soy milk"

    I believe what you were indicating (I could be wrong!) is that soy might be the cause of problems for these people, but the article said they should probably eat more soy.

    What I find the most complicated about soy is that it appears phytoestrogens can be "Estrogenic" AND/OR "anti-estrogenic"... Just thought I'd throw that out there... to further confuse people? haha. It's interesting though!

    As for the beef thing --- all cows are grass fad for a majority of their lives (Lauren you may already have known this but perhaps others don't!)... The difference is if they are "grain finished" or "grass finished" meaning that the last 4 months or so of their lives were spent on a grain diet or grass diet. I will mention that at the factory farms in NE that I'm familiar with, when those cows are on the grain diet in those last few months of life, an ALARM goes off if the grain blend isn't perfect for the cows. Just a little factoid :)

    As for the nutrition profile of grass-finished versus grain-finished, here are some details:
    - The fat profile of beef is misunderstood:
    o The largest percentage of Beef Fat is in the form of monounsaturated fatty acids (heart healthy fats)
    o While 45-50% of beef fat is in the form of saturated fatty acids; 30% of the saturated fat is stearic acid which is known to be neutral in its effects on heart health.
    o Polyunsaturated fatty acids make up a very small portion of beef fat
    - MUFA and SFA are essentially unchanged due to feeding regiment of the cattle
    - Grass-fed animal have been found to have more omega-3 PUFA than conventional fed cattle.
    - Neither Grass-fed or Conventional-fed beef are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids
    o If a person is interested in increasing their intake of omega-3 fatty acids it would be most efficient to get the recommended levels by eating a serving of fatty fish such as salmon
    - Both Grass-fed and Conventional-Fed beef are nutrient rich powerhouse as beef is a good or excellent source of 10 essential nutrients and there are 29 LEAN cuts of beef to choose from.

    In grass-finished beef about 9% of the fat is Omega 6, and about 4% is Omega 3. In grain-finished beef about 8% of the fat is Omega 6, and about 1% is Omega 3.

    So the bottom line is, beef is primarily saturated fat and monounsaturated fat, and both types (grass- and grain- finished) have about the same amounts of each of those. If a person is concerned about his/her Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio, changing the beef probably won't really help... You'd have to add in other Omega-3 rich foods instead.

    Hope this helps!

  16. Mary, that IS helpful! I was not aware that ALL cows are grass-fed 'til the end. I have no problem with grain-finishing. I thought cows were fed grain from the beginning.

    As for the thyroid...I got nothin... :)

  17. Nicole- are the "round-up ready" seeds approved for human consumption? I was under the impression they weren't... Just curious.

  18. Lauren - yep, they in fact are! My family farm uses them. They're not separated from non-roundup-ready seeds. They all go into the same pot. It just means they're more resistant to Round Up weed killer.

    In fact, funny story. When I was a kid, we all used to have to "walk beans" in the summer. It was pretty much torture. We had to walk up & down rows of soybean with machetes and hooks, tearing out all the weeds. But as we got older we didn't have to do that anymore because we started using Roundup-Ready seeds. So yes, I'm highly in favor! Haha! :)

  19. why won't this thing let me "subscribe"?!! blast! haha

  20. Interesting discussion!
    I have a question about the grass fed/grass finished beef. Mary, I have read that the levels of vitamin K2 and Conjugated Linoleic Acid are much higher in grassfed/grass finished beef, and that the four months of grain finishing greatly diminishes these two components.
    I have also read that CLA is a powerful cancer fighting agent, and that vitamin K2 greatly contributes to heart health.
    Just wondering if you had a different opinion and if you think that CLA and vitamin K2 are as important as my reading says they are. :)

  21. I wanted to add one more thing on number 1 (poor and underprivileged people are too stupid or don't have the resources to make healthy eating decisions). I can honestly say that (in general) I don't understand why more women aren't breastfeeding - it's healthy and free. I see all kinds of women at the crisis pregnancy centers picking up formula for their newborns (and I know they don't all work). What gives?

  22. I still feel wary about GMO foods since we don't have a good grasp on what the long term effects are; that said, one can still find goldfish crackers and the occasional box of oreos in my cupboard.


  23. One more thought-it seems there is at least a good possibility that there is a link between MG foods and infertility. Is it entirely wrong to be at least concerned about this?


  24. Danya - so true. It doesn't make sense that CPC's need so much baby formula. As a mom who had difficulty nursing, I do understand that some women need to start formula earlier and more often. But it doesn't seem proportionate.

    Gwen, that's why so many are in favor of putting GMO's on food labels, which is fine with me. People need to be informed about what's in their food in case that's important to them. I think it's a choice we should be able to make here. But my opinion is that as far as feeding THE WORLD (we need to remember it's not just us fortunate Americans who benefit from GMO...they feed billions), people can either starve tomorrow from lack of food, or they can EAT tomorrow on the very off chance they may develop some phantom condition that we're not even sure exists 20-30 years down the road. At least we're giving them decades of life not living hungry.

    Still haven't gotten any suggestions from anyone on how to feed the world without GMOs and factory farms! :)

  25. Gwen, glad you brought that up. That rumor is certainly going around. But the reality is that it's just more speculation based on some iffy tests with lab rats. Trust me, if that is ever proven to be a fact with solid evidence, I'll be the first to switch sides! :)

    In fact, one of the anti-GMO pamphlets I have in my hand right now cite these as "facts" that GMO's are linked to sterility:
    - Sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on GM cotton plants after harvest. Others suffered poor health and reproductive problems.
    - Farmers in Europe and Asia say that cows, water buffaloes, chickens and horses died from eating GM corn.
    - Filipinos in at least five villages fell sick when a nearby GM corn variety was pollinating.

    I don't know about you, but these are not very convincing facts with a lot of information.

    First - these are all countries that are most likely very poorly regulated regarding GM foods, so who knows what kind of random GM fields they were eating out of.

    Second, just because some animals died around the time they ate out of GM fields proves nothing! They just could have been sick or the fields could have been contaminated with ecoli or other diseases!

    Finally, if you see any "studies" about lab rats eating GM foods, be aware that most don't tell you what kind of GMO's they fed the rats. There are dozens (hundreds, thousands?) of various kinds of GMOs, so just because rats reacted adversely to a certain one, doesn't mean the one they fed those rats has been approved for our food supply!

    This is precisely why I warn you all to be careful about what you read. This "evidence" just isn't very solid, and it's all very speculative and coincidental.

  26. Hey Megan,

    From what I've read and understand as a cattle producer, there aren't significant differences in the health benefits of grain vs. grass finished beef. That's not to say the amounts of certain vitamins are different, they're just not really significant enough to make a noticeable difference. I don't know much about the two you mention in particular. Just overall, there's no significant health benefit or detriment to either.

  27. Megan - CLA is included in what I said before. Almost all of the fat in both grass-finished beef and grain-finished is exactly the same. The difference in CLA could potentially be about 2%. Not enough to make a difference, unless perhaps you wanted to eat a whole cow :) and we all know that's not a good idea anyway.

    As for the vitamin K2 thing, I'm not sure of the exact levels or one being higher than the other, etc, I'm looking into that, but deficiency is SO RARE that it's not something anyone needs to be concerned about - we all get plenty in our diets.

  28. Thanks, Mary. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the Rotterdam study done in the Netherlands. It was a major study from 2004 that showed a significant decrease in heart disease in men who had diets higher in vitamin k2.

    Also, I found these studies that show the nutritional differences between grass and grain finished beef.

    The last study is the impact on grain finishing on e coli in the digestive tract of the animal.

    I am also wondering why it's necessary to keep cattle herded together on factory farms if they came from pastured farms. Why not just leave them on pasture until slaughter? I'm sure it's a cost and efficiency issue, but in my mind reducing e coli incidence is worth that cost.

    As for GMO's, I tend to feel like it's wise to err on the side of caution. I understand your points, Nicole, about there being no solid information that they cause health issues, but if I can avoid them, I will.

    I do understand your point about feeding the world, but what exactly are we exporting to starving countries? I'm a little confused. According to the EPA, we are growing 72.7 million acres of corn in the US as of 2000, and only 12% of that crop is making its way into food. Is some of that exported?

    I don't really have a thorough understanding of crop exports so I'm just trying to figure out where all this food is going etc. :)

    I have also been under the impression that any food shortages aren't caused by production but rather by corrupt governments, war lords, etc. Isn't that the argument we use when we are talking about population control?

    I also thought that the major concern in the next few decades is going to be declining world population due to Europe not reproducing at replacement rate.

  29. I spend a significant amount of money on food these days, both at the farmer's market and the organic grocery store. sometimes the price (of Buffalo for instance) means we don't eat a particular food product very often. It may seem silly not to just save $$ and go ahead and eat GM tomatoes or nitrate infused, feed lot pork but at the end of the day, the organic stuff tastes good to me and I feel better about supporting local farmers/eating animals that weren't subjected to the feedlot (I know animal husbandry isn't all peaches and cream). Yes, I'm paying a small fortune in groceries, but then again, it encourages me to grow more in my garden and eat less, which provide major health benefits anyways.

    I agree with Meghan about erring on the side of caution with GM stuff. And I don't appreciate the way Monsanto has treated farmers-but I'm sure Nicole will disagree with me on this one so I'll just keep it as my personal opinion.


    p.s. I have noticed that some of the most impoverished areas of cities (at least the three I visit regularly and live in) rarely have any grocery stores, much less clean and inviting ones and the neighborhoods usually offer a plethora of fast food restaurants. Sure, there's personal responsibility but what's the subconscious effect on eating habits living amongst a lot of fast food stores?

  30. Megan I have already read a bunch of studies about grass finished versus grain finished and they basically "fight with" each other, and in the end my educated opinion after seeing lots of studies and learning a lot about it is what I said.
    There are studies about everything, and a lot of those studies contradict each other, which is why we have Registered Dietitians and other "experts" in various fields to sort out the information and give the best educated opinion we can.

  31. ps - I will add that I went into it assuming that grass finished beef was better, by the way.

  32. I probably shouldn't have said "opinion" because what we teach people is based on facts that we've sorted through and come to a conclusion about.

  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. Nicole, you gotta watch this! We watch this comedian and this is part of his new piece. It's hilarious!

  35. Megan – I’m going to be honest, I don’t have time to read those studies. But I will address your “herded cattle” comment, which tells me you’re not very familiar with factory farms. You obviously don’t realize all that goes into tending these animals to get them ready for milking/slaughter/whatever the case may be. If you have animals that need to be milked several times a day just running freely through a pasture, can you try to imagine how much time it would take every day to round up all those cattle, put them in a chute, milk them one by one, and then start all over again a couple hours later? Or pigs – I grew up on a “factory” pig farm. That’s my dad’s full-time job. We have over 2,000 pigs. Again…tell me how on earth, when he needs to put eartags in all the piglets, castrate them, wean them, etc, he’s going to be able to do that without them contained in tight spaces. I know to an outsider it may feel all warm & fuzzy to see animals running around frolicking but the concrete reality of the situation is that, no, it’s actually not worth the time.

    But I think you’re really misrepresenting the reality. Ecoli outbreaks are severely rare in the US (except on organic farms). My dad has been “factory” farming for over 40 years (over 60 if you include my grandfather) and we’ve NEVER had an ecoli outbreak. We had a pseudorabies outbreak a few years ago and it was devastating, but hey, it happens. And it was ONCE.

    As far as GMO’s, I’ve made my point that it’s a good thing that they’re indicated on nutrition labels. We should be able to make informed decisions…I have no problem with that. But let me also reiterate that the government DOES, indeed, err on the side of caution when it decides what to release into the food supply. What motive does it have not to?

    Regarding exports, we’re exporting EVERYTHING! Corn, soy, rice, wheat, cotton. Everything that we grow abundantly here, we export! But keep in mind, these products are used for much more than food. Especially corn. I’d guess the reason for that seemingly disproportionate percentage is because of all the corn we’re growing for Ethanol, which is a lot right now. But it’s also used for research, to feed livestock and many other uses.

    Yes, I agree that many people are starving because of corrupt governments. But we don’t export based on those statistics. We still export based on how many people need to be fed in the hopes that the food gets to the right people. Would you advise the government to just stop exporting enough food b/c it’s not going to get into the right hands anyway?

  36. gwen, can you elaborate on Monsanto's mistreatment of farmers, please?

    I agree that it's sad that low income neighborhoods tend to not have nice grocery stores. But again - that's the free market. Someone who lives there should open one! What is your alternative? I'm seriously asking...

  37. Let's get back to GMO's and Monsanto. I will start by saying the fact that your Dad is in government and that he grows Monsanto crop and you telling us how great GMO's are is kinda like Al Gore talking to me about climate change....

    But that's ok let's talk anyway.

    You said:
    "GMOs have enabled us to create more pest-resistant crops, which means fewer pesticides and chemicals being used on our food!"

    Here is what BT toxin (used in GMO crops) is from their website:

    Today, there are thousands of strains of Bt. Many of them have genes that encode unique toxic crystals in their DNA.

    "With the advancement in molecular biology, it soon became feasible to move the gene that encodes the toxic crystals into a plant. The first genetically engineered plant, corn, was registered with the EPA in 1995. Today, GM (genetically modified) crops including, potato and cotton are planted throughout the world."

    So instead of spraying a toxin on the plant the DNA is instead encoded INTO the plant's DNA so the toxin in IN the plant.

    How does the encoded toxin kill the bugs? it "punches holes" in the lining of their stomachs and they die.

    The claim has been that the toxin protien breaks down in the human gut. Problem is all of a sudden it is showing up in human blood, of pregnant and non pregnant women as well as their unborn babies.

    Writing in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, the researchers noted:

    "This is the first study to reveal the presence of circulating PAGMF [pesticides associated with genetically modified foods] in women with and without pregnancy, paving the way for a new field in reproductive toxicology including nutrition and utero-placental toxicities."

    As Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, wrote:

    "Mice fed natural Bt-toxin showed significant immune responses and caused them to become sensitive to other formerly harmless compounds. This suggests that Bt-toxin might make a person allergic to a wide range of substances.

    Farm workers and others have also had reactions to natural Bt-toxin, and authorities acknowledge that "People with compromised immune systems or preexisting allergies may be particularly susceptible to the effects of Bt."

    In fact, when natural Bt was sprayed over areas around Vancouver and Washington State to fight gypsy moths, about 500 people reported reactions—mostly allergy or flu-like symptoms. Six people had to go to the emergency room.

    … The Bt-toxin produced in the GM plants is probably more dangerous than in its natural spray form. In the plants, the toxin is about 3,000-5,000 times more concentrated than the spray, it doesn't wash off the plants like the spray does, nd it is designed to be more toxic than the natural version.

    In fact, the GM toxin has properties of known allergens and fails all three GM allergy tests recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others."

  38. The brutal reality is that the FDA has absolutely no guidelines for GMO research and testing. The worst part , is that the FDA leaves all testing up to companies like Monsanto. Who's Monsanto, you ask?

    Monsanto is the company that GROWS Genetically Modified FOODS!

    Do you see the problem with this? Since when does the FDA operate like this?

    Trusting the FDA becomes even harder after we see real test results performed by 3rd party researchers.

    Read more:
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution No Derivatives

    I'm not against Monstanto because they want to make a profit, it's America and a profit is what companies go into business for. I'm against Monstanto because they are to big to be properly regulated. If you think the government can't be bought off you are naive. Money is power and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When you are doing something harmful simply for profit that is evil, plain and simple. Best case scenario Monsanto truly thinks they did a great thing by imputing a pesticide into our food supply, into it's very DNA, worst case they are corrupt and know it causes harm. Even if the truth is dead center, I cant' trust that what I'm eating won't cause me or my children harm in the short or long term. There are a lot of things that are tested and deemed Ok by the FDA and are later found to be harmful, look at the medications that are recalled every year for deaths and harm. Foods like Aspartame, Transfats, etc.

    Just the fact that the toxin was supposed to be destroyed in our gut and is currently showing up in blood is frightening. They are playing God and that is a job only for our Father.

    And btw saying that if cows weren't meant to eat grains they wouldn't....well I can put a bowel of antifreeze out and if my cat isn't meant to drink it he won't. We both know that to be an untrue statement. Animals will eat what we give them, end of story. If that food is best for them is another matter.

  39. SC - LOVE IT! That's hilarious! Thanks for the laugh!!

  40. Wow, Barbie, let me start by saying thanks for that pre-judgment of both my father AND me, neither of whom you’ve EVER personally met nor know anything about. I’m not going to sit here and defend my father’s integrity to someone who clearly has an agenda, because clearly you know FAR more about this stuff than he does! (His views are all politically and monetarily motivated anyway, right? That greedy farmer/politician!!)

    I’ll just say that none of your “facts” are cited (you DO realize anyone can write anything on the internet, right?), you were rude, and your point about “when has the FDA ever operated like that before?” ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Um…pharmaceutical companies, anyone?? I’ll also say that I think you’re reading the science wrong, but I don’t have time to Google like apparently you do.

    Furthermore, are you trying to tell me I’m IMMORAL for supporting GMO foods? Because not only is this insanely insulting and judgmental, but as someone (Danya?) mentioned earlier this is one of those matters of “prudential judgment” that Catholics are free to disagree on.

    Finally, did you really just equate corn to antifreeze??? I can't believe I'm even going to respond to this, but if your cat drinks anti-freeze, he’ll die immediately. It's a POISON. But ironically, grains cause livestock to GROW and become HEALTHIER! WHAT?!?! But, again, you clearly know more than my father and I do! We’re only farmers!

  41. Barbie, I wish you could have just participated civilly in this conversation like everyone else has done. The others have been nothing but polite and we've actually had some really great discourse. It's a shame you had to come over here, guns blazing, judging my father and me over something like FOOD. Until you came along this conversation had been nice and clean - even between me and gwen!

  42. Barbie --- aspartame and trans fats aren't banned or anything now, and as far as I know they were never considered "good foods," we (Americans in general) were always told to limit them...? People ate too much crappy food - which was their decision to make - and paid for the consequences. I realize that trans fat studies weren't all over the news until late 90s/early 2000s but trans fats were never considered "good."...
    Also the FDA DOES pay a lot of attention to these things or we'd never have had any of those labeling standards that are now in place.
    If they were just "in it for the money," don't you think they'd let the food companies manipulate them into allowing them to leave the trans fats as-is, rather than changing the way they make the foods and changing the label?

    Also I said it before, I'll say it again - the government doesn't want to kill off its own people, that would be really dumb!

    That all being said, I agree that GMO foods need to be LABELED (and I think labels should make sense to the average consumer) so we know what we're eating, and I know it's hard to trust that the right studies are being done to make sure everything is safe for us to eat. With a food production system as large as ours, there are going to be problems, even if the govt does its best to protect us from harm and we do our best to make healthy choices.

  43. Ok, Barbie wanted to play the conspiracy card. I'll play too:

    The editor of the Journal of Reproductive Toxicology is a professor at a state university (Louisville).

    The associate editors:

    LSU (state university)
    EPA (federally funded)
    A scientist from the Netherlands (an anti-GMO country)
    A scientist from Australia (University of Sydney - govt funded)

    Editorial board:

    23 from anti-GMO European countries
    19 from USA, and though there are no biographies, their locations indicate university towns

    Each of these people is either from a country that is already biased against GMOs or relies on state and federal grants to do their research. If their research found nothing, they'd be out of work. Who is to say they aren't fudging the research in order to keep the paychecks coming, just like Al Gore's climatologist friends have been found to do?

    Playing the conspiracy card is easy.

    Monsanto has been marketing GMOs for at least 15 years. The life expectancy in the U.S. has only increased during that same period of time (1991: 75.4, 2002: 77.3, 2009: 78.2). That means the population is healthier and the infant mortality rate is lower. According to the CDC:
    "With the exception of 2002 and 2005, the infant mortality rate has statistically remained the same or decreased significantly each successive year from 1958 through 2009."

    If GMOs are in widespread use in the US and as bad as we're being led to believe, why aren't we seeing the health effects already?

  44. I am absolutely not judging anyone. I am simply saying that you are coming from a position where your Father is a Monstanto farmer AND in governement so you will tend to lean in the direction of them being wonderful. Everyone has a spin, as we see thing from our own unique perspectives. Your perspective as well as your Fathers will be spun toward Monstanto being your Father grows their crops. I also never said your Father was solely motiviated by money or politics. I simply am saying that his spin will be toward GMO's being the best things since sliced bread, as yours will be.

    Do you realized that your comment "you DO realize anyone can write anything on the internet, right?" is also insulting? I'm not an idiot and of course anyone can write anything. Please do not insult my intelligence. I don't simply believe something because it's in black and white....give me some credit for the ability to actually THINK for myself.

    I never mentioned immorality. I simply said that they have too much power (monstanto) and it's a fact that absolute power corrupts. You can agree or disagree with GMO's with no moral issue at all. I never said there was immorality in thinking GMO's were great. This is not a religious issue. You can come down on either side and be just fine morally.

    And no I didn NOT equate corn to antifreeze I was simply saying your argument of "they wouldnt' eat grain if they weren't mean to" is false. My cat isn't meant to eat/drink antifreeze and yet he would if given it.

    On a side note I EAT corn. I love mexican food and eat corn chips when I go. I'm not a nut. I do my best to avoid GMO's whenever possible because I believe them to be harmful but I live in the real world and eat out occasionally, eating grain fed beef, corn etc.

    We all need to take a deep breath and realize that we can disagree and still be civil. There are only opinions here and we all have a right to them.

  45. Sigh, I'm not judging Nicole. You seem to be very defensive here. I'm saying EVERYONE has a spin. It is obvious that you and your Fathers spin will be toward his business (growing Monstano crops) I'm not saying your Father is evil, immoral or ANYTHING like that. You are taking what I am saying that was not said.

    OK, my research will be backed by people against GMO's and yours will be by people that are PRO GMO. You know what? we will never agree and since there is no such thing as a truly unbiased study so what then? You will believe that GMO's are great and I will believe they are not. There ya go.

    Tell me this, if GMO's are so awesome why on earth would a country be against them being grown on their soil?

    Mary, I am not saying our government wants us to die, that would indeed be counter productive for them. I'm saying they approve things before they are truly proven to be safe. I'll go back to Crisco, when it was first introduced it was considered a great product! It was a stable fat, without having to use animal fats like lard. It was cost effective for low income families etc. It took awhile to come out that it was indeed unhealthy to use Crisco and other hydrogenated oils. Aspartame was the same, a low/no calorie sweetener that you could used instead of sugar! Brilliant! Then later comes out to be unhealthy. I think the same will come of GMO's what is a "great" idea now will bite us later.

    And last but not least..... There are a few of us, in our homes and our own little worlds eating the way we want and loving it. I have no idea why you are Mary decided to go on this tear and I am sorry you did. We have a great blog community and it's a shame to fight over something like this.

  46. Haha. Patronizing *sigh* indeed, Barbie. Clearly you've not read everything I've said. I have been very clear about everyone's right to their own information and their own choices for their families. I was simply stating my OWN side since it's not the one that people hear in the mainstream much. I've been very straightforward in stating that this is MY SIDE. Did you even read my last paragraph?!? Very straightforward that many of you might even discredit my facts because of my resources! I was under no delusion!

    I'm not sure if you truly don't realize how judgmental your first comment was or if you do and you're dancing around it. Either way, if I'm being defensive, it's because YOU came onto MY blog and insulted the integrity of both me and my father, neither of whom you know personally (PLEASE don't try to tell me the Al Gore comparison was not an insult! HA!).

    "We all need to take a deep breath and realize that we can disagree and still be civil." Indeed, a deep breath and some civility would have been welcome from you.

    "Tell me this, if GMO's are so awesome why on earth would a country be against them being grown on their soil?" Seriously?!? This is all about geopolitics. Read up on it.

    "There are a few of us, in our homes and our own little worlds eating the way we want and loving it." Seriously...I wonder if you've read ANYTHING with an open mind that Mary and I have written. We've both stated plainly that everyone is free to make whatever choices are best for their families. Many times over.

    "We have a great blog community and it's a shame to fight over something like this." Couldn't agree more. Perhaps you should go back and read your own comments.

    I'll restate: this conversation was civil and friendly until you showed up.

  47. Hey Barbie --- I understand what you were saying, I just don't think those things were ever considered "healthy" or "good" foods in the first place. Know what I mean? I don't think they were considered great foods for you and then all of a sudden the government said nevermind these aren't healthy. That's all I was saying there.

    Like I said, I've always been skeptical of GMOs and I'm glad there are strict guidelines in place, I can at least feel better that way. I understand why we have them, too, and agree with what Nicole says about our technology - like GMOs- being necessary now.
    I can also understand why you're wanting to avoid them, that's your choice since you aren't sure you want to trust the government and its regulations. That's totally your decision, obviously!

    I didn't realize I was "going on a tear," honestly I was just writing a post as a professional who had received some emails and calls from concerned people who saw other people talking about nutrition info on the internet. So I wanted to try to tell everyone to be careful, and that was the point of my post, as I said in that post. There were majorly strong reactions and since then I have spent a lot of time (way too much time actually) trying to answer peoples questions, etc. Like I said before, I usually get paid for answering those questions so I don't usually say so much for free over the internet! But I want to help people and I can't really help but do just that if I'm able to sometimes.

    Like I told Megan via email today - I don't mind if people want to make decisions they feel are sound, educated decisions for their families ---that's great! I wish everyone would do that. What I do mind is when people "educate" others about it as if they are the professionals. I'm not saying that you do this, I'm just saying that's why I wrote my post, those two reasons. (People who are not professionals but choose to educate like they are, and the people who were getting "Educated" and were starting to get confused/concerned/etc)

  48. So the whole issue you have with my post is the Al Gore comment? Honestly he was the first guy I could think of with an cause...Do you understand the point I was making? I wasn't saying your Father was LIKE Al Gore I was saying that like the way Al Gore will always say that global warming is this Armageddon that is coming and WE are doing this to the planet because he is invested in it, you and your father are likely to be on the side of Monsanto. This isn't evil it's just the way it most likely is. I wasn't saying that you or your Father are evil, mean, horrid or ANYTHING bad. I simply said you have a spin.

    I personally am not invested in either side being right. I used to eat a lot of foods that I really LOVED and would LOVE to continue to eat but I do not because I believe them to be unhealthy. I love corn, I love beef I love pork. I wish it wasn't so difficult to get grass fed I wish organic wasn't so expensive but it is and because I believe grass fed is best and because I believe GMO's are unsafe I will buy the way I believe. As will you.

    Mary, I DO believe that when those products came out they were considered better than then alternatives. So yes they were "good" and now are "bad".

    I don't find anyone was trying to educate anybody on nutrition, but even if they were I don't think you have to have a degree to be educated in a subject. I for instance know more about thyroid than most Drs we have seen. I have proof that what I learned (online and other places) to be true because my husband is better. I saw proof before my eyes that the Drs were wrong and thank God I followed by gut and didn't listen to the degree's. I think the same is true with nutrition, just because I'm not a dietitian doesn't' mean I can't have an option and it doesn't' make me wrong.

    Can you see why it appears that you both went on a tear? These posts are a one two punch. Nicole even titled her post "Not to beat a dead horse" which means she new how it would appear.

  49. Knew... Sorry posted between chasing
    Alana and cooking supper.

  50. Ugh. Talk about beating a dead horse.

    No, it wasn't JUST the Al Gore comment! That was just the most glaringly obvious insult. But the entire thing was full of them. And you continue to insinuate that Monsanto has some "hold" on my father and his viewpoints. But you seriously don't know either of us from Adam. And you act like you're shedding some light on the fact that I have a "side." Seriously...I admitted that in my post!!!

    "I personally am not invested in either side being right." Then I am SERIOUSLY interested in the intent of your first post. And am thoroughly confused.

    I titled my post "Not to beat a dead horse" because I thought people might just be sick of the topic altogether. Not because Mary & I were in some sort of concerted effort to go on a tear. I'm way too exhausted for that. I wrote this because of some comments and catch-words I saw being thrown around AFTER Mary's post that I felt obligated to address. You keep saying we're all entitled to our opinions, but it sure doesn't seem like you really believe that.

  51. Barbie - I am honestly wondering who you DO trust? What information do you trust? (how are you selecting what you're trusting and what you're not?)And where do you think people should get an education?

  52. The intent of my first post was to show my viewpoint on Monsanto and GMO's. Simple as that.

    I'm not acting like I'm shedding light on anything I'm simply stating the obvious about you having a side. I'm not really sure what you are up in arms about. I was talking about Monstanto for the first post. The only mention I had of your Father was stating that he works for Monstanto. I'm sure your dad is great as I'm sure you are that is not the subject we are talking about here. The isn't about you being a great person or me....I'm not sure how it got there. I have no issue you with believing whatever you want I'm simply stating the facts as I see them.

    Mary, I trust common sense. If I read something and it makes sense and is backed up with science and studies even if it's against PC thought then I might believe it.

    It makes sense that butter is better for us than margarine, it makes sense to me that fermented drinks are good for you. My stomach is LOVING these in a way it never did with probiotics. Real food is better than a pill makes sense too...doesn't' it? Whole foods makes sense, unrefined, unbleached, real, whole, un messed with, traditional foods simply make sense to me.

    The GMO issue fails on common sense alone in my opinion. We are inserting a pesticide into the DNA of a plant.....then we are eating that plant trusting that that very same pesticide won't do us any harm. I hold that we can't do it better than God and messing with the DNA of something in that way is opening a can of worms. This God complex that scientist have will get us in a heap of trouble in my opinion.

    I have no issue with getting your education wherever you like I'm simply saying you don't have to have a degree to be educated about something. Again going back to my husband, I basically researched for 5 yrs trying to figure out what was wrong with him. He looked awful, felt awful and all DRs would say was he needed a Statin for his high cholesterol. I refused to buy their line because I could SEE he was sick. I KNEW that the cholesterol wasn't the illness it was a symptom and we figured it out. I educated myself and we fixed the problem. That being said I found a great Dr, but sadly we had to leave the state to find him.
    I'm simply stating that you can learn and be educated without having a degree.

  53. I don't see what's so horrible about having an "agenda" here or a side. Afterall, these are big issues that affect health, economy and way of life.

    Nicole, I completely respect your dad's wealth of knowledge regarding farming and his commitment to politics and especially agriculture. But I don't see anything too upsetting about what Barbie said-based on what you've written, it doesn't seem in the least surprising that you wholeheartedly embrace GMOs. And I bet it wouldn't be too surprising if I said I adhere to the science behind climate change (and admire Al Gore).

    It's hard for me not to think critically about GMOs when other countries banned them for very good reasons, we don't know the long term affects of consuming GMOs and why is Monsanto the only company raking in all the profit on GMOs? Can we really trust one monolithic company with our health when their goal is profit?

    Regarding Farmers/Monsanto. I have read/heard (newspaper, lefty documentaries, colleague who studies farming, Vanity Fair magazine) about the company suing farmers for saving seeds or suspicion of doing so-they use intimidation.

    Anyways, thanks for the post. Now I know where you and Mary stand on issues of food production. To each, her own table!


  54. Gwen - thanks for the discussion. I'm happy you stopped by!

    Barbie - "The only mention I had of your Father was stating that he works for Monstanto." Except...HE DOESN'T. I give up. I can't debate someone who blatantly makes things up. I don't even know what else to say at this point.

  55. Nicole, you said your Father grows corn and soy that means he is growing Monsanto corn and soy unless he's growing organic which it doesn't sound like he grows. You SAID your family uses round up ready seed and THAT is a Monstanto product. Come on, don't demonize me for saying your Father "works" for Monsanto. He does grow their crop and that is ALL I was saying. And I think you know exactly what I was saying....

  56. That's not ALL you were saying! You "implied," by saying, "He works for Monsanto" that he is a Monsanto employee. CRAZY that I took it that way! Just because he grows some Monsanto seeds (SOME) doesn't mean he's employed by them or in any way takes direction from them. That's like saying your doctor works FOR a pharmaceutical company. It would be nice if you would stop passively-aggressively saying things and then acting like you didn't say them, or implying I should have interpreted them a different way. It seems you're just trying to get the last word at my expense. Look, I'm way too exhausted to keep going in circles. This is getting ridiculous.

  57. I'm not being passive-aggressive, you are simply being defensive.

    You are right this is getting ridiculous.

  58. Ugh. I just had a really long comment deleted.:(

    It's late so here is the gist:

    Nicole, I understand about the studies. :) I'll be honest and say that I didn't read every single word myself, but I did read enough to know that they are saying that grassfed/grass finishing does change the nutrition of the meat.

    It just seems to me that the quality of the animals diet would obviously affect the quality of the animal's product ranging from eggs to milk to beef. Like Barbie said, that just makes sense to me.

    I understand your thoughts on efficiency for the farmer, but aside from milking, I do wonder how often the tasks of tagging, castration etc, need to be done. If it's not all that often, is it necessary to keep them confined the rest of the time?

    With beef cattle, I still don't understand why they can't be left on pasture until slaughter. It seems more direct to go straight from pasture to the slaughter house rather than making a 6 month pits top at the CAFO. It would save money on the cost of gas, and the animals would be cleaner going into the slaughter house.

    Also, I have seen studies that show that grassfed/grass finished cattle have a significantly lower incidence of e coli in their gut which would obviously decrease the incidence of it getting into the meat.

    That's great that your dad's hogs don't get sick very often! I'm not assuming, but I am curious if they get antibiotics in their feed.

    Thanks for the info on export! No, I don't think we should stop exporting just because we can't guarantee that it gets to the people.

    As for the drama going on, I think the root is that food is such an integral part of our lives, and we make the choices we do because we believe they are the best ones. This makes things very personal.

    Nicole, don't worry. No one including Barbie thinks your dad works for Monsanto.

    I also don't think that anyone is judging him for using GMO crops. From what I understand, I think it would be VERY unusual for him to not grow any GMO crops these days.

    I do think that Barbie has some good and interesting points regarding GMO's. What exactly was wrong with her sources?

    Nicole, I would be interested to hear your response to some of her information.

    I think we just need to get back to discussing the issues.

  59. Megan, you said, “aside from milking, I do wonder how often the tasks of tagging, castration etc, need to be done.” Well, it’s my dad’s full time job to tend to 2,000 hogs, so clearly there’s a lot that needs to be done! These things go in cycles, you know...a group is sent to market, more pigs are being born, then weaned, then separated based on what their future is (market or breeding), etc. etc. You even had a chance to ask the farmer himself! But it’s not like he keeps them locked up for amusement or cruelty or something like that. It HAS to be done in order to raise that many hogs efficiently. And if you’re in favor of smaller farms, please tell me what percentage of the population will take over hog farming if my dad had to downgrade in order to please the “free-rangers.”

    “It seems more direct to go straight from pasture to the slaughter house rather than making a 6 month pits top at the CAFO.” I urge you to contact a cattle producer or the Cattleman’s Association for more info on this, because clearly you don’t understand all that goes into farming. And I think you might be surprised.

    I just specifically asked my dad about the ecoli stuff. He said just because a cow or a pig has ecoli, it just means they have diarrhea. It’s in their GUT – a part of the animal we do not eat. So no…just because the animal has it does not mean it will transfer to us. The ecoli that does transfer to the meat we eat is picked up in the processing plants, after the animal has been slaughtered.

    Some of our pigs get antibiotics in their feed. Again…it just depends on what stage they’re in, their health, their future, etc. It really is more complicated and intricate than you want to believe.

    “No one including Barbie thinks your dad works for Monsanto.” Except that she said it, no matter what she argues to the contrary. And I didn’t want anyone reading to assume that he does. It would be like saying because you buy food at your grocery store, you work for the grocery store. Him buying seeds from Monsanto to “he works for Monsanto” is a ginormous leap, and I think she knows that.

    I already did a long comment on what’s wrong with her sources back at 4:43pm. My point was that if she was going to throw out conspiracies, I could too. Yes…we both have agendas! Again – I’ve admitted that from my first post!

    Unfortunately I’m going to have to close the comments for now. I have family in town, I’m getting ready for school to start, I’m pregnant and exhausted and this is just going in circles. (Leila, you're my hero!) I’ve said everything I needed to say and I’ve made it clear that everyone has a right to eat how they want to and make their own choices, and that I was just trying to get the word out for the side that most people haven’t heard from yet.

    If anyone has any constructive comments they’d like to post, please email them to me privately, but for now I have to end this. I appreciate the discussion!

  60. I recently got an email from another blogger with some great information. L's (Cheerfully Chaotic) husband, M, is a vet as well as a cattle and cotton farmer. He's actually "kind of a big deal", haha, and is very involved with production animals on a major scale. L had this to say regarding some of Megan's concerns about farming:

    "The facts:

    - only younger cattle go to feed lots. It's much more efficient and they (ranchers/feed lot owners) can control how much muscle and fat get put on them, and how quickly-- and it's much more quickly that being out in the pasture!

    - the cattle lose weight in transport, and so they would at least need to put some of that back on.

    - the reason they are fed so long has to do with consumer tastes. Cattle with more fat/muscle means more marbling in the beef, and many people see that as a positive thing, especially for steaks (mmmmmm...)

    - older cattle go straight to the slaughterhouse and are turned into cheaper/less desirable cuts of beef

    - E.coli rarely has anything to do with feed lots-- it's more likely from the slaughterhouse. However, that's incredibly rare anyway, because the cattle are given an antibacterial wash and quickly drained of their blood and offal. Then they're refrigerated (hanging) and are basically just bones and meat at this point-- no more blood or guts left-- before they're cut in half.

    - each cow/bull calf is tagged as to from where she/he came, so that it is highly regulated and can be traced immediately by the vets in charge

    - we think of the Indians as being efficient
    with their hunted meat, but basically every part of the slaughtered cattle is used... blood meal for roses, anyone? Have a leather sofa? Guess where it all came from...

    - our own cows are slaughtered at a small, family-owned meat packer ( We often have them fed there around 3 days or so to put back on the weight lost in transport."

    Something I also thought of in the past couple of days: 1) people prefer the taste of grain-fed animals over grass-fed animals hands-down. It's been proven time after time. So why wouldn't farmers grow what consumers prefer? 2) going back to pigs, there are actually FAR fewer diseases going around now that they're confined than back when they were running around freely in slop. Trichinosis used to be an epidemic in hog lots until the invention of confinement. Feeding them an intricate and restricted diet, as well as keeping them in an area where we can keep their pens clean obviously greatly reduces disease.