Monday, September 7, 2015

Health & Nutrition - In defense of beef - Neil's Take

My family had a mixed farm in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia; we made a “good” living on about 140 acres. My father was a pilot in WW2, having seen enough excitement for one life time, he declined to participate in the development of the British Properties in Vancouver to become a farmer, thanks Dad. We did have a good life there and the 140 acres did raise a family of five and when he pasted in 1963, his family lived off the proceeds of the his efforts by liquidating the assets his farming effort generated. How is this defending beef, well think about it, we had a life because people ate beef.

We were a mixed farm, dairy, mink, sheep, grain, and of course a few beef. I get perturbed when people with some weird fetish about “human” conduct, or some misinformation campaign, or some dietary preference, or some unfounded environmental perspective engage in bashing a whole industry, absent any experience in the industry or any understanding about how the environment works. Can we do better, yes, but in the main, the modern agro-complex is producing more and better food AND better health outcomes than all of our preceding history.

Myth One

One article I reviewed “6 Reasons to Avoid Eating Meat”, said by avoiding eating meat you were doing the environment a favour. Statements like this make me want to scream – you idiot – it is critical to have livestock in the “crop” cycle. The “beef haters” are perpetually attempting to steer us away from meat to soy and veggies, soy requires cultivation, fertilizer – forage production has a greatly reduced requirement in this regard. The diet for a cow is predominately forage and augmented by grain. In a mixed farm setting the grazing of livestock contributes to the management of the soil by providing organic matter and fertilizer. In a more extensive ranching operation, cattle are released into the mountains to covert grass to protean; absent cattle there would be no means by which to harvest this grass in a meaningful way for human consumption. The beef industry’s overall interface with nature nets out positive for the environment and the industry is trending to do an even better job with people starting to migrate to grass feeding and finishing of beef.   
Myth Two

Another article I reviewed said to avoid beef because it was high in cholesterol and saturated fat and suggested to change to Vegetarian diet instead. There was a push away from the “high fat diet” in the late 70s and 80s, the government issued direction to “reduce saturated fat”, the worst obesity epidemic in human history ensued. In the North American diet, the enemy is ubiquitous easily digested carbohydrates. There are studies that support the fact that in consuming more meat protean there is a reconfiguration of cholesterol in the blood, Hdl increases & Ldl lowers. Saturated fat as a source of energy is better than carbohydrates because it metabolizes more slowly. One article suggested eating cooked Salmon is stead of beef so the consumer could access healthy fats, when you cook fish the “healthy” fat saturates in the cooking process; the healthier option is, a lean New York strip and supplement healthy oils via cold pressed flaxseed oil and small fish oils. Red meat is high in iron, B vitamins, protean … it is a healthy part of our diet, and most of all, it tastes good. Be a vegetarian if you like, I’ll take a New York strip, lightly grilled veggies and a bottle of robust Shiraz any day.

My Three

All growth enhancements are bad. There are products used for growth enhancement that have no human health effect, yet make the bovine digestive process more effective – the enhancements reconfigure the enzymes or acids in the rumen and enhance feed utilization,  this is good for the producers pocket book AND the environment. There are also rumen enzyme enhancements that reduce the production of methane gas from the digestive process. There are implants used that alter digestive related hormones ONLY. There are commonly used “sex hormone” implants, these are the ones that excite public concern, largely due to miss-use in other jurisdictions that caused negative health outcomes; as they are utilized by the Canadian Beef industry they are relatively benign. So in the main the use of enhancements in our industry is safe and humane; there are organic / grass finished beef options if you’re worried.  

Myth Four

One person asserted that eating meat causes Colon Cancer, this is a complete scare tactic. Colon health is important, unhealthy things do accumulate in the colon over time – seeds, hard to digest items like gum and yes gristle from meat. So it is important to attend to colon health, however, this imperative is in no way specific to meat eaters. Focus on fiber, healthy foods, lots of veggies and fast from time to time. There are lots of fasts around that really do flush your system, I use the Master Cleanse, some fasts for specific challenges and others that focused more on heavy metals. There was a study done in England that included the assessment of 50,000 people, they found an increase in the risk in colon cancer with the daily consumption of “cured” meats; people who consumed cured meat three times of week had no greater health risk than the control group. The consumption of “uncured” red meat offered no variance from the norm.

The reality is that diet and religion seem to generate the same fervor, so people will do what they will – I’ll be eating meat.


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