The War on Modern Agriculture

Americans are sick, sick, sick.  Most of their diseases – mental and physical – are chronic diseases which are body failures.  Nearly 100% of all body failures can be attributed to eating “nutritionally deficient” foods.

As the realization has sunk in over the years that the cause of chronic disease is the food one eats, many consumers have chosen to strike out at the source – modern agriculture.  Amazingly, they blame most if not all of the amazingly sophisticated practices modern farmers and ranchers employ as reasons for why they are sick.

This lynch-mob-like reaction doesn't even begin to take into account that there's just a tiny fraction of the total citizenry employed in agriculture today and they produce enough food to feed 316,000,000 people here in the United States alone – three meals a day!  And they are doing it with fewer land resources per mouth fed than at any time since the dawn of agriculture.  The food produced in the United States still ranks as amongst the safest in the world and its cost is the lowest in the world in terms of disposable income.  Instead of praising this modern agricultural miracle, many misguided consumers actually wants to destroy it – in their quest for improving the nutritional characteristics of the foods they eat.

All this is typical of mob action.  Instead of changing the foods they eat, many insist on eating the same foods – but by raising it differently they believe they can make the same product be more nutritious and safer to eat.  This is a very misguided assumption.

I call this approach for more nutritious and safer food The War on Modern Agriculture.

Why do I think this movement is appalling? Well, for starters the nutritional characteristics of vegetables, grains, fruits, and nuts are based on the fundamental chemical characteristics of the products themselves, not on how they are grown. Plants don't know the difference between so-called man-made fertilizers and cow poop -- and the source of the fertilizer has absolutely no bearing on the plants' nutritional characteristics. Plants need more than 16 specific elements to grow. Plus they produce toxins to protect themselves that greatly exceed limits on agricultural chemicals.

Agricultural chemicals are designed to be used in food production and when used properly they are safe. In some cases they are safer becaue of agricultural chemicals. For instance "organic" tomatoes may not be as safe as “regular” tomatoes that were sprayed with a fungicide! That's because fungus on a tomato produces mycotoxins!  Some mycotoxins a very dangerous "organic" poisons.

The greatest chemical contamination on and in our foods is mycotoxins produced by naturally occurring organic fungi and molds!  And yes again, some of the other food safety threats come from fecal contamination.  That kind of contamination can be sourced to organic fertilizers, unwashed hands, and poor food-handling techniques in the modern kitchen.  Sure there are other sources of food borne illnesses, but by and large even if all incidences of food poisonings are taken into account their total impact on public health is minuscule compared to the number of people who are literally suffering big time from chronic diseases.

So what is the cause of all these chronic diseases?  Well, since all chronic diseases are body failures they can be blamed on eating foods that do not provide proper nutrition. That's because our bodies are built with the chemical properties of the various foods we eat.  And the worst foods are grain, grain-based foods, grain-fed livestock, high glycemic foods, and foods with high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids versus Omega-3 fatty acids. This means that if Americans changed what they eat by avoiding the aforementioned foods they could greatly reduce their incidences of chronic disease. If people made those changes, as the demand for different foods increased you can bet your bottom dollar that the highly efficient and motivated agricultural industry would respond by delivering the new food products people wanted.

The war on modern agriculture is not only a hardship on everyone in the food business from producers to processors to retailers, but it also negatively impacts Slanker Grass-Fed Meat. Yet here we are not only providing the proper food for man but we're also trying mightily to teach the masses what is and is not nutritious food. The reason we are negatively impacted is that blanket criticism and negative articles about production and processing practices and even professional animal husbandry methods keep pouring forth from the drive-by media as they take direct aim at modern agricultural production techniques.

We are members of the modern agricultural establishment. If we weren't we'd be operating in the 21st century with 19th century technology. And let me tell you, there's been nearly as much advancement in agricultural in the past 100 years as there has been in space technology. In fact, modern agricultural is highly dependent on space technology! So if we turned our backs on technology, as the grass-fed industry grew, the more sophisticated high tech livestock producers who switched from grain-fed livestock production to grass-fed production would immediately have a tremendous financial advantage over those who did not "keep up with innovation." That means they would wipe out the less innovative, higher cost operators in short order.

But the negative impact on us doesn't stop there. Most agricultural producers are trying to do the right thing in spite of what the public is being told. They are producing what people want and selling it to them at the lowest price possible. They take great pride in food safety. They take great pride in animal husbandry. They take great pride in the quality of the food they produce. So the sensational stories that use words that sound horrible and make insinuations of deliberately irresponsible actions are slanderous at best and deception and out right lies at worst. And all producers get painted with the same brush!

This brings me to the latest slam on ground beef.  It's an article by Michael Moss published October 3, 2009 in The New York Times titled “E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection.”  It contains facts, yes.  But many of the facts are slanted to leave bad impressions of what are good, well-intentioned practices.

To me the article implies that the profit motivated meat industry doesn't care about E. coli O157:H7 contamination. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) doesn't care enough about E. coli O157:H7 risks to either clamp down on violators or increase regulatory surveillance.  Also, the very way big companies make hamburger invites contamination because they don't use whole cuts of meat, instead they use low value meat scraps (some imported from poor countries) -- that aren't fit for a dog?

Of course all meat companies large and small fear E. coli O157:H7 contamination in their products. Having to recall a meat product can be ruinous. Quite a few companies have been forced to close their doors for good because of recalls. Consequently there is a "fear of death" motivation for meat processing companies to go the extra mile in assuring that their meats are safe. (The E. coli O157:H7 strain of E. coli is thought by some scientist to be primarily a grain-fed problem. That's because E. coli O157:H7 strain can live in an acidic stomach. Livestock that are fed grain develop acidic digestive tracts. 100% grass-fed animals are less likely to host the E. coli O157:H7 strain. That's why for all of time E. coli was not a major problem. Did this problem surface because of the invention of feeding grain to livestock?)

For years the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been working to minimize if not eliminate E. coli O157:H7 contamination.  There are numerous regulations in place and inspectors have been known to be over zealous in their efforts.  Cleanliness is one of the main focal points of the regulations and that's why most meat plants are cleaner than nearly all if not all private kitchens.

Also, when it comes to making hamburger nobody in their right mind would grind up tenderloin to make hamburger.  But guess what, some of the bits of meat scraps from trimmings around bones and such are tenderloin! Therefore some of the low value trimmings are small pieces of meat from the highest grades of meat cuts.

But beyond hamburger there is the recent announcement by the Center for Science in the Public Interest of the top ten most dangerous foods in terms of food safety for the period 1990 to 2006.  Interestingly, no beef products were in the top ten!  Let me quote part of the report.

Illnesses caused by these ten foods may be as minor as stomach cramps and diarrhea for a day or two, or as serious as kidney failure or death.  Notably, pathogens most commonly associated with meat and poultry – such as Salmonella2 and E. coli O157:H73 – also have been repeatedly linked to these food items.  In fact, Salmonella was identified as the cause in 33 percent of the outbreaks from the FDA Top Ten.  Other pathogens causing the outbreaks associated with these foods include Campylobacter, Scombrotoxin, Norovirus, and Vibrio.

LEAFY GREENS: 363 outbreaks involving 13,568 reported cases of illness
EGGS: 352 outbreaks involving 11,163 reported cases of illness
TUNA: 268 outbreaks involving 2341 reported cases of illness
OYSTERS: 132 outbreaks involving 3409 reported cases of illness
POTATOES: 108 outbreaks involving 3659 reported cases of illness
CHEESE: 83 outbreaks involving 2761 reported cases of illness
ICE CREAM: 74 outbreaks involving 2594 reported cases of illness
TOMATOES: 31 outbreaks involving 3292 reported cases of illness
SPROUTS: 31 outbreaks involving 2022 reported cases of illness
BERRIES: 25 outbreaks involving 3397 reported cases of illness

Click on “The Ten Riskiest Foods Regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” to view the report.

The 48,206 cases reported by the top ten products for food poisonings are the totals reported for all the years from 1990 to 2006 for the Top Ten.  That's 17 years of accumulated data.  Of course, for every reported case there may be many more unreported cases.

Naturally the industries with products in the top 10 did respond and just some of their comments follow:

Julia Stewart, Produce Marketing Association's (PMA) public relations director, said the study didn't discuss what the industry and regulators are doing to assure safe foods.

“They are blaming the food itself, when food handling is the cause of related outbreaks,” Stewart said.  “Food safety legislation is imminent.  They don't need to try to scare the public in an effort to influence that process.”

Stewart said the produce industry prefers to collaborate with legislators and regulators on the proposals.

She said the industry has been working with Congress and agencies for more than a year to educate them on specific food safety challenges so lawmakers can regulate produce to help promote produce safety and public health.

The potato industry issued a response and included safe handling recommendations in an October 6 news release.

The Denver-based U.S. Potato Board said naming potatoes on the list requires some clarification to avoid raising unnecessary alarm or consumer confusion.

“Potatoes are inherently healthy and are not an inherently risky food and they should not be on this list at all,” said Tim O'Connor, the board's president and chief executive officer, in a news release.  “The issue is cross-contamination, not the potato itself.

The responses go on in a similar vein across the board, so you get the idea.  Food safety is a concern for everybody in the food production, processing, delivery, and retail chain.  Nobody takes it lightly.  But over all, if in 17 years the top ten worst foods caused 48,206 cases of reported illnesses, that's only 2,836 cases per year on average.  If 20 times that number actually fell ill, that's still only 56,713 cases per year.  That number is just slightly higher than the number of people killed every year in automobile accidents and there's a big difference between an illness and death!

For sure it would be better if the annual number of food poisonings was zero.  That is a notable goal and I applaud all efforts to achieve it.  But I've boiled this analysis down to numbers so the popular food problems blamed on safety issues and production methods can be compared with the consequences of eating foods that the human body should not ingest.  This brings my dissertation around to my initial point.  The worst foods are grain, grain-based foods, grain-fed livestock, and high glycemic foods.  They destroy immune systems, create imbalances in the important essential fatty acids in the membranes of all cells, cause vitamin deficiencies, and as a result are a source for nearly all chronic diseases.  Consequently, probably 200,000,000 Americans are suffering with chronic diseases at this very moment that were brought on by eating the wrong kinds of foods.  On the other hand, a mere handful are suffering because of food safety issues and production methods.

Ted Slanker

Posted October 12, 2009


Now for Ted Slanker's Commentary . . .

The Truth of the Matter

The food produced in the United States still ranks up near the safest in the world and its cost is the lowest in the world in terms of disposable income.  Instead of praising this modern agricultural miracle, the mob actually wants to destroy it – in their quest for improving the nutritional characteristics of the foods they eat.

This insanity, yes insanity, is typical of the mob.  Instead of changing the foods they eat, they demand to eat the same foods – but insist that their favorite foods be produced in a completely different way, one that will supposedly make those same foods more nutritious.