In honor of Earth Day, April 22, 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that New York City has its own Green New Deal which he calls “OneNYC 2050.” His office described it as “a bold and audacious plan to attack global warming on all fronts.”
Of course OneNYC 2050 will not impact climate change on a global scale. It’s more focused on changing lifestyles and infrastructures in the City with an objective of reducing emissions 30% by the year 2030. And that’s not its only goal. NYC’s Green New Deal is “structured” to solve income inequality, generate tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, retrofit buildings, provide better healthcare, and increase the usage of renewable energy.
Now I’m not opposed to progress and I’ve spent decades striving to be a better steward of the environment. Most ranchers and farmers are like that too because they want to be more sustainable with each generation. And, of course, what the people in the City do is their own business. But I see some aspects of NYC’s plan that will not benefit the health of its citizens--especially underprivileged children. In that regard its “plan” becomes everyone’s business.
America is already saddled with a chronic disease “epidemic.” Fully 18% of our nation’s GNP is healthcare and 85% of that is for treating chronic disease which is caused mostly by poor diets. This huge crippling cost is a burden all Americans must bear. I’m for progress but as a nation we can’t afford any more backsliding in the areas of health.
The OneNYC 2050 website has nine “volumes” covering The Plan, Democracy, Economy, Neighborhoods, Health, Education, Climate, Mobility, and Infrastructure. Depending on one’s point of view there’s something for everyone. But what really caught my attention was how politicians and special interest groups have structured changes in food choices. From what I’ve learned, from decades of studying nutritional science, is that their plan will accelerate incidences of chronic diseases on a huge scale.
OneNYC 2050’s core concept for food is to end unnecessary purchases of single-use plastic food ware, phase out the purchase of processed meat, and reduce the purchase of beef by 50% by 2040. Naturally special interest groups are applauding these measures which are aimed primarily at the meals served in the City’s schools. I agree that eliminating most of the disposable plastics is a good idea. But phasing out meat (particularly beef) is nutty. Unfortunately I’m outnumbered. Here are a few of the many anti-meat quotes from the announcement that was posted on the Office of the Mayor’s web page.
“The Green Deal for NYC aligns perfectly with the six fundamental pillars of HIPHOP IS GREEN: plant-based eating, urban farming, food justice, animal rights, exercise, and sobriety,” said Fred “Doc” Beasley, Founder and Chapter President of NYC HIP HOP Is GREEN.
“These are just the sorts of policy actions we believe are necessary for improving public health and addressing the environmental challenges of the coming decades,” said Craig Willingham, Deputy Director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute.
“In particular, the phase-out of processed meat and significant reduction of the city’s beef purchases create a triple win—for the environment, our children’s health, and animal welfare,” said Jane Hoffman, President, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals.
“In addition to causing enormous suffering to animals, meat production generates a staggering amount of water and land degradation and greenhouse gas pollution,” said Brian Shapiro, New York State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.
“Reducing meat is better for the planet, it will benefit children’s health and it’s kinder to animals. In 2012, we helped New York City create a vegetarian menu that schools can opt in to, and we will continue to help schools make the transition, furthering the healthy, planet-friendly, compassionate choices available to children and those who work in the schools,” said Amie Hamlin, Executive Director of Coalition for Healthy School Food.
Each one of those statements exhibits misguided beliefs rather than peer-reviewed science.
There is no question that the best food selections for overall health and brain development must fulfill these three criteria:
● Be Low Glycemic
● Be Nutrient Dense and Diverse
● Provide less than a 4:1 balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs).
Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are free for all NYC public school students. NYC even provides free meals on Saturdays and during the summer. Therefore, school meals are a primary source of nutrition for the children of the City. So which food selections are they eating? Combined will they meet all three criteria for providing a healthy diet?
I reviewed NYC’s school lunch menus. Most selections do not meet any one of the three criteria. Most selections have extremely high EFA ratios. French Fries and Popcorn Chicken are fried in Omega-6 oils. Salad bars are available, but how many students go for the dark greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and similar offerings? And when they do, don’t most of them smother their salads with unhealthy, high glycemic, Omega-6 dressings? Fruit is available and it’s a favorite because it’s sweet. Fruit juice is high glycemic. Ketchup, used liberally, adds sugar. Bagels are served with most meals and most grain-based offerings are loaded with anti-nutrients. Do I even need to mention peanut butter and jelly on bread? Then there’s the ubiquitous cookies, desserts, and snacks. Overall, other than the leafy greens, nearly every offering provided in the NYC school lunch programs I would not eat!
Amazingly, processed meats such as hot dogs are frowned upon, but why are they worse than popcorn chicken, turkey bacon, and turkey sausage? Properly done, processed meats can be healthy selections that actually meet all three criteria for a healthy food.
Beef is zero glycemic, one of the most nutritionally diverse and dense of all foods, and when it’s grass-fed it has EFA ratios of 2:1 or less. Grass-fed beef, which makes up a significant portion of the ground meat in school lunch programs, is one of the most nutritionally dense and diverse of all food selections even when compared to spinach and kale. In the past 15 years studies have proven that all animal fats are a preferred energy source for better brain function and that old heart-health concerns regarding saturated fats were based on myths. Consequently, beef (like most meats) is one of the best foods children can eat.
The environmental benefits of cattle on pastures is well documented. Most of the cattle in our country are on pastures where they live in a serene, symbiotic relationship with grasses, soils, and natural rainfall. And cattle convert grasses, which man cannot eat, into a perfect food for man. Grain and vegetable production involves major soil disturbance, irrigation, fallow fields, machines, energy, and physical labor. The bottom line is that grass-fed beef is a really healthy food and raising it is one of the least environmentally disturbing forms of food production. Grain-fed beef has its drawbacks, but overall it too is nutritionally better in all respects than most of the food offerings in NYC schools.
Based on discredited myths, the NYC food czars are planning to dictate lower nutrition levels for all school-age children. They are relying on hearsay, bad science, old beliefs, and mob psychology rather than modern peer-reviewed science. In addition, they are instilling eating habits in the children (mostly from poor communities) that will negatively impact them for years to come.
A high price will be paid for NYC’s nonsense. It’s really sad.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
Action on Global Warming: NYC’s Green New Deal from The Official Website of the City of New York
How NYC’s Meatless Mondays Campaign Is Hurting Poor Communities by Amanda Radke in Beef Magazine
Meet the Carnivores by Ted Slanker
Climate-Friendly Food by Ted Slanker
Why Is Red Meat Bad? By Ted Slanker