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Author Topic: Sustainable Food Thread  (Read 14375 times)
Finnegans Wake
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« on: Oct 15, 2007 at 09:35 »

I wanted to give the subject of what we eat and whether it's healthful a separate thread from weight loss, so that thread won't get overrun.  This has been a hot topic for me personally over the past 6-12 months, so I hope it's helpful to folks out there.  If not, I'll un-pin it.  I'll add a few things every once in a while.

 
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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #1 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 09:49 »

Eat Wild is a great site for sourcing your own beef, pork, poultry, dairy, and eggs.  You can also find some off-the-wall stuff like rabbits, for instance, but I assume anyone interested is mostly looking for the basics.  Some very informative articles on things like pastured beef (basically, grass-fed beef is very healthy in its omega 3 levels and CLA).  

Local Harvest is an excellent way to source seasonal produce at farmer's markets, farms, and CSAs.  We feasted on all kinds of farm and farmer's market produce this summer, and we signed on for a prorated share of a CSA near us for 6 weeks (now through Thanksgiving, basically).  Figure if the end of season boxes are good, we'll commit to a full season next year.  A friend gets her stuff from the CSA we're signed on with and loves their stuff.  First pickup is this Wednesday.

I'll have more details later...
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otismalibu
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« Reply #2 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 09:55 »

Pussy & Doritos.

What else do ya need?
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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #3 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 12:38 »

Any discussion of how to select what to eat must begin with What should I eat?

A growing body of study is showing that dietary fat is not the bogeyman it has been portrayed as over the past half century.  This isn't exactly the Atkins view, IMO; the difference is that in cultures that do feature fats more prominently (e.g., the French), there is no admonition against any particular food group (carbs), but rather a difference in attitudes (eating habits, social habits) and food traditions (preparation, portions).

It's an interesting topic, with many off-shoots.

You neo-Atkins types, and anyone interested in changing their eating habits, might want to check out Nina Planck's What to Eat and Why.  Nina takes the idea that fat (and meat) are not to be shunned, but incorporated; she also makes the point that fresh, local fruits and vegetables are essential to the equation.  Some of her assertions are startling (lard is a healthful fat?), some on the fringe of accepted wisdom (raw milk), but it's a good read, even if her own logic is at times jumpy: she seems to come up with mostly the right conclusions, even when she uses specious methods of deduction.

Some other excellent reads concerning what to eat:

*The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan.  I am currently reading this and must say it is much better than expected.  I'm finding a  lot of crossover data in my reading, and much of it invariably leads back to this book.  I'd always been interested in organic produce and milk and eggs, but this book convinced me to source all meat, dairy, and eggs directly from pastured sources.  More on that later.  

Anyway, two weekends ago, I bought a 5.0 cubic foot freezer, not huge, and if you're a hunter you probably have a bigger freezer, but it was sufficient for me and the Mrs., who does not eat meat (except fish).  This past Saturday, we went to a farm and bought about 33 pounds of beef, some for me, some to share with other family.  That was an experience I also will get into later.  To actually walk the fields planted with alfalfa and brownback grass and Ethipian grasses, which were part and parcel of the rancher's science, and see that the beef did not live confined and drugged and unhealthy lives, has made a lasting impression.  

*Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  In many ways, the book that led to all the other reading and research and activity I've been doing since the spring.  A simple, rather gentle read, the novelist writes a non-fiction account of her family growing almost all their own produce over the course of a year.  A bit preachy in spots, but I liked the sermon.  Challenged my fundamental assertions of what I was buying to eat, and whether it was as healthy as I thought.

*Heat, by Bill Buford.  Actually, the title is Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, and no, it's not by the former drummer for Yes and King Crimson.  Another easygoing read, Buford is a New Yorker editor who gets the fool notion that he, amateur cook, wants to become a line cook at Mario Batali's Babbo restaurant.  He also travels to Italy to learn from the masters, and along the way imparts a whole lot of interesting information, some of it having to do with cutting off parts of his fingers and setting himself on fire, some to do with restaurant practices a la Tony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, and some to do with food and food history.  What was interesting was that I read Heat at work, and Animal, Miracle, Vegetable and What to Eat at home, so the reading overlapped.  And all sorts of weird coincidences kept popping up, like it was some karmic path.

All of this combined, along with some web-based reading, has come together to form an interesting mosaic, and I can say it has produced a sea-change in our eating habits.  I'm thinking of writing up some articles for publication, who knows where, but consider yourselves test rats for that...  
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Big Virgil
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« Reply #4 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 13:25 »

It is amazing how other cultures, French with pastries, Italians with pasta (OK those are the only ones I know) eat those foods but don't have nearly the obesity we have.  As mentioned, it is prep and portion control.

Is buying a portion of a cow a cost savings vs buying at the store?  I knew people that bought a cow and split it with someone, so they got half a cow.  If I remember correctly  buying 1/2 cow seemed cost effective, but it has been a while since I have been exposed to those numbers.

What does your research say about living off of protein bars/powder?  I don't really do that, but I did last week.  Seemed much much better than soft pretzels, frozen lemonade, turkey legs, french fries (there were little McDonald shacks that sold only french fries), Mickey ice cream bars, etc.  
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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #5 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 14:43 »

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It is amazing how other cultures, French with pastries, Italians with pasta (OK those are the only ones I know) eat those foods but don't have nearly the obesity we have. As mentioned, it is prep and portion control.

I think where you see food traditions hanging tough, and not letting American fast food take over the culture, you see those populations staying thinner.  McFood is only half the issue here: food traditions such as the ones you mention have well worked out principles behind them, which would not have survived for centuries or millennia otherwise.  

Consider the French eating their rich sauces, or the Italians and their pasta.  How long does it take for them to eat?  Eating a meal isn't done like it is here, where food is eaten in cars and in front of TVs.  I read some statistic about how many meals are eaten in cars and, well, it's bizarre.  Also, the average dinner is chowed down here in about 10 minutes.  

Eating that fast doesn't allow the brain to catch up to the stomach.  By the time the brain realizes we are full, we've shoved a Super Sized portion down the gullet.  In other countries, dinner is a time of conversation and news, of delighting in how food tastes, and valuing food.  

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Is buying a portion of a cow a cost savings vs buying at the store? I knew people that bought a cow and split it with someone, so they got half a cow. If I remember correctly buying 1/2 cow seemed cost effective, but it has been a while since I have been exposed to those numbers.


I have a co-worker who splits a cow, raised by conventional methods (CAFO).  She gets half a cow (hanging weight) for $1.88 a pound.  So yeah, considering that's steaks and ground beef and roasts and the whole deal, it's incredibly cheap.  The problem I have with that, and am trying to convince her of, is that it's those methods of raising lovestock that make the beef a questionable idea.

Briefly, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs)breed meat (beef, chicken, pork) whose fat is in a bad ratio (omega 6 to omega 3), meat with poor levels of other nutrients, and too much fat.  This occurs because beef fed corn and other additives (like chicken manure and dead animal matter, from which practice the mad cow disease arose) make short-term economic sense to the rancher: bigger cows mean more profit, and shorter fattening terms means quicker turnaround.  Unfortunately for us all, they're also chock full of antibiotics, hormones, and who knows what else.  And the CAFOs and meat processing plants are big employers of illegal immigrants, as are commercial produce farms.  Do that math.

OK, so I went to a couple of farms.  I didn't buy a half or a quarter of beef, and I figure 34 pounds plus the 8-10 pounds I got at a farm in Lancaster County last week, would get me well into the spring and beyond.  The farm I went to Saturday I would like to write about more extensively, but here's the dollars and cents.  It's twice as expensive as the bulk beef at my co-worker got (about $3.80 per pound).  Still not bad, considering steaks and roasts are well above that.  I bought by the piece, so my cuts were priced accordingly.

I found it interesting that the ground beef I ordered (90% lean) was $3.75 a pound.  The very next day, five local grocery stores were compared in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, because with the addition of a Wegman's in Mechanicsburg, there was newfound competition.  Wegman's, Giant, Weis, Karn's, and Wal-Mart were compared on about 25 items, one of which was 90% lean ground beef.  Two of the stores came in higher than the $3.75 per pound, and the other three were all over $3.00.  In my opinion, the price difference is insignificant when taking into consideration health and other issues.  (I still would like to do some comparison shopping by cut, but my take was that the beef I got was close enough to store prices.)

Quote
What does your research say about living off of protein bars/powder? I don't really do that, but I did last week. Seemed much much better than soft pretzels, frozen lemonade, turkey legs, french fries (there were little McDonald shacks that sold only french fries), Mickey ice cream bars, etc.


More and more, I keep coming back to the "real foods" idea.  If you're buying from a grocery store, buy from the edges (veggies, seafood, meats, fruits), and not from the aisles (processed foods).  I don't have any specific critique of protein bars or powders, but I think that the more we divorce proteins and other elements (basic vitamins, anti-oxidants, and various polyphenols) from their sources, the more we lose some symbiotic value.  Fake eggs don't have the dietary cholestorol or calories of real eggs, but give me real (prefarably pastured) eggs any day: the yolk and white have elements that work together to your health benefit.  Dried eggs and dried milk in processed foods may have free radical effects.

What all goes into that protein bar?  I like short ingredient lists where I know what the heck everything is.  My gut instinct is to forgo protein bars and have an egg and an English muffin instead.  Talking to Farmer Bob on Saturday, he said the same thing I'd read in Nina Planck: eat real food, the kind your grandparents ate.  Mrs. F. said later that our grandparents ate margarine and other processed food, so maybe we have to go back another generation or two.  Point is, protein bars are part of a food industry, geared to making a product it can profit off of by advertising and cutting corners, whereas Grandma wanted to make you a healthy, hearty meal using lessons handed down for generations.  Which path seems better?

And if you think we've come a long way since Grandma's time, you're right.  If you think all of that is progress, look around.  Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, all epidemic problems, worsening over the past 35 years, crisis mode over the past 10.  My new theory is that everything they told us about food was, if not wrong, to be taken with a grain of salt, which isn't necessarily bad for you either.

Soft pretzels?  Processed flour, portion size.  Pass.  Frozen lemonade?  High fructose corn syrup, artificial additives for color and flavor.  Pass.  Turkey legs?  Maybe not terrible, except for the issues with raising them in a CAFO.  That, and preparation issues.  Pass.  French fries?  Free radicals associated with frying and overheating oils, portion size.  Pass.  Ice cream bars?  Just about everything is wrong there, most likely.  Pass.  So is a protein bar an OK substitute?  Well, all things considered, maybe so.  Maybe natural foods like trail mix, raisins, nuts, etc. would be better and compact.
 
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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #6 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 14:46 »

This is the guy I got my freezer beef from.  Spent the whole afternoon at his ranch, got a tour and a lot of interesting info.  Haven't read the whole article, but Bob was a character, and it was beautiful country.
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pensodyssey
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« Reply #7 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 15:33 »

Finny spent the weekend on a ranch checking out the beef.  Did they make you wear chaps?
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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #8 on: Oct 15, 2007 at 15:41 »

 
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Finnegans Wake
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« Reply #9 on: Oct 19, 2007 at 15:35 »

This week will be my third visit to a different farm, this time to source chicken, eggs, raw milk, raw milk cheese, and possibly pork.  Also, I think they're doing turkey orders for Thanksgiving.  Hoping to get some writeups together for anyone interested.  

Can't get much fresher, folks, or better ingredients.  No hormones, antibiotics, preservatives; sane husbandry practices and healthful diets; meat and eggs with nutrition that tests far better than industrial.  Tomorrow's farm, from the Eat Wild site:

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