Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ABC's Nightline "Got Milk" Segment

I try to stay abreast, to some extent, of standard practices in today's factory farms.  I don't really want to know the details, but I like to keep a couple of factoids in my back pocket when people begin to give me the usual nonsense about how there's absolutely nothing wrong with eating meat.

Without getting into all of that, I happened across a segment from ABC's Nightline, called "Got Milk".  Yikes.  I had to cover the screen for about two minutes of the presentation, then shut it off completely for the final two.  I am not a vegan, but this is definitely going to affect my eating habits.

WARNING: This video contains (what I consider, at least) graphic footage of the abuse of cows.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Verdict: Kitchens of India - Black Gram Lentils Curry

I didn't feel like cooking, and I was unapologetic about it.  I was in the grocery store, determined to buy an "out of the box" (a derogatory term in this instance) dinner.

I ended up in the international section, and spotted a huge selection of Indian food entrees from the "Kitchens of India" brand.  Unversed in Indian cuisine, I didn't really know which one to buy.  I settled on the "Black Gram Lentils Curry", because it looked the most appetizing.

Furthering my lazy determination, I also bought a package (of 4) Uncle Ben's boil-in-bag brown rice.

Preparation of the Lentil Curry was easy.  There were several ways to prepare, but not wishing to even dirty a dish, I simply boiled the inner package in hot water for about 5 minutes.  Once both the rice and lentils were done heating, I opened both packets and stirred them up.  Which looked just like this:

The ingredients were simple.  I don't know if it's because it's made in India, and thus their labeling requirements are different, but there were no odd additives at all.  Here is the list:

Water, Tomato Puree, Whole Black Gram Lentils, Cream, Butter, Garlic, Salt, Ginger and Red Chili Powder

Seriously?  Where's all the junk?

I have to admit, this was an extremely tasty dish.  I was starving and ate it in about five minutes, so I don't have a Food Network-eque detail by detail description of the "subtle mix of flavors" and "delectable mouth feel", but I wanted to let the world know that it was damn good.

The only complaint I had, was that it was not a large enough portion for me.  It says that there are 2.5 servings in the package - and we all know that servings sizes can be quite deceptive - but I thought that in addition to the rice it would be enough to make me full.  It did not.  I know it looks like a big mound of food, but it was not sufficient for my large appetite that evening.

However, I would highly recommend the product, as it really did taste delicious.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Vegetarian Sausages to Die For (but no one died for)

My apologies for the cheesy headline.  I'm tired...But I did want to share with you this fantastic recipe for vegetarian sausages:

Get the full recipe here at the Everyday Dish TV Internet Channel.

Oh my goodness, is this stuff great.  I was going to get a picture for you of the finished product inside a nice meal of "sausage" and peppers with rice, but the darn phone rang and before I knew it, I had consumed the entire thing.

Anyway, this vegetarian sausage recipe is highly recommended, as are many of the recipes on Everyday Dish TV.  Many videos and recipes here are free, but there is a rather high subscription fee to view the entire site.  Regardless, kudos to Everyday Dish for putting together some great info.  It also features Joni Newman, whose recipes I have been following for a couple of years at her Just the Food blog.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Plant Driven Life

Being a vegetarian for many years, I’ve often heard the phrase, “But humans are meant to eat meat,” irritably uttered in response to the disclosure of my meatless status. While it’s true that there are some challenges unique to a cruelty-free diet, there are also quite a few indications that humans are best suited to a plant-fueled lifestyle.

Whereas we have developed brains that are able to construct industrial slaughterhouses and fashion metal into knives, let’s first look inside our mouth, not our mind. Compare your teeth to that of your cat or dog. Who’s better suited for tearing flesh from bone? Some people’s diets reflect such a significant presence of meat and meat products, you’d think you would find six inch canines protruding between their lips. The fact is that the positioning, size and proximity of our teeth to one another are simply not designed for meat consumption.

What if you gave your dog or cat a bit of raw chicken? Would you fear it contracting salmonella or e. coli? No, because carnivorous animals have short and powerful digestive tracts which can expel waste from food sources in 12 hours. Humans have longer digestive systems that closer to that of herbivores, which is why we are susceptible to these types of food poisoning. Cooking food is not intrinsically natural, but necessary to consume certain meats.

Humans have often been compared to apes in terms of genetic makeup and physical characteristics. (And sometimes personality, but that’s a different story). A couple of years ago, a British reality-style television program examined the effects of an ape-like diet on nine volunteers over a period of about two weeks. The first week the “human apes” ate an over 2,000-calorie diet full of raw, nutritious, vegetarian fare of various vegetables, fruits and nuts, while meeting their daily nutritional requirements. Water was their only beverage. The second week added some fish to the mix. The results? The participants lost weight (an average of 9 pounds each), lowered their blood pressure about twenty points and lowered their cholesterol levels about 20%. Remember, this was only a two-week study that garnered such excellent results.

A more in-depth look at the structure of humans’ digestive system starting with our face to the end of the line appears here and gives you all the information you need to know about whether we are best suited for the herbivore, omnivore or carnivore category.

Thanks for reading!

Diets Low in Carbohydrates Harmful to Arteries

If you’re a vegetarian interested in weight loss, it’s fairly unlikely you’ve considered a low-carbohydrate diet. “No-carb” diets are severely limiting for omnivores, and are essentially impossible for vegetarians, due to the meat heavy nature of the regimen. Many swear by its weight loss potential, but more evidence is here that a diet without carbohydrates is not a healthy option.

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts recently conducted a study on lab mice to observe the effects of diets such as the once wildly popular Adkins diet.

The mice were divided into three groups – one received a baseline, typical “mouse diet”, the second consumed a diet high in fat, and the third ate a high fat, low carbohydrate diet.

Most of the results were expected. The low-carb group experienced the lowest weight gain levels and mice on the standard “mouse diet” enjoyed the lowest levels of arterial plaque. The one surprising aspect was that the low carbohydrate group had even higher levels of plaque than the group on the high fat menu.

Researchers could not explain the occurrence, but surmise that low-carb diets may interfere or impede bone marrow’s capacity to cleanse arterial walls.

Lead researcher Anthony Rosenzweig began the study himself on a low-carb diet. He stated, “It appears that a moderate and balanced diet, coupled with regular exercise, is probably best for most people.” Sound familiar? Rosenzweig has since stopped his low-carb ways.

While studies about unique health remedies like evening primrose oil for hormone balance and Coenzyme Q10 for gum disease linger unfunded, research continues to confirm what we already know: Balanced diets are healthy. Red meat in excess is unhealthy. Perhaps more research could be done to find out something we don’t already know – and perhaps leave the lab rats and mice out of it.

If it’s weight loss you’re after, as PETA says, “Lose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian.” Vegetarians are 20 to 30 percent leaner than their meat-eating friends, and less likely to suffer from heart disease and other illnesses. You won’t have to feel guilty about having that bowl of pasta or mashed potatoes – and you can feel proud to live without cruelty to animals.

Swine Flu Expected to Infect up to Half of U.S. Population this Year – and the Pork Industry’s Role

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a report this week that predicts the H1N1 virus could infect 30 to 50% of the American population, with peak contagion in mid-October of this year. 30,000 to 90,000 deaths could result from the illness, compared to the 36,000 deaths that occur annually from ordinary influenza viruses.

The vaccine is close. But not close enough.

The long awaited H1N1 vaccine will not be available until October, coincident with the peak of the virus, and an individual’s maximum immunity will not be in effect until weeks after the shot. Manufacturers hope to speed up availability of initial doses, and have a certain amount available as early as September.

What is role does the pork industry play?

Word on the street focuses more on fear of the disease, rather than the cause. But back before H1N1 was classified as a pandemic, some blamed Mexico’s pork producer Smithfield for facilitating this illness. Smithfield has since been cleared. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO (commonly known as factory farms) certainly have a degree of responsibility in this problem. The World Health Organization maintains that:


Swine influenza viruses do not normally infect humans. However, outbreaks and sporadic human infection with SIVs have been occasionally reported and serosurveys have demonstrated exposure of humans in certain risk groups. Most commonly, infection occurs in people in direct and close contact with pigs such as farm and abattoir workers. Onward transmission of SIVs among people in close contact with each other has occurred on a few occasions. Human influenza viruses have also been transmitted from people to pigs.

Transmission among and between pigs and humans is likely to occur through direct or indirect contact with respiratory secretions or inhaling large droplets or aerosols spread through coughing and sneezing. The clinical picture of SIV infection in people is generally similar to that of human seasonal influenza. It is likely that most people, especially those who do not have regular contact with pigs, do not have immunity to SIVs and thus would be susceptible to SIV infection, although cross-protectivity studies are ongoing to explore this question further.


Logic would lead one to believe that if pigs are the “mixing bowl” for super viruses, the most likely way human and pig viruses have opportunity to make “direct and close contact” – is in these CAFO’s.

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production has a more aggressive stance on CAFO’s. (Note: ifap stands for “Industrial Farm Animal Production”.)

Health risks increase depending on the rate of exposure, which can vary widely. Those engaged directly with livestock production, such as farmers, farm workers, and their families, typically have more frequent and more concentrated exposures to chemical or infectious agents. For others with less continuous exposure to livestock and livestock facilities, the risk levels decline accordingly. Direct exposure is not the only health risk, however; health impacts often reach far beyond the ifap facility. Groundwater contamination, for example, can extend throughout the aquifer, affecting drinking water supplies at some distance from the source of contamination.

Infectious agents, such as a novel (or new) avian influenza virus, that arise in an ifap facility may be transmissible from person to person in a community setting and well beyond. An infectious agent that originates at an ifap facility may persist through meat processing and contaminate consumer food animal products, resulting in a serious disease outbreak far from the ifap facility. Monitoring is a basic component of strategies to protect the public from harmful effects of contamination or disease, yet ifap monitoring systems are inadequate.

Current animal identification and meat product labeling practices make it difficult or impossible to trace infections to the source. Likewise, ifap workers, who may serve as vectors carrying potential disease-causing organisms from the animals they work with to the larger community, do not usually participate in public health monitoring, disease reporting, and surveillance programs because, as an agricultural activity, ifap is often exempt.

Furthermore, migrant and visiting workers, many of whom are undocumented, present a particular challenge to adequate monitoring and surveillance because their legal status often makes them unwilling to participate in health monitoring programs. In general, public health concerns associated with ifap include heightened risks of pathogens (disease- and nondisease-causing) passed from animals to humans; the emergence of microbes resistant to antibiotics and antimicrobials, due in large part to widespread use of antimicrobials for nontherapeutic purposes; food-borne disease; worker health concerns; and dispersed impacts on the adjacent community at large.

This would give reason why companies like Smithfield are not held accountable – it would be difficult to prove.

Classic American overindulgence in meat products begets a larger meat industry, which begets sick, diseased and abused animals. Pandemics are cyclical, and a fact of life. But factory farms have a heavy hand whe contribute to illness and harm to nature and humanity.

But can I eat pork?

We have heard over and over that eating pork continues to be safe. The World Health Organization asserts:

Pork meat is usually cooked or otherwise processed prior to consumption, and cooking time/temperature regimes for pork meat will readily inactivate any influenza virus potentially present. Thus, it can be concluded that consumption of pork and its products, processed in accordance with good hygienic practices recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE, will not be a source of infection.

The risk of infection of H1N1 virus through ingestion [sic] pig meat or other products derived from pigs has never been established. In any case, heat treatments commonly used in cooking meat (e.g. 70 °C/160 °F) or other appropriate processing will readily inactivate any viruses potentially present in raw meat products. It can therefore be concluded that pork meat and its products, handled in accordance with good hygienic practices recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE, will not be a source of infection.

This appears to be a somewhat lackluster affirmation that pork products are safe. They are essentially saying that no, you will not be infected if you cook your meat properly, but that retailers should not distribute diseased meat. Hopefully pork will be better monitored than chicken – as salmonella sickens 40,000 people annually in the U.S., with around 15 percent of chickens infected with the pathogen.

PETA's Whale of a Time is Over

PETA has been generating a bit of controversy lately regarding their penchant for featuring scantily clad models and celebrities in their ads to encourage eating a vegetarian diet and supporting animal rights. Their latest model, however, had to be replaced.

A Jacksonville, Florida billboard campaign showcased a rear view of an obese woman with the tagline, “Save the Whales – Lose the Blubber. Go Vegetarian.” The attitude that “trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach” (a quote from PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman) riled many who considered the advertisement to be sexist and demeaning to women.

About a week after erecting the blubber billboard PETA announced that they will be replacing it with a more benign version:

Another whale-related campaign by PETA encouraged people to “Eat the Whales”. The idea behind this was to start a discussion as to whether or not it is preferable to kill one sizable animal in order to feed many, or to kill scores of “lesser” animals to feed the same. The ad also asks where and why lines are drawn to divide animals into two segments: acceptable for consumption, and not acceptable.

Though this topic may have been a bit weightier in terms of moral issues, it did not attract nearly as much attention as the “whale” woman.