What you need to know about the meat and produce you eat!
Have you ever taken the time to really think about where your food is coming from before you eat it? If you haven’t, you wouldn’t be the only one. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s, and I was drawn to natural living, that I started becoming aware of commercial agricultural practices. Let me tell you, It was a hard pill to swallow, because the truth is rather depressing. I have always been a HUGE animal lover my whole life, so learning about the horrendous cruelty that goes on was very heartbreaking. When you combine this with the significant health consequences that result from various agricultural practices, it was also very anger provoking. I am going to do my best to minimize my emotions connected to this information, and provide you with a broad overview of what you need to know.
The meat industry
Due to the ever increasing size of our population, and the immense amount of meat that most Americans consume today, the meat industry has turned into an assembly line for mass production. Animals no longer roam freely or graze on natural grasses or feed. They are kept in extremely close quarters, and fed a diet of grain, corn, and soy. The lack of exercise, natural light, clean water, quality food, and stress free environment results in unhealthy animals. In addition, antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock, poultry, and fish on industrial farms to promote faster growth and to compensate for the unsanitary conditions in which they are raised. According to a report by the FDA, approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals. If that isn’t bad enough, livestock are also injected with growth hormones to speed up the growth process, and enhance body size. The final cherry topper to all of this is that, the grain, corn, and soy that is fed to the animals is genetically modified and grown with the use of highly toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
So what does all of this mean? It means that we are breeding chronically ill animals with hormonal imbalances, and years of toxic exposure, and then turning around and consuming them 3+ times per day. The only reason that industrial farms produce this way, is because it is more profitable for them. Not a single decision made in the entire process of raising and slaughtering an animal is done with your health in mind or with concern for the wellbeing of the animal or the planet. When we consume these animals, we are also consuming the excess hormones, antibiotics, and toxins that they have been exposed to. This wreaks havoc on your immune system, endocrine system, neurological system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, and digestive system. Without a doubt, it is part of the reason that we see such an enormous rise in the prevalence of chronic diseases that used to be so rare.
The toll on the planet. The Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO) has stated that livestock places an immense stress on many of our planet’s ecosystems. It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases, and a significant contributor to a loss in biodiversity.
The produce industry
The two biggest problems with the produce industry are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of synthetic pesticides. My husband and I have debated regularly on the pros and cons of GMOs. Since he is fascinated with technology, and feels like the science behind GMOs is logical, it has been challenging for him to see why I am so apposed to them.
So what are GMOs? A genetically modified organism, is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. This means that they take a plant, and alter it’s genetic code by adding in additional foreign DNA, or by removing some of it’s existing DNA. So why are we doing this to plants? The main reason is to develop crops that are more resistant to various pests and diseases. If fewer crops are destroyed by bugs, then it means more money for the company producing the crop. Other reasons include; improving nutritional content, extending shelf life, shortening growth time, and reducing drought susceptibility. In theory, all of these reasons seem harmless, so why are so many health conscious people upset about GMOs? The basic answer that I regularly tell my husband is that just because we have the technological capabilities to do something, doesn’t mean it should be done.
Nature is very wise, and all of the genetic material in both humans and plants were designed in such a way that there is a beautiful symbiotic relationship between them. For example, in our gut, we have tight junctions between each of the cells that line our intestines. These junctions are regulated by a protein called zonulin. This protein determines how tight the junctions are, and what molecules are allowed to pass from our digestive tract into our system. It used to be that only specific proteins found in the body could activate zonulin. However, due to the genetic modification of wheat, one of the gluten proteins called gliadin is now mimicking those specific proteins resulting in increased intestinal permeability. Ultimately, this leads to chronic inflammation, and a host of illnesses to go along with it. If we had never messed with the DNA of the wheat, then the genetic structure wouldn’t have changed, and it wouldn’t have resulted in a negative interaction within our body. This is only one example, because it is the most widely studied at this point. However, there are numerous other reports of GMO foods increasing the risk of cancer, autoimmunity, systemic inflammation, allergies, etc. You can find a lot more information about this topic at Responsible Technology.
So what about synthetic pesticides? Pesticides are used to kill the various bugs who threaten the outcome of the crop. The problem is that pesticides are poisonous not only to bugs, but to humans and animals as well. In most cases, even if you wash the produce that you buy in the store, you will still ingest what remains on the surface, along with what has seeped in past the skin. It’s amazing to me that people aren’t more concerned with the use of pesticides. Have you ever seen workers spraying commercial fields? They have to wear hazmat suits while doing it due to the toxic chemical nature of the substances they are spraying. Long-term exposure to pesticides has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, asthma, certain cancers, ADHD, endocrine disruption, and birth defects. Did you know that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a study in 2004 of baby cord blood and found over 200 different chemicals including pesticides? This means that babies are being exposed to these toxic chemicals during crucial developmental stages while still in the whom. So scary! There is so much more information about the potential risks associated to pesticides on the EWG website, so please do your research.
The toll on the planet. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers don’t stay within the crops they are used on. They make their way into various water systems such as rivers, ponds, lakes, and the ocean. Here they poison other living creatures and throw the whole ecosystem out of balance. They also leech into the groundwater, which is the water you drink. You can find out what chemicals have made their way into your tap water, and the health consequences associated to them by reading my article about drinking water. They can also get turned into gases and spread through the air to other regions. This is having a significant harmful affect on our wildlife. It is believed that bee populations are decreasing due to the use of pesticides. Without bees, many of nature’s plants don’t get pollenated. If they don’t get pollenated they can’t reproduce, and will eventually go extinct. Every living species on this planet plays an important role in the web of life. We can’t continue to kill off seemingly insignificant plants, insects, and animals, and not face the consequences one day.
- Buy organic: When it comes to vegetables, I notice that there isn’t a huge price
difference between organic and nonorganic at most of the stores I shop at. So there is really no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get majority of your veggies this way. Meat is a lot harder to find quality and affordable. I believe that we consume way too much meat to begin with, so my solution is to simply eat less meat. If you eat less, than you can afford organic. If you absolutely have to buy nonorganic, try to follow the dirty dozen and clean 15 recommendations.
- Buy local, and what’s in season: There is an amazing farmer’s market down the road from me every Wednesday afternoon. This is a great way to find cheaper items in season. If you have a yard, consider gardening. Nothing compares to home grown food.
- Limit meat consumption: Part of the reason there is such an imbalance in commercial agriculture is due to supply and demand. There wouldn’t be a need to produce on such a mass scale if our consumption was more moderate. Try things like meatless Mondays, meat for only 1 meal a day, or meat every other day. If your body type does well without meat, than consider cutting it out all together. Did you know that quinoa, buckwheat, and soy are complete sources of protein? When it comes to soy, it is especially important that you only consume organic and non-GMO. Soy is such a widely used plant that it has gone through significant modifications over the years.
- Grow your own food: Unfortunately for me, yard space is very limited in my area of California. Therefore, my gardening is limited to the sprouts that I grow on my counter. If you are different from me, and have the space, please consider gardening. It provides a reason to get out in the sun and fresh air, and allows you to control the quality of your food.
- Support sustainable farming: The goal of sustainable farming is to meet societies food needs today without compromising our future generations to come. Sustainable practices include the promotion of soil health, minimizing water use, lowering pollution levels, and growing crops that are in season and meant for the local region.
- Ensure humane practices: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do your research. If a farm isn’t willing to give you a tour of their productions, I can promise you they have something to hide. You should be able to see how an animal is raised and treated before you decide to play a roll in consuming it.
In this blog, I have only shared a minute amount of the information associated to this topic. Industrial farming is having a huge affect on our environment, your health, and the future of our planet. If you would like to learn more about this, please consider watching the following documentaries. They are very eye opening, and I am a firm believer in the idea that knowledge is power.
- Before The Flood
- Racing Extinction
- Food, Inc.
- Forks Over Knives
- Fed Up
- GMO OMG
- Hungry For Change
- Food Matters
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