Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)
Recently a report from W.H.O.’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as Group 1 carcinogens (definite cause of cancer) and red meat as a Group 2 (probable cause of cancer).
While the report encourages people to eat smaller amounts of red meat, limit processed meat, and eat more fish and meat alternatives, many vegans and environmentalists are saying we should quit eating meat all together or at the very least examine more sustainable sources accessible.
Factory farming and CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) of animals has grown substantially over the last half century. The old ranch, grazing animals, living off the land and breathing in the air is much less common that we can imagine now. In fact, it’s a diamond in the rough.
But isn’t this just simple marketing in the world? Factory farming evolved because of the demand for it.
For thousands of years we ate meat sparingly upon our return from the hunt. We gathered, cooked and ate, sharing with the entire family or community. The meat was wild and organic. Now, modern times have stores with long rows of meat options and our fridges and freezers are brimmed. Families are eating meat as often as every meal.
The Canadian Food Guide suggests only one serving of meat per day for children and two daily servings for adults. They encourage at least twice a week the choice be fish. Meat alternatives such as legumes, lentils, beans, eggs, nut butters and shelled nuts are suggested meat alternatives.
Some steakhouses offer 72 ounce steaks. That is 2,040 grams! The Canada food guide’s recommended portion size per serving of meat is 75 grams or 2.5 ounces, approximately the size of your palm. If you ate the big steakhouse 72 ounce steak, that would be like eating 27 steaks of the recommended portion... in one sitting.
In Canada, growth hormone injections are approved administration for beef. Antibiotics are approved for antimicrobial control in beef, dairy cattle, chicken, laying hens, turkey, pork and fish. An article on PBS.org states, “Ranchers and farmers have been feeding antibiotics to the animals we eat since they discovered decades ago that small doses of antibiotics administered daily would make most animals gain as much as 3 per cent more weight than they otherwise would. In an industry where profits are measured in pennies per animal, such weight gain was revolutionary.”
Over 20 million pounds of antibiotics are used in North America per year on our livestock. Is it coincidence that we have developed a resistance to antibiotics? There is a residue of these “medicines” still in the food when we ingest however the hormones and antibiotics levels are considered safe by Health Canada. And while there is little research reported on this, Dr. Margaret Mellon, with the Union of Concerned Scientists states, "There is no evidence that antibiotic resistance is not a problem, but there is insufficient evidence as to how big a problem it is.”
The questions of ethics regarding the method we treat our animals in factory farms is qualified. The animals are limited to minimal sunshine if any, limited fresh air (if any), often confined to very small spaces and overfed with genetically modified corn to fatten quickly. By 2012, 88% of corn and (94% of soy) grown in the United States were genetically modified, according to the US Department of Agriculture. And while less, Stats Canada reports that 71% of Ontario corn is genetically modified.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated." -Mahatma Ghandi
So let’s wrap our head around this. Our meat consumption is sky high, the livestock often fed genetically modified food, injected with growth hormone and/or antibiotics and kept in caged compartments breathing and living in their own excrement.
Speaking of excrement, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there is 500 million tons of manure from livestock and poultry per year. That is three times the amount of waste produced by humans in the entire United States. The 10 billion farmed animals in the USA, produce one trillion pounds of manure and could fill the New York Giants stadium 250 times, according to David Robinson Simon’s book, Meatonomics.
All that poop is supplementing the environment with pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorous, pathogens, pesticides, antibodies, hormones, and salts. These pollutants can damage the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the plants we eat. These pollutants unfavorable affect our health and our planet.
So let’s look at this from a sustainability position. What does mass factory farming do to our environment?
United Nations has called the meat industry - and therefore, meat eating - “one of the... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
Cornell University reports, “Animal protein production requires more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein while yielding animal protein that is only 1.4 times more nutritious for humans than the comparable amount of plant protein.”
Since the 1950’s, studies show our chickens have quadrupled in weight and size, in much less time. In 1955, it took approximately 70 days for chicken maturation to sell for meat. Now, as quickly as 47 days.
And if the antibiotics, hormones, corn and the lack of exercise wasn’t enough to make our chicken breasts fuller, there’s a process called “tumbling and injection” that can increase the size of the piece of “meat” you receive using a process that adds water, oils, phosphates, chemicals and enzymes sometimes referred to as “meat glue.”
After watching the movies “Food Inc.”, and “Forks over Knives” a few years back, I knew my habits needed to change. The more I researched about where our meat came from, the way it was raised, treated, and processed and the effects it was having on our health and our environment, I began to shift in the amounts and source purchased.
We started to eat organically, and more plant-based. When we eat meat, we buy it from sustainable farms, where the animals were treated ethically and raised naturally without the use of hormones and antibiotics and genetically modified feed. We eat smaller amounts of meat and only a couple times of week, opting to get our protein from other sources such as beans, lentils and nuts. The health benefits have paid off. Less indigestion, bloating and gas and more energy, vitality and sense of well-being.
As rates of cancer and diabetes increase, do we really have a choice but to examine what and where we get our food?
At the Indigo Lounge Organic Eatery we partner with local organic farms. Tillsonburg’s YU Ranch leads the industry through sustainable farming and ecological initiatives winning several environmental awards for the maintenance of the Canadian Carolinian ecosystem at their farm. This ranch is the diamond in the rough.
I invite you to try to eat more organic local plant based meals and eat smaller amount of animal-products, seeking organic chemical-free meat from sources you know and trust. I can almost guarantee that you will feel happier and healthier.
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