The Running Score: Organic Verse Conventional

15 03 2011

Today is it virtually impossible to buy or eat everything we want without something be labeled “organic.” My favorite snack, fruit leather, has cashed in on this growing niche market… and at $6.00 a box or so it must be working out for them. I would gladly eat fruit leather of the non-organic variety and when it comes down to cost, I would prefer it.

So why are so many people doling out the dough to eat organic diets? It might be that it protects the environment, saves the soil, or that is better for our bodies, healthier. It might be that they just don’t know the facts.

And truthfully, neither did I.

What makes something organic? Common answer: it’s all natural. Even more correct, scientifically based answer: Soluble mineral inputs are prohibited and synthetic herbicides and pesticidesare rejected in favour of natural pesticides. Natural, yes. But is it better?

And why is it so expensive? Well, organic farming practices mean lower yields and inefficient use of the land.

An article by Anthony Trewavas said that the leading organic researcher admits that in organic farming “there is very little science” and “this gives rise to a great deal of illogicality and confusion particularly insome areas of production.”

I would think that when it comes to the health of the environment and our families, science would be of the utmost importance.

So here is the break down so far: organic means expensive, unscientific production of food. Conventional is, and again Trewavas said it best: a diverse set of technologies using the best available knowledge, whose ultimate goal is the safe, efficient provision of foods in abundance and at lowest price.  And the score stands:

And as we stand:





Meat on Mondays

7 02 2011

HAPPY MEAT ON MONDAY!

Meat On Monday

Here is the article in the National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow newsletter about Meat on Mondays:

University of Arkansas ACT Promotes Meat on Mondays written by Megan Crudup, University of Arkansas ACT

The University of Arkansas’ Block and Bridle and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow clubs have teamed up to educate students on campus about the importance of beef as part of a healthy diet. With the support of the Arkansas Beef Checkoff and several other sponsors, the clubs have started a college-wide event called “Meat on Mondays.”

“We wanted to counteract the “Meatless Mondays” campaign, but still shed a positive light on the Beef Industry,” said Crystal Ahrens, Block and Bridle president. “We wanted to educate students around the university about the health benefits of having Beef in your everyday diet.”

Free packets of beef jerky and silly bands in the shape of steers and ZIP (Zinc, Iron and Protein) were passed out in various locations around campus as well as at the Arkansas State Fair. The Arkansas Beef Checkoff donated the beef jerky and silly bands for the first wave of handouts.

The Arkansas ACT chapter designed a logo and labels for the packets of beef, as well as orchestrated all media relations. Students worked closely with Jefferson Miller, University of Arkansas agricultural communications professor, to create the promotional materials. Press releases were also sent out to area newspapers and university media outlets.

“This is a great way for our agriculture students to get involved in promoting their industry,” said Miller. “Plus, they can apply their PR skills and their knowledge of meat science and human nutrition along the way.”

I personally love:





To Eat Meat… Or Not To Eat Meat

7 02 2011

We have all heard the rumors of Meatless Mondays but the national craze seems to be gaining momentum. Moe’s Southwest Grill and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill are just a few of the myriad of restaurants encouraging their customers to go meatless with discounts and other offers. Oprah’s Harpo Studios will be offering Meatless Monday meal and Oprah will be encouraging her audiences to go meatless… on Mondays. Oprah’s cohort  Michael Pollan also supports the movement as a way to cut back meat for personal and planetary health.

Does anyone else find an irony that they want the public to turn to the pesticide saturated vegetables (that would be sarcasm because modern agricultural practices use careful application to ensure healthy, quality products).

“Harpo Productions, which produces The Oprah Winfrey Show, has decided to embrace Meatless Mondays at the Harpo Cafe. ‘You have to decide what’s right for you and for your family,’ says Oprah. ‘Half the battle is just being aware of where your food comes from and how it makes you feel,” states a quote on Mother Nature Network.

I can say that a good steak makes me feel pretty happy. Regardless of where it comes from I know the quality of my meat is guaranteed thanks to the United States Department of Agriculture. They are intimitely involved to ensure that whether meat is from my family friends’ Bluff View Farms or the National Steak Poultry (NSP) food producer.

So what is the point of Meatless Mondays anyways, besides participating in the growing trend of hurting producers locally and nationally? Well straight from meatlessmondays.com:

Health Benefits

  • LIMIT CANCER RISK: Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Both red and processed meat consumption are associated with colon cancer.

I am a big fan of having my cake and eating it too. There is no need to cut out meat to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables. There is room for all parts of healthy diet in our stomachs I can assure you. I realize that cancer is a serious problem in today’s society but cutting back on meat isn’t the answer. It is a vital part of our diets. Scientists are constantly speculating what foods cause cancer and which don’t and retracting findings it seems. The best we can do is eat a healthy diet, exercise, and hope our cells don’t mutate and reproduce controllably.

  • REDUCE HEART DISEASE: Recent data from a Harvard University study found that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%

Environmental Benefits

  • REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
  • MINIMIZE WATER USAGE. The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound.

Is the solution not to hydrate our cattle? Some producers are taking measures to limit their water usage by 7.5 percent. Regardless, I think that in comparrison to other water usage levels this number is minimal. Leaking toilets are even more of a culprit. It is estimated a leaking toilet can used as much as 90,000 gallons of water in a month. Imagine how much water is wasted growing lawns for decorations. I would say that is where the true wastefulness of our nations resources is. Give up watering lawns not eating beef. Where is the Humane Society of the United States on this issue?

I’m sure there is an argument for or against all of these reasonings of why not to eat meat or why to eat meat and we could chase each other in circles. So I have a few closing comments. Eat meat. It’s yummy and gives you all the ZIP you need. What’s ZIP? It stands for the zinc, iron and protein beef provides us. University of Arkansas’ Block and Bridle and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow have started a Meat on Mondays campaign to combat the Meatless Mondays campaign. The Meat on Mondays campaign includes handing out free packets of beef jerky and ZIP silly bands. The Arkansas Beef checkoff has funded the first round but the battle isn’t over yet. It’s time to join the crusade and dig into a juicy steak or hamburger. And I for one am willing to sacrifice (okay let’s be honest indulge myself) for.





A Once Deadly Ice Cream Topping…

27 01 2011

The almond enjoyed today atop ice cream sundaes and amidst trail mix is a far cry from its bitter, fatal roots. The two billion almond industry (I contribute to the Almond Joy sector) of today is made possible by a genetic variation that made domestication of almonds possible. Before domestication, eating only a few dozen of the nuts would be lethal…

The lethal effect is due to the presence of glucoside amygdalin which becomes deadly prussic acid  if the nut is crushed or chewed. And the by-product of prussic acid…. cyanide! Due to the genetic variation the domesticated almond is sweet, instead of bitter, and lacks the ability to produce to the deadly prussic acid. Who knew almond  trees had such a nasty trick up their sleeves branches! Not only does this glucoside amygdalin protect the almond tree from potential predators (including us!) but it also safely attracts pollinating insects and harms potential predators… does anyone else detect a biotech innovation?

The ideal characteristics of the almond are made possible through a single recessive mutation in a gene that blocks the production of amygdalin. The simplicity of the difference between the two means genetic variation amongst wild and domesticated varieties continues today where a handful of individual trees will produce the opposite type of nut.

Almonds have been around awhile now, some 3200 years bp (in case you haven’t heard of bp that means before present and present = the 1950s when carbon dating came in vogue… I learn something new every day!) according to archaeological finds in Numeria, Jordan that included the remains of almond shells alongside other domesticated foods: wheat, barely, and parched grapes.

Almonds were ideal candidates for domestication because a tree is able to grow from the seed alone even before the invention of grafting practices. It’s funny how I am so far removed from horticultural practices that I never think of that as a problem, like people who are far removed from the farm don’t mind if it doesn’t rain hardly at all in the summer.

By domesticating the wild almond a new food source was established that would one day become a major agricultural product (and sundae topping!) we know and love today.








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