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:

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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.





WANTED: Barn Owls

24 01 2011

Has anyone seen the common barn owl recently? If the name “Common Barn Owl” doesn’t register with you, it also goes by: White Owl, Silver Owl, Demon Owl, Ghost Owl, Death Owl, Night Owl, Rat Owl, Church Owl, Cave Owl, Stone Owl, Monkey-faced Owl, Hissing Owl, Hobgoblin or Hobby Owl, Dobby Owl, Golden Owl, Scritch Owl, Screech Owl, Straw Owl, Barnyard Owl and Delicate Owl, as stated by everyone’s favorite encyclodia, wikipedia. My own barn experiences have never included a barn owl and thus my knowledge of the elusive creature was minimal. However, several helpful articles changed all that.

Anna Brendle, for National Geographic news, states that the barn owl does not have the quint essential “hoot,” rather it communicates through raspy screeches and hissing. I figure the whole nocturnal thing would make that characteristic more appealing to barn owners seeking new residents, which is exactly what this species needs. Not to mention the fact that a barn owl’s resume includes pest control! According to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division, a single family of two adults and six young can consume more than 1,000 rodents (including detested rats) during a typical three-month nesting period, which is turn means less mice in your pantry or winter clothes storage.
Brendle goes on to say that Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin all consider this animal to be threatened or endangered. The culprit: modernization and urbanization. The Morton buildings mentioned in my previous article devoid the Common Barn Owl of nesting options, forcing it to seek refuge elsewhere. Brendle writes, “In the Florida Everglades, pump houses dotted along the networks of canals that weave through sugarcane fields were long popular as nesting sites. But these pump houses are disappearing now that canal irrigation is automated.” This is an enormous problem considering that these creatures do not construct nests like other birds but are instead dependent on existing resources. A mother will incubate the egg as soon it is laid and those thereafter. Thus, the birth of offspring is staggered, as illustrated in this charming photo provided bt the Sky Hunters Environmental Education website:
If you live in McLean County (Illinois) there are people you can contact to help barn owl offspring like these! The necessary criteria include: wooden buildings like barns or cribs, 2-3 acres of grassland habitat within 1.25 miles of the structure, and a willingness to help! Some articles state that the best option is to put a nesting box on a pole in the middle of a grassland area. Please contact Anna Groves at 630.276.8679/agroves@iwu.edu or Given Harper at 309.556.3056/gharper@iwu.edu for more information about what you can do to help the Common Barn Owl help YOU!
For more information visit the quotes National Geographic article at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1030_021030_BarnOwls.html







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