Eat Like a Nutrivore

Sacred Cow: The Nutritional, Environmental and Ethical ...

We’re at the end of the line folks. The final chapter is essentially how to follow a paleo-diet. This is not a surprise as both authors have advocated paleo elsewhere. The only real difference now is that “Many have used this type of diet [paleo] successfully but have failed to consider the importance of food-based micronutrients and sustainability as part of the picture.” So don’t just follow a whole-food paleo diet, but also find out where your food is coming from and make sure your producers adhere to regenerative/sustainable systems.

Beyond doing your research on sustainability, there isn’t much on offer in this chapter for someone who already lives keto/paleo. Don’t get me wrong, the advice is all good (e.g., thirty-day challenge, 80/20 rule, etc.), but there’s nothing unique here.

For the novice, however, this chapter is as good a place as any to start one’s paleo journey. That said, it’s probably easier reading my five minute explanations on keto and paleo:

What is Paleo? – The Paleo Diabetic

What is Keto? – The Paleo Diabetic

Mark Sisson is also a great place to start. That’s where I began ten years ago:

Mark’s Daily Apple: Start Here | Beginner’s Guide (marksdailyapple.com)

Final Thoughts

Sacred Cow was worth the effort. Rodgers and Wolf were already preaching to the choir, so it wasn’t like I needed to be converted to their cause. Nevertheless, it deepened my understanding about just how important ruminants are to our environment. I also had no idea that monocrop agriculture was so bad. I was wholly ignorant of soil exhaustion for example. Finally, the book has provided me with more ammunition against the enemies of meat. What especially fascinated me is just how much plants feel.

This is a very easy read. If you like this genre of books, then get yourself a copy.

Don’t Cattle Drink Too Much Water?

Well, if you’ve been with me this far Dear Reader, what do you think? Propaganda coming out of the People’s Socialist Republic of New York tells school children that “it takes ten full bathtubs of water to produce a quarter-pound burger.” Lies, lies and more lies. Where does this water come from? Water treatment plants? Underground springs? Of course not. The vast majority of the water that cattle use comes from the sky; it would fall on the land if the cattle were there or not. Quelle surprise!

Rodgers and Wolf drill down deeper into water use and conclude that 92% of the water feedlot cattle use comes from, you guessed it, the sky. What’s the number for sustainably raised, grass-fed cattle: 97-98%. So, the cattle use too much water argument is pure nonsense. Moreover, ruminants actually increase the benefits of rainwater because they improve the ground’s ability to absorb and retain water. Remember that our authors made the obvious point that ruminants have co-evolved with plants. The former is integral to the health of the latter. If farmers overgraze the land or undergraze it via monocrop agriculture or leaving it as permanent fallow, they end up destroying the soil. Isn’t the logical middle ground, our authors ask, properly managed animals that enhance food production and grassland health?

I have another question for you Dear Reader. Do you think that plants require water to grow? When do we learn that yes is the answer to this question? When we’re two or three maybe. Are you shocked to learn, if we use the greens’ own water use methodology, that plants use huge amounts of water? It takes 410 gallons of water to produce a pound of rice. Walnuts, avocados and sugar use similar amounts. And yet cattle and other animals get all the hate. Rodgers and Wolf discuss this hypocrisy when they examine the amount of water used in California from reservoirs to irrigate crops, in particular, almonds. California agriculture uses 80% of the available water, yet again, we don’t hear any hate from the environmentalists. The authors don’t say it, but I will: total hypocrites.

Conclusion

This chapter, probably more than any other, demonstrates that the attack on cattle and meat is not only wrong, it is wholly dishonest. “How much water did it take to produce your almond flour muffin, your tofurkey sandwich, your “clean” Beyond Burger made from ultraprocessed pea protein isolate and canola,” our authors ask. The answer is huge amounts and far more than sustainably raised beef.

If I have one criticism with this chapter, it’s that again our authors are too polite and give the other side the benefit of the doubt. I see this all the time with those dealing with the political left. They seem to think these guys are just mistaken. Maybe some are, but most know what they’re doing. The attack on meat is not about sustainability and saving Gaia, it’s about control. This is why passages like these frustrate me, “The simplistic narrative is that “plant-based” options are inherently more sustainable than meat-inclusive options. As compelling as this notion may appear on the surface, the truth of the matter might not be as cut-and-dried as we’d thought.” The case is not compelling, even on the surface. Even worse, our authors have conclusively proved that the truth is very different than what the meat-haters claim. Come on authors, be bold and smash your ideological enemies! They do all the can to smash us.

At least on the next page they state “Well-managed ruminant animals are the key to our future. We absolutely need to include them as a solution to our broken agricultural system, which has destroyed much of our soil.”

That’s more like it!

Don’t Cattle Take up Too Much Land?

The myth busting has come thick and fast in the last few chapters. Chapter 11 is no different. The truth is no, cattle do not take up too much land. What a surprise.

Sacred Cow: The Nutritional, Environmental and Ethical ...
Bring on the Documentary

Our authors begin with the Meatless Mondays claim that livestock take up “75% of Earth’s Agricultural Land.” Given that mainstream Western culture is pathologically addicted to lying, you will be shocked Dear Reader, shocked, to learn that this 75% figure is pure hooey. Anti-meaters will often link this claim to charges that you can produce far more vegetables on an acre of land than beef.

Rodgers and Wolf first remind us that meat, and beef in particular, is far more nutrient dense than vegetables. So it’s not like-for-like. So what if you can grow more corn on an acre of land if that food is nutrient poor (and in my opinion poisonous). Perhaps more importantly, our authors make the obvious point that “most of the world’s agricultural land cannot grow tomatoes, potatoes and carrots (or other crops).” Ultimately, ruminants are not competing for space that could be used for crops. Thus, the whole vegan argument that cattle are stealing land which could be better used for making Little Johnny’s sticky buns falls flat on its face.

Did you know that only 3% of the Earth’s surface is considered prime cropland? That’s from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), hardly a champion for beef. In total, the FAO states that 36% of the planet’s surface is considered arable. Does that mean you can grow whatever you want on this land? Of course not. Rodgers and Wolf use the Congo as a case study: 50% of the land in that country is suitable for one crop only, cassava. Only 3% is capable of growing wheat. What if the Congo converted all their land over to cassava production at the expense of ruminants? Do people want to eat nutrient poor cassava? Should they? Is there a demand for this crop? Is there a way to get it all to market before it rots? Their conclusion is simple: “If the land can only grow a product that not many people want (or should be eating), then is it truly valuable when it’s used exclusively as cropland?”

Once again our authors switch gears near the end of the chapter and make a case for rehabilitating land that has been exhausted from monocrops or over-grazing. Crop rotation, growing cover crops like clover, moving ruminants around so they don’t over-graze are all discussed. The end result is better soil, “No matter the technique, the main idea we’re trying to get across is this: by far the best thing a farmer can do is increase soil biology, which is what’s necessary to make mineral bioavailable to plants.” Ruminants are integral to this process.

Conclusion

A short, snappy chapter that debunks another green shiboleth. Rodgers and Wolf finish with another rhetorical question for the green totalitarians out there:

“Instead of dictating that everyone in the world must eat less meat to save the planet, what if we stopped or dramatically reduced our intake of animals that eat grains and instead started eating more animals that eat grass? And what if those grass-eating animals were managed in a way that improved soil health and increased the capacity of land to produce more and better food?”

Don’t expect an intelligent, logical answer any time soon.

Aren’t Cattle Inefficient with Feed?

The answer is yes…if you’re a propagandist for vegetables or a shill for big-Agriculture. The answer is no if you have functioning brain cells and live on planet Earth. I know, this is a big ask for “anti-meaters”.

Sacred Cow - The Nutrition Equation

This is a short, punchy chapter that really debunks the idea that you have to put far more into cattle to get the meat out. Our authors first deal with this claim, and it really is a claim not an argument, that “it takes twelve to twenty pounds of feed to produce a pound of beef.” I’d guess the average vegan knows as much about cattle husbandry as the average person; that’s to say very little. They probably imagine feed-lot cattle gorging on grain that could have been made into bread for Little Johnny. The cows are taking bread from Little Johnny’s mouth. Oh, won’t somebody think about the children?

It’s all bunk. Cattle can’t handle a lot of grain. Even feed-lot cattle get most of their food (pasture, hay, cornstalks, crop residues) from things humans cannot eat. It’s not the same for chickens and pigs by the way. They do eat mostly grain; at least the industrially reared versions do. Ultimately, ruminants get only 10-13 percent of their food from grain. And what we must remember is that a lot of those cattle in North America are reared on feedlots. What would happen to that 10-13 percent number if all cattle farming was converted to sustainable pasture systems?

Returning to the meat-deniers’ “argument,” Rodgers and Wolf conclude “Cattle convert grass and other nutrient-poor food into nutrient-dense food for humans. This is something ruminants are really good at doing. They’re upcycling nutrients! One study found that “cattle need only 0.6kg of protein from edible feed to produce 1kg of protein in milk and meat. Cattle thus contribute directly to global food security.”

The chapter changes gears in the final pages noting that cattle don’t just produce meat, “A whopping 44 percent of the animal is turned into other products.” The obvious ones are offal and leather, but did you know that cattle are used to make plywood, shampoo, medicines, linoleum, crayons and plaster? There are dozens and dozens of other uses. Moreover, the authors point out that if the vegans had their way and cattle were taken out of the human diet, that would mean a lot of these products would need to be made out of synthetics from, wait for it, fossil fuels.

In the final analysis, when considering energy inputs and outputs, Rodgers and Wolf prove that grass-fed cattle is pretty much a “free lunch.” They are not an ecological catastrophe. In contrast, they note that Beyond Burger’s main ingredients are pea protein isolate and canola. Our authors’ ask “Do you think that chemically sprayed monocropped peas and canola fields are causing less harm than a field of grass-fed cattle on land we can’t crop, increasing biodiversity and soil health?” To ask the question, is to answer it.

Conclusion

This was another good chapter. I had no idea that so many products came from cattle. Here are some more: perfume, fireworks, cement and tennis racket strings. More importantly the chapter destroys this myth about food inputs. I knew this was nonsense based on where I live in England. The cattle are out in the fields for most of the year. When they’re not, they’re eating silage which is essentially grass harvested in the autumn. However, I wasn’t aware that feedlot cattle ate so little grain too.

If I had one major criticism about this chapter, and the book more generally, it’s the fact that our authors are far too polite or are simply naïve when it comes to meat’s enemies. This is how they open the chapter, “Those who argue that eliminating animals from our food system is the only way to a sustainable future have good intensions.” Maybe some of these people do. However, a lot of them do not. Their intensions are not about sustainability. Their intension is to control other humans. There is a reason why most “Greens” are hard-leftists. It’s because they use their environmentalism as a cloak for their totalitarianism. Do you remember the quotation from Christiana Figueres in chapter one? She is the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She want’s to abolish meat eating. This is what she said “how about restaurants in 10-15 years start treating carnivores the same way that smokers are treated? If they want to eat meat, they can do it outside the restaurant.” Does this sound like someone with good intensions for the environment or someone who revels in the idea of lording over other humans?

I suppose another minor quibble is that Rodgers and Wolf could be more resolute in their arguments. “While we’re not necessarily advocating for feedlot beef” is just one example where they could be more forceful. As I say to my students, don’t be wishy-washy. You don’t advocate for feedlot beef dear authors. Come out and say so.

Are Cattle Contributing to Climate Change?

Full disclosure: I don’t believe in anthropomorphic global warming. If you know the history of this movement, and those who push this theory, you see that this is just another effort to destroy capitalism, private property and individual liberty. Do you not remember the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit scandal? If you want to be red-pilled go here, here and here to start.

So why the disclaimer? Because our intrepid authors, Rodgers and Wolf, do believe in global warming. However, they make their case in Chapter 9 that cows are not a part of the problem. For this chapter, I’ll lay out their arguments without chiming in every five seconds about my views on climate change.

Robb Wolf - Sacred Cow Podcasts

So cows get attacked because they produce methane. I always thought that this was due to flatulence, but apparently, most of it comes from belching. The authors’ key argument is that methane from cows and other ruminants is a part of a natural carbon cycle. Cattle transform existing carbon from grass into methane. This goes into the atmosphere, is broken down over ten years into carbon dioxide and water and is cycled back into the environment to grow more grass and other plants. In contrast, burning fossil fuels releases trapped carbon (coal, oil, etc.) that is not a part of this cyclical process.

Rodgers and Wolf then spend some time citing several studies that undermine the “cows are bad” narrative. For instance, a recent NASA study concluded that the “largest contributors to methane are fossil fuels, fires and wetlands or rice farming.” Surely some mistake! Similarly, the plant-based hysterics often claim that livestock contribute something like 18-51% of all greenhouse gasses. According to our authors, even the Environmental Protection Agency, which is hardly against the whole Climate Change narrative, argues the number is more like 2%. Finally, and this may shock you dear reader, it turns out that chemical-driven industrial monocrop agriculture emits far more methane than was previously understood.

But you might say, “okay it’s not so bad and the numbers have been exaggerated. But those damn cows are still belching out methane. It still needs to stop!” Well no according to our authors. That’s because ruminants, if raised properly, contribute to soil health which actually stores carbon. Lot’s of it. The rest of the chapter delves into a recent Michigan State University study which argues that grass-fed, pastured beef actually is a net-loss in carbon emissions. In contrast, these plant-based burgers which have been pushed on us for the last two years are a net gain, “for every Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger you eat, you’d have to eat one White Oak Pastures grass-fed beef burger to offset your emissions.”

Conclusion

This is a good chapter to use against the plant-based crowd who demonise meat. The fact that rice farming produces far more greenhouse gasses than ruminants would be enough to end the attack on meat in a sane world. The fact that well-farmed ruminants would mean a net loss in greenhouse gasses is more ammunition.

Possible Stem Cell Cure for Diabetes

Don’t pop the champagne just yet. You know, as well as I do, that these stories spring up from time-to -time. If they all came true, there’d be no cancer in the world.

Nevertheless, scientist at the University of California San Francisco have finally been able to transform stem cells into insulin producing beta-cells. According to Mattias Hebrok, the Hurlbut-Johnson Distinguished Professor in Diabetes Research at UCSF and director of the UCSF Diabetes Center, “We can now generate insulin-producing cells that look and act a lot like the pancreatic beta cells you and I have in our bodies. This is a critical step towards our goal of creating cells that could be transplanted into patients with diabetes.”

There’s obviously a lot more work to be done, but a member of Hebrok’s team is very optimistic, “Our work points to several exciting avenues to finally finding a cure.

Read the whole story here:

Functional Insulin-Producing Cells Grown In Lab | UC San Francisco (ucsf.edu)

Sacred Cow – Are We Eating Too Much Meat?

That’s the question kemosabe. According to our authors, there is a perception that Americans are eating too much meat. They conjure up the image of a giant T-bone hanging over the side of the plate. Early in this chapter, Rodgers and Wolf also point out that a lot of Americans equate meat with beef. Apparently, poultry, pork and seafood don’t count as meat in a lot of American minds. Is this uniquely American? I grew up in Canada and have lived half my life in the United Kingdom. I’ve never come across this bizarre definition of meat in either country. Maybe it’s just me living in a bubble. In any event, the authors give a proper definition of meat, i.e., animal protein.

Once clarifying what meat actually is, Rodgers and Wolf tackle the question at hand. Their answer? “In reality, we’re not eating anywhere close to 265 pounds of meat per person, per year.” They do a fine job unpicking this much quoted number from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), concluding that Americans actually eat 132 pounds per year. Moreover, the USDA’s own data shows Americans are eating far less meat today than they were fifty years ago.

So how much meat should we eat? Well, after taking us through a lot of data (US Dietary Guidelines, the Center of Disease Control, AMDR) they arrive at 30 percent of total calories or around 100 grams of meat protein a day. What about plant protein? They’ll address that one farther down the road.

Conclusion

They are already preaching to the converted with me. The vast majority of my calories comes from fat and protein. This chapter, nevertheless, is a bit dry. It’s got a lot of statistics, and it gives me the impression they’re laying the foundation to make their big case for meat later in the book. This chapter is more of an exercise in debunking myths that many Americans hold in their heads. Still, if most Americans think they are eating too much meat, they need debunking. As the authors state at the end of the chapter:

“We hope you understand now that the idea of “too much” is not based on science, but more likely on a “feeling” that meat is, by nature, gluttonous and unhealthy…We aren’t eating “too much,” and even the RDA of protein might not be enough for our needs.”

Sacred Cow – Meat as Scapegoat

“How about restaurants in 10-15 years start treating carnivores the same way that smokers are treated? If they want to eat meat, they can do it outside the restaurant.” So said Christiana Figueres, the former execute secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Christiana Figueres in London - 2018 (39536174340) (cropped).jpg
Would-be Totalitarian?

This is a good jumping off point for chapter one of Sacred Cow. The totalitarians on the left hate meat and blame it for many things wrong with the world. As Wolf and Rodgers state “we’ve been able to boil down the arguments against meat into three main subjects: nutrition, environment and ethics.” They spend much of this first chapter trying to figure out how a food source we have tapped into for millions of year is now equated with smoking by correct thinkers like the charming woman above?

Looking into the past

The authors make a quick survey of human existence and highlight some not so well-known truths: human health went backwards during the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago; the Progressives of the late 19th and early 20th centuries linked immoral behaviour and disease with sinful foods like alcohol, sugar and meat; and today most people are overfed but undernourished due to food-based products replacing whole fresh foods. They even go into a brief, but fascinating story connecting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with Richard Nixon and the Cold War. It’s sounds kooky, and it may be oversimplified, but the fact the US GOV stimulates the production of corn through massive subsidies to corporate farmers is no lie.

So the takeaway is that meat has been under attack for longer than many of us think. Moreover, food-based products that are unhealthy have been subsidised and promoted by government and corporate interests for decades. Isn’t it surprising that the people who mean to rule us, like Ms Figueres, don’t seem to get upset with HFCS, industrial seed oils and the like? Very curious.

What’s the Solution

The rest of the chapter discusses how we get ourselves out of this mess. How do we combat people who blame meat for practically all the world’s ills? Rodgers and Wolf provide a series of questions that they are no doubt going to answer in the rest of the book. Here are the really key ones in my opinion:

  • What if we could help developing countries produce better meat, not discourage them from eating it altogether?
  • Does the science really support claims that meat increases obesity rates, diabetes and cancer?
  • Is limiting meat really the answer when most in the West are overfed but undernourished because of food-based products?
  • Are Big-Agra, chemically produced monocrops (corn, wheat, soya) really the answer in curing our health and soil?

Conclusion

This chapter is a good foundation for the rest of the book. It tells us briefly how we got here. The authors demonstrate that the demonisation of meat is not a recent phenomenon. Although they don’t state it directly, this has been a leftist attack going back for over a century. In addition, it throws down the gauntlet to those who attack meat eating. If all of these people just tut-tutted and left us alone, there would be no problem. However, too many of them share Ms Figueres’s mindset: they want to tell us what to do. That Rodgers and Wolf are going to spend the rest of the book defending against the enemies of meat is going to make for an interesting read.

Big Dinners Linked to Covid Deaths?

I stumbled across this study last week when I was researching the “King, Prince, Pauper” eating method. The title is pretty catchy “Early dinner or “dinner like a pauper”: Evidence, the habitual time of the largest meal of the day – dinner – is predisposing to severe COVID-19 outcome – death.”

The paper concludes that the later one eats, the greater the chance of dying from covid. The authors believe that eating later promotes inflammation which allows covid easier entry into the body’s cells.

This is a not a gold standard study by any stretch. The data are from dietary surveys which have the built in flaws of memory errors or even dishonesty (though I don’t see why people would lie about the time they have dinner). However, it is and interesting first step.

Of course, people die from covid for many reasons: age, co-morbidities, obesity, lifestyle, bad luck, etc. Nevertheless, all other things being equal, eating later looks like it could be another reason. I hope more research is carried on this in the near-future. In the meantime, it looks like another good reason to continue with my new eating regime!