What do cornfields, Middle East oil, and animal concentration camps (aka CAFOs - concentrated animal feeding operations) have in common?
They’re all part of a modern industrialised food complex which produces much of the processed, convenience foods avidly consumed by many of us today.
But have you ever wondered why?
What exactly are you eating, how was it made, of what? Is it really full of “natural goodness” and as “farm fresh” as the beguiling advertising suggests?
Or, do we really care?
Are we becoming like Food Zombies’?
Sometimes it seems to me that we have strayed so far from our dietary roots, and become so disconnected from our food sources, that we struggle to know what exactly nutritious food is.
For example, did you know that:
- Experts agree that the key cause of the global chronic disease crisis is poor dietary choices (ref 1)
- Almost 90% of the money Americans spend on food is spent on processed foods (ref 2)
- The average American aged 19-64 now regularly takes 12 prescription drugs, and those older, take 28 (ref 3)
What is going on? And what exactly is the role of the industrial food complex in all this suffering?
To address this, let’s consider a recent Chipotle ad (ref 4)
It echoes the documentary ‘American Meat’ by eloquently illustrating how the modern industrialised food system is breeding the nutrition out of our food.
How the Industrialised Food System is Breeding the Nutrition out of our Food
Let’s review three critical areas which illustrate this nutrient depletion:
1. Soil Nutrient depletion
75 years ago American nutritionists and soil experts (ref 5) described how the industrialisation of farming and mass land desertification have stripped our soils of the trace minerals so necessary to health, growth, long life, and resistance to disease.
They conclude that “We must make soil building the basis of food building in order to accomplish human building... and to reduce disease and our fat bellies.”
Since then, worldwide soil nutrient values have become so depleted that they have lost between 72-85% of their minerals (ref 6)
It’s hardly surprising then, that the quality of our food has deteriorated so badly...
2. Plant nutrient depletion
Over 10,000 years ago our ancestor hunter gatherers foraged for wild plants, non-starchy vegetables, seafood, wild meat, nuts, seeds, and fruit. In fact, according to Dr. Mark Berry, an expert in Paleolithic nutrition research, our ancestors ate 20 to 25 different plant foods each day. Today, many of us struggle to fit in the recommended five!
There was no processed food or refined sugar – not even bread, cereal, potatoes, or pasteurized dairy – a far cry from most diets today.
This fare, especially the wild plants, provided an astounding level of phytonutrients which are largely absent from our modern cultivated fruits and vegetables. For instance, wild dandelions contain seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, and Peruvian purple potatoes contain 28 times more anthocyanins than commonly consumed russet potatoes (ref 7)
Many (but not yet all!) nutritional experts are also realising that in straightforward nutritional analyses (see following chart), organic food tends to have more in it, both in terms of dry weight and nutrients (ref 8).
Chart showing the component mean % increase in organic produce vs non-organic produce:
|Dry matter ||+26% ||Copper ||+34% |
|Potassium ||+13 ||Manganese ||+28% |
|Calcium ||+56% ||Protein ||+12% |
|Magnesium ||+49% ||Essential amino acids ||+35% |
|Iron ||+290% ||Nitrates ||+69% |
|Phosphorous ||+6% || || |
This difference is because organically grown produce must be cultivated without chemicals in enriched soil. As a result, it is naturally nourished and nutrient dense. Conversely, modern agrochemical farming can accelerate the growth of a plant by changing its structure to contain more water, sugar (and chemicals). So, although a conventionally grown carrot may still look like a carrot, you are actually buying less food and less nutrition, but more toxic junk.
To make matters worse, we are eating more junk and not balancing it with more exercise. For example, our Stone-Age predecessors probably burned between 800 and 1,200 calories daily just hunting and dodging animals. This compares with the over 3900 calories consumed daily by the average modern city dweller inhabiting their "computer cave."
As Professor Jimmy Bell, obesity specialist at Imperial College in London, states (ref 9)
“Genetically, human beings haven't changed, but our environment, our access to cheap food has."
Likewise, just as genetically we haven’t fundamentally changed, the same applies to animals (unless they are genetically modified!). But for those unfortunate enough to be bred for food, so too, their environment has changed unrecognisably...
3. Animal nutrient depletion
There is a big contrast between what I call “Animal Concentration Camps”, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – CAFOs - and organically-raised animals.
Differences in the animals’ diets and living conditions create very different end products. For example, most CAFO cows and chickens are fed dangerous GMO grains (ref 10). Yet cows’ natural diet consists of plain grass, and chickens are omnivorous so feed on insects, seeds and fruits.
Add to this, the crowded, stressful, unsanitary CAFO conditions and the extra hormones, antibiotics, veterinary drugs and disease-causing pathogens (ref 11), how can one expect to nurture happy healthy animals?
What do you think eating such traumatised toxic victims does to your body and health?
In this context, I can’t help but recall a quote by Ghandi:
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
By breeding the nutrition out of our soil, plants and animals, is it any surprise that many people are getting sicker and sicker, while, arguably, the modern industrial food complex and Big Pharma are getting richer?
Please see below the link to the Chipotle advert if you have not already seen it. I think it is well worth watching.
Food for thought!
Please share your thought on this matter.
1. Global chronic disease :
2. Expenditure on processed food http://jhampton.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/51769044/Fast%20Food%20Nation.pdf
3. Prescription drug numbers: Kaiser Health Foundation, Retail Prescription Drugs Filled at Pharmacies (Annual per Capita by Age), 2011 http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/retail-rx-drugs-by-age/
4. Chipotle ad
5. American nutritionists and soil experts’ views http://senatedoc264.blogspot.com/
6. Soil nutrient values http://www.nutritionsecurity.org/PDF/NSI_White%20Paper_Web.pdf
7. Food nutrient depletion http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/26/opinion/sunday/breeding-the-nutrition-out-of-our-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
8. Nutrient values of organic vs. processed foods
9 Prof Jimmy Bell: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18393391
10. Dangers of GMOs on animals, and in general