Feds: No Steak For You

 

shutterstock_93064210Every five years, the federal government comes out with dietary guidelines. 2015 will see the next set of recommendations. Hamburger lovers should worry, but a quick perusal of notes from the year-long series of meetings show that the committee will likely not break too much new ground: eat less red meat and more vegetables, fruit is good, soda pop is evil, etc.

Well, there is one big change: the assorted nutritionists, cancer specialists, and pediatricians have weighed in on agriculture and found it wanting. We farmers need to be more sustainable. No one could argue with that, although I’m not sure that their definition of sustainability and mine would line up.

Their mistake here is sort of interesting. When the dietary mandarins talk about sustainability, they mean agriculture should use less energy and fewer resources. Well, actually, they don’t know a darned thing about farming, but they know they’d like us to eat less red meat, and surveys of greenhouse gas emission usually credit cows as being large contributors. Although red meat consumption has been dropping like a stone, it hasn’t been fast enough for the dietary panel, and they’ve decided to give their recommendations a decidedly green cast.

Sustainability is a beautiful empty vessel of a word, available for filling with the latest fad. It may well be that the best way to increase agricultural sustainability is not to decrease the resources farmers use, but actually increase our inputs-per-acre. That’s how we’ve increased the production of food while using fewer acres over the past century, a trend that will no doubt continue into future.

We’re making breakthroughs on the application of data to farming, which may well drop the use of fertilizers and pesticides, because we’ll be more parsimonious in our application of those things. At the same time, a new company has just discovered a fungus that will soon be sprayed on seed to improve the drought tolerance of corn. Now, if the fungus can overcome moisture stress, my corn will need more fertilizer, because its yield potential has just increased. Instead of water being the limiting factor, it may be nitrogen. Nitrogen fertilizer is responsible for much of the energy use and greenhouse gases released on my farm.

Hmm. More technology, more inputs, but much more yield. That will make me more sustainable, but I don’t think its what the dietary council has in mind.

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  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Their fondest wish is to see you walking behind your draft horse, plowing your fields, and using the “output” of the horse for fertilizer.  I know this because the local fish wrap periodically sings the praises of “sustainable” organic farming, which usually involves the above-mentioned draft horse, plowing a one or two-acre field.  Yes, their fondest wish IS really to take us back to the dark ages.  And I wonder if anyone really takes the government’s dietary guidelines seriously, or even bothers to find out what they are.  I’m guessing not.

    What’s for dinner?  A nice thick New York steak!

    • #1
  2. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Over the last few years, I have reduced my intake of red meat. Not out of concern for the environment or animal welfare, but because cheap meat just doesn’t taste anywhere near as good to my palate (and is apparently much less healthy?) than more expensive meat. I thus dropped from eating red meat 3-4x a week to 1-2x a week for the same price.

    Perhaps the facts wouldn’t back this up, but I do wonder sometimes if there isn’t a market case for meat from non-CAFO farms: that their greater health and flavor benefits outweigh the higher cost, and that most people (even those of lesser means) would be better off eating fewer portions of higher-quality meat. Instead of bringing in government entities (often outside of their jurisdiction) to constrain “unsustainable” farming practices, might consumers ever be able to exert that sort of pressure (pardon the pun) organically?

    • #2
  3. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    As a native Montanan, I was eating steak before I had teeth.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RushBabe49:And I wonder if anyone really takes the government’s dietary guidelines seriously, or even bothers to find out what they are.

    I try to find out so that I can do the opposite. The guv’mint guidelines are responsible for the increase in coronary artery disease and other health problems.

    • #4
  5. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Arahant:

    RushBabe49:And I wonder if anyone really takes the government’s dietary guidelines seriously, or even bothers to find out what they are.

    I try to find out so that I can do the opposite. The guv’mint guidelines are responsible for the increase in coronary artery disease and other health problems.

    If the government came out with a statement that Snickers Bars were fattening I’d start adding one to every meal.

    • #5
  6. user_998621 Member
    user_998621
    @Liz

    Arahant:

    RushBabe49:And I wonder if anyone really takes the government’s dietary guidelines seriously, or even bothers to find out what they are.

    I try to find out so that I can do the opposite. The guv’mint guidelines are responsible for the increase in coronary artery disease and other health problems.

    Exactly.

    • #6
  7. Foxman Inactive
    Foxman
    @Foxman

    RushBabe49:What’s for dinner? A nice thick New York steak!

    For Breakfast!

    • #7
  8. Foxman Inactive
    Foxman
    @Foxman

    Remember. These are the same people who to use trans-fat-filled margarine rather than butter.

    • #8
  9. user_100603 Member
    user_100603
    @BlakeandJulieHurst

    Mendel, there are alternatives available.  Grass fed beef, free range chickens and the like.  The health benefits are truly hard to find, but “naturally” raised meat is a rapidly growing part of the market, albeit from a very small base.  There are rarely discussed tradeoffs for the animals, however.  Pigs raised outside suffer when it is cold, as it is here in Missouri today.   Pigs smash and even eat their young.  Hence the confinement farmers use.  Predators eat chickens.  Ask me about the weasel(ferret) that I watched as a youngster destroy our chicken flock.  Prices for beef are high because the supply is low.  Not because of dietary guidelines, but because of the recent drought.  You’ll find beef prices improving for consumers over the next few years, and I hope you’ll increase your consumption of red meat, whether “naturally” raised or conventionally grown, when prices return to normal levels.

    • #9
  10. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    I like to point out that any technology the government publicly supports has instantly become a bad bet. There are, to my limited knowledge, no counterexamples.

    • #10
  11. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Arahant:

    RushBabe49:And I wonder if anyone really takes the government’s dietary guidelines seriously, or even bothers to find out what they are.

    I try to find out so that I can do the opposite. The guv’mint guidelines are responsible for the increase in coronary artery disease and other health problems.

    My doc says to look at the “official” dietary guidelines, then burn them.

    • #11
  12. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Some of the claims made by the anti-beef people are comical.  I once heard someone claim that one third of all the water in the U.S. went into cattle production.  So I guess that means that after 3 years there should be no water left?  If a cow drink some water, does the water disappear to another dimension?  Or water used to grow crops that cattle eat disappears to another planet?

    • #12
  13. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    You know, if we could turn that damned food pyramid upside down, we’d all be healthier.

    Obesity epidemic? Yeah, guess why! It’s because the government decided that we all needed to carb-load like we were planning to run daily marathons.

    • #13
  14. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Any and all statements and guidelines issued by government experts are suspect, imho.

    Until these folks start losing their jobs for being wrong, we can never trust anything they say.

    • #14
  15. user_8182 Coolidge
    user_8182
    @UndergroundConservative

    I don’t understand how they can speak of sustainability in farming when organic farming frequently yields less per acre than “traditional” methods.  Won’t that require more land?  More water?

    • #15
  16. The Great Adventure! Inactive
    The Great Adventure!
    @TheGreatAdventure

    Because… cows!

    IMG_0004

    • #16
  17. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Z in MT:As a native Montanan, I was eating steak before I had teeth.

    And may you continue to eat steak long after your teeth are gone!

    • #17
  18. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    iWc:I like to point out that any technology the government publicly supports has instantly become a bad bet. There are, to my limited knowledge, no counterexamples.

    A limited counterexample,if you will: The Mercury,Gemini,and Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s

    • #18
  19. Palaeologus Inactive
    Palaeologus
    @Palaeologus

    Regarding the issue of higher vs. lower quality beef, I have a couple of questions for Blake and Julie:

    Prime grade beef has become much more readily available in the last ten years in my small city (metro pop, +/- 300k).

    Is this an anomaly, or is it commonplace?

    Is it a result of changing standards (I have read that, traditionally, maybe 2% of beef gets a prime grade) or changing practices by restaurant buyers (buying less/cheaper), grocery buyers (willing to risk the higher costs), or farmers’ practices? All of the above? None of the above?

    What do you think of the USDA beef grades? Are they good/ bad for business? Are they consistent?

    • #19
  20. Steve in Richmond Member
    Steve in Richmond
    @SteveinRichmond

    So nice to know that the dietary police are now opining on agricultural sustainability.  I guess this means since they are now on the case we can disband the USDA?

    It would be nice if they could get nutrition right before venturing into fields they know even less about.

    • #20
  21. user_100603 Member
    user_100603
    @BlakeandJulieHurst

    Palaeologus:Regarding the issue of higher vs. lower quality beef, I have a couple of questions for Blake and Julie:

    Prime grade beef has become much more readily available in the last ten years in my small city (metro pop, +/- 300k).

    Is this an anomaly, or is it commonplace?

    Is it a result of changing standards (I have read that, traditionally, maybe 2% of beef gets a prime grade) or changing practices by restaurant buyers (buying less/cheaper), grocery buyers (willing to risk the higher costs), or farmers’ practices? All of the above? None of the above?

    What do you think of the USDA beef grades? Are they good/ bad for business? Are they consistent?

    Hmm, don’t know why the change.  Prices have increased, so I might guess that buyers left in the beef market are actually less price sensitive, and willing to pay for top quality.

    Grades are based on marbling, or those streaks of fat in the meat.  More marbling, more tenderness, as a rule.  So, prime beef has more fat in the muscle-now, this fat is not necessarily related to the amount of carcass fat.  Some breeds of beef lay down more marbling before back fat appears.  The trick is to improve genetics so marbling increases while back fat does not.  We very rarely buy prime-sometimes its better, but often more fat and waste than we like.  Standards were changed some years ago, to make choice and prime more attainable, but to my knowledge standards haven’t changed for years.  Grades are a judgement call, but as far as I know tend to be consistent.  Find the grade that you like best, and its a fairly good indication that the next beef you buy will be about the same.

    • #21
  22. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @DrRich

    Blake and Julie,

    Whenever you hear the word “sustainability,” you are hearing Progressive dogma.  The use of that word by the government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee would be a strong clue that its real agenda is shifting away from its primary mission of making sure Americans are informed about healthy diets.

    Such a shift would make sense, since this advisory committee has been making horrendous mistakes since its institution, in particular, promoting high-carb, low-fat diets and (in the 1980s) demanding that trans-fats be substituted for saturated fats in processed foods.  (Now that they have reversed course on this latter, who knows what new, proprietary, untested, dangerous plant-based oils are being used in our potato chips instead?)

    In any case, with the accumulation of new evidence on dietary fat, and the publication of books and articles that are beginning to spread the word, the dietary committee doubtless is in a bind. The evidence that they have been committing crimes against humanity are stacking up. Their new dietary guidelines are coming due, and they likely can’t face the thought of doing a mea culpa, and entirely reversing 30+ years of bad advice.

    So they are shifting instead to a new rationale for endorsing low-fat diets. Namely, low fat diets will save the planet by reducing the damage people like you are causing with all your nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, cow farts and whatnot.  The  Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, if it indeed goes this way, will be championing the planet instead of healthy diets.

    And who could fault them for that?  Climate Change is officially the number one threat to earthly lifeforms, after all. Their agenda will have shifted from merely offering good advice to advancing the Holy.

    • #22
  23. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @MrAmy

    Mendel:… because cheap meat just doesn’t taste anywhere near as good to my palate (and is apparently much less healthy?) than more expensive meat.

    There are a couple of reasons that meat would be cheaper. The biggest one is the cut. Anything from the very tender loin primal is going to cost more than the more flavorful but less tender chuck.The chuck does have more fat that the loin.

    The other is Grade. Of the three grades of beef currently seen in supermarkets U.S. (Prime, Choice, and Select), the difference is in where the fat is located. It is easier to trim the fat off of a U.S. Select grade steak than a U.S. Prime one, so a lower grade would have less fat. I haven’t seen data about other nutrients.

    • #23
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