Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Olive Oil – Healthy or Unhealthy?

I got the lead to this article from Jennifer McLagan the author of the cookbook “Fat”. She is a strong believer in the use of animal fat for cooking. She says that most vegetable oils are rancid by the time they hit the stores’ shelves and so they are unhealthy, unlike fat from animals. Olive oil is the only one that is healthy but only when handled under certain condition which the article below describes.

Essential Oil by Mark Kurlansky, Bon Appetit, November 2008.
To read the whole article, click here.

Here’s a summary:

At times it seems that the search for good health has taken all the pleasure out of life. It has stripped us of butter, cream, marbled red meat, pork, and goose fat.
Olive oil, it often seems, is the only really good food we are still allowed.
So the news keeps getting better and better. It even turns out that the best-tasting (and least-tampered-with) olive oils are the most healthful.
This is the olive oil that the ancient Greeks and Romans rated the best and the most healthful. It's made from whole olives crushed at room temperature, which yields less oil than heating. And it's unfiltered…

Now for the bad news. Only the best olive oil, which is fairly rare and very expensive, has all the health benefits of the oil of ancient Greece. The well-informed consumer—who inspects labels and looks for the phrases "extra-virgin," "cold-pressed," and "first pressing"—may assume that a costly bottle with these three specifications is top-quality.

To label an oil "extra-virgin" in Europe, it must have less than 0.8 percent acidity. But the pressing process can yield an oil of higher acidity, in which case the oil is refined to reduce the acidity—but this also reduces the health benefits. Nowhere on the extra-virgin label does it indicate whether the oil has been refined.

Any contact with water is ruinous to olive oil from a health standpoint, because polyphenol antioxidants are water-soluble. The health-giving properties can literally be washed away.

Oxidation occurs over time, from exposure to heat and exposure to light, and the result is a substantially less healthful product.

Good olive oil can last two years or even longer before losing its healthful properties, but if antioxidants get washed away, its shelf life can be shortened to a few months. Most people will not realize when it has reached this turning point, and many oils (with the exception of those from deluxe Italian producers) are not labeled with a pressing or expiration date.

So what's the solution? There are not many guarantees in the olive oil world, but look for: (1) a fairly small bottle, since quality producers who try to sell the oil while young tend to sell it in small amounts; (2) a label that states not only "cold-pressed," "first pressing," and "extra-virgin," but also gives a date for this (make sure the date is within the past year); (3) a slight cloudiness to the oil, since clarity suggests filtration or other processes that diminish the quality; and (4) a dark-tinted bottle to prevent light damage.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Can We Eat Like That and Be Healthy?

I don’t remember how I got to this web site – chooseveg.com. But I did. And now I can’t move on without thinking about what I saw and posting about it.

Does this ever happen to you? You read stuff on the internet, then you start to click links and jump from blog to blog, from site to site, from blog to site, and then you end up with something either tremendously interesting, or extremely boring, or shockingly outrageous, and then you realize that you have sat in front of the computer for a few hours.

This is how I ran into this movie that shows the horrific treatment that “farm” animals get from the day they are born until they get to our table. You have got to watch this video!

I can’t believe people can be healthy when they are eating animals that have suffered so much all their lives. Such cruelty! You have got to see this! Click here to watch the video.

I’m not saying you should become a vegetarian. I know I can’t. But I strongly believe that we do get sick because we eat food=animals that have suffered so much!

What can we do besides giving up totally on eating animals and becoming vegetarians?
These animals serve our needs! What choices can we make so these animals get to live a respectful, healthier, and better life, just like us?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baby First Food Words

I was “reading” this book titled “Food” to my little girl, she is 9 months old. The book has 18 first words to teach your baby about food.

Then I have noticed that 6 words out of 18 are sweet food words.The words are: gingerbread man, cookie, orange juice, cookies, doughnut, and candy.
There are actually 2 pages with a photo of candies which is how the "book" ends.

Well, how else can a baby ask mommy and daddy for juice or a cookie? Hmm.

And my question is:
Are these the most important food words a baby needs to learn?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why do babies need to drink juice?

We have a 9 months old baby. She is not our first child but we have forgotten a couple of things regarding raising a baby. BabyCenter is a web site we have been using as a guide in the past 6 years. It is a very informative resource for parents. So we went there to look for information on “what to feed” our baby. Here is what we found.

Age-by-age guide to feeding your baby

Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board
Last updated: November 2008

Age: 8 to 10 months

What to feed:
• Breast milk or formula, PLUS
• Small amounts of soft pasteurized cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese (but no cows' milk until age 1)
• Iron-fortified cereals (rice, barley, wheat, oats, mixed cereals)
• Mashed fruits and vegetables (bananas, peaches, pears, avocados, cooked carrots, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes)
• Finger foods (lightly toasted bagels, cut up; small pieces of ripe banana; well-cooked spiral pasta; teething crackers; low-sugar O-shaped cereal)
• Small amounts of protein (egg, pureed meats, poultry, and boneless fish; tofu; well-cooked and mashed beans with soft skins like lentils, split peas, pintos, black beans)

All looks good so far…. And then….
Non-citrus juice (apple or pear)

How much per day:
• ¼ to 1/3 cup dairy (or ½ oz. cheese)
• ¼ to ½ cup iron-fortified cereal• ¼ to ½ cup fruit• ¼ to ½ cup vegetables
• 1/8 to ¼ cup protein foods
• 3 to 4 oz. non-citrus juices

This list is obviously affected by the culture, time, and place where we live. I wonder what kids eat in countries where “low-sugar O-shaped cereal” does not exist.

Nonetheless, I do ask – why do babies need to drink juice?

See also Sugary Similac Organic infant formula and Baby First Food Words

Monday, November 3, 2008

Recipes that don’t work

I really really, really, really, don’t like recipes that don’t work. (And this is a nicer way to say it than: I really hate recipes that don’t work).
The average cookbook cost $20-$35.Not to mention the cost of ingredients and my precious time. So I really want recipes to work.
Whoever wrote the recipe is making money when I buy his/her cookbook; this is their job, to write recipes, so I want to recipe to work, don’t you?!

I like to bake a cake every Friday because it is so nice to have a cup of coffee and a home-made piece of cake on Saturday morning, and afternoon, and on Sunday too.But I really don’t like it when the recipe doesn’t work and instead of a lovely cake, I end up with this:

No need to say that my cake looked totally different than the photo in the cookbook.
It was supposed to be a cheesecake with streusel topping.
When I started making the cake, I felt there is a chance that the recipe is somewhat inaccurate, but I followed the instructions word by word and this is what happened:
* The amount of dough needed a larger pan size, so I used a pan 1-inch larger than the recipes asks for.
* The amount of filling needed a totally different kind of pan, much bigger and taller. But it was too late to change because I already put the dough in.
* Baking time was way off. It needed an extra 30 minutes.
* The streusel topping was still unbaked even after 60 minutes in the oven.

Here is what it looked like before going into the oven.

And I AM a good baker. And a smart one too. This is why I place my cake pans on a larger baking sheet every time I bake. And this is my advice to you:

Every time you bake, always, and I mean ALWAYS, place your cake pan inside a sheet pan before you bake it.

All the filling spilled over. What a mess! At least it spilled into the baking sheet and not inside the oven. Then I would have been really really angry.

Well, that cookbook goes to the garage. May it R.I.P?


Modified from A cake for the weekend: Cheesecake with streusel topping disaster

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Kiddies Holiday Treats

Yesterday I baked muffins for fall festivals celebrated in my children’s schools. Home-made muffins. Fresh out of the oven. They were still warm. The typical holiday aroma of cinnamon and ginger was in the air. No food coloring or sugary frosting. No candy topping. And no toy. I like to serve food that looks like food.

Other parents brought store bought muffins with black and orange colored fake- butter-cream, candy decorations on top and a toy ring, and some sugar frosted cookies shaped like a pumpkin.

Which treat do you think was the kids’ favorite?

Monday, October 27, 2008

A perfect cup of coffee – Greenlake Zoka, Seattle

This Sunday the weather was perfect, sunny and nice, so going to Green Lake Park in Seattle was a very good idea. We have friends who go there frequently, rain or shine, or snow, so we joined them this time. The park is lovely, a nice walk around the lake, a playground the kids love, beautiful fall foliage, and a blue lake sparkling in the sunshine.

And every time we are in Greenlake area, we always stop by Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea House for the perfect cup of latte and a perfectly roasted fresh coffee blend to take home.
Greenlake Zoka is one of my favorite coffee shops in Seattle.

The only thing I still don’t get is the people who LIVE in the coffee shop. Do you know what I mean?
My friends say that it has been weeks since they could finally grab one available chair to sit on. They usually have to buy their coffee to go since the place is crowded all the time with customers who seem to be sitting at the store ALL DAY LONG, usually with eyes fixed on a computer screen.
I think it is really outrageous, and I wonder what coffee shop owners think of the people who buy a cup of something and practically move in to live there.
Do you think those customers share the payments of the store’s lease too?
Maybe they should.

Anyway, this post is about Good Food and Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea House is certainly one.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sugary Similac Organic infant formula

I received a comment from a reader which reminded me about the “read the labels” thing.
A few months ago I came across this article in the NY Times. I’m sure some parents out there will be interested to know and make their own choice. I used to buy this formula for my baby but switched to another brand since.

For an All-Organic Formula, Baby, That’s Sweet By JULIA MOSKIN
May 19, 2008

“…many American parents have rushed to embrace Similac Organic formula, even though it sells for as much as 30 percent more than regular Similac. In 2007, its first full year on sale, it captured 36 percent of the organic formula market, with sales of more than $10 million, according to Kalorama Information, a pharmaceutical-industry research firm. (Similac’s parent company, Abbott Laboratories, does not release sales figures for individual products.)

Parents may be buying it because they believe that organic is healthier, but babies may have a reason of their own for preferring Similac Organic: it is significantly sweeter than other formulas. It is the only major brand of organic formula that is sweetened with cane sugar, or sucrose, which is much sweeter than sugars used in other formulas.

No health problems in babies have been associated with Similac Organic. But to pediatricians, there are risks in giving babies cane sugar: Sucrose can harm tooth enamel faster than other sugars; once babies get used to its sweeter taste, they might resist less sweet formulas or solid foods; and some studies suggest that they might overeat, leading to rapid weight gain in the first year, which is often a statistical predictor of childhood obesity.

Asked about these concerns, Carolyn Valek, a spokeswoman for Abbott Nutrition, the division of Abbott Laboratories that makes Similac Organic, said that sucrose had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and was considered “safe and well established.” Ms. Valek said that Similac Organic had no more sweetener than other formulas and that prolonged contact with any kind of sugar could cause tooth decay.

In Europe, where sudden increases in childhood obesity are a pressing public health issue, sucrose-sweetened formulas will be banned by the end of 2009, except when ordered by a doctor for babies with severe allergies. The 27 countries of the European Union adopted the new rules according to the recommendations of the group’s Scientific Committee on Food, which found that sucrose provided no particular nutritional advantages, could, in rare cases, bring about a fatal metabolic disorder, and might lead to overfeeding.

The F.D.A., however, which regulates infant formula, does not specify which sugars can be used, as long as they are already classified as safe. Nor does it set the amount of sugar per serving, as it does for fats and proteins.
Still, a number of pediatricians said they were surprised by the choice of sucrose.

All infant formulas contain added sugars, which babies need to digest the proteins in cow’s milk or soy. Other organic formulas, like Earth’s Best and Parent’s Choice, use organic lactose as the added sugar. Organic lactose must be extracted from organic milk, the global supplies of which have been severely stretched in the last three years, driving up the price of the lactose.

“The parents in my practice who would use organic formula are the same parents who would be worried about giving sweets to their babies,” said Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, a member of the nutrition committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “That organic formula would be sweeter might not be a health risk, but it certainly isn’t what the parents have in mind.”

Many doctors have long believed that all sugars, from raw cane to highly processed high-fructose corn syrup, are nutritionally identical. But others disagree.

“Recent studies show that animals have a clear preference for sucrose over other sugars,” Dr. Araujo said. And eating sucrose, he said, generates future cravings for sucrose; other sugars tested, like fructose and glucose, do not have the same long-term effect.
However, Gary K. Beauchamp, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, a nonprofit research institute, said there was no solid proof that early exposure to sweetness gave babies a greater taste for sugar later in life.

The overall question of whether sweeter foods are more appealing to babies has long since been resolved. “Babies love sweetness, and anyone selling a sweeter formula is going to have an advantage, because it would be harder to switch a baby to another formula once they get used to the taste,” said Dr. William J. Klish, director of the pediatric gastroenterology department at Baylor College of Medicine and a former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee.

The sweeter taste of Similac Organic was observed by a professional sensory-tasting panel, commissioned by The New York Times to do a blind tasting of eight nationally available formulas, soy and dairy, organic and not. Seven of the formulas were as sweet as unsweetened apple juice, said Gail Civille, the director of Sensory Spectrum, which performed the tests. Ms. Civille said Similac Organic was the sweetest, with “the sweetness of grape juice or Country Time lemonade."

Doctors say that parents need not worry about the precise composition of formula, because the product over all has been proved safe and effective. But many questioned Similac’s choice of cane sugar, which has been gradually disappearing from infant formula since the 1950s.

(To me the punch line of the whole article is in the paragraph below - N.)

“The entire enterprise of formula is the attempt is to make it as close as possible to human milk,” Dr. Beauchamp said. “Making sweeter formula so that babies like it more seems to me contrary to the ethos of organic food, as a doctor and as a grandfather.”

To read the whole article, click here.

I think it’s time to post about something that makes you and me happy regarding food (which is not a recipe), don’t you think?

Any suggestions for a topic?
Or any “guest post”?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grass fed beef – part 3: How much does a hamburger cost?

I Googled “how much a hamburger cost” and found some interesting things.
I also went to three popular hamburger places which I haven’t visited for many many years, to do some research. (I sure am glad I stopped by before it was lunch time!)

So how much do you pay for a beef burger (without the fake fries and extremely large size of soda)?
I checked in four places: McDonalds (I don’t even know how to correctly spell “McCdonalds”), Burger King, Red Robin, and Whole Foods. In the first three places the employees didn’t know for sure how much meat the patty has. No, not even in the quarter-pounder patty places, ha ha ha, so I assume each burger sandwich to have a total of about 8 oz. (2 * 2 quarter pound patties = 8 oz. = half a pound).

Here are my findings:
$3.89 for Big Mac
$3.69 for Double whopper
$9.79 at Red Robin for a 6 oz. patty including fries and condiments, so let’s say it’s $4.89 for the burger
$3 for 8 oz. of raw grass-fed beef. All 100% beef, no fillers (bread, corn, msg, cardboard, whatever…). Of course, you’ll have to cook it at home (but I’m sure your kitchen is much cleaner).

And then I thought, what are the ingredients in a McDonalds burger anyway? Apparently, I’m not the first to ask. I found some funny answers here and here. Of course McDonald claims it is all beef, without elaborating too much. For example, would you like to know which parts of the cow, how or where they were raised, what did they eat – corn/grass/other cows? You really need to read between the lines (like their “farm fresh” lettuce, you might want to ask yourself, if you care, was it sprayed with chemicals, for instance).

Vegetarian of course will address the question of cost in a totally different way. But for now let’s focus on the monetary side.

Boy, all this hamburger talk ruined my appetite, but I am hungry, so I’ll go and have some leftover beef stew. Meanwhile, you do the math (cost, health, taste, etc) and decide where will you buy your next hamburger?

You might also be interested to read:
Beef eats grass, remember?: Part II
Beef eats grass, remember?: Part I

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sex, food, and the Food Network channel – “Oh, yeah, Baby”.

(First, my apologies in advance if someone feel hurt by this post. I have nothing against skinny/fat, old/young, blond/brunette, male/female, short/tall, with boobs or without, etc, people. Just trying to get my point across. Thanks, Nurit.)

I don’t watch the Food Network channel anymore.
I think I gave it up sometime after real chefs, like Wolfgang Puck and Jamie Oliver (Oliver is now back, I think), stopped airing and the Food channel added more shows with box/can-opener-cooks. I lost interest.
I know how to open a can and box by myself. I sure don’t need a skinny lady with big hair to show me how to do it.
THAT, in addition to all the “Oh, yeah, baby”-ies made me lose my appetite for the Food Network channel.

I don’t want to see a 60-years-old lady moaning and groaning over a baked potato. It’s only a potato... So what if is it loaded with butter, heavy cream, and bacon? I’m sure it tastes good. (Although surely will give me a heart attack if I eat that way every day). Just stop harassing the innocent potato.

I don’t want to see a woman cooking pasta while her boobs are steaming, sorry, eh, staring at me over a pot of steaming water. If it is that hot in CA, why not open the window instead?

I don’t want to see a middle-aged guy on food TV telling me “oh, yeah, baby” while handling a raw piece of meat. He is rubbing and rubbing it with spices. And then… “Bam!” he startles me.

I don’t want to see another wannabe “chef” show me how to chop a cucumber and moan “ohhh, it looks so good already. I can’t wait to try it”.

Oh, I could go on and on, rant, rant…

But really, I mean, come on, people! Where have all the REAL chefs gone?
Why have most disappeared from the food channel?
Not sexy enough?
Are they too chef-fy and don’t connect with “the people”?
Will “the people” get scared if they see more real, professional, chefs/cooks who can actually cook?

I’m sure the Food Channel would have turned Julia Child away if she wanted to have a show over there these days. They would probably say she is not sexy enough, too old, hair too curly, has an accent, oh, and she mess up sometimes.

BTW, I do really appreciate the chefs and cooks like Jamie Oliver, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, Tyler Florence, Rachel Ray, and others. They know how to cook, make it simple, down to earth. They are real professionals.

But please, PLEASE, no need to sell “the people” sex to make us cook more often.
Remember those days when advertisement used to show sexy women to sell cars???? This is just like that.

And do I get inspired to cook dinner for my family, kids included, because of a cleavage?
Oh, yeah, baby. Ah, NO.
Do you?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beef eats grass, remember?: Part II

Still no cow in sight...

Beef eats grass: Part I ended with “But my tasting showed that with 100 percent grass-fed beef you can have it all: sustainable, more nutritious beef with clean, juicy, beefy flavor. (Because the beef has less fat, though, it must be cooked at lower temperatures and for less time.)…”

I felt so good to find this information of how good it is to raise, grow, and eat grass-fed beef, that I searched more, and I have found out more… much more…

In this post is more good news about grass-fed beef versus corn-fed beef. This is a summary from The Food Revolution web site authored by John Robbins. It is only a small piece of what he writes (in a very lengthy article), so I’ll summarize more for you on the next post.

“Traditionally, all beef was grass-fed beef, but in the United States today what is commercially available is almost all feedlot beef. The reason? It's faster, and so more profitable. Seventy-five years ago, steers were 4 or 5 years old at slaughter. Today, they are 14 or 16 months. You can't take a beef calf from a birth weight of 80 pounds to 1,200 pounds in a little more than a year on grass. It takes enormous quantities of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics and other drugs, including growth hormones.

This leads directly and inexorably to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These are the new "superbugs" that are increasingly rendering our "miracle drugs" ineffective.

As well, it is the commercial meat industry's practice of keeping cattle in feedlots and feeding them grain that is responsible for the heightened prevalence of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria.

Many of us think of "corn-fed" beef as nutritionally superior, but it isn't. A corn-fed cow does develop well-marbled flesh, but this is simply saturated fat that can't be trimmed off. Grass-fed meat, on the other hand, is lower both in overall fat and in artery-clogging saturated fat.

Grass-fed beef… has the added advantage of providing more omega-3 fats… When cattle are taken off grass, though, and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on grain, they immediately begin losing the omega-3s they have stored in their tissues. As a consequence, the meat from feedlot animals typically contains only 15- 50 percent as much omega-3s as that from grass-fed livestock.

In addition to being higher in healthy omega-3s, meat from pastured cattle is also up to four times higher in vitamin E than meat from feedlot cattle, and much higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient associated with lower cancer risk.

As well as these nutritional advantages, there are also decided environmental benefits to grass-fed beef… the corn we feed our feedlot cattle accounts for a staggering amount of fossil fuel energy. Growing the corn used to feed livestock in this country takes vast quantities of chemical fertilizer, which in turn takes vast quantities of oil. Because of this dependence on petroleum… a typical steer will in effect consume 284 gallons of oil in his lifetime…”

Oil and eliminating our dependence on foreign oil is always a “Hot” topic, so I’ll leave you at that for today.
More to come in a few days.

Meanwhile, you share your thoughts on the subject, if you have any. Do you?
Send me an e-mail at: nurit AT familyfriendlyfood DOT com, or better, comment below.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I want the cheapest, most rubbish one. Or do I?

I am the newest addition to the huge fan club of Chef Jamie Oliver, or otherwise known as The Naked Chef. My friend, T., brought me his cookbook – “jamie’s dinners the essential family book” – for my birthday (Thank you again, T.!)

The book has excellent and easy recipes (click this link: jamie’s dinners by Jamie Oliver to see them.)

In the introduction for his book he writes the following, on which I couldn’t agree more… and I say these things to people myself all the time, but who listens to me??? So here it is for you, in the words of a very famous and successful chef:

“I do think a lot of people just don’t understand the importance of where their food comes from or what might have been done to it before they buy it. It is good to question these things.
First, good-quality food and produce – and yes, this may involve organics – is always considered to be middle-class or rich people’s food. Wrong. I’ve worked with students and people on the dole who eat better than some city boys earning hundreds of thousands a year… Why should you have standards when buying? Because you’re going to put this food in your mouth and swallow it and you’ll do this two or three times every single day of your life. Everything you eat contributes to you being happy… or full of energy, or susceptible to colds and flu… Your hair, your fingernails, your height, your skin, everything you are is made from the food you eat.”

Here's my favorite part...

“Very rarely does anyone go into a garage, phone store or shoe shop and ask for “the cheapest, most rubbish one.” So why do we walk into a supermarkets and support those companies that are producing cheap products? As a general rule, when food is cheap the quality is not going to be so good. It all comes down to your perception of value".

Here's an observation I had: when I buy "regular" chicken I find that after cooking it I have tiny portions of sad looking meat that has shrunk in half from its pre-cooked raw size. On the other hand, when I buy free-range/organic one it stays nice and plump and moist after cooking and almost the same original size it was before I cooked it. What does this mean?

I think it means that for the "regular" chicken I have probably paid for the weight of water which has evaporated after cooking or it was something else that was injected into that chicken which has disappeared during the cooking process. So I'm thinking, "regular" chicken cost less to begin with, but then I am left with less food when it's time to serve dinner. I feel cheated. On the other hand, free-range/organic cost more, but there's more meat to serve at the table.

And my question is:

Assuming an average person eats about 1/3 pound per portion of meat in a meal, will you pay an extra $1-$2 per pound to buy a free-range/organic chicken or will you choose a "regular"chicken?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Beef eats grass, remember?: Part I

OK, I don't have a picture of a cow, so a cute little sheep will do.

I sure have forgotten.
Thanks to a comment made by Aliya to my post on farmed tilapia, I now remember and can’t forget. She wrote: “It's sort of like cows eating corn, which is cheap, when they're meant to eat grass”. Her comment caught me by surprise because I got so used to seeing the signs of “corn fed beef” in the grocery store, that I haven’t given it another thought anymore.
So I thought I should check it out more closely.

Cows are vegetarians, by the way. On some farms they are given meat to eat, which actually their cow-friends’ remains. But we’ll discuss that later.
There is a lot to digest, the picture is not pretty, so I thought – I must break this up to smaller parts instead of overwhelming you with one long post. I was very overwhelmed. I shared some info with the hubby and he asked me – why are you telling me this? So this confirmed my feeling that this should be posted in a few “Parts”.

I would like to focus on grass-fed beef first, because this IS what cows are supposed to eat naturally.

And you might ask what the big deal is if the cows are eating corn or grass as long as they are eating a vegetarian diet? So let’s start.

This is from The New York Times, August 30, 2006

There’s More to Like About Grass-Fed Beef By MARIAN BURROS

“My own delicious research shows the industry has taken giant steps. When I wrote about grass-fed beef in 2002 there were about 50 producers, and most of what they raised was not very good. Now there are about 1,000 of them…

Ranchers of grass-fed beef say they have made great strides in the last few years by relearning what came naturally before the era of the feedlot (for “Feedlot” definition click here), then building on it. They use heritage breeds that thrive on grass rather than on grain, as well as crossbreeds developed with advanced genetics.

They have relearned the science of rotating pastures and determined which grasses provide better nutrition in a region like the Northeast, where pastures are not endless, as they are in the West.

… Research suggests grass-fed beef is likely to be lower in total fat, contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (corn fed beef has high omega-6 fatty acid like is found in doughnuts and pork bacon – N.) useful in reducing the risk of heart disease and have a higher level of C.L.A., conjugated linoleic acid, which, in animal studies, reduces the risk of cancer.

But the loose definition of grass-fed beef makes it difficult for people looking for alternatives to figure out just what they are buying. There is no regulation defining the term, and the Department of Agriculture has proposed letting cattle be called grass-fed even if they were raised on hay in a feedlot and never set hoof in a pasture.

The American Grassfed Association, which represents producers of 100 percent grass-fed animals, says a true grass-fed animal is put on pasture as soon as it is weaned and eats grass as long as it is available. When there is no more fresh grass the animal is fed hay and silage. Hormones and antibiotics are forbidden.

Jo Robinson, a writer who has spread the word about the benefits of pasture-raised animals, recognizes the quandary. At her Web site eatwild.com, Ms. Robinson writes: “Meat from an animal that has been able to graze in its last few months of life is still nutritionally superior to feedlot beef, even if the animal has also been given some grain. It’s a matter of degree.”

But my tasting showed that with 100 percent grass-fed beef you can have it all: sustainable, more nutritious beef with clean, juicy, beefy flavor. (Because the beef has less fat, though, it must be cooked at lower temperatures and for less time.) “

More about corn-fed and grass-fed beef to come...

Sounds good so far?

Farmed Tilapia eating what???

The fish in the photo are totally innocent and have no connection whatsoever to the fish in the article.

This post was originally published on my blog Family. Friendly. Food. I am planning to publish a post about grass-fed beef, so I thought I should put this post here first since there is a connection. (It doesn’t really belong on the other blog anyway).

My post from Monday, August 11, 2008:

I have just returned from a vacation in BC, Canada, where I read this article in the local Globe and Mail newspaper.

This is another example of how people play with nature, in this case feeding animals what they are not supposed to eat (Just like they do with cows, feeding them animal remains, which is the reason for the mad cow disease, a dangerous illness for people too). The result is a food product that is not as healthy for you as you might think. And this is what you think when you eat fish, right?! Especially when you are eating a lean fish like Tilapia. You think - healthy fish, healthy life style, good for you, good for your diet, etc.

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail, by CARLY WEEKS, August 6, 2008

“... eating farmed tilapia, a widely consumed fish that has been steadily growing in popularity, may be no better than dining on bacon, hamburgers or doughnuts.
New U.S. research has found that farmed tilapia have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids - and surprisingly high levels of potentially detrimental omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-6 fatty acids are considered to be essential and must be obtained through diet because they can't be produced by the body... But consuming too much omega-6 can contribute to cancer, asthma, depression and heart disease, among other ailments.
Farmed tilapia contains more omega-6 fatty acid than is found in doughnuts, pork bacon or hamburgers made with 80-per-cent lean ground beef, according to a new study.
Tilapia, a lean white fish with a mild taste, is the second-most cultivated fish in the world, after carp, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. While China is the world's leading producer of tilapia, British Columbia and Nova Scotia also produce it on a commercial scale.”
And the reason is...” "This is a serious problem because they tend to feed [the fish] vegetable oils for growth and that's not quite what the tilapia is accustomed to getting in its native state," he said.”

You can read more here.

What do you think about all this?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Organic food – my comment on Blogher

Below is my comment on Blogher on a post about this topic.

The way I see it:

Will I spray a bleach solution in my mouth as long as I am sane? No.
Will I swallow hormone pills if I don’t have to? No.
Will I take antibiotics when I am not sick and without a doctor’s prescription? No.

I think this is what I/you do when you don’t make a choice for organic food, or at least spray-free, hormone-free, antibiotics-free food.
Real food is more expensive than processed food. Produce is very expensive and organic cost even more. I think the more people buy organic, the prices will go down.
The way I see it, there are enough factors today to make us ill – air pollution, stress, etc etc. We don’t need to add more to our bodies. My common sense tells me – I prefer to pay more for good food, than pay my doctor and suffer medical procedures. It has kinda become my motto in life.
I care for my, and my family’s health. We can go on and on about this and do our homework/research etc, but my common sense says to me: eating pesticides, hormones and antibiotics is not good for me.

I used to be a researcher in my previous career and I have learned that when a scientist wants to prove a point, they will find the data to support it. Same goes for the food producers and retailers. They want to sell you their products and will conduct a “research” to support their products. Same goes for the USDA. As I have seen in the movie “the Future of Food”, they have people with different interest working there. Some used to have jobs in giant food corporations before going to work for the USDA, hmmm, so they have their own agenda. We, the little people, are not always the ones they see first and care about. We need to take care of ourselves and think what’s good for us.

I feel passionate about supporting small local, family-owned farms, and small local, family-owned businesses in general. Because if we don’t, a few years down the road, there will only be a few bigger than life corporations who will sell us what they choose for us. We won’t have a freedom of choice on what to buy, where, when, and the price and quality of the products.

I wrote a few posts touching this topic on my (other) blog “1 Family. Friendly. Food” relating to the subject:
Green blackberries are red
Farmed Tilapia eating what???

Good health to everyone, and enjoy food!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Future of Food – the movie.

This post was originally posted on my other blog: “1 family. Friendly. Food.” on Thursday, July 31, 2008. This is when the idea of starting a second blog which discusses the not so sexy sides of food came up.

I can’t sleep. My son woke me up at 4:43 am because he had a bad dream.
I had a bad dream too. I really shouldn’t watch scary movies late at night.
I didn’t plan to write about serious “things” on this blog. At first this movie did leave me speechless, but then my brain started to process the information and I can’t stop thinking about it.
This is must-see movie. “THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.”
The movie discusses Genetically Engineered food. The first two things that came to my mind when I heard "Genetically Engineered (GE) food" were - it's a good thing and a bad thing. Well, let's re-think it.
The main points the movie raises are:
* A small number of GE food corporations are controlling our food. They do this through having power over patents and genetically modified seeds. Why should you be worried about it? Because while they are protecting their corporate rights over patents, they are damaging nature and gaining more and more control over our health, our future, and of course, our politicians. It is horrifying to think that a small number of people who own these businesses will control the food everyone on the planet eats in the future.
* GE corporations think they can control nature. Well, no one can. GE seeds are invading fields of farmers who are trying to grow their own original, natural, heirloom seeds. They are already found in Canada and Mexico since they are spread throughout the planet by the wind, birds, machinery and other ways.
* GE seeds are destroying the local agriculture and small family farms. They make farmers destroy their own original natural seeds. As a result, nature’s original, healthy, heirloom seeds are being extinct!
* GE corporations are preventing people from having access to food. This is how they are playing a major role in causing/contributing to world hunger. They turn independent people producing their own food, to being poor, torn away from their homes and culture.
* GE corporations are being socially irresponsible and we pay the price! Twice! Once, when we buy the food, and twice, when we pay for the unwanted consequences GE food has on the world.

The next step is selling us meat and seafood from GE animal. How do you feel about eating a steak from a GE cow, or cloned lamb, and genetically modified salmon? Some people are working very hard on that at this very moment.

So what can we do?
As they in the movie: “The choices you make at the supermarket determine the future of food”.
We have some power as consumer. We can:
* Buy local produce and support our local farmers
* Buy organic and heirloom varieties
* Avoid eating and buying junk food, processed food. This is not food.
* Grow something green in your back and front yards, or at least in one pot.
* Teach our kids about food!

If you have additional ideas, please share and write a comment below.

One more thing. I have these two recurring thoughts:
1) I prefer to eat safe, clean, real food, then I-don’t-know-what-it-is food.
2) I prefer to pay more for safe, clean, real food (that is, organic), then pay for medical bills and suffer the consequences of eating I-don’t-know-what-it-is food.
More about organic food in another post.

The sun is rising. Have a wonderful day!