Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pratt LMS Post Response to Food Fights Comments ~ "Farmer in Chief"

A few of the students in my class know that I am an R.D. and will direct food or health related questions towards me. It's nice that someone thinks I am worth some sort of point of view in these discussions, as I really don't get that impression in class in the slightest. But I digress...in the form of an answer to someone's post concerning the amount and quality of fat in school lunches and it's direct weight on performance.

Posted comments stemming from the link to the article "Farmer in Chief" from the NY Times Magazine. Here is the first paragraph of this article, an open letter:

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention. ...
My answers as posted:

Amanda, I certainly want to answer you on the concepts of fresh ingredients in promoting health and performance. And while a leaner and more clean fat approach is certainly a start and shows results, it merits mention that the techniques of farming and regionality that Pollan refers to are often with less antibiotic use and food served with the aid of fewer preservatives which is another factor being studied in the diet changes in elementary and high school children. Due to a very very busy work day, I will find you a few studies on it tomorrow and post them. Also, I will be happy to direct you to some information on the burgeoning problem of the "certified organic" standard v. local foods.

However, if you have not read Michael Pollan's books: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural history of Four Meals, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World, or his earlier works, you should pick one up at the library and read it. His name will most definitely come up repeatedly in the media as a purveyor of a more sustainable move of the human diet. With the growing importance of water conservation, carbon neutrality, and self accountability in areas like personal consumption choices, hubris and ignorance about livestock and agricultural is really going to come to the forefront. Unfortunately, the food lobbying in this country as well as the strong farm-state coalition will assuage these issues as much as possible (as evidenced in this past summer's farm $300 billion bail outs). It really will come down to personal choices and localized food movements to get these concepts like that have been recently addressed by the UN on lessening meat consumption. Regardless of anyone's enjoyment of meat, there is literally no argument that it is, as the industry is today, sustainable. And frankly, there is no medical need for humans to eat meat so that will never be an issue in this argument.

While I often recommend to my patients that they lessen the meat and change the type of meat in their diets, those are usually health or weight management issues. Frankly, for all other healthy people, it needs to be a choice based on logic that the industry is pushing out fossil fuels, eating up land, and wasting a disgusting amount of potable water and a meat-reliant diet is at this point, selfish and unnecessary. So yes, Meryl, I think that this should be a political issue of regulation and that if people want to eat meat, they should have to really pay the actual cost of it. Eating meat at each meal or everyday is kind of like driving a Hummer to run your errands; It's wasteful and just because you are "allowed" doesn't mean you should. Eating less meat and researching what you're eating is going to begin to look like the seafood industry where people check their Monterrey Bay Aquarium fish lists to determine whether they should order something from a menu.

If anyone has any questions re: the nutritional need of meat in your diet, feel free to email me. Apologies that I have to answer clients first, but I will try to answer your questions as quickly as possible with supporting evidence.

Meat Contributes to Climate Change
UN on Livestock production of fossil fuels being worse than automobiles
FAO Information on Meat and the Climate
Livestock Creating too Much Nitrogen
Livestock Use of Water Statistics

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