From Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals”:
“Just the other day, one of the local pediatricians was telling me he’s seeing all kinds of illnesses that he never used to see. Not only juvenile diabetes, but inflammatory and autoimmune diseases that a lot of the docs don’t even know what to call. And girls are going through puberty much earlier, and kids are allergic to just about everything, and asthma is out of control. Everyone knows it’s our food. We’re messing with the genes of these animals and then feeding them growth hormones and all kinds of drugs that we really don’t know enough about.
And then we’re eating them.
Kids today are the first generation to grow up on this stuff, and we’re making a science experiment out of them. Isn’t it strange how upset people get about a few dozen baseball players taking growth hormones, when we’re doing what we’re doing to our food animals and feeding them to our children?”
– Frank Reese, poultry farmer
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Al Rymniak says
It’s a crime. The cause for most of this is really the poisoned food that is being consumed today. The solution is real simple. The #1 drug on the market today is sugar and the sugar substitutes, absolutely deadly when consumed early and often.
the FDA is a total scam, paid off by big market food producers.
It’s beyond ridiculous. I love the fact that you highlight that it is OUR FOOD! People seem to want to blame everything other than their food so they can continue to be unhealthy and have an excuse for it. Why should you change your food when you can just get medication and continue to eat whatever you want?
I find when I bring this topic up with people, their fist response is “I don’t want to know. Ignorance is bliss” They continue to stick their heads in the sand. It is both frustrating and sad. Some of these people spend time feeding MY children. It is a fine line to walk between allowing your children freedom to make some of their own food choices and dictating what they eat all the time. There are social, emotional and physical consequences either way. For me, I’m a grown-up- I can answer the questions and take the jokes about my food. Children, not so much. It seems like everyday there is either a bday party, class party, soccer party or grandma’s (well-intentioned) overindulgence. It has got to stop. Where do we draw the line? When do we say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” ? How do you explain to a 5 year old the reason why the other kids get to eat pizza, soda and candy and they don’t? It easy to TELL them that our food makes us healthy ( or NOT), but it is a hard lesson for them to learn. Hard though it maybe, it is a necessary lesson and one I continue to teach them everyday.
Totally agree. One of the main reason I got into this paleo lifestyle thing is because I’m a mom of 2 kids and a dentist. It is sickening to see children in an operating room under GENERAL ANESTHESIA because they have such rampant tooth decay that they can not be treated in a normal facility. Our family eats grassfed beef and my sons drink raw, pastured goats milk when they drink milk. We eat organic, local veggies whenever possible. Expensive–yes. But here’s one for you–WE DON’T HAVE CABLE!! I believe you portion your money where you have your priorities.
Jodi D says
Great topic….difficult to even read to be honest, but the truth hurts. We talk to our two boys, 6 & 8, about why we eat the way we do, how eating sugar, candy, cookies, drinking soda, food from a box, etc is bad for us. Sure, we let them indulge from time to time, but its not every day. The meat is a huge deal though and its something so many people overlook, myself included, at one time. We think that Wal-Mart is doing us a favor by providing all the cuts of meat for a lower price than anyone else….but my friends, they are indeed part of the food conglomerates that are killing us slowly, day by day, bite by bite. People tell me all the time “its too expensive to eat healthy”. The majority of those people are mis-educated (NOT uneducated) and really need to get their priorities lined up to do what is best for their health and that of their families. To treat their bodies with respect, to fuel them properly and to realize that the continuous trips to the pharmacy for the magic little pill is what is really “too expensive”. If they would just trade their meds for quality foods, life would be so much better now…and in the long run.
As the new father to a 10 month old who just started to eat solid food this is concerning to me. She was introduced to proteins a couple months ago first starting with chicken and turkey, then transitioning on to fish, beef, pork. The lack of concern from the food industry really bothers me, parents are feeding their kids everything they ate and they look at me crazy because we make all of our own food and are essentially raising a Paleo baby. But I am the crazy one.
Casey Head says
We need to get government regulation out of our food supply. When you have federal agents raiding raw food stores with guns drawn, something has gone seriously wrong with our thinking.
The more they try to “help” people through dietary and food “safety” guidelines, the less wholesome food is produced, and the fatter and sicker everyone becomes.
Meghan Waldeck says
It’s scary that it’s there but scarier that those who try to avoid it are labeled as weirdos.
Jason M Struck says
Every time I open my mouth around school (Master’s of Exercise Science at a research University) I get quizzical looks at best and bitter derision more typically when I advocate radical ideas like “strength training confers health benefits equal to aerobic training” or “our diets may contain too many carbohydrates”.
Eating paleo, or even Whole30, does not necessarily eliminate or avoid all the problems that are outlined in the quote. You CAN eliminate the complex carbs and sugar and gluten that the nation is addicted to and that lead to autoimmunity and diabetes. But avoiding the “growth hormones and all kinds of drugs” is more difficult and expensive (not just money-expensive, but time-expensive). These things are in our “paleo” meat. For many families, it’s not as simple as always buying grass-fed or pastured or grazed or whatever meat. We should be aware of where our food comes from, but then what do we do with that information?
It’s true that it’s not “too expensive to eat healthy.” You can follow paleo guidelines by choosing to spend a bit more money buying more meats and vegetables. But if you want to avoid all the problems of conventional agriculture, the cost can be prohibitive for a lot of families.
I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s complicated and difficult. We have a couple of kids, live in a city, and survive on one very modest income. We try to buy grass-fed beef when we can, but can’t do it all the time. Fortunately I’ve noticed it’s getting cheaper. Anyway…
I haven’t read “Eating Animals,” but I’ve heard Mr. Foer talk about it. He wants us to think more about where our food comes from, which is good, but he did NOT write his book to encourage us to eat grass-fed meat and paleolithic food. His conclusion is that he will never eat meat again. What does that leave? A grain-based diet that encourages “juvenile diabetes… inflammatory and autoimmune diseases”. He asks good philosophical questions about eating animals, but if we agree with him, what do we do?
“…Everyone knows it’s our food…”
I have a hard time accepting hyperbole as fact. I’m also a little hesitant when it’s just ONE pediatrician citing clearly anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, they very next sentence says, “We’re messing with the genes of these animals and then feeding them growth hormones and all kinds of drugs that we really don’t know enough about.” So the author admits that we don’t know enough about these things (which I agree with), but yet apparently “everyone knows it’s our food”. I’m going to reserve the right to remain skeptical until I learn more.
Dallas @ Whole9 says
If you’ve got a more viable theory on why this country is so, so sick, we’d love to hear it. From what we’ve learned over the past few years, we don’t disagree with what is admittedly one farmer’s overstatement. We welcome your skepticism – and your alternate theory.
I think there are a million theories on why this country is so sick. However, I was under the impression we were to discuss this one. Also, I don’t think it’s a fact that this country is any more sick than it has ever been.
Maybe we just track the data better than we used to. Maybe all the media hype causes people to think they are more sick than they are. Maybe people are responsible for their own bad food choices and it has nothing to do with farming methods.
I just don’t think, in a discussion framed by very limited evidence (unless you read the book, I’m assuming), you need an alternative theory. People should always ask for evidence behind conclusions, and asses how valid that evidence is. It’s part of being a critical thinker, and not buying into a trendy topic because it pulls our emotional strings by bringing our kids into it.
Melissa @ Whole9 says
@Sally: That’s a great observation, and one we hope to tackle on the site soon. It’s difficult enough to eat what you consider “good food choices” as an adult, but it’s so much harder to do the same for your children, especially when they’re not in your home, eating your food. We hope to provide some insight from parents we know who we think are doing it right… soon.
@Meghan: It’s hard for me not to start asking those questions when someone says they can’t afford to eat the way I do. “But you just spent $4.50 on a LATTE. And that’s not even FOOD.” But I guarantee we could show folks how to work within their own FOOD budget to make better choices. It may mean sacrificing on what you want to eat – but if it’s that much healthier for you, then I’ll sacrifice a little taste preference any day. That might be a fun exercise for the site… Food budget makeovers.
@JodiD: As Dallas says all the time, sure, our pastured eggs are expensive. But not more expensive than your diabetes medication. We talk about the “cheap” cost of meat, fish and eggs as not being cheap at all if you factor in all the hidden environmental, social, and animal welfare costs. Those are certainly not cheap.
@Casey: Yep. The USDA has two primary functions. Make food recommendations to the American public. And promote agriculture. Which one drives which, do you think?
@Todd: That’s as goon an assessment as I’ve read so far. First step in getting healthier is making better food choices – but that’s certainly not the whole story. There are some days when I look at Dallas and say, “There is literally NOTHING we can eat.” But that’s an emotional over-reaction, and we’ve arrived at some personal solutions to what is, most assuredly, a very complicated issue. We hope to explore those issues here, with everyone. Thanks for contributing.
@Josh: We hear you, and appreciate the skepticism. While we’re not actually proposing that you come up with your own theory, it is hard for us to see the unhealthy state of this country from any other perspective, given all of the reading, research and personal experiences we’ve had. However, we’re not going to try to persuade anyone of anything here. Really. We’re just going to lay out the facts as we see them, and as they’ve been reported (as those are sometimes two different things), and allow people to make their own decisions. We hope you stick around for the discussions.
@Heather: While I can’t agree with any other theory than “our food is making us sick” based on what I personally know, we do want you all (and ourselves) to think critically. But given all of the different factors involved – the enormous environmental impact of our farming practices, how it affects the health of those who live near factory farms, the way these animals are treated – tortured and abused in such a fashion that if they were dogs, it would be illegal – it’s hard not to become emotional over one factor or another. Pick your topic – kids, animals, the planet, social injustices… there’s a lot of bad stuff going on, all in the name of putting cheap food on our plate.
We’ll continue the discussion as the weeks go on. Please, continue to contribute, and continue to feel free to speak your minds, whether you agree with our positions or not, because Dallas and I are going to try to be the kind of critical thinkers that Heather described, too.
Another reason people bury their heads in the sand regarding spending the money on grass fed or organic is because they don’t want to fork over the cash. They think they are getting their drugs and medications “free” because insurance is paying for it. Well people, you can pay a little more now or you can pay a whole hell of a lot later when your butt is in a hospital or your health is so bad you can’t function and you have to start forking over more and more cash.
As a mom of a toddler who goes to daycare, has playdates with other children, and (luckily!) gets babysat by family, I find it difficult to know what kind of balance to strike in determining his food sources. I don’t want to come across as a domineering control-freak mom by saying he shouldn’t have certain foods etc. (even tho I’m okay looking like maybe I’m a bit control freakish about MY food!) I want to be flexible and let other people help in raising my child, including providing the nutrition they see as fit. But… when I read a quotation like this, it’s hard not to be stricter. For now, I just try to set a good example with what I eat, provide whole food options to him, and think that that is better than not trying. I would love to hear other parents’ perspectives on dealing with my sense of “pressure” to NOT feed kids the healthiest food available.
Al Rymniak says
Eating healthy is some much more in-expensive than eating commercial fast food and store bought processed packaged items. Even cheaper if you grow your own vegtables. Yes grass fed beef is more expensive, but the up shot is you eat a smaller portion and become satisfied and it actually tastes good.
Eat two entire honey crisp apple and you will be full and the cost is very inexpensive <$2.00!
Eating healthy costs too much is just another excuse.
What I really need help with is my sister. See, she is vegetarian and raising my 3 year old niece that way. They live on tons of cheese, apple juice, frozen/prepackaged fake meats. My niece is sick all the time. She is actually sick so often the doctors are removing her tonsils next week because they think that is the problem. I truly feel their diet is a big part of it. I have kept quite because I don’t like to push my beliefs on others..but now I sort of feel like I can’t not say something. What is the best approach?? I don’t want to sound like I’m preaching,but my sister needs to see what soy does etc. She is really clueless on nutrition. She herself is pretty overweight and deals with depression. I was thinking of suggesting she read the “Vegetarian Myth”. Can you help??
I’d really appreciate your thoughts.
Foer was just at my university pitching his book…he may be right but there’s a reason that paragraph is super vague: I had to sit through 1.5 hours of him telling me things like “most Americans get far too much protein” and “there is no medical dispute that vegetarianism is the best way to live.” I was going to ask him about Paleo/Primal afterward, it would have been easy, but by the end I realized there was no hope of changing his mind.
Mike Hollister says
I bought 500 lbs of grassfed beef for under $1000, including butchering and 30 lbs of beef jerky processing. My pig was a bit more expensive but I did buy that at the fair. I bought 88 lbs of wild-caught Alaskan salmon for about $5/lbs. That’s expensive but it’s already vacuum-sealed and we don’t eat it as much as the other meats. Granted, you pay about $500 for a freezer but you only pay for that once. Grassfed beef for $2/lbs is pretty cheap imo, especially when you consider that also buys about 16 NY steaks, a similar number of filets…. those cuts are incredibly delicious. I buy in bulk b/c I have 5 kids to feed, but though careful budgeting and bulk purchases, we’re able to eat meat from farmers I look in the eye (even went to high school with) and fishermen I know.
Like most good things in life, it just takes a little bit of effort at first. But once you get your sources in order, it really is easy.
@ Melissa & Dallas
First off, I was a bit offended that Dallas seemed to suggest that my skepticism is only allowed provided I have a “viable alternative theory”. Thanks for clearing things up Melissa.
Melissa, you say that you see things this way because of all the research, reading, and personal experiences you’ve had, however, NONE of those things appear in this post. I’m totally open minded and interested to learn what you guys have to say, but given the content of this post, I simply expressed my skepticism since all that was presented was (as Dallas admitted) “one farmer’s overstatement”. I’m looking forward to post in the future (and be sure I’ll probably be challenging you on some of the points as well, ha).
I would LOVE to know how you were able to find a source for that amount of grass-fed beef, pork, and quality meat. I’m not opposed to searching out my own sources and doing the leg work, I’d just love a little advice on how to get started. Thanks in advance for any help you can give!
Ashley D. says
Really, Josh? How is this news to you?
Rich M says
Dallas and Melissa:
Looking forward to seeing the feedback from parents that are trying to the Good Food thing for their kids. I don’t have any, but pretty good chance I will one day. I consider myself a critical thinker, and have done enough research to be on board with the idea that food really is what’s making our country sick (along with being enabled by the drug industry – but that’s SOLELY my OPINION, all you drug reps out there). Anyway, it’s our intent to raise our kids on Good Food, but know that there will be some steep challenges – mostly from outside the walls of our own kitchen. Bad cafeteria food, peer pressure, and the like. It’ll be tough, so I’m interested to see what others have experienced. I’m waiting for someone to actually go full-time as a resource devoted specifically to helping parents navigate the minefield of food choices. Or, maybe a couple of resourceful website hosts that are looking to add one more great corner to their efforts (hint, hint)?
And by the way – I’m gonna be a REAL tough sell on the idea that it doesn’t have to be expensive to eat well. I’m fortunate that I can pull it off, and I count myself lucky in that regard everyday. But I just got home from my grocery store. Out front was a veritable catalog of coupons offering to save people tens (maybe hundreds?) of dollars on their purchases. The problem was that it was all crap food. Refined sugars, highly processed carbs, and astronaut-worthy shelf stuff that is meant to last forever in the pantry (or in your immune system). My route took me around the perimeter of the store, and I unloaded nothing but Good Food: leans meats, vegetables, some fruit, and good fats. Guess how much my shoppers card saved me on a $176.70 bill? A whopping $0.60. I’ll say that again for effect: Sixty. Cents. I’m writing a letter to encourage this particular change to embrace the opportunity to help turn our health around.
Dave A says
Melissa and Dallas, with all your reading, research and personal experiences do you believe lack of exercise is correlated or even casual regarding these effects as well?
The benefits of regular exercise on chronic disease is well documented as is the marked dropoff on the amount of exercise kids get these days. It seems to me to be a point that should be included in this discussion. My layperson’s opinion is that lack of exercise has to be contributing to the decline of this nation’s health as well as the degredation of its food sources.
Our 4 year old is now asking for fruit and vegetables at dinner. Now I need to research when I can start her working on her first ring pull up. :)
Dallas @ Whole9 says
We’re collecting some advice from Paleo Parents that have been successful at raising happy, healthy kids in a difficult, unhealthy world. We have some secondhand “experience”, but we think firsthand advice is best. Stay tuned for more on this in the future.
Good question/point. We’d certainly support the hypothesis that lack of adequate high-intensity exercise (and lack of even general activity) has contributed to the insidious (collective national) weight gain, increasing medical costs, and general shift toward metabolic derangement, but to the best of our knowledge, lack of exercise alone doesn’t directly cause autoimmune disease, cause skyrocketing rates of severe allergies, or disrupt the normal, delicate (sex) hormonal balance that our kids are so sensitive to. Unhealthy food… does. In a really direct way. It’s well-known that the people most likely to eat poorly are also most likely to be sedentary, so I suppose you could say that it might be correlative, but I haven’t read anything specific that correlates hormonally-affected (feedlot) meat with exercise habits. If you find something, please send it along. Best,
I love this discussion. We have 4 kids (ages 11, 8, 4 and almost 1) and our whole family is on day 24 of Whole30.
Amazing, I tell you. The kids were not big fans at first. A bit of a rough transition. We have always eaten healthier than most families…real, whole foods with limited processed junk…but this was still a big change. “What, no string cheese or greek yogurt?” “Nope. Momma learned what that really does to our bodies and we are not going to put it in our bodies anymore.”
Someone brought up the issue of the “pressure” to let our kids eat unhealthy foods. That is a very, very real issue.
We homeschool (which already makes us crazy, right?) but on top of that, we don’t buy boxed cereal (GASP!!). People think that’s crazier than the homeschooling thing. Now, on top of that we are not doing dairy, grains or legumes. Yikes. And there is pressure from all around. Our neighbor’s little girl brings over some sort of junk every afternoon to share with all the neighborhood kids. At church, a kid brings packs of Chips A’hoy for every kid. When we go to a friends house and they offer juice and Goldfish for snacks or we go out to eat and the only thing on the kids menu is grilled cheese and chicken strips and fries…and on and on and on.
BUT, my husband and I are absolutely convinced that this is THE BEST thing for our family. And because of that, we stick to our guns and do not give in to the pressure. We constantly talk to them about their perspective on food. We have tried to change their mindset from “Drat, I can’t have that” to “I choose not to put that in my body because it makes me feel rotten”. We make sure they have a nutritious snack with them at all times so that they have something delicious to snack on while the rest of the kids in the cul-de-sac munch on brownies from a box and dumdum suckers. They take a baggie of snacks with them to church with extras to share with anyone who wants.
Another thing is that we don’t make a huge deal out of it. We’ve worked on just politely saying “no thank you” instead of going into a huge speech about how we don’t drink milk anymore. We just keep that all on the down-low unless someone notices and is really interested.
One more thing that has helped is helping the kids realize how eating well has affected them directly. Our 8 year old used to wake up in the night with horrible leg pains (“growing pains”) especially after days where she was super active. A week or so ago we did a Fun Run as a family, walked all over our town at a festival and then played outside for the rest of the day and we went to bed fully expecting to be up in the night with leg pains. She slept beautifully. In the morning I pointed that out to her and she was so excited! She is seeing the difference in how she feels and that really motivates her.
Anyway, those are a few ways we deal with the “pressure”. That is not to say that we don’t have moments (in the first week of Whole30, our 8 year old definitely cried because she wanted a brownie from her friend) but we are getting there.
Wow. That was wordy. Sorry.
Rich M says
Thanks Erin – great insights!
This is a great thread and I hope since it’s been stale for a week it doesn’t die. We go through this same discussion at home a lot. I’ve been either paleo or “sloppy” paleo for over a year but can’t get my wife to buy into it. She’s a marathon runner (they LUV their carbs) and our son (12yo) has been Type I diabetic since he was 3. He NEEDS his carbs. I buy into the Whole 9 (tried a whole 30 and flamed out pretty quickly) concept. Here’s my question, I met a hospital based nutritionist (don’t freak) and she was hip and open to Paleo (I gave her a copy of RW book). She showed me there is A TON of real science out there supporting the benefits of whole grains. I’d like to find some comprehensive science on Paleo. I know Robb has supporting research in his book and I intend to go through alot of it but to be honest with you, the engineer in me struggles with the anecdotal and “psuedo science” nature of what we’ve embraced.
@Erin, My hat’s off to you and your family. Managing John’s diabetes in modern suburbia is a huge challenge. Here’s a cool little story. He went trick or treating with his buddy who has a severe peanut allergy. At the end of the day, they dumped their stash on the floor and my son’s buddy sorted out the “bad” stuff and John (my son) didn’t go hog wild either. They both know. So teaching kids the right food choices is not that hard.
Dallas @ Whole9 says
Thanks for your interest and constructive skepticism. While Robb jokes about “pseudo-science”, the reality is that there is so, SO much experiential AND clinical research supporting a grain- and legume-free way of eating. I can’t fault the nutritionist you spoke with – she is simply telling you what she has been taught as part of the agri-industrial complex. That is, her education is based upon the same unsound principles that have made this country so sick: eat lots of grains, legumes, and dairy (i.e. the Food Pyramid). And while there is plenty of conflicting research on nutrition, we make the case that simply because there might be something beneficial in a food, that doesn’t make the entire food a healthy choice. Take red wine for example – there are some potentially healthful benefits of resveratrol (an antioxidant found in grape skin), but does that mean that red wine is the best way to get antioxidants? I think not. So, while grains might contain some beneficial substances, the overwhelming effect is negative. You might be interested to read these studies about the benefits of a Paleo diet:
You might also be interested in the references on the range of negative effects of grains:
Ultimately, Jeff, arguing point-for-counterpoint with scientific references (only) is simply a recipe for frustration. We integrate scientific research with the experience of hundreds of people (including ourselves) to conclude that people’s lives are better (healthier) without grains. Thanks for your post.
Very thoughtful response. I’ll check out those resources. I think you are spot on, trying to go point-counterpoint can be a disaster. Were all friends here, it’s like talking politics and religion at a party! Scientific disagreements are one reason why space shuttles blow up and life saving treatments never get prescribed. In the end, you have to decide what works for you.
Thanks for the links. I’ll go through those
@Dave A; You might be interested in reading the Book Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Very, very interesting.
We have three boys, though one is only on breastmilk right now. When they were younger, we ate much better than we do now – our oldest wouldn’t touch a fry and asked for broccoli…now it’s the other way around – we have to hassle him to eat his veggies. We do still eat rather healthy compared to most other people, but I’ve recently been inspired to get back on track fully. I think I will see a big difference in my middle son’s behavior and my oldest’s performance at school when we cut out all this junk (processed foods and bad carbs) again. It was convenient and easy (and cheaper) to bulk up their diet with the crap b/c let’s face it, growing boys are always hungry and a big bowl of whole grain cereal with milk fills them up! But you’re right with the idea that you can spend more on food now or more on medication later, and I’d like to give them a better chance at beating the odds.
I do gladly pay $4 for our pastured eggs…and we manage to purchase grassfed / pastured meats 1/3 of the time, and I make stock from grassfed beef bones, etc. I’d love to eat completely local, and one day we’ll get there.