12/9/2014: Factory Chicken, Arsenic, Globalization of Food

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Caryn covers the recent expose from Compassion In World Farming regarding chicken, plus arsenic in rice, and news on other whole grains and pseudo grains, like quinoa.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Hello everybody! This is the second part of “It’s All About Food.” Thank you for joining me, I’m Caryn Hartglass, and it is December 9, 2014.

Okay, I’m going to enjoy this next part; I get to talk about all the things I’ve been reading about that I’m either excited about or concerned about or scared about, and I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with you. So you may have heard in the news or in the blog or somewhere in the media about this one North Carolina farmer, Craig Watts, who raises about 720,000 chickens, and he actually invited an organization, an animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming, to document the conditions at his farm. You may know that one of the crazy things about factory farming today is that people are not allowed to go in and see what’s going on and many of us have been saying the reason for that is if we could see what was going on, if factory farms had glass walls, people wouldn’t want to eat the animals that are being raised there for food, because the conditions are filthy and horrific and the animals are just treated horribly.

So this one very brave farmer let this organization in, there is a video that you can watch which is a summary of the things they discovered; it’s at Compassion in World Farming, their website is ciwf.com. Interestingly, surprisingly, I don’t know, Purdue came in–so this farmer worked, he was contracted out and raised chickens for Purdue and there are all kinds of rules they have to follow in order to do this–right after this exposé and said, “We’re going to audit you now.” And everyone is saying they’re doing it as kind of in response to what happened. But I think this is really an interesting opportunity; Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times wrote about it in the Opinion pages last week. He’s a brave source, he brings up a lot of interesting topics… Sometimes I think he may be a wannabe vegan because he brings up these things we need to be talking about, but I come to a different conclusion when I read stories like this, when I learn about stories like this.

The group, Compassion in World Farming, the people who did this exposé and video, their conclusion is that factory farming needs to end–I totally agree with that. But, they believe that we can create a better chicken that’s treated better and a better chicken we can ultimately slaughter and eat. I always like to go by a phrase my dad uses very often: “If you can’t solve the problem, you eliminate it.” And I believe eliminating eating chickens and all animals is really the solution to this problem. the thing is it’s been getting worse over the years where people are trying to find more ways to profit from any business, and from the livestock business, the way to profit, the way to make more of what you’re selling is unfortunately to confine these animals in very, very horrific conditions. It’s just the nature of the beast! And I would just like to see factory farming end, and we don’t need to eat these poor animals. If you look at the video, I don’t know how anybody could want to participate in the eating of these animals when you see what they go through. They have these raw, red bellies, and some of them are so weak they can’t stand up. One of the good things that’s come out of this so far is that, Purdue used to label their chickens as “humanely raised,” and they recently settled the suit with the Humane Society of the United States to remove that line from some of their packaging.

So it makes you wonder. Well, I don’t wonder. I just don’t trust these guys. Now, one thing about chickens, not just the horrific conditions that these sentient animals go through, but in order to raise chickens, we need to feed them, and everything’s linked to everything else, okay, follow me with this. We raise food, plants, for these animals to eat, and we grow the food with herbicides and pesticides, and we put arsenic in the animal feed, and there’s also arsenic in some of the pesticides, and this gets concentrated in the chicken, and then later on, the chicken manure is used as fertilizer. You know where I’m leading with this? The fertilizer is often used to grow rice. And a couple of years ago, there was a study that came out that talked about arsenic in our food and rice had a tremendous amount, and more than what was recommended that we consume, or at least the limit, though there are no federally-regulated limits of how much arsenic we can get in our foods.

Well, consumer reports just came out with a news study recently, last month in fact, and I think it’s great. there’s some good news on there and some not so good news. They’ve done more comprehensive tests on how much arsenic is in certain foods. So what do we learn from this? Well, basmati rice from India, Pakistan, or California, and sushi rice, from the United States, have the lowest levels, of what they call inorganic arsenic compound. And that’s compared with other kinds of rice. That’s like, more than half, of what’s found in other rice products from Texas and Louisiana as an example, which have quite a bit more. So there’s a way to have rice and avoid a significant amount of arsenic. But there’s a lot of things that you do want to avoid, and the sad thing is this impacts children a great deal, and children especially that are on gluten-free diets. Because many of them go to rice products and that includes babies too; they’re fed rice cereals, and this can be really detrimental because they can get very high doses of arsenic in their little baby bodies. And brown rice, we all love brown rice, but the problem is brown rice tends to have more arsenic in it because the arsenic tends to concentrate in the exterior part of the rice.

Now some people have gotten around this by rinsing the rice before they cook it, or cooking it in a lot of water and draining it and rinsing it, but you lose nutrition when you do that. So there seems to be all of these compromises that we have to go through. So what? What’s the good news? The good news is, they also tested other grains, and pseudo-grains, as we call them, and the good news is, amaranth, millet, quinoa, al have significantly less of this inorganic arsenic than the rice. Now I just want to clarify something, you don’t need to be a chemist to understand this, but a lot of these articles talk about arsenic and they talk about the two main chemical types, inorganic and organic. When we talk about organic from a chemical perspective, we’re not talking about the department of agriculture’s definition, the USDA talking about how we grow our food, we’re talking about chemical terms here. And organic arsenic is talking about how the arsenic itself is hooked up in a chemical molecule. So there are two kinds, organic and inorganic, and apparently it’s the inorganic forms that are considered to be the most harmful, although it’s also believed that the organic form can change into inorganic. So they both aren’t good. But some of these reports specifically call out organic or inorganic.

I’m just so glad this test was done, because when I first discovered this information about arsenic in rice, I kept saying, “Well we’re all scared about rice now,” but what about all the other grains? And I was thinking they probably all have high levels of arsenic, and the good news is that they don’t. So double whammy here. This is another reason not to raise chickens in factory farms and feed them food that has been grown with pesticides containing arsenic, and not to add arsenic to their feed, and they do that because–and also to pink feed as well– it’s supposed to promote growth and prevent disease. And disease is a big item in factory farms because the animals are confined, they’re all very close together and they’re in a very filthy situation so it’s very easy for the disease to spread. So what we do is feed them all sorts of toxic chemicals to kill those diseases, and when we eat them or if we at least get plants that are grown with manure from these animals, we get toxic chemicals on our food.

All right so I’m looking at the end of this lovely report, and when we’re talking about how many parts per billion arsenic is in some of these foods, the rices that they’ve compared are typically in the range of fifty to 150, and 50 being not so bad and 150 obviously being pretty concentrated. The other grains, amaranth is at 6.2, barley 10.4, buckwheat 5.6, bulgar 8.4, farro 7.3, millet 12.1, polenta grits 4.2, and quinoa 12.5. These are significantly lower. And so that’s a nice thing! Nature provides us with a variety of foods, and now we’ve been hearing terrible things not only about arsenic in rice, but many people are concerned about wheat and gluten–sensitivity, celiac disease–there’s a whole host of reasons people are choosing to stay away from wheat, and now we have these reasons to stay away from rice, or at least some of the rice. There are still some pretty good, innocent and nutritious grains for us to eat. Some of my favorites are millet and buckwheat, and polenta–love polenta.

Now let’s talk about quinoa for a minute, shall we? And quinoa has a very low level of arsenic in it, that’s great, quinoa is very nutritious. Quinoa’s become a very sexy grain, it’s very high in protein and we see more quinoa available, it’s become very mainstream, you can find salads with it, and it’s often served instead of rice, and it’s delicious! It’s great because it cooks, quickly too, and you can sprout it! You can eat sprouted quinoa, like a sprouted quinoa tabouli instead of using a bulgar wheat, and you can do lots of wonderful things with quinoa. One of the things to keep in mind when you’re preparing quinoa is you need to rinse it, of course, a few times, before you prepare it, otherwise it will have a very bitter taste, because of the coating that’s on the quinoa that’s quite bitter.

All right, quinoa’s great isn’t it? Well, every food has its story. Have you noticed how the price of quinoa is just outrageous these days? I remember when I first started buying quinoa, it was still quite pricey at $3.99 a pound, and now I’ve seen it up where it’s like $6.99 a pound, and I really can’t afford it anymore! It’s expensive! But the problem is bigger than that. We live in a global society and it has its advantages and disadvantages, and food is a big part of that. So quinoa, for a long time, has been grown in the Andean highlands of Bolivia and Peru, and there are many different varieties of quinoa, although we’ve seen only a few here in the United States unfortunately you may have heard this, but because we’re really loving quinoa up here, the farmers that are making it are getting a lot more money for it, that’s good, they’re able to buy cars and better houses, and send their kids to school, but it’s becoming more and more difficult for the locals in Bolivia and Peru to afford it. I can’t afford it, they can’t afford it, and it’s something they’ve been growing up with and living on for hundreds of years, maybe even longer! And they can’t afford it anymore because of the exports. What we eat here in the United States and many other countries has such a tremendous impact on other countries, poorer countries that are growing a lot of our food; for a long time this has been the case with sugar and coffee and tobacco which is in the food, but commodity products like cocoa and coffee and sugar. Farmers that have land, when they know people want to buy things, they’ll grow what people want to buy and what can be exported, and that leaves less land available to grow nutritious food, especially for the people that are growing those products in their own countries. And quinoa is the new kid on the block that is causing some of these issues. So what do we do? Do we not eat quinoa?

I don’t really know what the solution is. One of the solutions would be to grow it where we need it. So why can’t we grow some in the United States? Some people have been trying, it’s kind of difficult, I think we’ll see more quinoa grown around the world. But another problem is the countries that have been growing it for a long time, want to protect it, want to protect their seed, and they don’t want to share it, because they don’t want this food that’s been such an important part in their culture and such an important part of their economy to be taken away from them. So there are issues with sharing, and I don’t really know what the answer is there, but I think it would be nice if we were able to grow certain varieties of quinoa here and not have as much of an impact on those who might want to buy that food that they’ve been eating for so long, and not be able to afford it now.

Okay so that goes into, what other foods are like this? And are you familiar with maca? I remember a number of times, I learned about maca. It’s a root, and we get it here processed into a powder. I think I first heard about it from Brendan Brazier, the incredible athlete from Canada, I’ve had him on this program a number of times, he’s a really nice guy, and he does excellent work. He frequently talks about adding maca to the diet for health reasons, and it helps athletes, especially in being able to heal quickly so they can do more workouts. It has all kinds of benefits, and it’s grown in Peru–where quinoa is also grown. Apparently it’s becoming another hot item outside of Peru, they’re exporting a lot of it, and the price is going outrageously up, where it might’ve been $20 a pound, and now it’s $30 a pound. The country has some control; for example, they don’t export fresh maca. What they do is they process it in the country and export it out, and they do that intentionally to keep that processing work in their own country. It’s just incredible what we do as humans, and people are actually smuggling this maca out and bringing it to Bolivia to be processed and then shipping it over to China, where they’re really interested in it apparently, because it’s supposed to have aphrodisiac-type properties amongst other things. So there’s this issue with maca. I haven’t used it in a long time, I remember I bought a bag of maca powder and put it in some smoothies a really long time ago, and then I sort of just forgot about it. It just went bad in my refrigerator… And looking at this now, I feel really bad about it because it’s such a valuable food these days and some people would probably kill for it. And Peru doesn’t want to share the seeds, they don’t want to share the ability to control these native species, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with maca.

Whew! Can you believe it? Every food has its story. And something that I believe in is, it’s best, as much as we can, to eat locally. So we’ve heard about a lot of these different berries, some exotic berries from tropical areas that are so high in antioxidants, and they’re really expensive; people really capitalize on this and sell all kinds of bottled drinks. You know we can get these nutrients from foods in our own area. We don’t have to go and buy these expensive, exotic foods for the most part. So I say stick locally to standard foods and don’t go with these crazy trends to try foods that are supposed to be the “magic cure,” because they’re not going to be the magic cure. They might provide some excellent nutrition, but the best way to really be healthy is to eat a whole, minimally processed, plant-based diet, organic, avoid the things in a box, and maybe even like what Steve Meyerowitz was saying, do a couple of juice fasts to give your body a break from time to time; that’s it. I don’t think we need to have these superfoods that may even totally disrupt in a negative way the economy of another country. Do we need to do that?

Well here we go, one last thing before I go. I love millet, and I just posted a new recipe on reponsibleeatingandliving.com. It’s a cereal using millet, and we don’t have to eat wheat or rice at all, or as often as we do, there are some wonderful grains out there, so I say meet millet! Get to know your millet and check out the recipe that we just provided on responsibleeatingandliving.com. How about that? I think we’ve come to the end of another show. So, I want to wish you a very very delicious week. Bye bye.

Transcribed by Julienne Wey, 1/24/2015

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