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Activism Healthy Living Real Food

Questions to Ask Your Farmer – Know What’s in Your Food!

www.mypicshares.com
Knowing how your food is raised is extremely important. It can mean the difference between food that is clean and safe and food that is contaminated with toxins and other harmful substances.

Because there are so many toxins in the environment, we can’t possibly know where they all come from. There are toxins in the water we drink, air we breathe, and all environments where we live and exist. We could be getting contaminated with something at school, work, inside the vehicles we drive, our yards, and our own homes. There are toxins in the water we drink, air we breathe, and all environments where we live and exist. Estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that approximately 500,000 chemicals are currently in use, and with each passing year more than 5,000 new chemicals are added.

One aspect of our lives where we do have control is over the food we eat. When you buy food from the grocery store, you have really no way of knowing where it comes from and what happens to it before it gets to the shelf. With more and more food recalls and health issues cropping up in the news – all originating from our industrial food system – it is becoming more and more clear that something has to change. If you still doubt the seriousness of the food recall situation going on today, please read this post about why food recalls greatly jeopardize our health and food system as a whole.

When we support local farmers who use sustainable practices, and by educating ourselves about safe and humane farming practices, we are supporting a safe system that will continue to provide us with safe, healthy food. Sustainable practices are those that farmers and food producers used for thousands and thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution occurred over 150 years ago.

Health effects on children

These substances are especially harmful for children, who are still developing and growing, and who have metabolisms which are faster than adults. Children are more likely to be affected by the substances in our food supply now due to several factors – 1) many of them are born with digestive issues which they received as a result of inadequate nutritional support from their own parents’ diets 2) there are more toxins in our environment now than ever before – the EPA estimates that 500,000 chemicals are currently in use, and with each passing year more than 5,000 new chemicals are added. 3) children are continually exposed to toxins and nutritionally deficient foods after they are born. Food companies market these products to children and as a result, they are eating more non-food substances now than ever in history.

Meat and meat products from animals and birds:

  • What type of food do your animals or birds eat? This is very important. Cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and others should be raised on pasture. If they are not, they are often given feed such as corn, grain, soy which are not in their natural diets. These feeds are also often subjected to pesticides and herbicides, and originate from genetically-modified sources (GMOs).
  • Do you use pesticides on feed or the land where your animals are raised? Pesticides are neurotoxins. Consumption of pesticides has been linked to damage to the skin, nervous system, and can lead to the development of degenerative disease like cancer. Pesticides are also an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system affects development, growth, reproduction, and behavior.
  • Do you use hormones, steroids, other growth promoters or stimulants? The use of hormones in food has been linked to early onset sexual maturation in children which leads to disruption in the endocrine system (such as the thyroid and thymus, adversely affecting their hormones and causing a variety of problems).
  • Do you use medication or antibiotics? Traces of antibiotics and medications can lead to long-term health effects such as reproductive, immune-system, and developmental issues in children.
  • Where do the animals and birds live/exist? If animals and birds are on pasture, this is a healthy environment. If they are on cement, dirt, or confined a majority of the time in cages or holding areas, these are unhealthy environments.
  • Are cattle 100 percent grass/hay fed, or do you also use grain (this includes steers and dairy cattle)? Cattle are ruminants and should only be fed grass. Grain-fed cattle are more likely to become sick and need antibiotics and other medications. Another way of asking the same question is: how are your cattle finished? Many farmers have their cattle on pasture for most of their lives until the last 90-120 days or so, when they are transported to a feedlot and fed grains to “fatten” them up. This activity causes the digestive tracts of cattle to become acidic and makes the animal more vulnerable to disease.

Nutrient quality in grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, poultry, and dairy products is 3-5 times higher than conventionally-raised meats. You’ll be getting 3-5 times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is an antioxidant and is critical for heart health, Omega 3 essential fatty acids, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 – all important for immunity, cardiovascular, bone health, brain and nervous system, digestion, endocrine, and reproductive support.

If animals and birds are eating any types of feed that are not strictly on pasture, find out if the feed is organically-grown and/or organic practices are used. Any feed that animals/birds consume such as pigs, turkeys, or chickens should be pesticide/herbicide/other chemical and GMO-free.

Produce, legumes, rice, grains:

  • Are you certified organic or do you use sustainable/organic practices? Farms that use organic and sustainable practices do not use any commercial or conventional practices in their farming methods (see next questions for more detail). Many farms which are not certified organic still adhere to organic principles in farming, so inquiring about their status can also lead to a conversation about which category the farm you are buying food from falls.
  • Do you use genetically-modified organisms? GMOs have been shown in research to cause liver damage, food allergies and sensitivities to many different foods, infertility, and cancer, among other health issues.
  • How do you manage disease, pests, and other problems? Do you use chemical fertilizers or herbicides/pesticides on crops? Farms that use organic and sustainable methods to control weeds and pests are healthier and create far less damage to the environment and their crops such as integrated pest management, crop rotation, chemical-free, organic pest control.
  • Who is in charge of growing fruit/vegetables and where is the farm located? Very important because even sustainable and organic farms can become contaminated if they are too near  factories/companies emitting toxic chemicals and pollutants, or other farms which use conventional methods, and especially farms which are GMO (genetically-modified), or if any known spraying occurs from airplanes that might fly over the farm.  Many organic farms are in “no spray” zones and similar areas which ban the use of chemicals, so finding a farm which is mindful of these practices is important.
  • How large is the farm? This can also be important due to the location of the farm (see previous question) and its exposure to other operations/farms/businesses.
  • Is the farm a diversified operation (using poly cropping techniques, as opposed to the mono cropping used by conventional farming practices) with many varieties of vegetables and fruits? Farms using poly cropping farming methods are more likely to have better success with keeping pests, weeds, and other issues away.
  • Does the farm grow any heirloom varieties of fruits or vegetables? These plants and crops are of particular importance to the success of poly cropping and diversity of soil cultivation to help sustainable farming efforts become more pervasive. It’s always a good idea to support farms who grow these varieties as they are not only more sustainable, hearty, and resistant to disease/pests, and also more nutritious as they are from seeds that have been around a long time, and from plants that contained more nutrients.
More information?
 
Activism Real Food

Want Your Politicians to Listen? Write A Letter About The Food System And Health Care Reform!

I wrote this letter to my state senator, Mike Crapo today. I’m urgently concerned about the state of our health care and the food system – which are intrinsically tied together. Feel free to cut and paste this letter and send it on to your local congressperson or legislative representative. I’ve written over a dozen letters to senators, congresspeople, and The President about our health care system, prevention being a priority (with coverage for preventative services as well as emphasis on education about the proper prevention such as real nutrition), and the food system being directly tied to our health care system reform. Please make the effort and reach out to the political decision-makers in your local area and to those in Washington. Only the people can make a difference!

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Dear Mr. Crapo -

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my phone call and concerns. I am generally less interested in more government layers and regulations about food than I am accountability and responsibility on the level of taking care of the problems in food where the problems begin – at the point of origin, which is the facilities and practices themselves surrounding the growth, distribution, and sales of food products.

I’m interested in H.R. 2749 as a method of furthering the work needed to be done to clean up our food systems. It is a well-known fact that much of our food originates from the conventional sector (agribusiness) where the most abhorrent conditions for food production and growth prevail. I want to see regulation directed at the practices and methods of how we grow our food and changes made from industrialization to sustainability. When I say this, I specifically mean that laws be passed which stop the feeding of genetically-modified substances to cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and other livestock or fowl used for food. I also want to see a return to natural farming methods (a return to pasture-raising) – from feeding animals grain, soy, and corn (all unnatural and genetically-modified). Why not use H.R. 2749 for this purpose – to require the banning of harmful, toxic substances from our meats, poultry, produce, and other foods such as hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and other toxins which reduce the nutritional value of food and inherently cause harm to human health/animal health/the environment?

These issues are tied heavily into our health care system, and without attention paid to our food supply and the safety of its management, we will continue to contribute to the depth of which this nation is under strain from rising health care costs and burdens to our health care system. When we make preventative measures with food a priority, we will improve the condition for the health of every citizen in this country – our nation, of which we should not only be proud, but be protective and watchful. Being protective means doing the right thing to achieve the correct result  – not by going in and adding more analysis of a system that is already in grave jeopardy due to the mismanagement of its processes. A big component of our food safety plan, then, would certainly include an overhaul of current practices in farming methods, to change the root cause of why we are seeing so many food safety problems in the first place. That’s the only way any of this will make sense.

Time and time again we have seen the results (E.coli and salmonella poisioning) of industrial methods of farming (grain, soy, and wheat feed) and the impact it has on the health of animals being slaughtered for food – and the subsequent negative affects it has on the humans who consume it. These are the issues I’m talking about. Until we make fundamental changes in the methods we use to grow and distribute food, we will continue to see food safety issues cropping up more and more, as with the tomatoes (watered with runoff from factory farms, where they handle animals in this way, which causes salmonella and E. coli to enter fruit and vegetable systems and poison those who eat it). This is where the change needs to occur. Please understand the seriousness of this matter and help the American people gain back control of their food supply, and have more sustainable, safer, more nutritious food to eat. There is plenty of evidence and research which proves this is occurring in our food system, and must be stopped! No furthering of layers and government regulations will prevent this from continuing to occur. I’m a consumer health writer and educator about sustainable issues and I’ve done the research - I know it’s there, and I’m counting on you – please don’t let me down!

-Raine Saunders

Boise, Idaho