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Activism Green Living Healthy Living Real Food Toxin Alert!

The Egg Recall and Why Local Isn't Necessarily Better

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I’ve already written about food recalls a number of times, but the point about finding sustainable food is one that I find must be revisited often…because there are so many misconceptions going around about why simply avoiding one brand over another is not enough.

And I’ll also tell you why it’s really important to know your farmer and what practices he or she uses to raise the chickens that lay the eggs you are going to eat.

Read the conversation that convinced me to write this post:

Last week, someone in my family (who shall go nameless to keep the peace, and he never reads my blog anyway) called and asked me about eggs. He wanted to know where I buy my eggs. I replied that I buy them from the Capital City Public Market (in downtown Boise, ID) farmer’s market from a farmer from Payette, ID (it’s about 60 miles away from where I live in Boise). The farm is Matthew’s All Natural Meats.

Then he asked about another egg supplier, a company that’s been around since I was a child, or maybe longer. I have a distinct recollection of going there and seeing closed-in hen houses where the chickens were confined, and the odor I noticed from this business when I got out of the car was definitely strong of excrement. I replied that I wouldn’t buy my eggs there, and I asked him if he wanted to know why.

His reply: “no, this place is local and that’s good enough for me and my wife.”

To clarify, I asked, “so you don’t care if the chickens at this local hatchery are raised in the same way as the ones in the recall?”

“No.” He said.

So while it’s true: all these eggs are sourced back to Iowa farms Wright County Egg and from Hillandale Farms, owned by Austin DeCoster (who is, by the way, a known offender of safety and environmental regulations), you might be thinking:

“But I don’t live anywhere near Iowa, and the eggs I buy are from another source entirely. How could I get sick from eating those eggs?”

Just because you are buying eggs from some other supplier that wasn’t mentioned on the recall list or even buying foods locally, it does not mean you are going to be assured of a safe, healthy product that won’t make you sick.

Those eggs from the recent recall were recalled because of the farming practices used on those chicken farms – chickens crammed together in close quarters, pooping all over each other, getting diseases and being administered antibiotics, feed  covered in chemicals and pesticides (and from genetically-modified sources). That’s where salmonella contamination comes from. Those birds are not allowed to roam around out in the open and eat bugs, worms, and have access to the outdoors and sunshine.

Buying eggs from farmers who raise their chickens sustainably will guarantee you will not have eggs from diseased and sick birds. It’s always a good idea to know the farmer or call him or her at the very least, and ask about the practices they use.

What does sustainable really mean?

Are the birds out in the open, on grass, eating bugs and dirt, and being exposed to sunshine? That’s what chickens are supposed to do, by the way. It’s what nature intended. Are the chickens free from antibiotics, chemicals, and other toxic substances? Chances are, a smaller operation and farm will be much more likely to care about the relationships they have with customers and to make sure their birds are raised in healthy and sanitary conditions. Most small-time operations have a reputation to protect, and they are not going to put it on the line by not keeping their practices clean. Plus, many of those small farmers believe in the principles of animal and bird stewardship and want to produce a healthy and sustainable product.

And you might pay more for a dozen eggs from a local, sustainable farm. But compare that to the cost of getting sick from salmonella and having to miss work or school, and a trip to the E.R. It’s also the case that eggs from healthy hens on pasture have more nutrients in them because unlike their conventional counterparts, healthy birds on pasture and out in the open are exposed to the sunshine and outdoors (think Vitamin A, D, E, and K), a better balance of Omega 3s to 6s, and up to five times the amount of conjugated linoleic acid – a known antioxidant and nutrient important for many aspects of health including the cardiovascular system. Now that makes financial sense.

There is something else you need to be aware of: the media, food safety officials, nor mainstream health or medical sources will never tell you this information because to do so would compromise the safety regulations and laws that are already in place, and it would uncover a vast number of other farms guilty of the same violations. That would make government entities and businesses look bad. It might also, just maybe, alert the public to what’s been going on in the food industry for decades and decades, start a revolt, and cause those companies to have to change their practices or be shut down. But then again, I think I might just be living in a dream world.

Those companies are huge, profitable, and POWERFUL. They’ll stop at nothing to maintain that status, and everyone in those industries and government positions knows each other, works together, and protects each other. Is it starting to make sense now as to why these operations are allowed to continue on their merry way of selling toxic food and food products to the public? Most of the time, those companies get a slap on the hand at the very worst – a fine, or something of that nature, which is easily absorbed by a big corporation.

And the safety standards? Well, it might be interesting to know that those farms who produced the recalled eggs were only required to adhere to them on a “voluntary” basis. So much for following “the law”.  And guess what? Most of the eggs on the market come from premises like these. So even though the carton your eggs come in might say, “cage-free” or “all-natural”, those eggs are still likely from unhealthy chickens in confinement. Marketing terms and lingo are very tricky that way, and lead consumers to believe they are getting something good, when in fact, they probably are not.

The same goes for any food item on a recall list. More and more you will see these recalls happening, and more and more it is going to be critical for consumers to be aware of why these foods are being recalled…despite food safety regulation laws, despite government laws being stepped up and protocols becoming more strict. Creating more laws and stricter regulations simply won’t prevent what has been occurring from occurring again in the future.

Consumer and farmer habits can change the future

The only thing that will change this onslaught of low-quality foods being mass produced and continuing to be recalled is awareness and activism on the part of farmers and consumers to produce sustainable foods and to buy them and support only those farmers and food growers adhering to those strict standards. It may sound strange or even impossible, but it’s the whole truth. If you think most food recalls aren’t from industrial and conventional sources, just look up any food recall and see where it’s sourced. If nothing else, that alone should convince you.

Here are just a few of the recalls in the recent past (and note, ALL sources are conventional and industrial):

Although not all of these companies are as large as companies like Tyson and Cargill (note, both of these companies are included in these recall articles), they all have something in commonindustrial farming practices are used in growing their food. And therein lies the problem.

So, please, please, please, don’t just keep buying the same foods (Heaven forbid!), or go over to some other brand that you know nothing about. Because chances are, you’ll just end up buying another carton of eggs, or another package of meat, or another bag of produce from a conventional source where the food is produced or raised in a similar way to the Iowa farm eggs – in closed in hen houses and in the most filthy, abominable conditions possible. In the case of produce, most of these foods are being contaminated by run-off water and other similar situations from factory farms where E.coli or salmonella are an issue (again, confinement facilities for animals) .Make it a point to learn about where your food comes from, know your farmer, and by all means, do support local – just make sure it’s sustainable.

More reasons to buy sustainable?

Is cheap food really cheap? The hidden costs of industrial food

Fortified and processed foods: are label claims about nutrition true?

Huge FDA recall of 10,000 products – another wakeup call to avoid processed foods!

Activism Healthy Living

What Do Farms And Antibiotic Drugs Have In Common?

Did you know that eighty percent of antibiotic use in the U.S. goes to farm livestock to help them grow quickly and prevent disease?

The use of antibiotics in humans for everything from strep to staph infections to the common cold has become proliferate in modern society. It is not uncommon for a person to take antibiotic drugs 3 – 5 times per year.

From Medical News Today, a November 2008 article released the following information:

“in 35 hospitals studied in 2006, about 63.5% of discharged patients (492,721 of 775,731) received an antibacterial drug. Data from five years in 22 hospitals revealed that between 2002 and 2006, the average total antibacterial use increased from 798 days of therapy per every 1,000 patient-days to 855 per 1,000 patient-days”.

According to a recent article in Infectious Disease News:

The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey was used in 1992 to assess antibiotic prescribing practices for children given a diagnosis of common cold, upper respiratory tract infection, or bronchitis (Nyquist et al, JAMA). This study found that antibiotics were prescribed to 44% of children with common colds, 46% with upper respiratory tract infections, and 75% with bronchitis. The same study reported that an estimated 53 percent of children ages 3 -17 who presented with sore throats and tested positive for step bacteria were administered antibiotics.

Antibiotics on the farm

Besides the doctor’s office and hospital, much of the meat and dairy products we eat contain antibiotics. According to The Union of Concerned Scientists, approximately 70 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are now fed to animals raised for human consumption.  For decades farmers have administered antibiotics to animals to keep them from getting sick – and the sickness rate is high in a factory farm environment where animals are crammed together in close quarters, standing in their own feces and unable to move to cleaner areas, and are fed the wrong kinds of foods – genetically-modified grains, corns, and soy – which make ruminants sick (that’s cattle), who are intended to eat and digest grasses, clover, and alfalfa.

Animals receive antibiotics such as tetracyclines, Penicillins, sulfonamidesin, and macrolides, directly in their feed and/or water, and this low-grade dosing continues throughout most of their short lives. The practice of treating all animals – even those who aren’t sick – encourages the growth and mutation of virulent strains of bacteria that can and do spread to humans.

“Antibiotic medicines are losing effectiveness on humans due to their increased use in animal feed,” said Margaret Mellon, Ph.D, JD, director of the food and environment program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Animals raised in natural environments rarely require the use of antibiotics. Americans who choose meat produced this way are making conscious decisions to ensure that  antibiotics will still be working when they or their family need them.”

Here are some startling statistics (from Orville Schell, “The Reliance on Drugs in the U.S. Meat Industry) :

  • In 1979, U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers marketed $243.7 million worth of antibiotics for animal use. Since 1960, the annual consumption rate has risen almost ten-fold. In 1978, the FDA estimated that over six million pounds of antibiotics ended up in animals, much of it in meat producing animals for human consumption.
  • Since 1949, when anti-microbial feed additives were first discovered to promote weight gain as well as control disease, more than one billion head of cattle have been raised with them. In the U.S., almost all chickens and turkeys, 85 percent of all hogs, 75 percent of all cattle and 50 percent of all sheep are now fed low daily doses of antibiotics for prolonged periods of time.

What happens when we consume meat full of antibiotics?

The continued consumption of antibiotic-containing meat increases the rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the world. According to information released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, food-borne illnesses are becoming more difficult to treat due to the increase in antibiotic-resistant strains and the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics used as a first-line defense.

Food-borne bacteria are caused largely as a result of repeated antibiotic use. More dangerous even than their antibiotic-resistant counterparts, food-borne bacteria are more difficult to treat and may require multiple dosing of antibiotics, lengthier hospital stays, and various other interventions before being destroyed.

This resistant bacteria has been the cause of an additional burden on our health care system to the tune of 4 to 5 billion dollars annually. Of roughly 2.4 million Campylobacter infections in the U.S., nearly half of these have been found to be resistant to at least one antibiotic. Nearly 14 percent of these are resistant to at least two or more drugs.

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD., C.N.S. (author of Nutrition With A Mission and The Fast Track Detox Diet) says that when you eat a large amount of protein and cheese from conventionally-raised animals, you are taking into your body secondhand antibiotics from those animals – and that those drugs basically kill off your body’s store of friendly bacteria (stored in your digestive tract which houses your immune system), making you vulnerable to disease and illness. Without these good bacteria, you cannot digest vitamins, eliminate toxins, nor absorb fiber. When your body is depleted of this flora, you are at risk for developing diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, candida, irritable bowel, and many others.

The vegetarian argument against eating meat

Vegetarians and vegans alike will site the presence of antibiotics in meat as a good reason to avoid eating it. There are a variety of other reasons vegetarians offer against meat eating as well. But the rationale behind avoiding  meat fails to take into account the fact that good, naturally-raised meats are available which do not have these health risks and should be eaten in order to maintain health. If all you are eating is factory-raised meat, then there are certainly many reasons why that variety is harmful to health and should be avoided.

For more information about healthy meat, read:

Why Meat Gets the Heat

Whole and Healthy Meat…Does it Really Exist?

Fruits and vegetables are not exempt

Conventionally produced produce is can also be exposed to antibiotics. When farmers use fertilizer from animals that are administered antibiotics, those substances are transferred to the growing fruits and vegetables.

The Journal of Environmental Quality released a report in 2005 ( published in New Standard News) that three test crops – corn, green onions and cabbage were found to absorb chlortetracycline through the soil in which they are grown. “The drug, which is part of the tetracycline class of antibiotics, is often administered to pigs and other farmed animals as part of their food. Since the animals cannot process all of the drug, it is passed along in feces, which are then packaged and sold for use as fertilizer.

Earlier studies examining the use of antibiotics in animal feed found that their presence can kill or stunt plant growth. The overuse of antibiotics can also contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and germ strains”.

What can you do to avoid antibiotics?

Maintain a healthy diet: avoid ALL conventionally-raised meats, dairy products, and produce! Here is a list of things to eat:

  • Organic, grass-fed meats (beef, lamb, pork, and game) and pasture-raised poultry, eggs from pasture-raised poultry
  • Organic, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Organically-sourced, healthy fats like extra virgin coconut and olive oil, palm oils, flax seed oil, real dairy products – milk butter, cheese, and cream – from pasture-raised cows
  • Organic raw nuts and seeds
  • True whole, organic grains that are sprouted and soaked
  • Home-made fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and lacto-fermented vegetables

If you maintain a healthy lifestyle and find yourself becoming sick, try natural treatments first before rushing to out for prescription drugs and other medications. Be willing to try several things before going on to pharmaceutical intervention – each person’s body is individual, and a one-size-fits all treatment plan simply won’t work for everyone.

Here is a short list of useful and powerful treatments for various ailments: colloidal silver, oil of oregano, raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, aloe vera juice or gel, and a variety of many different herbs and plants. Seek the guidance of a  knowledgeable health care practioner who can guide you through treatment to maximize your dollar and minimize time you spend getting well.

This article is posted on Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please take a look at all the other great real food articles posted there.