Dr. Katz explains why it is important to know what your food ate.
There are so many things that make eating well in the modern world difficult and all of them need to be fixed because I think, it’s unfair to place the burden excessively on the individual. At the end of the day, what I do with my feet and my fork is up to me and the same is true of you and we all need to try to own our health and be personally responsible. But, there are factors beyond our control that have enormous implications for our health, and one of them, and this is a great concern to me, is all of the implications of industrial farming. It’s okay frankly to eat some meat.
I don’t eat red meat and I think most of us would be better off eating less of it and I fully agree with the good nutritional advice of Michael Pollan who says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” I think we should all be eating mostly plants, and it’s fine to eat only plants for those who choose to do it, but when you do eat meat, you’d like to think that it’s reasonably pure.
If you eat beef, for example, it should be beef, and it should be raised as beef is supposed to be raised, but it isn’t. Among the many practices in industrial farming is the generation of cheap feed for feed animals. So for example, cows are routinely fed grain, which is not their native diet. Natively, herbivores should be grazing on grasses; they don’t need grain, and by virtue of changing the feed of feed animals, we change their flesh.
So for instance, the flesh of antelope and deer is virtually free of saturated fat and it actually contains omega-3 fat, which they get from the grasses that they graze on. There’s no omega-3 fat in beef cattle, and in fact, we tend to refer to omega-3s as fish oil because we have domesticated them out of so many other sources, and the fat count content of modern beef is very high, close to 30-35% of calories, and most of it is saturated. All of that comes from changes in what we feed the animals and the implications go beyond even nutritional health to concerns like infectious disease.
You have probably heard of the threat of E. coli 0157:H7; it’s a new age E. coli that’s particularly dangerous. We have had outbreaks associated with things like spinach and lettuce. The spinach and the lettuce are innocent bystanders. The E. coli 0157 grew in the intestinal tract of cattle and contaminated the spinach and the lettuce. Now why did it grow in the intestinal tract of cattle? Because their diets had been adulterated, changing the chemical milieu of this GI tract and consequently changing the bacteria that could grow there. We created this Frankenbug by virtue of changing what we feed the animals that feed us.
And in some instances, and this is particularly horrible, we have turned herbivorous animals into carnivores. So, it may very well be that pigs in their feed get ground-up of bits of other farm animals and chickens in their feed get ground-up of bits of other farm animals. Pretty scary–significant implications for the nutritional quality of the meats that we eat, but frankly, cruel and unusual treatment of our fellow species, damaging to ecosystems in the planet, and major implications for infectious disease from E. coli 0157 all the way up to swine flu.
About Dr. Katz, M.D., M.P.H.:
David L. Katz M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.M., F.A.C.P., is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care. He is a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health, and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Public Health Practice at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Katz is the Director and founder (1998) of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, Director and founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital (2000) in Derby, CT, and founder and president of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation.