Skim Milk… A Scam?!

If you do a side by side ingredient label comparison between reduced fat milk and whole milk, you’ll find one notable difference between the two: reduced fat milk of any kind contains Vitamin A Palmitate, while whole milk does not.  Recently, a blog subscriber emailed me about this carrier agent that is added to 1%, 2%, reduced fat, and skim milks during processing.  The question asked of me was whether or not there are any health risks involved in consuming palmitate, and if so, should a switch to whole milk be considered.  After researching, I’ve come up with 5 reasons why you should consider switching to whole milk.  But before we get to that, here is a quick overview of why palmitate is added to certain types of milk in the first place.

Vitamin A Palmitate fortifies reduced fat milk after the fat has been removed in processing.  The techniques use to separate the fats out of fat-free milk strip the milk of many essential nutrients, including Vitamin A.  Therefore, dairies pump Vitamin A back into fat-free milk by introducing Palmitate into the mixture.  It’s a rather ironic process of trying to replace the Vitamin A nutrients that were taken out of the milk, but existed naturally in the milk in the first place.  Interestingly, Palmitate itself is not unsafe if ingested in appropriate amounts.  Vitamin A deficiencies lead to a variety of health complications, yet if ingested too much Palmitate can lead to birth defects for pregnant women and liver damage for all.  However, in the amounts that exist in fat-free milks, the Food and Drug Administrations feels it doesn’t pose a serious or threatening health risk (Ray).

With this information in mind, here are a few reasons why you may be compelled to switch to whole milk:

1.  It helps you gain pounds instead of shedding them (Green).

In a study conducted in the spring of 2013 by the Archives of Disease in Childhood, scientists concluded that toddlers who drank skim milk had higher BMIs than toddlers who drank whole milk.  The science behind this suggests that because fats are absent in skim milk, the body craves sugars and carbohydrates, thus contributing to weight gain (Green).

2.  Whole milk doesn’t lead to spikes in blood sugar (Sarah).

Skim milk will make you feel hungrier sooner, yet whole milk has been found to reduce the intensity of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.  Try this at home: drink whole milk for a week and skim milk for a week and see if you notice a difference in how long you feel full and satiated after each glass of milk (Sarah).

3.  It’s a whole food.

This one’s simple: whole milk comes from cows and is not subjected to intense methods of processing where vitamins and other nutrients are stripped from the milk, only to then be fortified and supplemented back in.  It’s the great paradox of the dairy industry- pumping out naturally occurring Vitamin A from whole milk to create reduced fat milks, only to then fortify it with substances such as Palmitate in an attempt to replicate the original nutrients (Ray).

4.  Farmers feed their pigs skim milk in order for them to get fatter, faster (Sarah).

Hey, it may be an old wives’ tale, but better safe than sorry, right? 🙂

5.  Whole milk has more omega-threes (Wartman).

We all know the nutritional benefits of omega-threes from previous blog posts, and they are worth all of the repeating.. they’re super nutrients that everybody can’t get enough of!

What type of milk do you drink?  Why?  If you drink reduced fat milk usually, are you considering switching to whole milk?  Let me know!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Green, Emma. “The Controversial Life of Skim Milk.”  The Atlantic. 20 November 2013: Web. The Atlantic Monthly. 29 July 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/11/the-controversial-life-of-skim-milk/281655/>

Sarah. “Why Skim Milk Will Make You Fat and Give You Heart Disease.” The Healthy Home Economist. Austus Foods, LLC. 2013. Web. 29 July 2014. <http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/why-skim-milk-will-make-you-fat-and/>

Ray, Clairborne. “Q&A; Stand-In Vitamin.” The New York Times. 10 December 2002: Web. The New York Times Company. 29 July 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/10/science/q-a-stand-in-vitamin.html>

Wartman, Kristin. “Got (Organic Whole) Milk? New Study Says It’s Healthier.” The Huffington Post. 18 December 2013: Web. The Huffington Post.com, Incorporated. 29 July 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin-wartman/got-organic-whole-milk-ne_b_4421306.html>

Part 5 of 5: Where to Purchase Grass Fed Beef

If something in the previous four posts has resonated with you, I’d encourage you to examine whether or not grass fed beef would be a viable option for you and your family.  If you decide that this is something you’d like to invest in more often, below is some information to keep in mind:  Grass fed beef is available in at most local grocery stores.  Be on the look out for the label that certifies that the beef product you are purchasing is grass fed! 🙂  Additionally, check out this website for a directory of pasture-based farms if you’re looking for a new place to find grass fed beef (Eat):

http://www.eatwild.com/PRODUCTS/index.html

Once you arrive at this website, click on your state or country of residence, and you will be brought to a webpage with a list detailing the surrounding farms near your home (Eat).  Let me know if you try this website and what they think of it!  In addition, there is the option of buying a “share” of a cow from your local farm, similarly to other community shared agricultural programs (Eat).

In culminating this five part series, there is one more thing that I’d like to address, and this is the cost comparison between feedlot beef and grass fed beef.  Switching to grass fed beef would cost on average $250 to $300 dollars more than purchasing solely feedlot beef (Cross).  Here is a revisit back to a quote on this price difference from New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Pollan:  “The ninety-nine cent price of a fast-food hamburger simply doesn’t take account of that meal’s true cost–to soil, oil, public health, the public purse, etc., costs which are never charged directly to the consumer but, indirectly and invisibly, to the taxpayer (in the form of subsidies), the health care system (in the form of food-borne illnesses and obesity), and the environment (in the form of pollution), not to mention the welfare of the workers in the feedlot and the slaughterhouse and the welfare of the animals themselves” (Pollan).

In conclusion, changing agricultural beef cattle practices can start with you.  Every purchase counts, and dollars that are put towards the investment of grass fed beef are the same dollars that are not being put towards feedlot beef.  Therefore, in using your purchasing power wisely, you too can support animal welfare, champion human health, and preserve the environment and its natural resources.  America’s cows are counting on you. 🙂

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

P.S. I hope now that Princeton University Professor Appiah quote that “Industrial agriculture is one of the top four things for which future generations will condemn us” rings true for you (Notaras).

Works Cited

Cross, Kim.  “‘The grass-fed vs. grain-fed debate.” CNN. 29 March 2011. Web. Cable News Network. 12 June 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/29/grass.grain.beef.cookinglight/>

Eat Wild. Jo Robinson, 2015. Web. 16 July 2015. <http://www.eatwild.com/PRODUCTS/index.html>

Notaras, Mark. Our World United Nations University. UNU Office of Communications. 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 31 May 2014. <http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/the-shame-of-concentrated-animal-feedlots>

Pollan, Michael.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma. New York: Penguin Group, 2006. Print.

Part 4 of 5: What Makes Grass-Fed Beef Sustainable?

Sustainability is defined as “living on Earth in a way that allows humans to use its resources without depriving future generations of those resources” (Courard-Hauri). So the question is, what makes grass fed beef more sustainable than feedlot beef? Interestingly, the energy subsidy, or “calories of energy input per calorie of food produced” for feedlot beef is ALMOST THREE TIMES higher than grass fed beef (Courard-Hauri). Therefore, this statistic speaks to the fact that grass fed beef agricultural practices are more viable options for sustaining the future of cattle farming.

In researching about this topic, and thinking about what really makes something viable for future generations, I’ve discovered that the most sustainable agricultural practices are complex in Nature, yet easy to explain and justify. Conversely, the most unsustainable agricultural practices that are human engineered are less complex, yet harder to explain and justify. It’s a paradox…

The main reason why grass fed beef is sustainable is because it is a small-scale agricultural practice. In the food industry, once things are consolidated and in the hands of large manufacturing companies, they tend to emphasis efficiency more than sustainability. The first thing that grass fed beef cattle farming has going for it is that it does not depend upon or overindulge in nonrenewable fossil fuels. Rather, as discussed in the second post of this series, grass fed cattle are raised in local farm pastures, and oil, etc. is not needed to manufacture, package, ship, and transport the beef thousands of miles away. Secondly, grass fed beef cattle farming takes advantage of the symbiotic relationship that cattle have with grass, thereby using plants, a renewable resource, as the primary form of energy for the cattle. Thirdly, feedlots have a tendency to homogenize the species of cattle that they raise, and generally fill their land plots with tens of thousands of the exact same species of cattle. Ultimately, this results in a lack of genetic diversity of feedlot cattle, which reduces their chances of surviving or combatting habitat destruction, adverse weather conditions, and other environmental crises. Nevertheless, grass fed beef cattle farmers are more likely to invest in multiple species of cattle, thereby adding diversity to the genetic pool of their farms and pastures (Bond).

The above are just a few reasons why grass fed beef is more sustainable than feedlot beef. In previous posts, we’ve also discussed more nutritional and environmental reasons why the previous statement is true. What do you think the most compelling reason is for why grass fed beef is sustainable? Why? Let me know!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Bond, Annie. “Top 10 Eco-Friendly Reasons to Buy Organic Meat and Dairy.” Care 2. Care2.com, Incorporated. 2014. Web. 12 June 2014. <http://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-buy-organic-dairy-meat.html>

Courard-Haurari, Friedland Andrew, Relyea, Rick. Environmental Science for AP. New York: W. H.      Freeman and Company. 2012. Print.

Part 3 of 5: Nutritional and Environmental Costs of Beef Cattle Agriculture

From a nutritional standpoint, grass fed beef contains fewer calories per serving and is therefore a leaner cut of beef.  Interestingly, the average American would shed six pounds the first year they ate grass fed beef instead of feedlot beef, and would thus save over 16,000 calories.  Furthermore, conventionally raised cows lack substantial omega-threes because of the harsh and wretched conditions of their man-made habitats, unlike their grass fed counterparts.  These omega-three fatty acids play a major role in reducing a person’s risk of high blood pressure, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, and are more prevalent and substantial in grass fed beef.  In conclusion, if more American citizens chose grass fed beef, the inherent results would include weight loss and disease prevention, thereby lessening the nation’s hospital visits (Johnson).

I should begin the portion of this blog on environmental impacts of beef cattle agriculture by saying that both grass fed beef cattle and conventionally raised beef cattle pose a threat to the environment.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, “agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide” (Matthews).  In fact, cows produce methane, and this is a formidable greenhouse gas (Matthews).

Nevertheless, feedlot agricultural practices in particular take a critical toll on the environment, unlike its grass-fed counterpart.  In addition, feedlot agricultural practices in the American Midwest even cause ecosystems far removed from the Midwest to suffer.  The most prominent example of the widespread environmental impacts of conventionally raised beef cattle agricultural practices is the cultural eutrophication of the Gulf of Mexico.  This ever increasing 8,000 square mile dead zone demonstrates the widespread effects of these conventional farming techniques (Notaras).

Cultural eutrophication is a result of the runoff, contaminated wastewater, and phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers entering waterways such as the Gulf of Mexico.  This phenomenon doesn’t occur to such a dangerous degree in grass fed beef agricultural practices, because the cows are not crammed by the tens of thousands into small pens, and the build up of manure and fertilizer isn’t as vast as it is in feedlots.  Therefore, the waste waters from beef cattle feedlots in the American Midwest travel down the Mississippi River, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.  Once these substances pollute the Gulf of Mexico, the levels of phosphorus and nitrogen increase in the body of water, thereby prompting a rapid algae bloom.  With this algal bloom, most of the oxygen available in the water is consumed dominantly by microbes who feed upon remains of the dead algae, which creates hypoxic, or oxygen depleted conditions in major waterways .  Unfortunately, aquatic organisms suffocate from the lack of available oxygen, causing large fish die-offs and self-perpetuating dead-zones (Couard-Hauri).

Additionally, soil erosion is one of the major consequences of feedlot agricultural beef practices.  In order for cattle to be crammed into such constricting areas, topsoil and vegetation is more often than not removed from the fields.  Furthermore, the pesticides and synthetics that are incorporated into feedlot beef cattle feed pollutes the soil, and contributes to soil degradation.  On the other hand, grass fed beef cattle don’t contribute as heavily to soil erosion.  Due to the symbiotic relationship grass fed beef cattle have with grass, these two species work in harmony with each other to maintain the cultivation of agricultural fields.  Only when grass fed beef cattle are allowed to overgraze do they contribute to soil degradation, and this does not happen frequently, as it puts local farmers at an economic and financial disadvantage (Couard-Hauri).

Has anyone ever seen pictures of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico?  What are your thoughts on the environmental consequences of feedlot beef cattle agriculture?  Let me know, and stay tuned for next week as we discuss why grass fed beef is sustainable!

Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,

Katie 🙂

Works Cited

Courard -Haurari, Friedland Andrew, Relyea, Rick. Environmental Science for AP. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. 2012. Print.

Johnson, Jo. American Grassfed Beef. n.p. n.f. Web. 31 May 2014. <http://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/grass-fed-natural-beef.asp>

Matthews, Christopher. “Livestock a major threat to environment.” FAO. 29 Nov. 2006.Web. Media Relations, FAO. 10 June 2014. <http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/News/2006/1000448/index.html>

Notaras, Mark. Our World United Nations University. UNU Office of Communications. 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 31 May 2014. <http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/the-shame-of-concentrated-animal-feedlots>