MCDONALD'S FOOTPRINT

McDonald's daily services 69 million customers.  Wrap your head around that for a minute.  That's every day more people than live in Britain and France combined.  That's something like 10 New York Cities--EVERY DAY.

 When Eric Schlosser wrote Fast Food Nation and explained that McDonald's shaped the American farm system, he was exactly right.  A buyer that big literally dominates policy, protocol, and public perception.  When I visited a 5,000-cow Idaho dairy several years ago and watched tractor trailer loads of potatoes being augered into the confinement cows' feed bunks, I thought about Schlosser's point that McDonald's fries protocol meant that all those that didn't fit the box now had no home in the American food system.

 Can you imagine being at the helm of such an aircraft carrier?  The layers and layers of committees, mid-managers, and relationships if you ever wanted to actually do something different?  Imagine the inertia to change.  Just like you and I, an outfit like that didn't set out to be what it is; it incrementally became this thing over time.  It developed routines, perceptions and assumptions.  Unlike you and me, however, it has an outsized influence.

 Several years ago McDonald's shaved an inch off its napkins.  Nobody noticed, but it saved 3 million pounds of paper.  Can you imagine?  How would you like to have that kind of impact on things?  One inch, 3 million pounds.  Incredible.

 In 2000 McDonald's decided to buy eggs only from chickens that had 72 square inches of space rather than the industry average 48 (that's 6 inches by 8 inches per bird--shape that with your hands and see how you'd like to live in that condition your ENTIRE LIFE).  So now make it 8 inches by 9 inches--that's the new chicken-friendly amount, and ask yourself . . . .

 This post is not to vilify or applaud McDonald's.  It's simply to make us stop for a moment and think about the footprint of an outfit like this.  Thomas Friedman points out that so far, no two countries with a McDonald's have ever gone to war.  Now that, dear folks, is clout.

 So love 'em or hate 'em, McDonald's rules.  I like litmus tests.  Like the litmus test of a true food tribalist is eating leftovers.  And for me, the litmus test that our side is winning a bit is the day McDonald's fears for its livelihood because people are staying away in droves.  That'll be the day.

 How long has it been since you were in a McDonald's?

FLU VACCINES USELESS

According to WISE TRADITIONS magazine published by the Weston A. Price Foundation, in 2018 an independent gold standard Cochrane Review reported that flu shots fail 98-99 percent of the time.  Even public health officials agree that 50 percent failure is normal.

 The Centers for Disease Control reported that the vaccines for the most prevalent strain in 2017-18 was only 25 percent effective.  Canada and Australia reported only 10 percent success rates for that strain in adults.  Can you imagine buying a car with these kinds of failure rates?

 The CDC also points out that 80 percent of flu-like illnesses are not influenza.  It lumps influenza and pneumonia deaths together, greatly exaggerating flu mortality data.  So here we go, subjective science.  In fact, at the most, 4 percent of pneumonia fatalities typically test positive for influenza, which means the CDC putting the two together as the eighth leading cause of death is entirely misleading.  So much for accurate government reports. Why do scientists, public servants, taxpayer funded experts, knowingly mislead like this?  What's the agenda?  This is why I don't trust any bureaucrat, any government report, any politician.  Not one.  The truth is always somewhere else.

 Influenza vaccines generally contain one or more of the following:  mercury, formaldehyde, polysorbate 80, squalene, antibiotics.  Yum.

 Folks, our culture is so far out of wellness understanding we don't have a long enough rope to lasso them.   It's downright depressing.  How do you tell them to quit jumping off the cliff?

 I go to church, and listen to the nurses whispering to folks:  "Make sure you get your flu shot."  Well-meaning all, but they've drunk the Kool-aid of the pharmaceutical industrial medical complex.   Why do people have such a compelling agenda to make drug companies rich?  And to so willingly and aggressively patronize something this obviously fraudulent?  If a normal person like you or I tried to pull off a fraud like this we'd be arrested and put on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper.

 What do you say to a friend or family member who asks you if you've had your flu shot?

 Remember:  if you like these posts, share and get others to sign up.  Let's create an educated army of freedom-loving truth seekers.

MIGRAINES AND MSG

To my knowledge, I've never had a headache.  I just don't know what it is.  But for those who suffer something called a migraine, it must be horrible.  When folks describe them to me, I cringe.  It's beyond my imagination.

 In a WISE TRADITIONS (Weston A. Price Foundation) magazine, a lady describes her trauma from recurring migraines in a way that's actually painful to read.  Doing her own research, she determined the cause as monosodium glutamate (MSG).

 But that's not the interesting thing.  To me, the interesting revelation is that MSG is often not on the label as MSG.  According to the article:  "I already had been looking for 'MSG' on ingredient lists, but I had not realized that it was in 95 percent of processed foods under other names, including yeast extract, soy protein, and protein isolates."

 I could go a couple of different directions with this.  You can't trust labels.  That's one direction.  Another is to not buy processed foods, but that wouldn't be fair to those of us who make processed foods like frozen stock without any additives.

 I think the main thing here is to buy from reputable companies that share your philosophy.  I'm tired of value.  It's overused.  How about philosophy? What does the company believe?  What does it think? What does the founder/president read and talk about?  Check out what's in the magazine rack beside the toilet, for crying out loud.  Kind of like "what's in your wallet?"  "What's by your toilet?"

 Sometimes I'm afraid we don't really empower people when we say read the label because labels can either misrepresent or under-report.  Labeling laws are a labyrinth contrived to obfuscate and confuse. 

 No, the answer is know the outfit, know the food.  And don't shop at Wal-Mart--FOR ANYTHING!  Or Costco.  Let's withdraw our support from these outfits.  If we'd start buying based on outfit philosophy, we'd get integrity lots faster.

 Do you know your food outfit?

JURIES AND SCIENCE

            Many of you remember the big  $289 million liability award for the school groundskeeper in California who sued Monsanto for Roundup causing his cancer.  At that time, I posted a warning:  it ain't over, so don't break out the champagne. 

             Well, a subsequent appeal dropped the award to $78 million, which is still no small amount, even for Monsanto (now owned by Bayer).  As these things go, we now have another appeal, and interestingly, the Monsanto attorneys have won their desire to split the case in two parts.  First, argue the science of Roundup.  Second, argue negligence.  Two completely different trials, with the second one being contingent on winning the first. 

   In case you missed it, this is brilliant, and I predict will result in Monsanto being completely absolved of any liability in the matter.  And of course that will extend to the nearly 9,300 other similar cases pending.  No doubt that initial verdict stimulated a massive bandwagon against Roundup.

             Why can I be so sure about the outcome and eventual exoneration of Monsanto and Roundup?  Because we do not make decisions based on empirical evidence; we make decisions emotionally.  We are emotional beings.  We have beliefs that trump data every day.  Data does not win arguments; emotion wins arguments.

             And so a dispassionate scientific inquiry into the question:  does Roundup cause cancer? will absolutely end in a hung jury.  When I say science is subjective, academics get their pants in a wad and dismiss me as a nut.  But just a couple of days ago I read an article by a scientist who had the courage to admit that science is subjective.  His point was that we pick what we see. 

             The reason I'm so adamant about this is because in 9 years of interscholastic and intercollegiate debate competition I learned that every data point could be re-interpreted in another light.  In these tournaments, we would debate one side affirmative for 3 rounds, and then debate the same topic negative for 3 rounds (called switch-side debating).  It truly helped me appreciate the different sides of an argument, but also awakened me to the fact that scientists do not agree on empirical data.  Which means I don't trust very much.

             And so in this trial, a 2010 study of 20 mice painted with glyphosate, the active weed killer ingredient in Roundup, caused 40 percent to develop tumors.  Bayer scientists will show the study was epidemiologically flawed and that animal experiments don't necessarily translate to humans.

             By the same token, when Bayer says its 40 years of studies and EPA bean counting has shown no association with Roundup and cancer, the scientists on the other side will say those studies had flaws and can't be trusted.  It'll be tit for tat for days as these scientists parse the meaning of "is." 

             This is why philosophy is so important.  Now all the humanities professors may cheer.  Science is bounded by what we can see and what we can duplicate.  What we see is completely subject to our philosophy.  "Why can't you see that?" we question a disagreeing person, incredulous that something so obvious to us is completely opaque to them.  Well, welcome to the human condition.

             Vaccines, human-caused global warming, pasteurized milk, local food systems, religion, and a host of other topics cannot and will never be decided on science.  They are decided philosophically.  Now, I may end up being completely wrong on the outcome of this case:  the complete exoneration of Monsanto.  But I don't expect to be wrong.  Time will tell.

  What was the last exasperating discussion you had with someone who believed completely different than you based on data they interpreted that was completely different than the data you "know?"

SUPERFLU

What's worse than the flu?  Superflu.

 And that's what flu drugs are now creating.  Xofluza, which is the world's leading flu pill because it can supposedly knock out the flu in one day with one pill, is now coming under scrutiny by Japanese doctors due to developing mutant viral strains.

 Its main competitor, Tamiflu, dominates the U.S. market, but this new super pill tops Japan's market by a long shot.  Often marketed as a silver bullet, its side effects are bronchitis and diarrhea in some patients.  Cool.  Interestingly, numerous flu strains are already resistant to Tamiflu as well.

 Every year people ask me:  "Have you gotten your flu shot?"  No.  Never have and never will.  And I haven't had the flu in 20 years.  Doctors in Japan reported that by Feb. 6, six flu strains are now resistant to Zofluza.  What's interesting, according to The Wall Street Journal, is that Tokyo's National Institute of Infectious Diseases observed these virulent mutant strains before the drug was even approved.  And no small number:  25 percent of children who took it.  Good gracious.

 Japan apparently leads the world in flu cases and during Jan. 21-27 it was the highest reported in two decades.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is breaking flu outbreak records as well and that "flu-related deaths in 2017-18 were the highest seen in four decades," according to the report.

 I'm a strong believer in the "hygiene hypothesis" and the whole notion that our immune system is like a big muscle.  It needs to be built up first, but then it needs to be exercised.  You can't have a good functional muscle if you haven't eaten properly and if you don't exercise the muscle.

 When you eat non-sterile food and get outside to work, your immune system enjoys many small assaults.  Whether it's bacteria in raw milk or pieces of dirt on a freshly-picked carrot, these small assaults keep our immune systems aware and awake.  Splinters and scraps from yard work, gardening, cutting firewood, feeding chickens or whatever actually guarantee an active internal immune system.  Walking through a field of cow pies is a great thing.  So come out for a visit.

 As a culture, we don't eat right and we don't get bumps and bruises and stickers.  Fortunately today we have plenty of soap, running hot water in our houses, and all the wonderful hygiene systems that our ancestors didn't.  Life spans went up not because our immune systems increased, but because we could bathe more frequently, had better trauma care (the number two cause of death among women until 1920 was burning--hoop skirts weren't a good fit for hearth cooking), and didn't walk around in our own sewage.

 Get enough rest, enough water, nutrient dense food, and move around--that's a prescription for health.  Most Americans, sadly, are not getting any of these four things, let alone all four.  We're always looking for a drug solution instead of a holistic solution.  And if you get the flu, let it exercise the body's immune system.  There's nothing wrong with that, either.  I wonder if anyone has done research on the likelihood of sickness in the next 12 months after a person has had the flu and just let it run its course.

 The bummer is that as soon as I head down this path, the cultural orthodoxy brands me an anti-science Typhoid Mary pariah bioterrorist, infecting everyone with the flu.  Whatever happened to tolerance?

 How many people do you know who got the flu shot and then got the flu?  

FAST FOOD BREAKFAST

Restaurant Brands International, which owns Burger King, Tim Horton's (Canada) and Popeye's, is have a run of expansion and income acceleration.  It added 1,000 restaurants last year and is making a dash for global additions.

 What strikes me about this significant business increase is what Daniel Schwartz, their executive chairman attributed it to primarily:  stronger consumer spending on breakfast offerings.

 This has always been the last frontier of the domestic kitchen:  breakfast.  Fast food took over supper long ago, then it took over lunch.  I think that progression was natural because when you don't eat at home for the evening meal, you have no leftovers to eat for lunch the next day.  The single most obvious litmus test for eating consciously is leftovers.  Spontaneous, unconscious eating does not yield leftovers.

 But even if it's a Pop-Tart, breakfast has been the last bastion of the domestic kitchen.  Apparently now thoughtless food is taking over that final space.  This is especially heart rending for me because breakfast is definitely my favorite meal of the day.

 Here on our farm, forever, we have always gone out and taken care of the animals before we eat breakfast.  Growing up, even in elementary school, I fed chickens, put down hay for the cows and helped with milking before coming in for breakfast and going to school.  Because I've always worked outside for at least an hour of chores prior to coming in for breakfast, I'm always famished for breakfast.  Being famished helps you appreciate the sustenance more.

 Furthermore, our farm does breakfast well.  With sausage, eggs, grape juice, raw milk, bacon--wow, let me tell you, we do breakfast.  The one thing I'm a master of in the kitchen is omelets.  I've been known to cook them for supper too.  I can do without lunch and supper, but don't mess with my breakfast.

 And so it's a heart-piercing notion that our culture is finally giving up breakfast to the enemy.  And that our country is leading the charge, worldwide, to discourage domestic culinary arts in other countries as well.  I'm embarrassed by that.  Can we not be good before we're great?  Must greatness always mean exploitation, fast profits, and adulterated integrity?

 What is your favorite meal of the day?

IF YOU LOVE ME . . . .

How many times have you said:  "If you love me, you will . . . "  fill in the blank for some deed.  If I love you I won't steal from you.  I won't tyrannize you.  I won't be prejudiced against you.

 On this Valentine's day when love is in the air, let's think about love a minute.  It's not some word that hangs in the air.  It involves action.  Love does not stand in isolation.  It needs an object--what or whom do you love?  And it needs action.

 And so I ask everyone who says they love fresh air, fresh water, fertile soil, life-giving nutrient dense food--is your love producing action?  If you love all that stuff, how is it being demonstrated in your life?

 I would suggest that if we're buying and eating food that destroys all of these precious ecological resources, we do not love the resources at all.  We flippantly toss around love toward things with scarcely a thought toward ramifications or accountability.

 If you love animals, then how can you eat meat, dairy, or poultry that comes from animals disrespected in their production model?  If you love yourself, how can you ingest junk food?  If you love your children, how can you feed them Happy Meals?

 You see, it's easy to be a feel-good culture, talking without walking.  If we're going to espouse something, we need to carry it through for real.  Otherwise we're just blowing smoke.

 Part of love, too, is granting a bit of leeway.  In social settings, I don't wear my food and farm beliefs so close to my chest that I'm a boor about food.  I can go to a church potluck and not make a spectacle of myself.  That doesn't mean I eat everything on offer, but it does mean I don't have to stand up and crusade against the lady who brought the bucket of KFC.  Cultish I could say.  I don't walk around all day with a frown because the world isn't going my way.  And I don't see every person who doesn't embrace my beliefs as being an enemy.  So there's a soft side to this whole issue as well as a hard side.

 Shallowness in belief and action is easy.  Depth is hard.  Allowing deep seated love to penetrate our actions is probably the hardest thing we have to do.  But doing that is what actually moves culture and creates a different world.  Let's love it into existence.

 What did you eat today that proved your love for soil?

PIGS IN CHINA

African Swine Fever is playing havoc in China's pork industry.  The first case occurred Aug. 3 and by Jan. 25 they've had 104 outbreaks and culled (you know what that means) 916,000 pigs.

 As I've been wont to do numerous times in these posts, I want us to stop just for a moment to contemplate the numbers.  We read over 916,000 pigs without even a pause.  Let's stop and consider.  Let's assume these pigs are all size ranges; some small, some nearly ready for slaughter.  So we'll pick a lower end average of 100 pounds.  If we multiply the culled (that's euphemistically destroyed, killed, thrown away, incinerated) by 100 pounds, that's 91,610,000 pounds. 

 When you consider that a tractor trailer carries about 50,000 pounds, that comes out to 1,832 tractor trailer loads.  Now imagine that an average Wal-Mart parking lot  can handle 500 cars or 100 tractor trailers.  Let's see, that would be 18 Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lots full of 18-wheelers.  If each of those parking lots is roughly 5 acres (an acre is the size of a football field) that's 90 football fields full of tractor trailers.

 How about this for a perspective.  The average tractor trailer is 2205 cubic feet and the average home chest freezer is 15 cubic feet.  So it takes 147 average household freezers to hold a tractor trailer load of stuff.  Multiply that by the 1,832 tractor trailers, and you need 269,304 average household chest freezers to hold it all.  Now stop and think about that--how many homes have a chest freezer?  How big a city would it take to have that many chest freezers?  If 20 percent of households have a chest freezer, it would take a city of nearly a million and a half people to have the capacity to hold that much pork.

 Okay, thanks for indulging me this imaginative foray into magnitude.  I hope I've made my case:  this glib little number of 916,000 pigs is a lot.  This represents a massive waste in the global food system.  Russia has been fighting ASF now for 11 years and rules put in place there have resulted in half of the small pork producers going out of business.  Large industrial pork farms have picked up all that slack.  The same procedures now threaten the small Chinese cottage pork producers.

 What gets the blame for this problem?  First, wild boars.  Bio-security measures like perimeter fencing, worker sterilization (shower in, shower out) and other draconian measures eliminate smaller producers.  No vaccine exists to counteract the virus. Another alleged culprit is feeding human food waste to pigs.

 Small farmers in Romania, Poland, Belgium and Estonia accuse government agents of corruption and prejudicial action against them while giving free passes to large corporate operations.  Sound familiar?

 In all my farming experience, I have never seen livestock sickness invade healthy animals.  Every sickness we've ever had on our farm is a result of poor nutrition, mismanagement, stress, unsanitary conditions or poor breeding.  Nature never sprinkles foo-foo dust to make things sick.

 As the news of these massive incineration pits and the plight of the smallholders filters out into our media outlets, be assured that you and I are not hearing the truth; we're not hearing the real story.  And the cure will not be a real cure any more than the alleged culprit is the real culprit.  Ecological balance--including harvesting wild pigs--will restore health and vitality.  For the record, small farmers are as guilty of poor pork husbandry as are large industrial outfits.  This is not about scale; it's about honoring nature's rules.  Be assured that any time wildlife becomes the disease bogeyman, the real culprit lies elsewhere.

 Do you think we're eradicating diseases or encouraging diseases?

COLLAPSING FARMS

With twice as many prisoners  in the U.S. than farmers, folks in agriculture are used to being on the back burner.  So when the Wall Street Journal does a big article on troubles in farm country, you need to stand up and take notice.  It has to be really bad for WSJradar to pick it up.  In order for something agricultural to wedge into space generally dominated by dot-coms and Silicon Valley, the topic has to be serious.

 So here's the headline:  in 2018, median farm income was NEGATIVE $1,548.  Did you catch that?  Median farm income was NEGATIVE.  Yes, that merits some attention.  Chapter 12 bankruptcy is a special provision for farmers developed during the early 1980s farm crisis that allows farmers to restructure for repayment in 3-5 years as long as their debt does not exceed $4.1 million.  Chapter 12 filings are double in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin compared to a decade ago.

 One large farm featured in the piece finally filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy after wracking up $36 million in debt.  This family was cropping 17,000 acres.  Can you imagine accumulating that amount of debt?  A couple of days ago I wrote about a Minnesota PhD ag expert touting the new normal as bigger farms and fewer farmers, likening it to natural civilizational progress in ancient Egypt.  But apparently bigger is not the answer, his PhD and taxpayer-funded university position notwithstanding.

 U.S. farm debt, according to the WSJ article, is not $409 billion.  It's highest in the mid-west:  Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Utah.

 The apparent orthodox cause?  Let's see, a slump in commodity prices worsened by competition from Russia and Brazil.  The answer?  More consolidation.  You can read that "bigger farms."  Really?  Meanwhile, across the page, we have a huge WSJ expose about manure-laden groundwater contamination and tainted wells in the same areas.  A picture of brown well water pouring out of a kitchen water faucet is enough to even turn my stomach--and I have a pretty cast iron stomach.

 I'm reminded of the 20-year old Government Accounting Office (GAO) study into food-borne illness that fingered 4 causes:

 1.  Centralized production

2.  Centralized processing

3.  Long distance transportation

4.  Sub-therapeutic antibiotic feeding

 That was 20 years ago.  If that was the problem, what is the opposite:

 1.  Decentralized production (smaller, more diversified farms)

2.  Decentralized processing (cottage industry)

3.  Localized food systems

4.  Immunological-enhancing habitat (pastured livestock)

 This GAO report nailed it--one of the few government reports to do so.  But it's been completely ignored and we've continued down the wrong path at warp speed.  Farmers do not have to believe the orthodox conventional accredited experts in their industry.  I have always gone the opposite way, and in the words of Robert Frost, "that has made all the difference."

 When will someone connect all these dots:  farm bankruptcies, polluted groundwater, food-borne pathogens, industrial principles applied to biology?  Am I just a voice crying in the wilderness?  If a prophet cries and nobody listens, does his voice make a sound?  How about we make a U-turn in our farming and food system?  In the big picture, if these bankruptcies open up opportunities for a new generation of bright eyed bushy tailed entrepreneurial land caressers, the faster we file bankruptcies to remove the orthodoxy, the better.  That includes college professor experts and WSJ pundits who believe the tired old songs.

 What would you do to turn the median farm income from negative to positive?

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POLITICAL CONUNDRUM

I keynoted the Humane Society of the US Faith and Farming Summit in Washington D.C. Tuesday evening and had several interesting conversations. 

 The one that I've really thought most about since the event is the exchange about our newly retired Congressman Bob Goodlatte.  He's been replaced by a protege, Ben Cline.  Both of these men have been to our farm and have helped us with bureaucratic and regulatory issues.

 Of course, to the HSUS folks, Goodlatte was a pariah, in the pocket of big-ag and an industry lover who didn't want anything to do with animal welfare.  I get that.  But the interesting thing is that these more conservative folks are the ones who come to bat most helpfully in dealing with over-regulation and the tyranny of bureaucracy.

 Therein lies the conundrum.  I realized quickly in this conversation Tuesday night that the animal welfare community does not connect the dots between freedom to market and animal welfare.  If one of the best things we can do for animal welfare is to reduce factory industrial farming, then the best thing we can do is open up the market opportunities for neighbor-to-neighbor food transactions.

 Unfortunately, just like environmentalism, the folks most willing to create protective regulations toward animals (and the environment) have great faith in the goodness of bigger government.  They see markets generally and business specifically as inherently anti-truth that must be reined in by bureaucracy, which tends to be purer.  In my experience, this is not true.  In fact, in my experience, the big industry colludes with regulators to carve concessions for themselves and punitive prejudicial non-scalable requirements for smaller outfits.  This is simply the nature of the beast.

 If animal welfare groups as powerful as HSUS would realize that the best thing they could do for their cause is to promote freer direct producer-consumer food commerce, it would break the back of the entrenched industrial factory farming model by default.  If people could get our feed easier and cheaper, they would; in droves.  The market for the industrial counterpart would simply dry up.

 Because the animal welfare community cannot envision a world where liberty would accomplish their goals, they promote additional government regulations.  The result is that the politicians I consider more friendly to democratized and decentralized smaller agriculture are the ones the animal welfare community considers their biggest rivals.  The animal welfare friendlies are also the ones that promote bigger government, more marketplace intrusion, more agencies, more paperwork, higher taxes, and actually stifle the most efficacious antidote to animal abuse:  smaller farms and transparent food transactions.

 This is why I hate politics and why I have to get dragged into any political wrangling kicking and screaming.  It is a swamp.  In fact, it's a septic tank.  All I want is to be left alone to serve my patrons with great stuff grown with integrity, including honoring the pigness of pigs.  That climate cannot thrive when we promote a climate of more government intrusion, no matter how sincere.

 What if HSUS focused all its attention on direct producer-consumer food commerce and all its members on patronizing ethical local farmers?  What do you think would happen?

THE GOAL:  BE LIKE EGYPT

Sometimes people say the funniest things.

 Wisconsin State Senator Howard Marklein convened his annual Agriculture Economic Outlook Forum last week and headlined it with the question:  "Is there a new 'normal' for the agricultural economy?"

 As these things tend to be, he convened talking heads from government, also known as college professors, to explain how we're supposed to think about things.  In the past 15 years, Wisconsin has lost half of its dairy farmers, but not a single cow.  Think about what that means for a moment.  The number of dairy farmers nationwide has gone from 1.1 million in 1965 to 80,000 in 2015.  When you see that plotted on a graph, it's quite a downward swoop.  But cow numbers are stable.

 So what does the government expert say?  Dr. Marin Bozic from the University of Minnesota came over to Wisconsin (after all, you have to get someone from farther than 100 miles away to have the credibility to tell you what to think) and said consolidation "is as old as civilization itself" moving toward production efficiency and higher yields, noting that ancient Egypt went through a similar thing.

 I find that hilarious.  Do you mean to tell me that the nearest and best example to lend credence to the concentration in the American dairy industry is ancient Egypt?  And in the language of Dr. Phil:  "How's that workin' out for ya'?"  If there is one model I'd like to see America become, it's Egypt.  Now there's a picture of ecological, economic, and emotional utopia.

 Of all the comparisons he could have used to bolster his point that we have nothing to fear about mega-dairies and the demise of the family farm, he chooses ancient Egypt.  As if anyone knows enough about that time period and its agricultural consolidation nuances--bet it wasn't dairy--to argue the point.  Sure, pick some obscure ancient time period as the litmus test for success.  It's bizarre at best, and purposely misleading at worst.

 Everyone at the summit agreed that fluid milk consumption will continue to lose market share to coconut, soy, and almond milk, the prices are trending down, and dairies will become bigger and bigger.  What's the answer?  More cheese and exports.  That's the official word from our tax dollars at work.

 I have another alternative:  how about legalizing raw milk so farmers who actually produce really good, nutritious, super tasting milk can access their neighbors with real milk?  All those competitors don't hold a candle to the real thing, but folks have gotten so tired of vapid tasteless chalk from mega-dairies they're leaving the market in droves, and I don't blame them.  I would too if I didn't have grass-based raw milk.

 Just another example of how our tax dollars get well spent on experts with the best perspectives your money can buy.  Who cares if 80-cow dairies become 160 become 320 become 640 become 1,280?  It's ancient Egypt at its best.  What's not to love?

 If you were at this summit, what would you have told dear public employee Dr. Bozic?

BALANCED MEALS, REALLY?

News in Virginia is full of the norovirus outbreak at the University of Virginia.  It's a nasty deal:  quick onset of vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills.  Kind of like flu on steroids.

 The University issued a communique to students about how to avoid contracting the nasty sickness.  One of the bullet points is to "eat well balanced meals to ensure a healthy immune system." 

 That leads me to ask:  how can you have a balanced meal from food grown in imbalanced soil?  And how can you have a balanced meal from meat and poultry grown in conditions that assault their very nature?

 Balance starts out in the soil and on the farm.  The nutritional differences between food grown in different contexts is profound and well documented.  From conjugated linoleic acid to omega 3s to riboflavin, vitamins A, D, and E, well grown food is often multiples of times more nutritious than its industrial counterpart.

 Unfortunately, UVA like most other institutions would rather spend money on seats for the football stadium than decent food for their students.  Growing pressure among students is changing the climate, but very, very slowly.  The speed with which measures to get new facilities for the football team pass compared with the speed to get non-factory meat into the dining hall is amazing.  One is lightning; the other molasses in January.

 That dieticians sit in their offices pontificating balanced meals without connecting the dot to the source speaks to the overriding problem of our culture:  we know more and more about less and less.  The world inside our silos creates a myopia and inability to connect obvious dots.  Eclecticism is gone.  Narrow thinking is in. 

 Only high energy can impart high energy.  When food is grown on the lowest energy level possible in order to be as cheap as possible, nobody can increase its level of efficacy; not even an edict from the UVA medical office.  So let's quit kidding around, talking like we know something, administrators.  For the sake of your students, start connecting the soil to the micro-biome.  That seems like an intellectually honest thing to do.

 The dining services staff is desperately trying to find a dollar here or there to upgrade its food quality.  In full disclosure, our farm is actually working on an initiative to get some pastured GMO-free pork into one of the dining halls.  That would be monumental, and a huge step in the right direction.  But the budget constraints and assumptions from the higher ups on the dining services folks is enormous.  I wonder if the football coaches feel the same "we don't have money for that" spirit from the higher ups?

 What would you tell the students?

MEAT EQUALS CIGARETTES

An advertisement campaign by Greenpeace in Belgium has a 9 year old girl smoking a cigarette.  Then it transitions to processed meat like salami or bologna and makes the point that eating such food is akin to smoking a cigarette.  Shocking.

 This is the new militancy of the radical anti-meat crowd.  The problem is there is good processing and bad processing.  Obviously the processing our digestive system does is good.  Turning cabbage into sauerkraut is good processing.  Turning corn into corn syrup is bad processing.  Grinding whole wheat kernels into flour is good processing.  But extracting all the bran and fiber, then adding in synthetic vitamins A and D and calling it "fortified" flour is bad processing.

 We all know or have been in marriages that make us think the whole institution is bad.  And we've seen the opposite.  Lots of things in life have a bad side and a good side.

 With the EAT-Lancet report out now, climate change on the front pages, and industrial factory farmed animals staring blankly out of their cages via the ubiquitous internet, the anti-meat crowd feels empowered like never before.  Prohibition did not require a majority to win; all it needed was a tipping point.  That's usually somewhere between 10 and 15 percent.

   Even the American Revolution did not enjoy majority favor when it started.  Most people still wanted to be British citizens and certainly did not want to take up arms against Britain.  The reason I'm bringing up these other movements is because I'm sure many people could not have imagined that it would happen here.

 In 1900 I'm sure no one thought the nascent Temperance movement would ever get enough traction to outlaw wine.  And yet righteous fervor whipped up enough votes to get it passed.  Who would have thought level heads could not prevail in 1860?  But no, Lincoln could not abide the Abolitionists, whose righteous indignation against slavery prohibited him from a bloodless buyout.  Better to slaughter and maim a million people instead.

 And so as we stand here in interesting times, it seems preposterous that meat eaters would be banished to a special room at a restaurant.  Or that a restaurant that serves pork barbecue would be required by law to offer synthetic plant-based pork as well.  It seems preposterous that meat would be taxed at 130 percent and that livestock farmers would be ostracized from public spaces likes blacks in the Jim Crow era.  But history is an interesting teacher, and if it teaches one thing, it teaches that the machinations of perceived moral fervor, whether it's white supremacists or militant vegans, can never be underestimated.

 Lots of crazy things have been done throughout history in the name of righteous indignation.  In the name of civil purging.  In the name of curing social ills.  The level of collusion between agenda-driven scientists, academics, and government agencies is palpable when coupled with the fairly universal notion today that orthodox credentialed experts know best, especially if they draw a paycheck by coercion (taxes) rather than voluntaryism (consenting markets).

 Canada has issued dietary guidelines for the Innuit, those hardy Eskimos who have lived for centuries on animal fats but who now are in a health crisis due to westernized foods.  The guidelines tell them to return to native diets like bananas, tomatoes, and avocados.  These guidelines are written by credentialed government experts.  Folks, you can't make up things this asinine.

 Are you holding your meat provider accountable to be a good one, and not a bad one?

EASILY OFFENDED

I've been thinking a lot about being offended the last few days.  I was speaking at a  conference recently and a 20ish young lady came up to me afterwards to tell me she was offended that I had said "50 years ago every woman knew how to cut up a chicken."  She considered the remark sexist and demeaning. 

 Meanwhile, I've become acquainted with the work of Federic Leroy, an engineer anthropologist who lives in Belgium.  His doctoral work studied microbial activity in meat curing.  But his anthropology interests give a rare insight into the current anti-meat movement.  He says the fact that nobody participates in slaughtering any more removes it from any visceral life context.  The positive themes surrounding sacrifice and sustenance, without context, have turned into negative themes touting disgust and immorality.

 I've come to the conclusion that these two threads--the offended young lady and the disconnected sacrifice--are connected.  Animal slaughter is sacred though violent if it's done with the right attitude and spirit.  It's desecration if it's done with simply mercenary and selfish motives--just like any activity.  The fact that life requires death is foundational to understanding anything.  The cheetah versus the lion.  The robin versus the earthworm.  The pain of childbirth versus the joy of new life.

 My thought is that the reason millenials are so quick to cry "offense!" today is because they are completely disconnected from real violence--the kind of violence that happens to put food on the table and balance ecosystems.  Sensitivities are like muscles, and when they fail to develop due to lack of exercise, they atrophy.  Just like immune systems.  Sterility and over-paranoia about sanitation create lethargic immune systems, known medically as the "hygiene hypothesis."

 So imagine my enthusiasm today receiving a wonderful newsletter from Gregory the Great Academy in Elmhurst Township, Pennsylvania, whose students last fall raised and slaughtered about 325 chickens and 14 turkeys. This is exactly the kind of experience people need in order to develop sensitivity muscles.  Participating in violence--the right kind of violence--is foundational to developing wisdom and a right sense of life.

 Violent video games don't substitute because the blood isn't real and the visceral relationship with life and death never happens.  Fifty years ago women did know how to cut up chickens.  You couldn't buy boneless skinless breasts in the store.  That half the women in our culture do not know that a chicken has bones is not an evolution toward common sense; it is a devolution into nonsense.  This historical lesson is not sexist; it is a fact.  You can like it or not, but to be charged with being offensive by using a historical truth indicates a profound misunderstanding of real offense.

 Life is full of offenses.  Imagine being a chicken on butcher day.  Or a gazelle when a tribe of lions brings you down.  Or a grasshopper when a chicken is around.  Violence is such a part of the web and warp of nature that to think we can live in a world without it is asinine.  The question is what is the end of the violence?  What is the final goal?  What kind of violence is it?

 I think feeding your children Happy Meals is violence to their micro-biome.  Violence is highly subjective, and so is offense.  Remember, Jesus told His disciples at the Last Supper:  "This night you will be offended because of me."  Was Jesus wrong?  No; the disciples didn't know what truth was.  They were about to find out.

 So I ask, you omnivores, when are you going to take your kiddos to the farm and watch slaughtering happen?  Isn't that as important as soccer?

BABY LIVES, BABY EATS

I'm wading into a quagmire with this post, but I couldn't help but share an interesting interchange I had yesterday with David Gompert who wrote the book Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights.  We were communicating about a book prospectus regarding  the backroom deals politicians, regulators, and big food create.  It's an ugly fraternity, to be sure.

 President Obama, Gompert recalled, came in with great fanfare about helping small farmers access the market by reducing onerous and draconian scale-prejudicial regulations.  He mentioned it once.  Yes, that's the point.

 President Trump came in with great fanfare about reducing regulations.  He mentioned food once.  Yes, that's the point.

 What's going on? 

 I mentioned that it's funny how abortion seems to suck all the air out of the room, as if getting a baby born does not leave any room to discuss how the baby eats.

Gompert sallied forth with this explanation:  more money is involved in eating than birthing.  Certainly both involve a lot of money, but he's right.  Comparatively, birthing is pennies to the food dollar.  And therein lies the problem.  As long as an issue doesn't involve a lot of money, like abortion or immigration, it can be hotly contested.

 But let a subject like food freedom raise its head, and it must be quashed.  It doesn't matter who's elected.  I've said for many years, in response to folks who ask why our food can't get traction, that if food freedom and integrity food actually displaced tyranny and faux food, it would completely invert the power, position, and prestige of the entire food and farm industry.  That's a lot of inertia.

 Food was the first large sector of the American economy to be regulated by the federal government.  The 1908 implementation of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) came before manipulation of medicine, education, transportation, communication and labor.  As a result it's had the most time to grow its cancerous tyranny.  Goodness, it even predates the infamous treasonous internal revenue service. 

 The only reason--should I repeat that?--the only reason America leads the world in e-innovation is because it came in a Wild West of freedom, prior to regulation.  Freedom always spawns competition, innovation, and entrepreneurship.  It's still the best antidote to everything that ails us in food and farming, but it's the farthest away because it's the most metastasized.

 We've tried to protect and secure our food system through agencies, regulations, and bureaucrats.  It has only made us distrust the accredited behemoths more; and it's stimulated additional centralization and consolidation.  Why don't we try something we haven't for a long time?  Something called freedom.

 If you were responsible for discerning the safety of your food, where would you buy it?

PRINCE CHARLES' HARMONY PRINCIPLES

When Prince Charles wrote HARMONY:  A NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT OUR WORLD, published in 2010, it received scant attention in the orthodox media.  But its profoundness has many applications, not the least of which is occurring in Louisville, Kentucky.

 With seed money from philanthropist Christina Lee Brown, the Green Heart project is the most comprehensive multi-disciplinary effort in the world to study the relationship of human health and a greener nest. And I don't mean recycling.  I mean trees, shrubs, biomass, chlorophyll.  A massive tree planting and green landscape project,  the $13 million effort is trying to quantify the air cleansing and hydration enhancing properties of plants in an urban setting.

 Meditate on these Harmony Health Goals:

 Environmental health:  Do not forget that health for soil, plant, animal, and human is one and indivisible.

 Spiritual health:  Understand that love of the natural world is an intrinsic part of faith in God.

 Economic health:  Count the social and environmental costs of all that we do and do not do.

 Intellectual health:  Incorporate in a single principle economic, social, and ecological health.

 Psychological health:  Respect the psychic need of all people for dignity, compassion, and hope.

 Physical health:  Assume responsibility for a healthy lifestyle in healthy surroundings.

 Cultural health:  Value traditions of the past and embrace the new demographic of diversity.

 Nutritional health:  If it is not good for your health, don't eat it.

 I find these profound almost beyond expression.  Take some time to meditate on them.  It'll be good for your soul.

 Which one do you find the most compelling?  For me, it was the last one.

FARM BUREAU FEDERATION SABOTAGES FARMERS AND FREEDOM

 The American Farm Bureau Federation likes to paint itself as the friend of farmers and free markets.  That is certainly not the case and I present the most recent egregious example of obnoxious behavior as proof.

 I blogged about HB1785 in Virginia's General Assembly last week that would allow farmers to make yogurt and sell it (because it's a heated and cultured product, not a single food safety issue has ever been reported with yogurt), enabling dairy farmers to enjoy a value added market option.  It also increased the current cap on homemade pickles from $3,000 annually to $4,000 annually and gave additional wiggle room for homemade baking.  All of this would be only within the confines of a direct producer-consumer relationship, or what legally is known as an "end user."  No middlemen in this picture.

 The Virginia Farm Bureau seized on the yogurt portion and sent a bald-faced lie in a member email to whip up opposition:

Ask House Ag Committee to OPPOSE THE SALE OF UNPASTEURIZED MILK

There is a battle going on and we need your help! Legislators need to hear from Farm Bureau members on a critical issue. Please contact members of the House Agriculture Committee and ask them to OPPOSE House Bill 1785. This bill will be heard in the full committee TOMORROW morning, and your action is crucial to this vote!

Virginia Farm Bureau members believe that milk and dairy products sold in Virginia for human consumption should be from pasteurized and inspected sources. An increase in food borne illness outbreaks from unregulated dairy products will negatively affect the health of families and citizens within the Commonwealth and has the potential to have a significant negative economic impact on Virginia’s regulated dairy industry.

HB1785 (Fariss) that seeks to allow an exemption from inspection for yogurt processed and produced in private homes and sold in the home or at farmers markets. This would allow for the unregulated production and sale of a potentially hazardous and high risk food. The bill would allow yogurt to be produced using unpasteurized milk. The bill would remove the authority of the State Health Commissioner to enforce regulations pertaining to yogurt produced under these conditions.

A 2015 CDC study indicated that during 2007-2012, a total of 81 outbreaks associated with unpasteurized milk were reported from 26 states. These outbreaks resulted in 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations. This is a significant increase in outbreaks associated with unpasteurized milk, and the increase parallels the number of states allowing the sale of unpasteurized milk. An additional study revealed that probably no more than 1% of the milk consumed in the United States is raw, yet more outbreaks were caused by raw milk than pasteurized milk. According to the CDC, “These studies indicate that outbreaks from raw milk continue to threaten the public’s health.

You should only consume pasteurized milk and milk products. Look for the word “pasteurized” on product labels. Virginia lost about one dairy a week in 2018. Virginia’s dairy industry is struggling and cannot afford to weather the negative impacts related to even just one health incident involving a dairy product. The remaining farms need to protect the quality and integrity of the industry in order to survive. Contact the House Agriculture Committee NOW. 

Of course, this email is patently false, alluding to raw milk.  The bill had nothing to do with raw milk.  This is the kind of deception the Farm Bureau engages in to protect food tyranny and demonize food freedom.  And they say they're the friend of the farmer.  Honestly, I don't know how any American can be a member of this organization.  The opposition killed the bill, of course.  Another strike against food choice.

If you're a Farm Bureau member, would  you be willing to find insurance somewhere else?  I recommend Farm and Family.

EVIL CAPITALISM

Recently a graduating college student asked me to read her senior paper about farmer suicides in India.  She's planning to become an attorney in the social justice field.  It's a noble intent, but I shudder at what I read in the paper because of its assumptions.  The other worrying thing is the jump to conclusions.

 To be sure, I'm no friend of Monsanto or genetically modified organisms, but the broad brush of guilt taints the whole theme.  India plants nearly 20 million acres of cotton.  Here is a typical sentence that makes me wonder about today's college students' perceptions of cause and effect and the over-arching reasons:  "The capitalist world in which this incident has been able to occur is at the root of the conflict."  She says Monsanto is responsible for 290,000 suicides.

 Here is another quote:  "Monsanto would not be able to obtain such global control of the seed industry if the market was more regulated.  A free market may benefit large companies such as Monsanto, yet it neglects the well-being of the individuals they are taking advantage of in order to succeed."  I would suggest that Monsanto has been able to take control of things because the government subsidizes it and hampers the free market.  Exactly opposite her conclusions.  In fact, most folks who want to save seeds find themselves increasingly at odds with government regulators.  We should all be horrified that the constitution the U.S. handed to Iraq after topping Sadam Hussein criminalized seed saving.  Does that sound like capitalism and free markets to you?

 Interestingly, the paper also includes a couple of other tidbits.  One is that Monsanto seed sales are down by 15 percent.  I wonder how that happened?  Do you reckon people (the market) are responding and adjusting their purchases?  Hmmmm.  Further, she points out that 10 percent of the cotton crop acreage has already been shifted to other crops as farmers leave GMO cotton.  Well, sounds like some voluntaryism going on there in market response.

 The point is that markets respond to things, and they respond best when government manipulates least.  All government manipulation--did you catch that?  ALL--rewards the big players and stifles innovators and the lunatic fringe.  The problem is not capitalism; the problem is government manipulation (Socialism, Bernie Sanders, whatever you want to call it) masquerading as capitalism.  Unfortunately, today's colleges are not differentiating that and we are raising a generation of young people who assume government bureaucrats are more honest and nimble than individuals responding to information.

 Were the government not taking taxpayer dollars to support universities who provide credibility and free research to Monsanto, the other side (my side) would enjoy a more level playing field to address solutions to problems.  But the stacked deck makes it more difficult.  That's not capitalism and it certainly isn't a free market.

 What, if anything, would you like to see less manipulated by the government?

FARTS WILL SAVE US

            Did that headline get you?  This is the bottom line of a report that you'll see headlined in every media outlet in the world over the next few months.  It's called EAT-Lancet, a commission of 37 scientists who have huddled for 2 years figuring out how we're going to feed 10 billion people by 2050.

             Front and center on today's BBC News titled "A bit of meat, a lot of veg.--the flexitarian diet to feed 10bn." the report uses pseudo-science to fight a non-problem.  Is factory farming a bad thing?  Yes.  Is chemical agriculture a bad thing?  Yes.  But the answer is NOT their alleged "planetary health diet."

             The study recommends getting most of our protein not from meat and dairy, but from nuts and legumes like beans and lentils.  Hence, the blog title about flatulence.  I can't imagine attending conferences, church, family gatherings where everyone has exchanged meat-based casseroles and other dishes for beans.  Really?  I guess it might solve the energy problem if we could attach a vacuum hose to everyone's rear end.  Perhaps we could put the other end in our car engine. 

             So what does this salvation diet look like?  Red meat:  1 burger a week or 1 steak a month.  Eggs:  1 per week.  One big bite of chicken a day.  And Africa needs to cut down on potatoes and cassava, those nasty starches.  Oh, and it requires cutting food waste by half and increasing production on farms.

             You know someplace these huddling scientists did not visit?  Polyface.  Would they be surprised to know the fact that 500 years ago America produced more nutrition than it does today?  We had 200 million bison, 2 million wolves (eating 20 pounds of meat a day), 200 million beavers (eating more plants than the entire human population of the country today) and bird populations that blocked out the sun for 3 days. 

             As far as greenhouse gases are concerned, the methanotrophic bacteria inhabiting our perennial pastures suck down more burps and farts than 1,000 cows per acre can produce, and I don't know anyone who has 1,000 cows per acre.  But these scientists didn't study complete cycles.  It's like an accountant only looking at expenses and not looking at income.  This is the same thing Allan Savory, inventor and guru of holistic management, encountered when talking with the producers of the ridiculous documentary "COWSPIRACY." 

             A lot of us out here in regenerative agriculture land are getting tired of this war on animals.  People like me have been battling bad farming and hoping the environmental and nutritional community would join us, but instead, with broad brush and no recognition of positive good farming practices, these hoped-for allies have thrown us under the bus.  And they've embraced Monsanto and Tyson for increased production.  Go figure.

             How many times do I have to say it?  On our farm, we get 5 times the forage production of neighboring farms, without planting seeds and without buying chemical fertilizers.  That has nothing to do with organic, inorganic, animals or plants.  It has to do with management and bio-mimicry.  With this new assault on heritage nutrition and ecological rules, I've decided that the more credentialed the human, the more propensity toward a fetish of asinine beliefs.

             How about our customers who begin eating 6 eggs a day and eliminate their bad cholesterol markers in a week?  How about the folks whose cartilage gives out and they rebuild it with bone broth and meat?  Our short intestines simply aren't designed to metabolize that much straight plant material.  We need those long herbivore GI tracts to do it for us and make it easily digestible. 

             I'm getting long, so I'll quit.  Remember, the ONLY reason we have studies on this is because most of agriculture is horrible both in quantity and quality.  That drives a fear of running out of food.  Fear makes people think things that they would never think otherwise.  It all comes down to scarcity.  That's the favorite word of Monsanto, Tyson, Cargill, DuPont--name your industrial behemoth.  Scarcity is their byline and how they control the duplicitous sheeple. 

 Do you agree with these scientists that we probably need a meat tax to get people to quit eating meat?

ON THE FARM KID'S CAMP

            For the first time in our farm's history, we're hosting a week-long summer camp this year June 24-28, the brainchild and entrepreneurial endeavor of our former apprentice, Molly Hestor, who returned to her home in Mississippi just this past Christmas.

             She stole our hearts the 20 months she interned, apprenticed, and joined staff at Polyface; we hope she left a little of her heart here too.  A certified elementary education teacher, she became frustrated quickly with institutional education.  Being unable to touch students, mountains of paperwork--those of you who teach in the public schools, you know the issues.

             But she loves kids.  And so last year we began scheming about a children's summer camp here at the farm and I'm delighted to let everyone know that it is finally happening.  We know that the road to the future lies straight through the hearts of kids.  If you can get them excited about soil, grass, nutrition, and our overall dependency on an ecological womb, you have them for life.

             Molly's itinerary includes everything from gathering eggs to story time in the hay barn.  They'll actually learn what hay is.  What a pullet is.  Do you know the average college student in advanced degree programs does not know the most basic nomenclature of livestock?  A cow can have horns.  Sex education begins on the farm.  Hens, roosters, pullets, cockerels--these are functionally quite different, and yet they all look like a chicken.  Well, they are chickens, but do you know what makes them different?

             Pigs:  sows, boars, gilts, shoats.  Bovines:  cows, bulls, heifers, steers.  Oh goodness, back to sex education.  No this is not a camp about sex education; it is a camp about the wonder and majesty of life, including micro and macro reproduction.  It's about common sense and touching life.  Trees are different.  Oaks, maples, poplars, white pine and black gum.  They all have different functions, different bark, leaves, and structure.

             And yes, death.  We will not shield these children from animal harvest--chickens we do here on the farm.  Respect in life creates sacredness in sacrifice.  Without death nothing could live.  Everything survives by eating something else.  The death, decomposition, regeneration, life cycle is foundational to all of ecology, and here on the farm, kids get to see and participate in the wonder of the whole cycle and it's real, not some video screen.

             Thank you, Molly, for investing in these young people.  We don't even know who will come yet, but whoever comes will be treated to a visceral immersion in farm life from the most vivacious, big-hearted teacher/mentor you could ever hope kids to enjoy.

 Do you send your kids to summer camp, and if so, what kind?