Local snack: CCNO Bars

I am embarrassed by, and sorry for the poor quality of this picture:

I walked around my office trying to find some decent lighting for my old iPhone’s camera, to no avail. Fortunately, this blog has a lovely photo of a CCNO Bar.

I needed an afternoon snack, and my favorite workday food shop doesn’t carry my usual quickie bite, Lara Bars. I like Lara Bars because they’re just fruit and nuts smashed together, without chemicals and additives and preservatives like Clif, etc. So I was very happy to find the box of CCNO Bars by the register. They’re along the same lines as Lara Bars, but made locally, and with an extra kick of flavor from cononut oil. They’re vegan, gluten free, and all-natural. And LOCAL. And REAL FOOD. Give them a try, if you can find them!

Eggs are eggcellent

I eat a lot of eggs. One each morning in my breakfast slop and one in each lunch salad on weekdays, and around one to four on the weekends: between 11 and 14 a week. Conventional wisdom used to say to eat no more than 5 eggs a week. My doctor told me a similar number when I asked him for a guideline a year or so ago, but when told him my egg reality, and he said “okay, as long as your blood work stays clean, go for it.” So off I went, and so far, so good.

It seems the rules have loosened up a bit. The 2011 ChooseMyPlate.gov guidelines from the USDA (replacing the old Food Pyramid) are a little more generous:

One egg a day, on average, doesn’t increase risk for
heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly
choices. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and
saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.

But what about the studies that are cropping up all over the place claiming that dietary cholesterol doesn’t directly relate to blood cholesterol? Who to trust? Well, I trust Harvard:

A solid body of research shows that for most people, cholesterol in food has a much smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol than does the mix of fats in the diet.

For most people, the amount of cholesterol eaten has only a modest impact on the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood.

World’s Healthiest Foods describes a couple studies from the University of Massachusetts which claim a daily egg can reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, while not raising blood cholesterol levels.

The UK’s Daily Mail reports on research from the European Journal of Nutrition showing that a two-egg-a-day diet can actually reduce one’s cholesterol.

This cholesterol article tells us that only some of the dietary cholesterol consumed actually ends up in your bloodstream, and if you consume excess cholesterol, your body can compensate by producing less cholesterol of its own.

Most studies seem to give the green light to eating an egg a day, but not much more than that. So enjoy your eggs in moderation, and be sure to choose eggs from pasture-raised, humanely treated chickens.

Pumping iron supplements

As an active female pescatarian of child-bearing age, I possess several attributes that could put me at risk for iron deficiency. Looking for a explanation for recent low energy levels, I did some reading on iron supplements. Iron deficiency can cause fatigue, and an increasing iron intake may seem like an easy fix, but iron supplementing can be tricky: excess amounts of iron can cause gastrointestinal distress and even become toxic. It’s safest to get blood work and recommendations from your doctor, and take a daily multivitamin.


If you want to do some dietary tinkering of your own, though, there are good resources on the Interwebs. I found this National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements article and this Vegetarian Times article to give simple, basic overviews.

Non-meat eaters may consume the daily recommended amount of iron, but the iron is a type, called nonheme, that isn’t as readily absorbed by the body as iron from meat, called heme (as in, comes from hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells in animals). Nonheme iron isn’t as available for absorption by the digestive tract, and the NIH suggests that vegetarians consider consuming twice the recommended daily amount of iron in order for their bodies to store the appropriate amount. The Vegetarian Resource Group recommends an iron RDA of 14mg for vegetarian men and post-menopausal women, and 33mg for pre-menopausal women (the official RDA for those groups is 8mg and 18mg, respectively).

Iron supplements contain either ferric or ferrous salts, with ferrous being more easily absorbed. Look for ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, or ferrous gluconate in your multivitamin. Mine gives me 18mg of iron from ferrous fumarate, which on top of the iron I get from a vegetable-rich diet, should be plenty.


The bottom line is that those who eat fewer animal products can keep iron stores up by eating plenty of greens and whole grains, and taking a daily multivitamin. It’s probably best not to take iron supplements without the oversight of a physician.

Good sources of nonheme iron:

  • iron-fortified cereals
  • beans
  • dark, leafy greens
  • soy (tofu, tempeh)
  • quinoa
  • blackstrap molasses (mentioned all over the place, but not a very versatile ingredient!)

Suggestions for improving absorption of nonheme iron:

  • Eat iron-rich food with vitamin C-rich foods (fruits and vegetables)
  • Avoid combining iron-rich foods with iron absorption blockers such as coffee, tea, cocoa, calcium, and fiber

Surprise Ally: The Paleo Diet

What? How can a diet that encourages eating large quantities of meat be considered a friend to the anti-factory farming movement?

The Paleo Diet preaches the consumption of pasture raised, humanely treated meat and eggs. The emphasis is on the fact that these foods are more wholesome, and therefore better for humans than factory farmed meats and eggs, but the side effect of supporting humane farms is a welcome one.

Animals raised on pasture and slaughtered humanely produce healthier food: more vitamins, a better fat profile and fatty acid ratios, no unnecessary antibiotics, and less stress hormones.

In short: eat only happy, healthy animals (or products from those animals) and you will be a happy, healthy human! Remember: you are what what you eat eats!






Another reason to eat local food

E coli outbreak: German officials identify beansprouts as likely source

From the article:

Scientists suspect the source of the contamination may have been poor hygiene either at a farm, in transit, or in a shop or food outlet.

This encouragement to eat locally-sourced food isn’t a suggestion to avoid German beansprouts specifically, but rather a suggestion that cutting down on the number of middlemen involved in the journey of your food from farm to plate decreases the likelihood of contamination somewhere along the way.

Humans need to eat less meat

Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times’ Opinionator column today:

In limited quantities, meat is just fine, especially sustainably raised meat (and wild game), locally and ethically produced dairy and eggs, the remaining wild or decently cultivated fish.

No matter where we live, if we focused on those — none of which are in abundant supply, which is exactly the point — and used them to augment the kind of diet we’re made to eat, one based on plants as a staple, with these other things as treats, we’d all be better off. We can’t afford to wait to evolve.

Interesting, quick read about the global trend towards eating more and more factory-farmed meat and non-local produce: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/meat-why-bother/

Happy Earth Day!

On Earth Day, let’s pause to consider why sustainable farming is good for our planet. (There are other benefits of sustainable agriculture that are not environmental, but today, let’s focus on Earth!)

  • Soil: Factory farms abuse the land, overusing it without resting the soil, and douse it with chemicals in an attempt to replenish the soil’s nutrients. Sustainable farms carefully manage soils to increase nutrients and prevent erosion, through crop rotation and diversification, the use of manure, mulch, and other natural enhancers and protectors, and the planting of cover crops. Crop rotation and diversification naturally enrich the soil and keep crops healthier, without the use of chemical fertilizer. Manure and mulch increase soil moisture and biomass, and protect the soil. Cover crops increase the nitrogen in the soil, which is accomplished in conventional farming through the application of chemicals; cover crops also reduce erosion by creating a buffer between soil and rainfall, and their root systems anchor the soil in place.
  • Water: Large commercial farms contaminate water supplies with nitrogen, salt, and other fertilizer chemicals; pesticides; and animal waste. They also consume large quantities of water. Sustainable farms may use cover crops to increase the nitrogen content of the soil, thereby eliminating the need for nitrogen enhancements via water-contaminating chemicals. Cover crops can also be used for pest control, replacing chemical pesticides. “Trap crops” attract pests away from cash crops, and “habitat augmentation” uses cover crops that attract pests’ natural predators. Sustainable farms recycle animal waste back into the land as a fertilizer, rather than allowing it to pollute waterways. The rate of water consumption is less on sustainable farms than on conventional farms, as sustainable farming creates moister soil that is better equipped to retain water.
  • Air: Large farms contribute to declining air quality by emitting toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases into the air, spraying pesticides, and trucking shipments long distances. Decomposing manure tanks or lagoons emit gases such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, and methane into the atmosphere. Methane, which is a greenhouse gas, is also released from cows as they digest corn-based diets, which their systems aren’t built to digest. Sustainable farming practices rely on alternative pest-control techniques that don’t spray chemicals into the air. Farms that sell their produce locally require less fossil-fuel-based energy to transport their wares than farms that ship food to far-off places. And sustainable farms that feed animals diets based on foods they would eat in nature relieve the chronic indigestion that leads to massive amounts of methane production.
  • Wildlife: The wildlife that lives in soil may not get as much publicity, but it’s just as important. Healthy soil that is sustainably farmed hosts countless critters such as earthworms, arthropods, and bacteria. Sustainable farming is safer for fish, which are killed when runoff from factory farms pollutes streams. Wildlife drinking from waterways polluted by animal waste or fertilizer runoff from factory farms can be harmed by chemicals or pathogens. Fewer insects in the soil means less food for birds. The creation of huge factory farms displaces animal populations and destroys habitats, while sustainable farms with diversified plantings create an environment that encourages the growth of native plant, insect, and animal populations.
  • Energy conservation: Sustainable farms are less dependent on non-renewable energy sources, in particular petroleum, than large-scale agricultural businesses. They use fewer chemicals, which require a tremendous amount of fossil fuel-produced energy to manufacture. Sustainable farms generally do not produce processed foods, which take more energy to produce than whole foods. Farms that raise pasture-fed animals conserve energy by letting the animals do the work of spreading manure and feeding themselves.

So celebrate Earth Day by eating some locally grown produce and pasture-raised meat! If you’re lucky, like we are here at Haute Pasture, you can raise a glass of local wine with your meal!

Sources: UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Sustainable Table, Cover Crops, Helium.com, Myth Six: Industrial Agriculture Benefits the Environment and Wildlife, Wildlife Friendly Farming Guide

Egg label primer

We at Haute Pasture do not often buy commercially-produced eggs, so while recently browsing the egg section of our local grocery, we were intrigued by a “certified humanely raised” label on an egg carton. Does that actually mean anything? We didn’t know, and maybe some of you don’t, so here is our egg label primer.

(First we went to the source, the USDA website. It is impossible to navigate. So the following information is compiled from various sites, listed below. These labels are only lightly regulated, mostly by 3rd parties, and are complied with on a voluntary basis.)

Cheat Sheet

Which labels explicitly prohibit beak cutting?

  • Animal Welfare Approved

Which labels explicitly prohibit forced molting? (Forced molting is the starving of hens to trigger an increase in egg production)

  • American Humane Certified
  • Animal Welfare Approved
  • Certified Humane
  • Food Alliance Certified
  • United Egg Producers Certified

Which labels require hens to have outdoor access? (Note that the amount and quality of outdoor access required is generally undefined, except for as noted below.)

  • Animal Welfare Approved (Continuous outdoor perching is required)
  • Certified Naturally Grown
  • Certified Organic
  • Free Range/Free Roaming
  • Pasture-Raised

Which labels require farms to allow hens to act like chickens (i.e., perch, nest, and dust bathe)?

  • Animal Welfare Approved
  • Certified Humane
  • Certified Naturally Grown
  • Food Alliance Certified (but outdoor access can be substituted with natural daylight)
  • Pasture-Raised

Which labels sound humane but allow for the cramming of hens into tiny spaces?

  • American Humane Certified
  • Natural (this label has no requirements for the welfare of the hens)
  • Omega-3 Enriched (this label has no requirements for the welfare of the hens)
  • United Egg Producers Certified
  • Vegetarian-Fed (this label has no requirements for the welfare of the hens)

The Labels

Animal Welfare Approved: Unfortunately, no producers currently adhere to these, the toughest restrictions regarding the welfare of the hens. The hens live naturally: they are able to nest, perch, dust bathe, and molt. Their living quarters must follow requirements regarding population density and nesting boxes. Beak cutting and forced molting are prohibited.

Pasture-Raised: The hens are raised outdoors, on grass, in movable structures. They are fed an organic diet, and are able to forage for the critters which are natural sources of food for chickens.

American Grassfed: This applies less to poultry than to ruminants whose natural diet is grass. American Grassfed certified meat generally means the animal was raised on a diet consisting of only grass and its mother’s milk. The rules are a bit different for poultry, as a grass-only diet isn’t natural for birds, so grass only needs to be a portion of what they eat. Specific standards are not available online at this time.

Certified Naturally Grown: Animals must be primarily pasture-raised, eating pesticide- and medicine-free food. They put an emphasis on locally-sourced food, so don’t require that feed be certified organic.

Certified Humane: The standards dictate that the hens get free access to vegetarian food and fresh water, and they may only be fed antibiotics if medically required. Forced molting is prohibited. Rules dictate space, air quality, and lighting requirements. The hens may stretch their wings and dust bathe. Outdoor access is not required.

Certified Organic: The hens are cage-free indoors, with required access to the outdoors. The amount and quality of that outdoor access is undefined, however. Beak cutting and forced molting are allowed. The hens’ diet must be organic and vegetarian, and pesticide- and antibiotic-free.

Food Alliance Certified: Hens are cage-free and must be able to nest, perch, and dust bathe, and have outdoor access OR natural daylight. Forced molting is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed. Rules govern space per hen, perching, and nesting boxes.

Free-Range/Free-Roaming: There is no standard definition of free-range in the egg industry. The hens are generally cage-free and have some outdoor access; however, the doors may be small and the window of opportunity to go outside may be so short that the hens never actually get outdoors. There are no dietary restrictions for free-range egg-producing hens. Beak cutting and forced molting are permitted.

Cage-Free: This simply means the hens are not kept in cages, nothing more. While the hens may move around and stretch their wings, beak cutting and forced molting are permitted.

American Humane Certified: Descriptions of rules are vague for this label, and their standards documents are unreadable. They certify caged environments, cage-free, and free-range. Some sources claim that this certification allows hens to be stuffed in cages, where they can’t spread their wings. However, the Massachusetts SPCA endorses the certification, saying the hens must be cage-free. Forced molting is prohibited, but debeaking is allowed.

United Egg Producers Certified: This standard allows hens to be stuffed into a tiny space in a cage, where they cannot spread their wings, perch, or nest. Forced molting is prohibited, but debeaking is allowed. From the Humane Society’s website:

The United Egg Producers is a trade group that represents egg factory farms and promotes the confinement of hens in cages. Although the UEP certifies cage-free facilities, it mostly certifies factory farms that cage birds—an abuse that some top egg-producing states have made illegal and are phasing out, and that consumers and numerous major companies oppose.

Fertile: The hens lived with roosters, which means they were probably cage-free. There are otherwise no restrictions for this label.

Vegetarian-Fed: This label only relates to the diet of the hens. The hens are fed a diet that contains no animal byproducts, except for eggs.

Omega-3 Enriched: This label only relates to the diet of the hens. These hens are fed a supplement, such as flax seed, to increase their Omega-3 intake.

Sources: The Humane Society, CertifiedHumane.org, Humane Food Labels, Cage Free Eggs, American Humane Certified article in Natural News, MSPCA, American Grassfed, Certified Naturally Grown, EggIndustry.com, Eat Wild

Joel Salatin on community food systems

Haute Pasture was fortunate recently to hear Joel Salatin speak to a small group of supporters of the local-food movement. Joel Salatin is the owner of Polyface Farms, an innovative farm specializing in organic, pasture-based meats and eggs. You may recognize the name Polyface, as it was a featured farm in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Salatin is also a gifted speaker, and travels the country lecturing on topics ranging from technical cattle farming how-tos, to instruction for the lay person on how to be a farm-friendly consumer. On this night, he spoke to us about the importance of sourcing your food locally, and how commercial food production and uneducated consumers are heading down a dark road.

Most people in our society don’t know or care where their food comes from: similar to other modern comforts we take for granted, such as energy, water, and waste disposal, we don’t think about its origin or impact on the environment, we just use it. People don’t cook anymore; they just open a box and put it in the microwave. Numbers are skyrocketing of diseases stemming from diet: diabetes, especially childhood diabetes, heart disease, obesity.

As Salatin pointed out, eating is humans’ most intimate activity. Things you consume are integrated into your body, and directly affect your personal chemistry. How have people become so casual about the terrible things they’re introducing into their internal systems? Modern attitudes about eating reflect modern attitudes about many things: we want it bigger, we want it cheaper, and we want it now! It’s inconvenient to worry about the quality, origin, and nutritious value of your food, right? Advertising is all over the place to tell consumers it’s okay to buy the processed junk found in the grocery store or fast food restaurant. Sadly, the government sends the same message. The USDA (Salatin calls it the US-Duh) encourages farms to grow produce and animals faster, fatter, bigger, and cheaper. They give the impression that they’re looking out for consumers: they allow flu shots in schools, but they also allow soda machines in those same schools. By endorsing factory farms, they teach us that life is just a mechanical thing to be manipulated or dominated. The FDA (or as Salatin calls it–can you guess?–the F-Duh) is an accomplice. They are the food police that dictate that raw milk isn’t safe, but Twinkies and Coke are. President Obama’s Food Czar is a Monsanto man, and now (coincidentally?) we have a Food Modernization Act which does have positive provisions, but places new costly, onerous regulations on mid-sized farmers, when virtually zero outbreaks of tainted food stem from small- and mid-sized farms. The act emphasizes the value of food produced using sound science–why not emphasize nature instead?

If we all turned to community food systems, we could solve many of Americans’ health problems, while benefiting the communities themselves, along with livestock and the environment. We need to educate consumers on the interconnectedness of soil, food, and health. Salatin called it “field to fork” eating. Soil needs to be nurtured, as it hosts an unseen world of  insects, arthropods, and bacteria. Animals who are raised in settings that mimic their natural habitats are the most happy, and impart the chemical advantages of that happiness to us through their meat, eggs, and milk. Communities gain from the revenue generated from production, processing, and retail sales of local food, and consumers can feel secure that they’re getting fresher, safer, more humanely-treated food because local food systems are more transparent than remote agricultural corporations. If a consumer can walk into a local farm, cannery, butchery, or abattoir, those businesses are forced to be transparent in their processes and accountable to customers.

Salatin gave several examples of ways food can be integrated into communities. Italy has gardens and Mexico tethers milk cows along highways, areas which America keeps mowed, wasting petroleum and biomass. A Belgian project gave chickens to families, and not only did the chickens provide the households with fresh eggs, but they helped with yard bug populations, and ate kitchen waste. Prisoners could be turned into farmers: America has twice the number of prisoners as farmers, so why not plant apple and pear trees along highways and let prisoners tend them?

People who are stuck in the rut of making unhealthy, irresponsible food choices may not want to hear Salatin’s message, but it’s an important one, and we, as citizens of Earth, are lucky that he has such a busy speaking schedule. If you’re reading this, then it’s not likely that you’re stuck in that rut, so congratulations, and please continue to support local agriculture!