Wednesday, November 17, 2010

John Stossel Totally Biffs It

Stossel is a libertarian, a reformed leftie like myself. So I agree with a lot of what he has to say. But this is time he is just plain wrong. His latest editorial is titled Natural Is Not Always Better and is about grass-fed vs grain-fed beef. He thinks grass-fed is a waste of money and backs this up with generous quotes from Dr. Jude Capper "an assistant professor of dairy sciences at Washington State University, (who) has studied the data."

I'd just like to point out that dairy is not a science, okay? Biochemistry, that's a science. Biology that's a science. Animal milk is not a science, it's the stuff that comes out of animal udders. If she was a biochemist who specialized in dairy I might not be ready to dismiss her out of hand.
"Simply because they have a far lower efficiency, far lower productivity. The animals take 23 months to grow. (Corn-fed cattle need only 15.) That's eight extra months of feed, of water, land use, obviously, and also an awful lot of waste. If we have a grass-fed animal, compared to a corn-fed animal, that's like adding almost one car to the road for every single animal. That's a huge increase in carbon footprints."(Dr Capper)
The animals take longer to grow (fatten), because they don't get metabolic syndrome from eating something they aren't designed to eat, they don't turn into obese, unhealthy, bloated disasters like the humans who also base their diet on corn. And don't start talking about carbon footprint (or footprints either), the utilitarian argument holds no weight with me, and she doesn't take into account all the money and space used to grow and transport all that corn, with plenty of help from the taxpayer of course. And what's the carbon footprint of the damage caused by eating crappy or even mediocre food? What's the carbon footprint of making all those statins,  beta blockers, blood pressure meds, insulin pumps and multivitamins?

Then she pulls out this whopper:
"There is absolutely no scientific evidence based on that [naturally raised animals are healthier]. Absolutely none," she replied. "There is some very slight difference in fatty acids, for example, but they are so minor that they don't make any significant human health impact."
I did my own analysis (Ned did a better analysis here and here's a scientific experiment on grass vs grain fed). And while the fatty acid difference is not huge, it is not "very slight". Of course, I'm not an (assistant) professor in dairy science, my analysis could totally off but I tried to check out the facts for myself, not content to be told the truth by some self-described expert, whenever possible. Is there evidence that having a terrible n-3/n-6 ratio in the diet is unhealthy? Yes, of course there is. And what about the other differences? Cunjugated linoleic acid (CLA), B12, etc. There is evidence that these things are good for you, there is evidence that grass-fed contains more of them, so how could the be ABSOLUTELY no scientific evidence that grass-fed is healthier? Dr Capper, you are simply full of shit.

I don't have much access to grass-fed beef, and I don't stay up nights sobbing into my pillow because of it, but I do think it is preferable to eat a ruminant that has been raised as a ruminant, not on beer and pizza and subsidized corn. Of course it is also preferable to eat corn-fed beef rather then corn chips cooked in corn oil with a little HFCS thrown in for good measure.

I have great respect for John Stossel but in this case he totally biffed it. Natural is definitely better.

Addendum: apparently these columns are precursors for his his weekly TV show, which I don't watch, mostly because I live in Central Europe.  I can download them of course (totally legally, dude) but haven't. I might download this one though.

1 comment:

  1. There is a lot of evidence supporting a grass fed diet is better than a corn fed diet. One, like you said is that grass fed beef produce the needed balance of omega 3s and omega 6s. Another is evolution. Cows have evolved to eat grass, so when they feed cows corn, many places actually open up the cows stomach and shove the corn into the cows stomach directly. The process of digesting corn creates a lot of bacterial growth. The new process to get rid of the bacteria is to wash the meat in bleach.

    This was shown in Food Inc. It makes your stomach turn.