Grist Interview with Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan has been getting a lot of press since his new book Omnivore's Dilemma came out, but TOD readers might be particularly interested in this recent interview at Grist.

The first question that David Roberts asks is "What's the most worrisome aspect of the current U.S. food system?", and Pollan answers:

That's a tough one. But the thing that really struck me is just how much energy goes into the process. The most recent study I've seen, from the University of Michigan, says that 20 percent of our fossil-fuel consumption is going to feeding ourselves.
This happens at three different stages. One is on the farm, because we use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which is made from natural gas and a great deal of electricity.

Then we take commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans and wheat, and we process them intensively, adding another seven calories of fossil-fuel energy for every one calorie of food. It's a very intensive process to take the corn and turn it into the high-fructose corn syrup, or take the corn and turn it into the chicken, and the chicken into the Chicken McNugget. As we move further away from eating food to eating highly processed, complicated food products -- as we move from yogurt to Go-GURT -- it takes more energy, and more energy in the packaging. We're putting a lot of time into redesigning our whole food supply so we can eat in the car. Nineteen percent of meals [and snacks in the U.S.] are eaten in the car right now.

And then we drive [the food] around the country, if not fly it around the world. You can get your organic asparagus from Argentina, you can get your grass-fed beef from New Zealand.

So given that our most serious environmental problem is global warming, I'd have to say the most serious problem with the food system is its contribution to global warming.

While it has always been evident that modern agribusiness is a very energy-intensive industry, I still find it interesting that Pollan considers this the most worrisome aspect of the food production system. More worrisome than the powerful but wasteful subsidies? More worrisome than the obesity problem? It would be easy enough to convince me, but in fact our food production system has so many problems that it's hard to know where to start. Yet, Pollan may be understating the energy issue: not only is our food production system contributing to global warming, but his comments also underscore how vulnerable we will be once the access to cheap oil is restricted.

The interview also tackles topics such as why large-scale organic farming is moving ever further from the sustainable ideal, the lure of microwaveable "convenience foods", and the challenge of convincing people that understanding where their food comes from is a really important issue.

Also, Pollan-junkies might be interested in his blog at the New York Times.

Its a great interview...
I think this idea of ecological journalism is useful for Peak Oilers.  As Michael Pollan says, everybody has got to eat, right?  so FOOD can a backdoor issue to get people involved with the environment, or in our case - energy.

We need more backdoor issues.

The article claims Pollan "traced America's obesity epidemic to corn subsidies."  Huh?  More nonsense from folks who don't understand basic nutrition.  Sure, lots of corn syrup and simple sugars won't help you lose weight, but, as every hog farmer knows, you cannot fatten a pig on corn or grains.  The same is true in humans: the fat you eat is the fat you wear.  So blaming corn for obesity is a hilariously stupid statement.  Might it have something to do with the hugely fatty meat, dairy and other junk foods that are the mainstays of the american diet? Nah, big animal agribusiness propaganda is so strong that the simple physics of weight gain is obfuscated, and "carbs" get blamed.  This is a testament to human gullibility - low fat plant foods like grains, corn, rice are the cornerstone of poor populations like rural Chinese.  And guess what, they are THIN, and it is definitely NOT genetics.  Chinese peasants that move here and start eating like an Americans get fat.  And The China Study compared sedentary Chinese office workers to the average American, and guess what?  Yup, the Chinese paper pushers ate significantly MORE total calories - yet they are thin and lower-calorie consuming Americans are fat!  It's the fat, people.  And of course, it's the health benefits that come with a low fat vegan diet, also shown dramatically in the China Study.  So all you who have been suckered into this carb bashing nonsense, please explain why sedentary Chinese eat many more TOTAL calories that average Americans,   yet they are much thinner and healthier.  It's very simple: whole plant foods = health, animal products and grease = disease.  If you sit down to a pound steak, imagine 55 other people sitting with you with empty bowls, that could have all been filled with grain for SAME squandered energy and resources that were put into that cow.  The #1 thing people can do to help conserve resources is staring back from your plate, but of course nobody wants to hear the facts.  But of course people's eating habits are more sensitive a topic than their religion, because it is not abstract, but essential for daily survival - thus you get extremely knee-jerk reactions just by pointing out the facts on nutrition, energy use, and conservation.  But perhaps I have gone off on a rant :). But, logically, if Americans all buy a Hybrid cars but use them to hit up fast food joints all the time, they are not by any stretch of the imagination environmentalists.  It's nice for Pollan to point out the energy profigacy of US AG, but how about telling us to eat lower on the food chain?
You make an important point about eating lower on the food chain, but I don't think Pollan is wrong when he writes about the subsidization of high calorie, highly processed foods. He's not really blaming the obesity problem on the subsidization of corn, he's just using it as an example of our out-of-whack priorities. In the column called Why Eating Well Is 'Elitist', Pollan discusses a trend that has been documented in many places: the food that is inexpensive in this country is garbage like Cheetos and Coke with 120 calories per serving. If you can get your family a meal at McDonalds for $10 for 4 people (and that's what you can afford), why would you buy $30 worth of organic foods at Whole Foods for a dinner for 4 people (numbers very approximate)? I can buy a cheap (store-brand) 10oz bag of potato chips for $1.50, but the 8oz. bag of baby carrots (pre-processed, but at least healthy) is $1.99. (These numbers are true for my corner grocery store.)

This column does raise a touchy issue, and one that ultimately must be addressed if we want the US population to be eating better. It's like Pollan says: "We're not subsidizing the growing of carrots and broccoli." This point has merit, and I don't think we should dismiss it in favor of simply calling Americans fat and lazy.

I've eaten a vegan diet right out of the chain grocery store for years.  It's as cheap as McDonald's, but it's not very interesting.  Lots and lots of corn and beans.  You just have to read labels and exercise discipline.  I can't afford the natural food market, it's true.  It seems like there's a elitist markup for just going into those places.  Actually, in terms of work, I can feed myself on about one wage-hour a day (and these are crappy wages, too) which makes modern America far and away the most affluent civilization that has ever existed.  It feels like cheating to be poor here.  People aren't fat because there's a conspiracy.  They're fat because it's adaptive in hunter-gatherers to level out good times with bad times, and we've just missed the bad times lately.
This was a most wonderful post. I think you've said all that needs to, and could, be said.

I thank you. :)

I generally eat vegan, except for the occasional meal out with colleagues, at conferences, etc. For me it is more like beans and wheat - and peanut butter. But hardly any corn.

How do you eat corn? I can hardly imagine living on sweet corn from the cob. Cornbread is great, but too much work for lazy me. Do you make a gruel-like bowl, like grits or something?

I've heard that corn needs to be treated with lye or some such to make the protein available. Isn't that what grits are about?

Anyway, I always like to extend my diet, so I would love to hear how you buy & prepare corn to make a part of your staple diet.

Try corn tortillas. Better yet, make them yourself. Get the corn masa (quaker oats makes great masa, really cheap), pat it flat, put it on the skillet for a couple minutes, smear whateve you want on it. It's delicious! And hardly costs anything. Freshness is everything.
I grabbed an aluminum tortilla press a few years ago, one of those things I should have done so years earlier.  Tacos in fresh tortillas are oh, so, good.  (Store dry masa in the freezer if you don't use it fast.)
Here's my approximate recipe for corn bread, and lye is not the only alkali you can use to treat corn.

Approximately 35 percent corn meal, 25 percent masa harina (lime-treated corn used in tortillas) and 40 percent whole wheat flour. Add about 3-5 percent soy flour for additional protein, more complete balanced mix of amino acids in the total protein content, and additional fiber; add a little wheat bran and oat bran for their obvious properties.

No white sugar. Use a mix of honey and molasses to sweeten. Baking power, egg, and bake.

I eat semi-vegetarian. I eat about 1 serving (the official 3 oz serving) of meat a day, of various types. I eat a lot of casserole-type stuff, with a mix of brown rice and boiled whole wheat berries, sometimes with whole oat or rye groats as well, as the base. Whole Foods has those all in bulk, and often for less than a regular grocery, if they're available. Some items are cheaper here in Dallas at Central Market.

I throw in frozen veggies from the traditional grocery store. I usually use an equal mix of frozen corn, frozen green beans and frozen mixed veggies. Sometimes I use other, specialty mixes.

I then fry diced chicken breast, or the 98 percent lean grass-fed hamburger beef I find on sale, along with any garlic, onions, etc. I'm using. Then comes additional oil, water, teriyaki, tomato sauce, whatever, is going to be the basis of a broth/stock/sauce.

Then comes the HERBS/SPICES. This is how you eat vegan/vegetarian/quasi-vegetarian without getting bored.

I make Indian and Pakistani curries, starting with Central Market, which carries three or four different types. Or I'll make garam masala. Or something Thai with peanut sauce. Or pesto. Or alfredo. Etc., etc.

Read labels and excercise discipline... I wonder about that. To be a responsible vegan, you have to be conscious about things like soy protein, B vitamins. And my impression is that to make tasty food with vegan ingredients takes more skill. It's not that it's impossible, on the contrary, I think fancy vegetarian food is generally much better than fancy non-vegetarian food.

So I wonder about vegan food being inexpensive. How do you manage that?


The post you replied to is not correct. The fats you put on come from carbohydrates, and not necessarily from the fats you eat. If your blood sugar stays above a certain level, the body converts it to fat, and stores it as visceral fat -- hence the pot bellies seen in different kinds of pathological obesities.

Normally, complex carbohydrates are better than sugar, which is better than corn syrup. The reason is the time span over which the conversion to glucose and fructose occurs. Glucose and fructose is the form in which the body absorbs calories. Sucrose and complex carbohydrates cannot be absorbed by the body without being broken down into glucose and fructose.

The problem with corn syrup is that it is a glucose/fructose syrup, and has a very rapid absorption profile, and leads to very high peak blood sugar levels. High peak blood sugar levels lead to insulin resistence, and a poor metabolism of sugar. This leads to the excess sugar being converted by the body to stored fat.

So Pollan is right in saying that corn syrup is a major factor in early obesity, and in the currently occurring diabetes epidemic.

Thanks for bringing this to light.  Apparently veganmaster isn't very well grounded in the biochemistry of digestion.  He seems to think big old greasy fat molecules just ram their way through the intestinal walls and seek out a hospitable skinny cell where they can take up residence.
I understand what you are saying, and I agree: excess sugars increase the chance that a fatty diet is deposited on your ass and elsewhere :) But the fat that is deposited is the FAT YOU ATE.  Scientists can and have taken fat samples from people, and just from that they know what foods they have been eating.  This is because fat goes right into storage, and is not chemically changed by the body.  You failed to respond to the China Study: sedentary Chinese workers eat hundreds of more calories a day, yet stay thin because they eat a low-fat, high-complex carb diet.  I suppose we aren't even disagreeing, assuming you admit the obvious, that fatty diets are the true culprit in weight gain. If you disagree with this, you are on the opposite side of the scientific studies, IMO!
The biochemistry of carbohydrate to fat conversion is well known and is well documented to occur in the human body.

Yes traditional diets in "poor" rural China are extremely high in carbohydrate, AND these Chinese are thin, with little abdominal obesity. The same has been shown to be true in rural India. The same is not true of either urban India, or urban China. The diets are still almost the same, still carbohydrate rich. But the rate of diabetes is tripled, and it is six times in the Chinese and Indian population in UK and US.

So what is the difference. The answer lies in the antinutritional factors that are there in the diet. Rural diets have many more "antinutritional" factors than occur in urban diets. In particular, amylase inhibitors and sucrase inhibitors are a part of the diet. These "antinutritional" factors have been greatly reduced in the urban diet through "food processing"

Thus vegan diets that are uncooked or poorly cooked, and rich in WHOLE grains and WHOLE legumes, have amylase and sucrase inhibitors, that greatly reduce the conversion of these carbohydrates to glucose and fructose. These carbohydrates mostly pass through the intestinal tract unabsorbed after being only partially broken down.

The term "antinutritional," should be considered a misnomer, as the human body has evolved to live on these traditional diets, and is probably most happy when these factors are present.

The other component of this is the metabolic energy being expended in hard physical work. When I grew up in a rural community about all tractors provided was traction power so much of the farm work involved a lot of manual pitching, chopping, shoveling and lifting all day long. The men ate huge meals of fairly basic foods three times a day. During the winter they often poured bacon grease on foods to increase their caloric intakes. Most of the time they were outside on foot, on horseback or on open tractors and the work clothes, particularly for winter, weren't nearly as good as now. Most of those men were not carrying any extra weight, most looked 10 years younger than their town cohort and most lived well into their 80's.
Fascinating stuff Rajiv -- can I re-phrase it thusly :

* A diet based on refined foods (white flour etc) is more efficient in terms of calories absorbed. (but is likely to be lacking in all sorts of vital trace stuff)

This casts an interesting light on the sociology of whole vs refined grains. In Europe, and presumably in other bread-based cultures, and until recent decades, white bread was a status symbol, and ordinary folk ate mostly whole-grain bread (often rye or barley, where they were cheaper than wheat). In modern times, everyone migrated to white, wheat bread, because they COULD (this coincided with overconsumption of meat, for the same reason).

Now, the status has inverted somewhat, and eating whole-grain breads is pretty much confined to the "elite".

"Now, the status has inverted somewhat, and eating whole-grain breads is pretty much confined to the "elite". "

We are finally starting to correct a centuries old mistake - removing the most nutritious part the grain.

In northern Europe stuff like rye bread have remained the basic food, and here in Finland lots of people don´t really consider white bread proper food at all. Similarly, when Finns go abroad (meaning further afield than just Sweden or Russia), the thing many miss most about Finland is decent bread (and, naturally, the sauna...)

It is strange how people in most places have bought into this "white bread as a status symbol" thing, not only is it not nutritious, it´s pretty tasteless as well. Fortunately it seems wholemeal is making a comeback, although, as you point out, it appears to be a kind of elite choice now.


Either you're reading pseudoscience or not understanding actual science that you read. That's the only way I can understand your non-unerstanding, veganmaster.

From my perspective, and I'm city folk, the biggest problem with the food system is that food doesn't cost enough. Too many farmers have a hard time just surviving. From the USDA:
Small family farms account for most of the farms in the U.S. but produce a modest share of farm output. Average farm household income has been at or above the average for all U.S. households in recent years, with farm households receiving most of their income from off-farm sources (my emphasis).

If the family farms go under, what will the price of food be then?
From a pure economic standpoint...this would imply that there is simply too much food (which is true of at least corn) and not enough demand.  Now reading through the various posts it's pretty clear that many people, the majority?, believe that we are over capacity as a people on this planet (6.5 Billion right?).

So how can this happen then?  We have too many people, yet we have all this food over here that farmers can't seem to sell to maintain a decent standard of living.  I suppose you could argue that the geographic dispersion of people with higher concentrations of people in smaller countries that are farther away has something to do with it.

But how in this globalized world can people go starving, while we have an over abundance of food?  Is the free market failing these people who need the food and the farmer who is willing to sell it?  We do export a lot of food, but not enough to feed everyone?  

This is a curious economic condition that shouldn't exist with the basic problem that people are starving and plenty of farmers want to sell their crops, but for what reason keeps the prices very low?  Is there anyone with real operational knowledge of how a family farm works at the micro level?  I wonder how all the micro decisions influence the macro environment that appears to be in a kind of paradox.

  People starve in todays world because of politics. See Somalia Ethiopia etc....It is the lack of a free market.  Warlords prevent trade and seize foreign food shipments.
Matt again you are saying that's its not that we don't have the food, it's more that people choose to starve others.  So how is it that we are over populated when we have more food than we know what to do with and those who sell it can't seem to get enough money for the basic needs of life?
  I am saying that we have too much land in the US suitable for growing food easily for an open market to allow stable prices.  A good year for corn means too much corn for market and its price goes so low that the farmers sell for less than it cost to produce.  Enter Gov paying farmers not to grow corn or setting a minimum price.  If I opened a factory for sparkplugs and churned out 1 billion a year would the government bail me out?  So the subsidies provide promised profit and big business starts making lots of corn.  R&D and PR people start coming up with real or contrived uses etc etc......

I never said we are overpoulated.  I do believe we will be someday soon and when PO hits the downslope it is possible we are already.  I think the 6+ Billin people will not be city dwellers in the future though.


I think you're missing Pollan's point, veganmaster.   He's saying that corn fructose and corn products are at the base of our processed foods.
Supporting the crop means supporting agribusiness, which leverages cheap ingredients into high profits. Corn is cheaper than sugar, so high fructose corn syrup replaced it as sweetener in sodas in the 1980s, and in just about everything else ever since. Corn stripped to its building blocks and reassembled is now the source for most food additives, from sweeteners to stabilizers to artificial colors and preservatives. In one of the book's most jaw-dropping statistics, Pollan writes that more than a quarter of the 45,000 items in an average American supermarket contain corn.

"Corn is in the coffee whitener and Cheez Whiz, the frozen yogurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes...everything from the toothpaste and cosmetics to the disposable diapers, trash bags, cleansers, charcoal briquettes, matches, and batteries, right down to the shine of the magazine that catches your eye by the checkout: corn,"

(From an Very long, very good interview with Pollan by UC Berkeley news service.

In the same interview Pollan points to the key role corn plays in industrial animal raising:

Corn pushed out pasture-raised cattle and pigs and chickens, as it became more economical to warehouse them together in "Confined Animal Feeding Operations," or CAFOs, and stuff them full of corn. One hitch: the stomachs of cows, one of the few mammals evolutionarily designed to be able to eat grass, can't digest corn.
Well, I raise some cattle on my ranch. But they only eat natural grasses and hay. We don't have any "confined animal feeding operations." We have a couple of part-time corrals, but I don't think those count.

I eat beef maybe once or twice a week, and that beef comes from the local ranchers' beef co-op, where the cattle are guaranteed to be raised only on natural grasses.

We do grow a large organic garden, so I'm mostly a vegetarian. Probably more so than most suburbanites.

Indeed, grains should be a foundation of nutrition.  The problem arises when corn syrup, due to subsidies gets so cheap that the food industry adds these empty calories to everything we eat.  
Our bodies are able to convert nearly anything into fat when we have excess calories.  Sugar intake triggers insuling release from the pancreas.  Insulin causes our liver and muscle to store sugar in the form of glycogen.  Our bodies can store about 12 hours worth of carb energy in our liver and muscle.  If we take in more than that then insulin triggers our adipose tissue (or fat cells) to take in the excess carbs and store the energy as fat.  Furthermore, in a strange paradox of human biology, insulin seems to stimulate out appetite.  This always confused me since insulin is realeased when we have normal or excess intake, so why does it stimulate us to eat even more.  When diabetics are put on insulin, their blood sugar goes down, but their weight often goes up and the sugar which often escaped via the kidneys is instead converted to fat.
The human body evolved to take in meat (sorry to all the vegetarians out there) and grains/ vegetables.  Simple sugars were actually relatively rare in the human diet (in most places) until sugar cane and corn syrup became commoditized.  The low price of sugar and corn syrup (due to cheap energy inputs and subsidized) is at least partly responsible for our obesity.  Other factors are responsible also (inactivity, car-based rather than pedestrian based travel, etc.) but the fact that sugar is in nearly everything we eat is a major public health problem.

Phineas Gage, MD

I've recently looked into the issues of what we consume and made some necessary changes, the sugar in my coffee was the first thing I ditched and reading product labels is threatening to become an obsession I'd rather avoid. I'm hanging my shingle on the paleo diet, I find it very convincing that the neanderthal and paleolithic man were structurally more sound than the agrarian folk who came after them.

It definitely isn't easy to make the switch away from processed goods due to the costs involved, I almost needed an adult diaper after handing over the loot for my bags of dried apricots, peaches and nuts. There was a time I'd sniff derisively at the sight of fat on a chop, now I deliberately select those very same cuts of meat and look forward to the assimilation process. Alas, without the formerly requisite mashed spuds.

Pus in the milk, flouride and chlorine in the water, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup...we're not men, we're a chemical imbalance.

Gets back to my "meat and leaves" theory.

Except, for instance, read up on the Apache - they used to process plants to get the starch out and dry it in sheets. And wherever there were acorns and Indians you had Indians eating acorns.

And, humans weren't cooking their food starting 10,000 years ago, try somewhere around 2 million years ago! Pre Homo sapien types were cooking their food that far back, we've been the "fire ape" for a long time. The American Indians came over to this continent 50,000 odd years ago and they were sure cooking. Evidence in China goes way back, one piece of evidence shows ppl cooking their food 2 million years ago.

Indians gathered acorns, wild rice, wild grains, pollen, you name it. I'm all for the paleo diet, and in fact may take some "survival" courses this summer for fun, keep in mind the paleo diet involved a wide range of foodstuffs.

see my comment below (and linked article) about human digestive enzymes being designed specifically for cooked meat.
Did I miss something here?  I don't think Sketch meant that Paleo humans weren't cooking their food.  It's agriculture that started ca 10,000 yo.  Pre-agricultural societies, as you mentioned, ate mostly nuts, seeds, roots, greens, fruits, occasionally meat (when the hunters got lucky or the women's traps were full) and insects for protein.  Pretty different from the primarily grain-based, dairy, meat, with some fruits and veggies thrown in, diet of the agriculturalists.  The only reason they stayed healthy was all the exercise they got trying to produce that diet!

Also, according to archaeological forensic studies, farmers were far more susceptible to malnutrition/starvation than the Gatherer/Hunters (admittedly the data set for the G/H's is smaller) due to the fact that they had to rely on locally produced food even during droughts, insect infestations, crop destruction due to wars, etc. whereas the G/H's could move on if resources were depleted (but since their diets included a wide variety of foods this was less of a problem--if one resource became scarce they could utilize something else until it recovered).  Also their smaller populations were less likely to over-use resources in one area.

Really, the only advantage to agriculture, IMO, is population growth and that is a dubious one.  It works out well for that segment of the population that needs the extra labor to increase their wealth and status, though!  

Agree with Dr. Gage, here.  I always thought it was pretty simple: take in more calories than you burn off, you gain weight. High fructose corn syrup=no food value=easy weight gain.  Stick to the basics: fruits/veggies (lots! more than you can really eat in one day!), whole grains, minimal sugar/salt.  Live long, and prosper (at least until the oil starts running out...).  
Vegan has hit upon, indirectly, a very important point: the American Media's role in perpetuating the world destroying paradigm known as the "American Lifestyle."

"Agribusiness propaganda" is one form of this insidious brainwashing that sweeps across the collective American psyche every second of every day from the newspaper ads that masquerade as news to the roadside billboards to television to movies. The problem is the conversation we are having is reserved for a tiny minority. (I hope it is a minority that has the wherewithal to change things.) The vast majority of Americans and world citizens are plugged into the "official" media, the spoon-fed, corporate government-sanctioned media that tells us that up is down and left is right and that everything is just fine. Until there is a mass media outlet for actual scientific fact presented in a dumb-American fashion, they will not change their consumption patterns. (Or until the system collapses under the one-two punch of peak oil and global warming at which time the stupid "average" American will get a Chuck Norris roundhouse to the face.)

I foresee a point when "Good Morning America" features a segment that starts with an intro from the talking head in the studio,

"Welcome back. As everyone knows, vegetables from California are a luxury item now, and even those grown locally can be pretty precious, but you can help your household budget stay within its limits by turning your front yard into a micro-version of Farmer Jack's real thing. Jennifer Crowley is in Chevy Chase, Maryland where she is visiting one neighborhood that has decided to say no to high veggie prices. Jennifer?"

Cut to Jennifer oddly dressed in a plaid shirt, overalls and a straw hat. A bit of grass stem pokes from her mouth. Around her stand a group of suburban people who, though dowdy, seem to have almost recaptured a past era of TV abundance and who wear cubicle-rat clothes, short-sleeved pastel cotton shirts, ugly brown ties that ride high, Dockers with dark stains on the knees, a woman wears a pantsuit that hangs loosely on her frame. They all smile as if they are having the time of their lives.

Jennifer: That's right, Charlie. The good people of Chevy Chase are not about to let Californians get their money, at least not without a fight. As you can see, all along this cul-de-sac, the once mandatory highly-manicured lawns are gone, replaced by row upon row of vegetables.

The camera pans and we see a long street with cracks sprouting weeds. Only one SUV is seen, and it is up on blocks, rusting in the morning light. A number of curious people watching the goings on are stopped in the street astride bicycles, one foot on the pedal the other on the ground. The houses are losing paint, there is noticable damage to trees, limbs cut, stumps all around. Near every house are stacks of firewood. Each front yard is completely covered in vegetable crops.

Jennifer: I have here John Stueben, a former software engineer. John, what made you decide to give up your lovely lawn?

Jennifer turns to the camera: And believe me, it was beautiful. I've seen the pictures.

Back to John. He is gaunt. His cheekbones seem sharp and his eyes are deep beneath his brow. His pink pastel shirt billows in the slight breeze, a shirt much too large for him.

John: Have you seen the price of vegetables, Jennifer?

As John smiles and tries to mimic the jaunty television manner of Jennifer, we can see that his teeth are rotten. He laughs coarsely.

John: We just thought we could put a stop to those price gougers in California by putting in our own little farms here. Now that I don't have to go to work no more and the bank gave up on foreclosure so I don't have to go homeless, I thought I'd give it a try. Well, seems that most the neighborhood here is in the same fix and after a few neighborhood meetings, we decided to organize the whole thing more efficiently. We examined every yard in the coalition for micro-climate and catalogued every nut and fruit tree, every berry bush and then started opening up some areas, that is cutting down trees, to let in the light. Everyone plants and tends to their own garden for the most part, but when it comes to big labor jobs, we all have a work party and help out. When we harvest, we share the food resources.

Jennifer frowns.

Jennifer: This sounds a lot like socialism.

John looks at her with distaste. Obviously, the bugaboo about socialism has long vanished from his mind.

John: You ever hear about a socialist named Jesus? You call it socialism, we call it survival.

The crowd is visibly angry, and all have moved a bit closer to Jennifer than she would like.

The cameraman backs up and we see the huge SUV the television crew arrived in with its satellite dish and cables running through the garden.

Jennifer: Oof. Seems I hit a nerve up here in Chevy Chase. Well, back to you, Charlie.

Great post, Cherenkov. And this may indeed be the future.
veganmaster, I have a question for you:  What do you think of the Weston Price diet?  No doubt you disagree with the principles it is based on, since (to state things oversimplistically) it states that carbohydrates are bad; and animal products and fruits, vegetables, and berries are good.  But what, in your mind, is wrong with this way of looking at things?

As a more general matter, you compare beliefs about food and nutrition with religious beliefs.  But what makes your own beliefs about food any less religious than those of Weston Price?

(I should perhaps add that I myself am completely agnostic when it comes to food: I don't know whether you, or the Weston Price people, or the soybean aficionados, or conventional western medicine, or some other food sect "has the truth."  But I am searching for "the truth" with diligence!)

Putting aside all the arguments about whether veganism is better for you than carnivorism, there is no doubt that a transition to a vegetable based diet would use a lot more energy and water.  Throw in organic vegetables and the energy impact would even be greater. If the ethanol people get their way, we may have to eat less meat because of the diversion of all that corn to fuel.  Currently, 70% of the corn supply goes to feeding animals.

The other thing that is clear is that the growth of cheap corn based foods is correlated with the increasing obesity in this country. Coincidence or causation?  You be the judge.

"Putting aside all the arguments about whether veganism is better for you than carnivorism, there is no doubt that a transition to a vegetable based diet would use a lot more energy and water."

  I think you need to back this up.  I understand that GROWING organic foods can be more labor-intensive and water-intensive, but you have to start looking at the other facets of agribusiness and 'big food' if you're going to make such claims.  

  Since organic farming is very small compared to non-organic methods and products, a lot of Organic produce has to travel farther to get to its consumer, and those growers don't enjoy the economies of scale that Factory Farming has.  That said, how are the advantages of big-biz Farmed products when you factor in fertilizers, processing, packaging and subsequent transportation/facility costs that are part of the final foods that end up on your plate?

  There are also 'intangibles', such as the quality of the water-tables and topsoils around organic acreage as opposed to heavily fertilized fields, and what are the long-term implications (ie, costs) of undermining this essential foundation of all our farming?  This is one of my family's main reasons for supporting organic agriculture as much as we can. Soil and water maintenance.  We're not Vegetarians, but we eat pretty close to the old 'Food Pyramid', with a great majority of whole grains, legumes and fresh Fruit/Veggies.  We bought a quarter of a cow this year, and some vulgar fraction of a pig, ('Vulgar' actually just derives from 'volk', or people.. Animal Farm, all over again!) both local and raised in acceptable conditions, and we use local bakers, CSA's, community gardens etc, where possible.  I agree with Pollan's assessment that local is probably of greater importance than organic, at least in the near-term.  I'll try for the best of both worlds..

  Food Alternatives, like energy alternatives are not going to hinge on a 'Wonderdrug' solution.  I think we'll be using our species' tendency for omnivorism and pull our berries from multiple bushes. (And try to keep our other berries out of the fire, as well as possible)

Moderation in all things..

Bob Fiske

"a transition to a vegetable based diet would use a lot more energy and water."

Quite the reverse. All that corn fed to the hogs and cows required water, often irrigated; and other energy intensive inputs. So each pound of meat represents huge quantities of water and energy.

Also, here in the west (where most produce is grown) the water is virtually free and is used so profligately that the land quickly salinates.

In constrast, many organic farms and gardens (including my own) use drip irrigation, which is an initial investment, but cuts water usage dramatically, puts the water right at the roots where it's needed.

And since every pound of vegetables goes into the pot, it goes to human nourishment without the animal middleman soaking up most of the calories.

As a more general matter, you compare beliefs about food and nutrition with religious beliefs.  But what makes your own beliefs about food any less religious than those of Weston Price?

Well, I attempt to base my beliefs on science and logic.  But I was just trying to point out how emotional people are about food.  To answer your question more fully, the research I've read reveals that humans are biologically herbivores:  starch-digesting mouth enzymes, flat, wimpy teeth for grinding plants, long intestines and a not-that acidic stomach.  These are all key characteristics of herbivores.  We are genetically very close to primates, which are pretty well known to be herbivores (though chimps eat the occasional bug, and eat other chimps - but again, I'm talking biological, not practical).  Perhaps I am wrong but let me ask this: if we are omnivores, then why do diets high in meat and dairy cause such rampant disease?  All you have to do is study the history of heart disease to realize that meat and dairy are the main cause.  Basically, there are thousands of studies, i.e. it is well established nutritional science to say that meat and dairy increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, artery diseases, and on and on.      Frankly, disagreeing with the above statement is like rejecting evolution or gravity, IMO.  So where is the evidence of us being biologically omnivore?  What it tells me is that, clearly, either we are not omnivores, or we are the crappiest ones on the planet! :)  To address the hunter-gatherer proponents directly: sure, humans can eat meat, but our bodies are not designed specifically for it, as happens with true omnivores and carnivores.  Thus we cannot process that much animal products before our systems become overwhelmed.  For example, heart disease can be said to begin as soon as one starts eating meat and dairy - autopsies of young American soliders killed in battle showed that the build up of plaques were well begun, despite the young age of the fighting men (17-22?).  And that was in the 1940s or 50s - these men probably still ate a decent amount of vegetables, I would think.  Thus even on a supposedly "moderate" diet that included a some whole plant foods these guys had damage being wrought from their diet.  How could this be so if we are omnivores?  I must say, a pet peeve of mine is the "moderation" mantra that the government started.  Guess what? Moderation Kills.  The American Heart Association has a nice ol' moderation diet that still includes some meat and dairy - guess what studies show the results to be: people still get worse and die.  That's the poor state of government nutrition and "medicine", that patients follow the dietary protocol and are not healed.  Moderate smoking is unsafe, and so is moderate meat/dairy eating. The China study surprised even me with the results showing that there is no safe threshold when it comes to animal protein.  Even very small amounts of meat (amounts that would seem tiny here) significantly increased disease risk.  If we are biological omnivores, why is this so?


I appreciate your sincerity, but are you really sure you're not a troll?

If you want to make claims, please provide references. Otherwise, don't make the claims.

For example, where's the bloody "China Study?" Where is it? Exactly where? Or is it in your mind?   - not hard
nice ad hominem attack
First, from the homepage for your website, I see the quote: "Dr. Campbell's exposé of the research and medical establishment," from Joel Fuhrman's review.

This automatically sets up the "framing" of this book as "outsider David tilts at establishment Goliath," while hinting that the (medical) establishment has been conspiratorial in hiding the "amazing?" "esoteric?" "ancient?" etc. findings documented in this book.

I may be overreading Fuhrman, but he didn't write his introduction with such breathless words and style by accident.

Vegan master,
   I own a hawk that is 8 years old.  I don't hunt with him any more because he has arthritis.  I also think he is getting cataracts, and I'm sure when he dies it will be from degenerative problems.   Humans are living due to vaccines and clean water many years longer than we have genetic programming for. Our bodies only have the ability (and this varies from person to person) to tolerate so much cholesterol/cadmium/UV whatever that causes incremental damage.  As a species we reproduce between 13 and 35 and historically 13 and 18.  Evolution never had a chance to give us resistance to heart disease, and arthritis etc.  The average lifespan of a Red-tailed hawk is two and a half years.  That is why David is presenting with these problems.
    As for corn....corn is not the problem.  Americans take all the good out of grains and leave all the bad.  You can eat a diet of only wholegrains veggies and nuts and be alright, but meat and dairy are not inherently unhealthy.  In excess anything can be bad, but salmon for example tastes great, great source of protein and Omega 3 fats.  If god did not want us to eat animals he would not have made them out of meat.  

   The AHA diet was for people who already have had a coronary event, not for people who live their lives eating right not smoking etc.  I think the only argument for vegatarianism is the wastfulness of meat.  That being noted fish both wild caught and farmed which has a conversion rate of 3:1 I think correct me if I am wrong is a good source of protein.  I eat venison and poultry.  Few and far between I buy beef or pork and ussually it is when I have guests,  but I do not remember seeing cave paintings of primitive man depicting vegetables.  If we are herbivores why do so many of us have prey drives?  Humans in all cultures hunt and fish all game imaginable far back into history.  Where did this legacy come from?

Obviously you are not going to convince many people to not eat meat and I am not going to convince you to eat meat, but I do think eating a porterhouse every night is bad and wasteful.  Same logic applied the fields of tobacco are wasted resources only causing damage.  I don't think you have sold the case for us evolving as herbivores though.  

Also vegan....What is a troll? Do they mean supernatural or is this blog code for something?  

In Internet terminology, a troll is someone who comes into an established community such as an online discussion forum, and posts inflammatory, rude or offensive messages designed intentionally to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion

this is what a troll is.
what is the point of that?  
A bit of a laugh?

Some trolls are works of subtle genius, just being obtuse and politically incorrect enough to set off a board into a lather of righteous indignation. Slashdot used to be famous for these, they would get modded up as insightful by people who hadn't seen them before, and recieve hundreds of counter arguments before being modded down into oblivion.

This is not to be confused with the common or garden zealot, who is able to overlook any inconvenient information in their quest to convince others they are correct. I must admit I am guilty of this occasionally :-)

For what it's worth, I think "troll" comes from fishing ... someone "trolling" for a response.  But of course the fact that a mythical "troll" is not a nice image helps.

Example Troll:

"Now that we have hybrids we can get rid of all these dirty diesels."

see, it's easy.

Did you see Bush hired Noam Chomsky as an advisor?,2933,197920,00.html

If anybody's becoming emotional, or even religious about this issue, I believe it's you, sir.

As for even moderate meat eating being "unsafe," poppycock.

Among other things, I point to evolutionary biology, where our closest living primate relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, are meat eaters.

From Wikipedia on Bonobos

Unlike Common Chimpanzees, who have been known to hunt monkeys, Bonobos are primarily herbivores, although they do eat insects and have been observed occasionally catching small mammals such as squirrels. Their primary food source is fruit.
My italics.

Just to correct the impression left by your statement that they are meat-eaters--true but only marginally.


My point, to be more precise, wasn't on the amount of meat/animal protein they (or common chimpanzees) eat, but on the simple fact that they eat *any at all.

In light of veganmaster, IMO, sounding religious about vegan diet, I'm guessing he's of the opinion I've heard from other vegan-touters before that the human body is somehow **not biologically designed* to eat meat, or digest it well, and of course, that's simply untrue.

Now, the use of fire has exploded our ability to digest meat protein, but our ancestors could and did do so with raw meat, as do both our closest primate cousins.

According to the paleodiet crowd, your still way to high. You need to eat foods that require no cooking at all, if you can handle raw meat and fish.

These folk contend that the very same foodstuffs you're extolling only became part of our diet with the advent of fire and the birth of agriculture; I think they suggest some 10,000 years ago.

Up to that point, by and large we didn't eat "carbs." So they conclude. We ate plenty of local produce, but it had to edible there and then. Many of the foodstuffs we eat now require processing before consumption, like wheat and rice. Both must be cooked, as I understand it, before eaten. Unlike fruits, berries, and root vegetables like carrots and turnips. They also claim eating things like potatoes uncooked is bad as well. Since potatoes are a member of the deadly nightshade family I might be inclined to agree.

While many Chinese might be skinny, could this not perhaps be directly related to the available calories to consume versus the amount of calories expended in acquiring the calories consume (You know, eat less and exercise more and you just might loose weight)? And not directly a function of the type of calories being consumed (You know, rice versus beef. Bread versus salmon. That kinda thing)?

"So all you who have been suckered into this carb bashing nonsense, please explain why sedentary Chinese eat many more TOTAL calories that average Americans"

I hate to ask, but to which "China Study" are you referring? I imagine there have been a great number of "China Studies." I must confess, I do find it rather implausible the average Chinese office worker consumes more total calories than the average US office worker. But, on the other hand, I expect many of them still walk and cycle to the office rather than drive. At least compared to America.

Here's a study that shows our digestive enzymes are especially evolved to digest not only meat, but specifically cooked meat. pt=Abstract

Even so it's no longer really in our best interest to be a meat based society due to the energy inputs.  I do buy my cheese from a local dairy farmer who raises cows on hills not suitable for plowing.  This essentially converts solar energy via grass into useful food with essentially no fossil fuel input.  Others have reported eating locally grown grass-fed beef.  We should keep in mind that locally raised grass-fed beef or dairy will likely have less fossil fuel input per calorie than wheat shipped from Ohio to california.

When I was more poor I ate less and worked more. I'd get up in the AM, breakfast would be a glass of milk with a little bit of Quick in it (2/3 teaspoon, just enough to flavor it a bit) and then off to work - either riding my bike or walking to the bus stop, take the bus, then walk 1/2 mile to the workplace. I'd work all day, lunch might be some chicken and rice, a cheap sandwich, or occasionally some kefir. Then home, after an afternoon of work, dinner might be some char siu, a half chicken (smallish, they sold 'em baked in the market) or some sausage, occasionally something I called "scrambled tofu", or a kind of dried oily fish I liked. Favorite snacks were boiled peanuts, or carrots. I wasn't eating a lot of simple carbs, no sodas, I was drinking lots of milk (I'd generally go through a quart a day, about 3 glasses) and my diet lacked veggies, it could have used more of those. And I was thin.

Hard to say, was it my young age, all the physical activity, less food (I always thought carefully about the cost of my food purchases, I had to be careful) or that I'd not yet tipped the scales into insulin resistance, which is probably why I'm a bit overweight now? Almost all  Americans are to some degree insulin resistant, known as Syndrome X. That's why we have that characteristic American look, kind of well-padded and doughy.

It often takes more extreme measures to get the scales un-tipped, if you will. In fact, as Banting noted in his "human beans" observation, there are some foods you can eat while young, and won't be fattening, but if you eat 'em when you're older, they'll go right to your hips. This is like beans and horses, young horses can eat beans, but beans are not good for older horses - either makes 'em fat or gives 'em colic or both. And in the same way, a young active Chinese fellow may be able to eat bowls of rice and be fine, but the same fellow, older, may really put it on with the same diet - especially when you factor in that as we get older we're not generally working physical jobs and we can afford BEER. I sure ate my share of fish and rice or chicken and rice back in the day, but I was much more active, and this is an important point: it was a relatively small bowl of fish/chicken and rice. It would not be considered a meal these days, more of an appetizer.

Your metabolism was moving right about 90mph, back when you were young.  It slows gradually as you age.  You can't eat like you did then, but why would you want to?  That stuff I used to eat then would make me sick now...and of course you're correct about the physical activity. Wish I could incorporate it into my daily life instead of having to have a specific time/place to exercise, but that's the limitations of the society at this particular moment...
I think the raw food folks overlap with the paleo folks, but it's not 1:1.

I did my hour+ of exercise this morning, and even had my wildlife experience.  I didn't notice the swarm of bees on the back trail until they were bouncing off me.  I don't usually worry about that, having learned as a kid that swarms don't sting ... but I decided some time back that I should error on the side of caution, now that africanized bees have been caught north of me.  So I picked up the pace while trying to remember how many miles they'll follow you ;-).  They didn't, so either they weren't africanized or I was gone before they noticed.

eggs and 10-grain bread for breakfast and Vietnamese food (Bun) coming up for lunch ... fairly paleo and inexpensive.

"I think the raw food folks overlap with the paleo folks, but it's not 1:1."

Paleo folk are much safer to turn your back on, you only need get edgy when you hear the snapping of twigs and striking of matches, those raw food buggers will sneak right up on you and just start gnawing ;-)

I used to love a raw Idaho spud as a kid, and used to eat fern tips too.

When I was really little, I used to eat small baby leaves off of our avocado tree!

According to the paleodiet crowd, your still way to high. You need to eat foods that require no cooking at all, if you can handle raw meat and fish...

As I said before, I view the evidence as pointing towards our herbivorous roots.  But I have seen some interesting studies that hint that indeed, if animal products are eaten raw, chronic disease isn't caused.  Can't say the same about pathogens!  For example, it wasn't until milk began to be pasteurized that the related health problems seemed to occur.  I believe in South Africa there are some tribes who eat a curdled dairy product and don't have ill effects.  I guess I should say that nutritional science implicates cooked meat/dairy quite starkly, but I don't think the effects of eating raw animal products are understood well nor studied much - and for good reason IMO - we are biological herbivores who don't usually get excited over a freshly spliced open intestine such behavior is more in the realm of omnivores and carnivores!

which "China Study"... I do find it rather implausible the average Chinese office worker consumes more total calories than the average US office worker. But, on the other hand, I expect many of them still walk and cycle to the office rather than drive. At least compared to America.

Sorry I should have provided the link!  And yes, those are the results of the study, and the scientific credentials are solid too.  But the results don't get into the mainstream because it's bad for business.  

As they say on the site:

The New York Times has recognized the study (China-Oxford-Cornell Diet and Health Project) as the "Grand Prix of epidemiology" and the "most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease.

Ah, if only the Wall Street Journal had a positive review ;)

Be really careful with this one as a temporal association is not proof of causation and significant changes in many important confounders were occuring at the same time.

Also, pasteurization and cooking are important control points for a number of serious zoonotic infectious agents associated with raw foods of animal origin but also with vegetables and fruits. Tuberculosis, listeriosis, salmonellosis and brucellosis are several that come to mind. People continually exposed to animals seem to acquire immunity from subclinical exposures in contaminated foodstuffs to some infectious agents compared to the explosive outbreaks of clinical disease that occurs in urban people so exposed. Milk-borne campylobacteriosis comes to mind. IMO advocates of the health benefits of raw over cooked need to have a good grounding in food microbiolgy and to keep tabs on the CDC's MMWR (list)

I wouldn't rely on a popular book by itself.  A quick googling found this refutation of the use of "the china study" as a "proof" of the unhealthiness of eating meat.  Curiously, this refutation quotes T. Colin Campbell (not the same as the famous Peaker, but the author of the recent "China Study" book), in his earlier writings, in many ways limiting the statistical validity of such claims.  Here is the summary paragraph:

The China Project is often cited in an inappropriate manner by veg*n dietary advocates. It does not "prove" vegan diets are the "best" diet. Strict vegan diets, hunter-gatherer (evolutionary) diets, and even SAD/SWD diets are not in the set of diets in the China Project, i.e., are outside the range of the data from the China Project. Claims by dietary advocates that the China Study "proves" all omnivore diets are bad and (some) vegan diets are better are a logical fallacy. It would be better if the (interesting) results of the China Project were not misinterpreted or misrepresented by the "popular" health media or by dietary advocates.

I'm not familiar with the current "paleo-diet crowd" but they're not basing their ideas on anthropological data, that's for sure.  I've never heard of any G/H society, past or present, that ate all their food raw.  

Some people are just completely wacko.....


Remember too there seems to be genetic factors in this.

The ability to digest cow's milk is rare in non Caucasians.

Working hypothesis is the long term practitioners of transhumance (drinking another animals milk among other things) are primarily Northern European and Mongolian.  the gene is dominant, so it spread to black slaves in the New World via interbreeding, whereas in Africa it is far less common.

When the US shipped milk powder to Bangladesh and Africa in the 60s, the rumour went round the Americans were trying to poison people.  Lactose intolerance is very common outside of Europe and North America.

Similarly the diet that Americans of European descent cheerfully consume (McDonalds, Pizza etc.) and do not grow fat, if consumed in moderation, causes the world's worst obesity problem in Micronesia.

The effect of that diet on even Hispanics with Indo-American blood is observedly quite devastating.

Similarly adult male Indians (from India) have an extraordinarily high incidence of diabetes.  Again the working hypothesis is that they have an inbuilt genetic ability to survive the recurrent famines (on average, about once every 7 years) in that part of the world. Their bodies 'hoard' calories, which means when they are exposed to too much food, they develop insulin resistance.

Canadian (white) military people living in Northern Canada amongst the Eskimos during WWII have been studied quite intensively.

The almost pure meat and fish diet led to very high levels of heart disease. The Eskimos amongst who they lived, had the same diet, but no elevated levels of heart disease.

The proliferation of high-fructose corn syrup in processed food is a major contributor to the diabetes epidemic in developed countries (especially the U.S.).
as every hog farmer knows, you cannot fatten a pig on corn or grains.  The same is true in humans: the fat you eat is the fat you wear.

Do you have actual PROOF of this?

My understanding of the equation is this:

Calories consumed = Calories used + stored fat

If you consume less than you use, you loose fat/muscle.   If you consume more than you need, some gets stored as fat.

This is a testament to human gullibility - low fat plant foods like grains, corn, rice are the cornerstone of poor populations like rural Chinese.  And guess what, they are THIN, and it is definitely NOT genetics.

Gonna need proof on this one too.

Nonsense. Huge nonsense.

You can have fat quasi-vegetarians, vegetarians or full vegans. As for Chinese, I've seen pictures of rich 19th century Chinese who were plenty overweight. They may have been eating more meat than their peasant farmers, but they were eating lots of rice, too.

High-fructose corn syrup has a high glycemic index; in very plain English, it can cause a lot of yo-yoing of insulin levels.

As for healthy eating, I can -- and do -- eat healthy, ultra-lean grass-fed beef; contrarily, I could eat a vegan diet relying heavily on white flour products and eat a lot less healthily. And, if those vegan diets were high in vegetable oils, I'd be getting more fat than from the ultra-lean meat I eat.

Yes, you do at one point mention *whole* plant foods, but just once; fiberless carbs still DO deserve bashing, or fiber-full carbs deserve more plumping than you give them. (I add additional wheat bran, and oat bran, to my all whole-grain homemade bread, myself.)

And yes, you have gone off on a rant.

I feel I have made the best compromise I can in the modern world.

I have trimmed back meat to just 1 meal a day (usually dinner) and it actually works out to about 5 times a week since I sometimes have pasta for dinner. Of those 5 times a week, I mostly eat chicken and fish, with a little beef every so often.

But my biggest change was reducing the proportion of the meat to the whole meal. Even when I eat meat, it is often only about 20-30% of the calories on the plate, using it more as a flavor enhancer for everything else.

And with the greenmarket opening near me next month, I will have access to locally grown food.

It seems to me that a key emerging question is how do we allocate food and fuel, when both are flat to declining, while world population is (temporarily) growing.   To put it another way, are the have-nots content to see the haves continuously outbid them for food and fuel?

IMO, we are rapidly approaching the point, if we are not there already, where one can directly tie America's extravagant use of energy to problems with food production in less developed areas.  One could argue that the sooner that Third world farmers and fishermen kick the fossil fuel habit, the better off they will be, but the fact remains that we are probably outbidding them for fuel--that they would have used for food production--that we use to maintain our high consumption lifestyle.

This is why I think that the Energy Tax/Abolish the Payroll Tax is a moral issue, or to put it another way, our high energy consumption lifestyle is morally wrong, if for no other reason than the effect it will have on future generations.

I constantly have this argument with people who accept PO:

Proportionally, will the richest or poorest countries be most affected by PO. Some like you argue that the poorest will be cause we will outbid them for resources. Others say that richer, more fossil fuel dependent countries will be disproportionately affected since they don't even have the tools or living memory of how things were done prior to fossil fuels being ubiquitous.

I think that the industrialized world will have a transportation and economic crisis from PO. Then I expect that depending on how we handle that, we may also have an agricultural crisis which leads to a huge mess. I think we can avoid it, but it will require a lot more effort than

I think the Third world will initially have problems with producing and trading export crops. Then I expect that by and large they will go back to a traditional self-sufficiency economy since trading physical goods will be more expensive and hard currency harder to obtain. There will be lots of pain and some population loss, but I think they are in a better position to go back a couple of steps.

I guess, I just think we are falling from a much greater height...

The third world is a misnomer. It includes powerful countries such as China and India that will handle oil depletion better than the USA. It also includes countries that will be devastated by oil depletion and other problems.
Going back a couple of steps would still mean a very comfortable lifestyle over here, not so in the poorest countries.
One thing to consider is that Third World countries are a blend of first and third world. The government is (generally) controlled by the landowners, who are essentially first world, university educated, and unlikely to allow their export crops to be displaced by their tenant farmers merely growing their own food -- at least not without a fight.

In Mexico, the campesinos might keep right on doing what they're doing, but the real population growth is in the vast urban areas. And these people are not growing their own food.

Local gardening is damn near illegal in the US for most people, for instance my situation: Live in a small apartment, could possibly get away with growing some veggies in pots, but they'd be raided by kids, the "gardener" (leaf blower wielding maniac who hates anything green) and pissed in by the local cats. If I spent $500 more a month, I could rent a place with a true yard, but would have to beg pretty please to the landlord to have a food growing garden - and landlord would probably reserve the "right" to have first pick of everything from it.

I notice all public plantings are either nonedible (lawns) or actually poisonous (most "ornamental" trees and plants) to discourage the public from the idea that food comes from anywhere but the local CorpMart.

There are some local Mexican and Asian markets with some local-grown foods, those are actually the best hope of the average person around here to eat local (even if you own your million-dollar split level ranch POS, you'll get run out of town if you turn your lawn into a victory garden).

If things get bad those Asians and so on are going to be the one thing that may save us, since they at least come from a background where every family had a garden. These are the people to learn from now - if you own a house, let some of these folks use your backyard for a garden to grow food in and learn from 'em. If I had ever seen any local garden here I'd hang around and watch what ppl are doing and planting and so on at various times of the year, but I have seen none. Zero. If I drive far out of town I get to see corporate megafarming type operations. I honestly think growing your own veggies is almost considered as much a criminal act as growing your own pot.

If this doesn't point out how much our society is ppl vs corp's I don't know what does!!

"I notice all public plantings are either nonedible (lawns) or actually poisonous (most "ornamental" trees and plants) to discourage the public from the idea that food comes from anywhere but the local CorpMart."

Liability issues and blood-sucking lawyers.  'Nuff said.


Dr. Dean Ornish.

I have my own belief that "meat and leaves" is our natural diet, and kind of laughed at the Ornish diet, but last night watched a lecture by Ornish on his diet, on Google Video, and he may be onto something. For one thing, he doesn't trust simple carbs any more than Atkins did. The difference is, while Atkins was big on fats and proteins, Ornish suggests complex carbs like whole grains and veggies, and very limited meats - even a "vegan" diet. Keep in mind his purpose in coming up with this is to save people who are dying of heart disease. And he has results to prove it - it's much more based in science than Atkins based his diet.

Ornish also talks about the need for exercise, relaxation/meditation, etc.

From the sound of it, a good "snapshot" of the Ornish diet/lifestyle might be the traditional Indian diet/lifestyle - a diet based on veggies and whole grains with limited dairy and very little, to no, meat. And regular exercise, and cultural institutions that value relaxation, like meditation.

If the first world went Ornish, the earth would certainly breathe a sigh of relief! We do spend a lot of resources on our meat based diet, and don't eat enough veggies. Yeah veggies are expensive now but substitute the lawn with the victory garden and that problem largely goes away.

There is a book out called Eating Right 4 Your Blood Type which explains that we have more in common with people of our same blood type than our skin color, race etc. It traces the historical migration paths of the 4 major blood types O, A, B and AB (There are also + and - for each of these)

I was skeptical when I read it but it has made a dramatic impact on my health and lifestyle. Essentially there are no fossil remanins of anyone with anything other than blood type O beyond 12,000 years ago. Blood type AB is only 900 years old. Blood types other than O were mutations that were prevalent after the advent of organized agriculture. Blood type A, which I am, should basically be a vegatarian - our stomachs are not optimized for the complex proteins of meat and dairy, and in fact, since I gave up dairy, my most nagging health issue (acid reflux) has disappeared. My ex wife - for ethical reasons was a vegetarian, and was chronically weak and lacked energy and ocassionally anemic - she was blood type O, which according to Dr D'adamo, should be omnivore 'hunter gatherers' eating a little of everything including meat.

It all somewhat makes sense to me. Lions evolved to be meat eaters as opposed to grass eaters while antelope and gnus are herbivores. Humans, depending on their blood type, may have an optimal diet. I dont follow it exclusively but use it as a guide - the other magic bullet I have found is that our diets are WAY too acidic and the more alkaline veggies and grains I can substitute for acidic things, the better.
(strong alkalines are cucmbers, avocadoes, barley, almonds, almost all greens, etc)

Any time a popular tome makes things that simple it lights up red warning lights in my head.  My quick look through this book found long and detailed stories about human prehistory with no verifiable factual basis given whatsoever.
that was my take as well but 2 doctor friends of mine seem to think there is biological validity and I cant complain with the results.  Are you blood type A, Moshe?
  the gene for blood types is not linked to anything else.  There are massive studies on this,  I don't get off my boat till tuesday but I have a book exclusively on hematology.  Sickle cellers are somewhat immune to malaria but that is a blood disease. The A and B factors are names for surface proteins on the RBC's people without them develop antigens from exposure (through consumption of mammal flesh) to these proteins.  If you transfuse blood with A or B surface proteins into someone who does not have it it causes massive clotting and anaphylaxis.  I would believe better a Dr. who said he can analyze your blood chemistry and stomach/intestine enzymes and create a custom diet.  

There are many alternative fads and things out there phrenology iridology which are total psuedo science.  Others accupuncture for example with proven results.  Before anyone alters their lifestyle over claims by a MD or snake oil salesman research research research.  Incidentally western medicine and our excellent pharmaceudicals kill more people in the US through errors than drunk driving.


did I get far enough of the topic?

More poppycock.

For all you poeple who believe in these "too good to be true" dietary ideas, I STRONGLY suggest browsing The Skeptic's Dictionary, in online form at

"If the first world went Ornish, the earth would certainly breathe a sigh of relief! We do spend a lot of resources on our meat based diet, and don't eat enough veggies."

Yeah, and we'd probably start a few less wars too...

Re: Corn -> Obesity, my wife found that high fructose corn sweeteners contributed to her Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and we have further read that HFCS tend to suppress satiety - the sensation of having had enough to eat. So we've been avoiding foods with HFCS, which helps her quite a bit.

BTW, I always see "Ornish/Pritikin" linked, so I assume their regimens are similar. The only problem I saw with Pritikin was that he felt you couldn't eat too much of the right foods, like whole wheat rice or pasta. I can.

The bottom line is: avoid processed foods, eat modest quantities, a balanced diet (protein, carbs, fat in reasonable proportions), limit meat consumption, favor lower down the food chain, eat organic when practical, get regular exercise. This is for health reasons as well s energy conservation, global hunger, global warming, etc.
Great, another moderate; another centrist; another dead skunk in the middle of the road. Do we need another "Third Way" advocate? What if our bodies are best *served* by eating meat? What if our health depends on avoiding carbs? We've got enough "Middle Way" proponents. Maybe taking a stand might not only serve you but serve us.
Meat is higher up on the food chain and therefore tends to concentrate environmental toxins. Also, meat production consumes large quantities of water, grain, energy, etc. that could be used to feed a lot more people. Personally, I'm a vegetarian. However, for most people this would be very difficult. Therefore, I recommend limiting meat consumption, at least as a beginning step. As for avoiding carbs, that is a personal decision. At the very least we should limit our carbohydrate consumption. Most important, however, is to limit, or preferably elminate, processed foods which contribute to many chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.

- Dead Skunk, follower of the Buddha's middle path

I take your point about meat. However, if we lived in a world where we weren't shitting in the back garden I'm fairly sure meat would still be on my menu.

As for meat consuming loadsa energy, etc., AFAIK, beef and lamb are ruminants, so stick 'em on some grassy knoll and come back and eat 'em later. No need to waste corn and grain feedin' livestock that ain't predisposed to such victuals in the first place.

As for carbs, I like tortillas, I'd hate to consign 'em to the dustbin. A fresh loaf of the "staff of life" is nice as well.

As for "processed foods," I sometimes wonder if these can be called food at all. Cheetos cannot possibly have any value in the digestive track whatsoever.

-Wanker, follower of the Moron's path of Pointless Insult

P.S. I still remain to be convinced a path that avoids extremes can avoid failure, but am ever hopeful and vigilant. :)

AFAIK, beef and lamb are ruminants, so stick 'em on some grassy knoll and come back and eat 'em later. No need to waste corn and grain feedin' livestock that ain't predisposed to such victuals in the first place.

Ahhh, but the feedlot operations ARE feeding cows corn and antibiotics to keep 'em from getting sick/dying.    Hence the $1.00 burger.  

Cows/sheep do a fine job of collecting and brining plant matter to the compost->garden cycle.   But that isn't the way things are done anymore at least in the US of A.    If it was done this way, meat will become expensive again.

Expensive, perhaps. Edible, yes.
There are general rules, but there is also genetic variation.

Another influence (beyond paleo) on my outlook was this excellent BBC radio series on diet and excercise (especially program 3?). It makes the case that ultimately all diet/exercise recommendations will be individual, and perhaps enlightened by genetic scans:

And a little closer to target for The Oil Drum, recycling food waste to biogas:

"We've got enough "Middle Way" proponents."

That's almost as good as VeganMaster's "Moderation Kills" pronouncement up above.  Nothing like the demonization of anything that sounds conciliatory or cooperative to really nail home our future of idealogical extremism.

I'm waiting for 'Zero Tolerance for Tolerance' to come out of these threads..

I mean, if anybody is going to be fine with your decision to keep eating meat, it'll be the Moderates.. they'll probably share some with you. Wanna be a Vegan? I won't stop you.. but it's not for me, thanks.

Are there really more than 51,000 readers right now reading the TOD? I would like to see this number become true one day!
I think that's how many get TOD on their RSS feeds. I think we average about 8-10k hits a day on the actually website. And Super G probably has the number, but I believe there are probably around 1000 registered TOD users.
Wasn't it usually around 800 or 900? Nevertheless, many smart readers!
For the record, TOD now has more than 3,000 registered users.
Holy crap that's good!
I think that Feedburner is having some kind of glitch. The RSS circulation should be in the 700 to 900 range.
Sure is a lot of energy surrounding our opinions of eating habits; I'm not sure if eroei>1 in this thread.

We need to more clearly define the classes of nutrients here: Synthetic versus organic or at least natural, and then animal versus vegetable.

I don't think anybody would argue against the devastating influence that corn syrup and other highly processed carbs - both simple and complex - have had on our health as Americans. But that doesn't mean that we human animals haven't been eating grass seed for a million years. Remember that we came down from the trees when our African home turned from jungle to savannah, and logically, we would've made use of those plants all around us. So I'm not so sure that cereals have only been in our diet for 10,000 years or so, agricultural history notwithstanding.

I've been vegan for many, many years, and not so long ago I spent almost two years on a totally raw diet. I didn't even lose much weight! I ate grains by first soaking them overnight in water, which doesn't deactivate their internal enzymes the way cooking does.

A word now about those incredibly complex digestive enzymes: The most natural internal process is the one that the seed goes through when it breaks down in the soil, releasing its nutrients for the growing sprout. Duplicating that process in my gut requires next to zero effort on the part of my own enzymes, provided the seed's haven't been destroyed by cooking, and that's the whole point.

Clearly, we can digest meat, but does that mean it's the optimum condition? Likewise the size, strength, and bellicosity of meatheads, hominid and otherwise, may be the best way to survive long enough to win the right to reproduce, but is it a strategy for longevity? Let's think about the goals in our lives as something other than alpha males - which apparently most of the contributors to this site are.

There's no question that meat eaten here bids up the cost of rice in Asia. The waste is phenomenal, both in our energy-intensive farm model and in the overall utilization of sunlight, soil, and water. So logically, if we as a group are concerned that commodity shortages will precipitate wars, famines, and general societal unpleasantness, shouldn't we be driving Priuses - or their equivalent - through our bowels, too?

Getting in touch with the reality of the food in our diets means freeing ourselves from the programmed compulsions foisted on us by corporations that exist to produce money, not nutrition. In other words, does craving equate to need? Wouldn't that logic define crack cocaine as a vitamin?

Hunger is just a sensation, and Americans don't starve in large numbers. The flipside is that many people are both obese and malnourished. But by surrounding ourselves with a likeminded community, we can evolve into wholly new habits - and we don't have to "give up" anything at all.

The REAL paleodiet invariably involved hunger - probably on a daily basis. Lab rats live twice as long when they're fed half as much - provided they get sufficient nutrition, of course. And that's the blessing of vegetables - phytochemicals without many calories.

Thanks for reading through this wordy post - It's hard to encapsulate nearly thirty years' practice into a nutshell. But don't most ideas that can be put in a nutshell belong there?


"Getting in touch with the reality of the food in our diets means freeing ourselves from the programmed compulsions foisted on us by corporations"

While I agree with many of your points, this line reminds me that we have been programmed by far more than the shortsightedness of our current business models.  When I hear broad statements about the aggressiveness of meat-eaters, I have to remark on the aggressiveness of the campaigning by some vegetarians/vegans ~against~ meat as well.  I don't hear it in your tone at all (as far as that goes, in a pure text environment), but I have met enough belligerent and combative naturalists, and enough gentle meat-eaters that I'm not willing to conclude a strong indication that veggievores are essentially more pacifist than their counterparts.

I think our older programming from the cultural attitudes of at least the big three Western religions has left us with some ambivalence about facing nature, death, murder and sin, which I feel plays a role in the 'carnivore' 'vegetarian' argument.  There are also aspects of our idealogical 'certainties' that I think keep us out of balance, keep us arguing for one side or the other, the right and the wrong, and where the middle road, or the discovery of balance is treated as 'just letting the devil's nose into the tent', as some of the above posts treated moderation and conciliation in this topic.  As with any discussion that has 'Angels and Devils', the good points that arise from the other team get dismissed as 'biased' or 'tainted', since compromise is scorned.

Joe Cool,
Qualitatively, I agree with your points, but how does one eat responsibly and safely in an industrial-farming environment? The closer we can eat to the dirt, the less concentration of the chemical corruption in our comestibles.

Cultural drama aside, there is cetainly a strong positive correlation between meat-eating and aggression, although perhaps not so easily teased out of complex human behavior. The three types of bear in N. America are a single species, yet their behaviors could hardly be more different. As far as chicken-and-egg questions go about hunting behavior and diet, the point is moot to me: Eating game (testes attached, no estrogen injections) engenders a powerful physical reaction from this individual, no question. That is, we're evolved to more or less automatically adapt to any behavior that appears to offer a survival advantage. But now it's our turn to take the reins and overcome the animal brain's prerogative, because we have the capacity to make that choice.

I guess your points about industrial farming point to a more interesting challenge for me to work on, though I do maintain that there are bigger forces directing a person's aggressiveness today than what is triggered by his diet.  Pollan made some great observations about the organic food industry relying on some of the same mass-production techniques used by all agribusiness, for example, and the 'Natural' end of the business ends up challenged by some familiar shortcomings of large-scale, monocultural production.  His example was chicken farms, but I'm sure there are monocultural equivalents in the vegetable product lines.

I have to wonder how much of the Aggressiveness of Blind, Unfettered Market Capitalism and the Stoic Defense of Ideologies can be fairly faulted for the uncompromising and shortsighted directions that we see in our imbalanced food health industries..

So I'm not so sure that cereals have only been in our diet for 10,000 years or so, agricultural history notwithstanding.

Cereals have always been part of our diets, just not the foundation, as they became after the advent of agriculture.

The REAL paleodiet invariably involved hunger - probably on a daily basis.

While there's no way to know exactly how paleo peoples fared in terms of adequate calories/nutrition, archeological studies of prehistoric campsites, etc. and contemporary anthro studies of remaining G/H societies show that people rarely went hungry (not that it never happened).  More likely, they consume(d) about the right amount for health and energy.  I can't recall ever seeing a picture of a G/H individual who was fat.  They tend to be thin but not skeletal.  Since most current G/H societies live in very marginal environments (unlike our prehistoric ancestors) we could assume that paleo groups were better nourished than contemporary G/H's.

I think the key is to stay away from fad diets and eat a simple balanced diet.  My family has very few takeouts - perhaps twice in a month.  We cook most of our food and make the family meal an important event.  We eat meat and vegetables and always have plenty of fruit.  All our meals include heaps of fresh vegetables and we do not eat 2 or 3 cm steaks all the time.  We have mostly chicken or fish and eat read meat mostly as mince.  We have normal desserts.  We eat a lot of wholemeal pasta and rice and only have wheatbix, porrige (oatmeal) or fruit smoothies for breakfast. (no sugary breakfast cereals).  We do not buy much Coke or Lemonade (soda drinks) reserving this for celebrations.  We mostly drink water with our meals.

I have 4 children with the eldest being 23. NONE of them have ever had a filling or a tooth out.  None of our family is obese including me.

Forget the carb, vegan crap.  Balanced meals and no takeaways is quite cheap and easy to do.  We do not spend too much on food and find home cooked meals far cheaper than takeaways.  I can cook a cheap meat casserole with masses of vegetables and lentils for about $20.00 that will fill to stuffing point 10 people.  For about the same I can cook a chinese meal with the same amount of vegetables, served with wholemeal rice, that feeds at least 6 people.

Give the fads a rest.

Some folks sure have odd diet theories. A look at archeological evidence can be enlightening. Human Ancestors used fire for a couple of million years, Homo Erectus and Neanderthals both left hearths with animal bones and mollusk shells. They ate animal foods and cooked them. They also had short life spans. Most of the early men were dead by 35, and this lifespan was typical until fairly recently.The average life span in America was 50 until the turn of the 20th century.
  All of the diseases that Vegans and Paleo's blaim on modern diets mostly kick in after humans are over this age. There is very little cancer or heart disease or arthritus or Type 2 diabetes in men and women who are members of the breeding pool of our species. The real victory of modern diet and medicine seems to be life spans extended to 75 or 80,well past menopause. Erectile disfunction seems to be associated with age. And if you are poor enough you don't worry about diet.
Any time that I have been able I raise a few vegetables. I also fish regularily, pick wild berries,mushrooms and pecans, hunt and butcher my own meat. There is a sacred connection with the food that I produce and process myself, plus it tastes wonderful.
Estimating life spans of paleo people is problematic at best.  I'm not sure of the exact process, but at least part of it is derived from estimated age at death of skeletal remains, which are not necessarily numerous enough and can be skewed in terms of representation.  Depends on burial practices, preservation, etc.  Average lifespan includes infant mortality--higher rates bring down lifespan ages.  Infant mortality in G/H societies was/is greater that modern societies (sometimes deliberately).  Deaths from injuries, childbirth, infections, etc. are also greater in G/H groups.  Obviously, modern medicine helps in this regard.  That said, some paleo adults undoubtedly lived into their 60s-70s, possibly even 80s.  It's unlikely that diet played a huge role in the shorter average lifespans of paleo people, except possibly to enable them to live longer.    
I thought I'd wait until close to the end to post.  It appears that Don in CO and I are about the only ones of the posters who actually grow anything.  All I saw were "how many angels fit on the head of a pin" arguements regarding food.  

People eat what is available whether it is hunted and gathered or grown.  The Indians in my area of the west coast ate anything that could be eaten and so will everyone else if food becomes scarce.

In many cases, animals make a good deal of sense since they can obtain nutrients where humans can't, that is, they can graze on stuff we can't eat.  In other cases, fish make sense.  And, finally, grains and vegetables make sense where they can easily be grown or gathered easily.

The coming low energy diet will be pragmatic - if it keeps a person alive they will eat it, whatever it is, without philosophical debate.

FWIW, I grow fruit, berries, a small amount of grains, vegetables, nuts, grapes, etc.  I don't have any animals right now but a buddy and I plan on raising Irish Dexters next year (they are a good homestead-sized cow with reasonable milk production and a homestead-sized meat yield at slaughter).  It looks like the bobcats are gone so I may add chickens again - at least I haven't seen any bobcats around for a year.  I still have bears and mountain lions but that's another story.

Yes, a fortunate few here are wealthy enough to own land and can grow stuff.

I look forward to the Dieoff, I really do. I hope to help it along. I don't care if I myself come out in the end, I just wanna help.

"I look forward to the Dieoff, I really do. I hope to help it along. I don't care if I myself come out in the end, I just wanna help."

WTF?  You want hundreds of millions of humans to starve? To what end...we will destroy the earth in that process. Famine is the original cause of war.  I hope we stabilize our population and make a decision to restrict childbirth.  Fleam have you ever been hungry?  I mean really hungry I starved...STARVED for 64 days and went from 211 pounds to 118.  My mother did not recognize me.  Add a couple more weeks and that is the worst way to die.  You are a sick person if you look forward to dieoff.

I remain shocked by how many people openly hope for a future that means death for a huge portion of the world - then have the nerve to try to claim the moral high ground.

It is clear that a large portion of those are sure the end is coming (because of peak oil, currency changes, capitalism, etc.) feel it is righteous retribution for some sins we are committing.

It is a spiteful wish to cast judgement on a culture/society that they are a part of.  Typing that post proves you are a part of our consumer based society and hypocritical by definition.  I think people who say things like this have never been hungry or seen starvation in person.  I agree with you jack....shocking.  Change is needed in the way we consume and produce energy/food/revenue but to wish for it all to come crashing down is sadistic.  In the event that it does the elation of all these doomers will quickly be eclipsed with "Oh SH#$ what do I do now?"  

Hope for the best and plan for the worst.


"It is a spiteful wish to cast judgement on a culture/society that they are a part of"

Yes. I think part of the hatred people have for much of modernity comes from their guilt about being part of it. If you say "The world is evil", you somehow cleanse yourself of the role you play in it.

Benefitting from the system is fine. But saying the system is good is the ultimate sin.

I think the same is true with many Americans. They live the good life provided to them by the American system, don't really distance themselves from it in any way that would be painful, but somehow excuse themselves from any responsibility by berating what they are a part of.

Finally, the reaction to capitalism is the same. To my mind, inheriting money (passing on capital) is the single most capitalist enterprise in the world, but everyone likes to criticize capitalism, but no one ever gives the money back.

In my opinion, that is why there is so much hyper-moralism regarding criticisms of modernity, capitalism, and the U.S. People want the benefits of the system, but not the guilt they perceive associated with it. By criticizing constantly and pining for doom, they can convince themselves that they are "other".

If two people participate equally in an enterprise, one is not better for just talking about how bad it is if they don't do anything to distance themselves from it - they are only hypocritical.

I really don't wish for the death of a huge portion of humans but...

We humans are in overshoot and show minimal signs of taking sufficient steps to correct that situation. Once the situation corrects we will have a range of choices:

  • less than 1 billion at current US lifestyle
  • less than 1.5 billion at average current European lifestyle
  • between 2 and 3 billion at current Chinese average lifestyle

Somehow we will get from here at 6.5 billion to there. Various mechanisms occur to me, having varying degrees of unpleasantness and moral repugnance, but premature DEATH OF MANY seems quite inevitable. Death of more than half the current global population, it seems.

Righteous, retribution and sins have little or nothing to do with it. I don't wish for this, I am doing as much as I can to avert the worse case options, I claim no moral high or low ground. It happens. Human greed, selfishness, lack of foresight, religious competition, all contribute.


Wealth has nothing to do with it.  Making decisions as to how to live does.  I chose to give up a career in the chemical industry (I was a plant manager at the time) to live a simple life in the boondocks.  I haven't had a vacation for close to 40 years, haven't been to a motion picture in 35 years and the money we have made from low paying jobs has gone to toward improving our ability to be somewhat self-sufficient.

I built all of our houses and devloped all of our land.  None of it came because I was wealthy.

I'll give you the key too it all:

No one fucking knows! The "best diet" is hardly static--and the same diet does not work for everyone. People vary. The best diet is most assuredly variable too. Case in point, lactose intolerance relative to race. There is no fucking way anyone can say to me that there is one standard diet that is "the best" for all... come on...

As for the morality of it, I think it comes down to preference. I prefer not to torture animals, and am against the institutional slaughter houses. Ideally, one is self-sufficient and has crops and livestock. In this case, I think it is entirely humane and appropriate to eat meat--after all, it is something that our ancestors have most definitely been practicing and perfecting for countless generations. On top of this, chickens, pigs and cows have been morphed into their current forms by intention--and that intent I think is clear. Yumminess is only a testament to the virtue of eating meat. One more point I'd like to stress... What is our obsession with dieing healthy? What an idiotic sentiment. As held as a morality, it is ridiculous... I'd rather enjoy life and die earlier, than live a healthy sterile life and die older. If you drive, or if you walk around or if you do anything at all you might die. The newspaper seems to inform me every day of yet ever more death. By WHO statistics two people die every fucking second of starvation around the world--all year long, as every second passes two poor fuckers somewhere are starving because this idiotic species (us) can't figure out how to intelligently grow or have a steady state economy... such dumbfucks we are... Hedonism is the way of the world.

So Americans tend to be fat? I think someone earlier stated that there is a good reason for that. Times are good, but they are ah'changin, as we see with the financial markets right now.

We are slothful, eat the most criminally awful shit known to man and since we have no culinary heritage--except the nuclear family's ready-insta-meals, we are lardasses. On top of that we hardly exercise--we use goddamn cars more than any people on the planet. So, as I like to say: what's the key to loosing weight? Well, I really don't know, since I am fit--but I'm just going on a "hunch" that it perhaps has to do with A)exercise and B) NOT eating fucking tubs of food from restaurants that are acronyms or are located in more than a few towns. Or that only employ a fryalator3000 as a cooking technique.

I'm actually interested in the evolutionary history we have w/r/t to the diet we eat... I'm assuming, that, well--when times are desperate (and they are, most of the time, for almost all species except us) one resorts to eating anything. This especially goes for many small, medium, large, and supersized land based mammal. Mammals have a vast history (as does all of life--it's all related in some bizarre way) and I'm sure that a diet is not something set in stone. So for people to say "This is the way, I'm sure, I do it" is just a whole load of BS--it's just a projection of choices they made for whatever reasons. It's not exactly bible interpretation--but it is damned close. The issue here is not what type of food we eat, but what conscious choices our society makes in its diet--and how that is tied into energy...

To compound the issues at hand, we waste massive amounts of energy creating toxic food because we are slovenly slothful stupid stuckups. (I believe that is the major point that needs to be stressed w/r/t to the economies of scale for food products in this country--the US, and around the world.)

Flow chart:
Energy waste  Poor Health + major war expenditures + falling currency + rising debt + depleting energy supplies + shitcrazy storms - rational deliberation = ut oh, no more caviar? "The gun is really unnecessary!"

So why are our wisdom teeth still insistent on growing in (mostly for males)? There is no need for a third molar unless one is chewing on lots of  gazelle meat way back in the day on the savannah. In fact, my wisdom teeth are coming in and that is perhaps why I'm so fucking angry atm =]

One only has to simply google (I just simply did) to find such conclusive evidence (hah) that the internet is capable of providing:

"There are a number of popular myths about vegetarianism that have no scientific basis in fact. One of these myths is that man is naturally a vegetarian because our bodies resemble plant eaters, not carnivores. In fact we are omnivores, capable of either eating meat or plant foods. The following addresses the unscientific theory of man being only a plant eater."

Oh Yeah! Internet Research, Baby! Cha-ching.

Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah... so basically, our teeth back in the day (and I'm certain about this) were pretty fucking intense... As if sharp to bite into something other than a carrot and a permutated soybean.

Read more about mammals, and find links to elsewhere, here:

I hope I haven't upset any of the diet fundamentalists here.

The greatest culinary traditions go back very, very far--and  they (OMG!--not healthy!) employ (gasp), yes, meat AND vegetables etc. I'd like to imagine that we are omnivores, seeing how I can easily digest most vegetables just as easily and comfortably (yay! toilet humor!) as any meat I eat. Plus, the meat tastes good--especially if it is cooked properly! Guess what, things can taste good when you cook them... sigh... As Anthony Bourdain recently said "veganism is an affront to 95% of the culinary traditions of the world." Of course, Bourdain himself is an affront to most people in general--but still, he has a point. I appreciate cooking food as a craft and an art in some circumstances. It takes a good chef to be given a friends fridge and create some good food (we're assuming the friend actually has some actual food to cook, of course... a big IF in this world... sigh...)

Also, hi this is my first comment =]

and I'd like to just end on a note that I'd be willing to die 10 years earlier than I'd have to--of a heart attack, in order to have the privilege of eating the meat of the good 'ole, cute piggy-pig every or almost every day of my life. Bacon is good, God wants us to eat it! --I swear, Jesus told me to tell you, I really do swear!!!

/me passes out on the floor in rapture

Ps. Don't forget, all the flavor is in the fat.

Why do I get the feeling you are not looking forward to sitting around the front room of your local nursing/old folks home with the other living dead?
I'm not planning on it;        BrianT
Perhaps because I believe "life" is more than being absolutely healthy to the point of trying to stave off disease. =]

IMHO, this obsession with diet and health in this country is so damn freakin' hysterical... While we are the most grossly obese and gluttonous people on the planet, we also are obsessed with health. And dieting?! It has become a religion, with different sects bickering over stupud shit they have no idea about (see some of the above comments for greater illustration.)

As I said before, and someone earlier stated, we're all gonna die (obviously) and once you start getting older than the average age of our ancient ancestors--our microbiology starts fucking shit up--and eating asparagus and arugula while avoiding "cooked meats" aint gonna stop your brain from turning off.

Alas, I'll try not to be too much of a curmudgeon, and cut this short here.

The whole discussion of which diet is "right" brings too mind fat people buying diet products or exercise equipment over TV... I don't know how many billions of dollars are spent in the US alone on dietary crapola--but a lot is spent... And it amounts to nothing! We're still fat slobs! (not me, but many in my cohort--Americans...)

Again, as was stated earlier, there are some key things to health that are pretty fucking simple:

  1. Exercise
  2. Everything in moderation
  3. Try to limit high-level radiation exposure
  4. Don't inhale radioactive atoms
  5. Get a dog(s)

These have all been shown to be clinically true in my own mind in a dream I had last night.

Good day, sirs, madams.

If interested Organically Speaking has released an audio conversation with Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

We our introducing a new audio comment system today, you can now leave an audio comment on any of our posts. You will find an "Insert Audio Comment" link at the bottom of the usual "Add Comment" space. All you need is a microphone!

Try it out and let Michael and John know what you think about the show!

All the best,