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Commentary and Links on Norms Latest Obsession

On Mother's Day we ate organically, at least the salad and steak were organic. I'm not sure about the lovely garlic bread we also consumed. I grew up during a time when grass fed beef was commonly available and the corn fed was the new kid on the block, but my sons had never had grass fed beef. Corn fed beef has more fat which probably makes grass fed beef a better choice. The cost of the grass fed beef however is double that of the corn fed, and it may be healthier for you (because of the fat content) but, didn't measure up in the taste department. It is considerably tougher, their is no melt in your mouth component here. I know it's a result of the difference in fat content, but that explains why corn fed beef dominates the market.

Most people go for the taste over more healthy choice every time. The nutrional content is similar, but if you're concerned about lowering your fat intake the grass fed is the better choice. It's the better choice if you have the means to pay double for your food that is. A similar choice is evident when you buy eggs, I choose the organic free range eggs, mainly because I'm appalled by how chickens are treated, I don't think there any significant nutritional difference, but I pay three times as much for them as I would for the alternative. It's easy to take the moral high ground if you have money, but for those watching their pennies it's not even a choice. I know that part of the problem is subsidizing crops. It would be better if industrial farming wasn't directly subsidized, but economies of scale would still result in significant price differences.

I often hear the argument, that GM crops are being forced on the farmers that they have no choice, but certainly they have a choice of whether they plant GM crops or not.
I know the arguments, one I believe is exaggerated. It is one that receives a one-sided presentation in most of the current documentaries such as The Future of Food and Food Inc. etc, but lets say the Monsanto et al unfairly bully the farmer. If Monsanto claims someone is using their seed and the farmer claims they're not, or that the plants are there do to genetic drift the farmer has recourse to the courts. I understand the argument here too, the farmers don't have the resources to defend themselves, but why can't they band together pick a critical case or two and share the costs, and why don't they get Friends of the Earth, and other organizations to help them with the legal costs. That's where opponents of GM Crops should put their resources in my opinion. Finally if the court rules against them and they think it unjust they need to contact their representatives to change the law. That is another thing that the numerous organizations could put their resources behind, but instead we get a noun and a verb and Monsanto

Finally, please when you make your arguments distinguish between arguments directed at industrial farming and GMOs I share most of your objections to industrial farming, including crop subsidies, use of corn for ethanol etc, but conflating that with GMO's is not helpful.

And remember Organic Non-Organic is not an either or question.

  • Updates on Golden Rice and vitamin A here and here
  • Biofortified Lettuce not a bitter pill.
  • King Corn

    A worthwhile documentary, you can currently get it streaming from netflix if you have an account.

  • News flash: Organic food can still make you fat
  • Monsanto Wins FDA Soy Omega 3 Approval When this reaches market will you continue to take your omega three capsules or will you purchase a soy product made using Monsanto's technology, or . . .
  • E.U. Signals Big Shift on Genetically Modified Crops
  • Thinking Beyond Organic
    In other words, we need the best biology to achieve a truly sustainable agriculture. This includes not only conventional tools for seed improvement such as pollination, tissue culture, mutagenesis, and grafting (mixing two species to create a new variety) but also, modern molecular tools such as marker assisted breeding and genetic engineering.

    This is one of the points that Karl Haro Von Mogel, a geneticists, beekeeper and blogger, makes in his recent blog post. Because both genetic engineering and more conventional approaches to plant breeding lead to the creation of seed that carry new combinations of traits, it does not make sense to reject either one based on the reasoning that the processes are "unnatural".

    Every time a breeder makes a cross between two plants he or she is creating an organism that has never before existed. And every time a breeder crosses two plants, the genetic combination represented by the offspring has never before existed. And that's how nature, how evolution works - by creating new combinations.

    The question is not whether GE crops can be used in organic agriculture (they cannot as they are currently banned by the National Organic Program Standards), but rather -can GE crops be used to help shift our current agricultural systems towards enhanced sustainability?

  • As you know we have several individuals beside myself posting on the blog. We agree on most of the topics we post on, but sometimes we dont'. The subject of GMOs is one of those, Red has different views and so as not to confuse the ocassional visitor to the blog who assumes all the views are mine Red has started a discussion on the Forum The Argument Against GMOs You can make your views known there as well.



There are actually significant differences between grassfed and corn-fed beef. Beta caroteen is higher; Omega 3&6 ratios are even; CLA and Vitamin E are higher

I do remember reading somewhere about the higher omega 3 levels, but wonder how significant it is in overall nutrition.

Do you have links to any peer reviewed scientific papers on the subject?

Any added nutritional benefit would have to substantial in my opinion to warrant spending twice as much. I could eat the beef and take a vitamin e cap and omega cap for far less that getting that through the meat.

The comments section is worth pondering. Below are some concepts worth researching:

Another important factor is grass fed beef is bringing people back to the table and eating protein. We are eating far too many carbs, most high in Omega 6, to the point most people do not have enough protein in their diet.

Again, eating a balanced diet is at least 1/2 the battle.

Molecularly distilled, long chain omega 3s are readily available for next to nothing. With that said, the omega 3 argument is not the major health reason to eat grass fed beef. Grass fed beef contains CLAs, which appear to be healthy when derived from grass fed beef.


This is just more "food for thought."

i do agree that it's overhyped. However I buy and eat grass-fed beef from a very local farm where i see what the cows are up to and the meat tastes amazing, too. As far as Omega-3s, we have to limit vegetable oils, eat very little soy, no processed foods, eat nuts, beans, fish, several vegetarian meals e/ week, add flax to baked goods, etc all of which do contain a lot of omega 3s. I think she's saying if someone is misled to think they can get a lot of Omega 3 from beef, that is unfortunate. It's obviously still better to eat it in moderation.

While I'm not a huge fan of flax seed (it does fill eye pillows nicely!), it is admittedly an OK addition to Great Harvest's multi-grain bread. Just as mono-culture farms are problematic, so is a mono-culture diet. Variety is the spice of life and a key to overall nutrition.

if improving the o6:o3 ratio is the goal, we would be better served by minimizing consumption of soybean and other PUFA-rich vegetable oils, and limiting our intake of omega-6-rich meats like grain-fed chicken -- rather than obsessing over grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef.

Monica, as an actual pastured grass-fed beef farmer I would like to thank you for your honesty. It is unfortunately true that in our efforts to promote the superiority of pastured beef over industrially raised beef many of us have over stated the "Omega Factor". Those of us who have taken the risk to step outside of the industrial food chain have usually done so for both ethical and health reasons and the amount of nutritional education that the average farmer has is going to pale in comparison to one such as yourself. Intentions may be good even if the information some of us have is incomplete.

And so on. There are some less than good comments pro and poo-pooing grass fed beef. The ones I posted are closer to the target.


I could eat the beef and take a vitamin e cap and omega cap for far less that getting that through the meat.

Have I steered (oof - no, pun NOT intended) you toward some diet re-consideration?

Believe it or not, this thread has inspired my next audio picks. Stay tuned for the weekend. Cause I can go on about ways to cook free range meat so that it's tasty and tender.

You have inspired me both gastronomically and musically. No, not "Turkey in the Straw" performed by Liberace or maybe "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir:)

"Turkey in the Straw" performed by Liberace

Oh my! 1st I'm thinking "How does he do that with that wart of a ring on his pinky?" Next, that Liberace might've been more hip that I've given him credit for. Lastly, the turkey's demise is imminent in his little improv. Gobble gobble!

Liberace was a big part of my parent's generation. I still remember how much I disliked his weekly television program, how off putting his costumes were, the blasphemy of decorating a piano with all manner of gaudy doodads. But he could play a bit.

I think we actually do agree on most of the ideas around this issue. Your arguement for is scientific, my arguement against is primarily economic and that is the part of the videos I posted that I thought was well stated.

I don't have any huge concerns with the science. Mostly just that I think scienticly proven advantages can be negated by economic disadvantages. As I said in the first few posts I think valid scientific points can completely miss the real question at hand. Farmers can get higher yields and be worse off financially. Organic tomatoes can have the same vitimane content as any other but that doesn't mean that an organic meal isn't much more nutricious meal than average.

If I was asked the question "should mankind use GE to develop crops that better serve as food?" my answer would be yes.

If I was asked, " Should corporations be given the right to develop patent and market life forms for their own profit?"

My answer is no, not without a whole hell of a lot of rules in place first, including some assurances that their new found profit will be used in part to feed the hungry.

I have not commented much on the GMO issue that has elicited so much recent debate on OGM. Frankly, I find most of the health concerns regarding GM crops to be unconvincing (very unconvincng, in fact). On the other hand, the thing which worries me the most about factory farming, is the widespread use of hormones and (especially) of antibiotics in the routine raising of chickens and cattle. Even if the conditions under which these animals are raised weren't appalling from a 'humanitarian' point of view, it strikes as absolutely insane to allow the use of antibiotics in the routine raising of animals - period. It is one thing that 'superweeds' are gradually developing resistance to Roundup. That was, and is, utterly predictable. But people don't rely on Roundup to fend off human diseases. Why "preventitive" administration of antibiotics to livestock was ever permitted I'll never understand. To me, that was the best part of Food Inc.: if you have to rely on the routine use of antibiotics to raise chickens, hogs, or cattle, then your method of raising them should be banned.

The use of antibiotics to raise chickens, hogs, and cattle is not a GMO issue but one of industrial food production. I know you're aware of it and the topics are often discussed together but I think it's important to make the distinction.

It's not really germane to your theme, Norm. But the "melt in your mouth" feel of an outstanding steak can certainly come from grass-fed beef. It's just that you have to do so-called "dry-aging" to get to get really tender steaks. Expensive steak houses still do it - of course, the steaks are $50 a pop - but they are excellent.

You're absolutely right about that I have on occasion purchased dry-aged steaks. They are just as expensive as the grass fed but you're right they are excellent.

Come to Iowa, or I'll send you some beef in the fall. I buy directly from the farmers who raise grass fed beef. They do use a fine butcher who ages the beef, so that is helpful. The other things is that free range beef needs to be cooked at a lower temperature for a slightly longer period of time (you can use a meat thermometer until you get the timing down) so that the beef stays juicy and tender. Lastly, because I buy directly from the source, money is not a challenge. I should do a comparison; I my be paying the same or less per pound.

And the cooked beef? Sweet and tender - I have yet to use a steak knife.


I was vegan for 6 years (18 to 24) and now at 26 eat red meat once in a while. Because it's infrequent (and because I truly appreciate/love the meal) I don't mind spending the extra money on a dry aged boneless rib-eye. I think I have to disagree you with on the "tastiness" of corn fed cattle. Grass fed cows not only put more carbon back into the earth they also arguably lead better lives. This for me tastes pretty great (save kobe, I haven't tasted better). Each food choice we make has its own health and environmental upsides and downsides:

fish - lots of upsides health wise in terms of fatty acids and protein but it's also unsustainable (some species more than others) and full of mercury

tofu - yes the buzzword is Monsanto (responsible for over 75% percent of the soybean crop in the US) and soy is also linked to higher cancer rates (too much estrogen)

beans- too many carbs to protein ratio

chickens- lead sad miserable lives in the factory setting

red meat - clogs the arteries, reliance on corn, sad miserable factory cows

I love red meat and though I'm not religious I say my own version of grace before a meal. Though I don't want to physically slit the throat of the cow I eat I would like to be able to visit a local farm and see an animal's surroundings before its slaughter. Nevermind religion but there is something to be said for reverence and ceremony.

King Corn is a helpful and fairly sad film in providing information on problems with today's farming economy. Their short follow-up, Big River, summarizes the problems from the major flooding 2 years back. Oil ain't the only problem in the gulf waters.

I understand the argument here too, the farmers don't have the resources to defend themselves, but why can't they band together pick a critical case or two and share the costs, and why don't they get Friends of the Earth, and other organizations to help them with the legal costs.

Farmers may be able to enact a class action lawsuit; the resources will need to come from outside. Check the math in King Corn to get an idea of annual income for individual farmers and then determine just how many farmers it would take to go against a major corporation [read: economic system].

I'm not entirely against GMO farming, but it should receive scrutiny just as other new human consumption items need to receive scrutiny. As the superweeds develop, there will be a need to stay ahead of the curve without screwing the cost benefit analysis.

Anyhoo, the book that Gates mentioned is on my radar now. I also bought myself a copy of my personal favorite Dirt! The Movie in addition to an FSM pendant just so I could share this information to fill in the gaps of the more popular flicks.

OK - maybe I should post all in one: "Organic food can still make you fat." Yes, any damn food can can make you fat. Eating a variety of foods in moderate portions with some daily physical activity is pretty much the only way to avoid becoming fat - unless you inherited the skinny genes. People look for the magic bullet, then go and consume lots of it as if doubling or tripling up will improve their lives that much more. sigh...

My "beef" with groceries at the moment is that processed foods and junk foods are generally cheaper than unprocessed or packaged foods. If your kid needs books or medicine and you'd also like to feed your family tonight, the remainder of your paycheck may dictate buying the lowest cost food to stave off immediate hunger. This results in shit for dinner and more hunger afterward as people are unsatisfied int he long run, not to mention possibly lacking in nutrients. am I digressing?

tangent alert!

look, this man purchases steaks. why take him seriously at all? :)


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