America is a protein-centered nation. Foods high in protein are marketed as healthful based on the fact that they are high in protein. Most health food stores have shelves devoted to high-protein drinks and shakes. Weight-lifting magazines are inundated with advertisements for high-protein drinks and foods, with the not-so-subtle marketing message that protein in the diet is directly transformed into muscle on the body.
However, the actual protein requirements for humans are quite modest and most Americans eat far in excess of the body’s actual requirements. Protein in excess, however, is acidifying for the body and it has been shown repeatedly that when our country is compared to populations from countries that eat less protein, especially protein from animal products, those populations have far less degenerative disease than found in the American population.
David Wolfe, pointed out in The Sunfood Diet, an informative paragraph from Morris Krok’s Diet, Health, and Living On Air that explains some of the danger of protein:
“In the metabolism of fats, sugars, and starches, the waste which is left behind is carbon dioxide and water. This however is not the case with protein, which leaves as its end-products uric acid and urea, which, if retained in the system, are very harmful. Thus not only is protein not well utilized for bodily heat, but it is also a potential danger to the health of the liver and kidneys, and because of this, is the greatest factor in acidifying the entire membranous tract.”
Since the human body requires protein, the body, when properly functioning, is equipped to handle uric acid and urea. The problems begin to emerge, however, when the body is not functioning properly or the levels of protein are in such high amounts that the body can’t properly eliminate the uric acid created when it is broken down by the body. Dr. Norman Walker explained this in Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices:
Physiologically, the eating of meat increases the acidity of the body. In the processes of digestion and the breaking down of the meat into its original amino acids, a vast amount of uric acid is generated in the body. If the body could eliminate this immediately, it might do only little harm. But what actually happens is that the muscles absorb enormous amounts of this uric acid, and in the course of time they are saturated with it. Eventually this acid forms into crystals with sharp needlelike points which cause the pain and discomfort known as rheumatism, neuritis, sciatica, nephritis (Bright’s disease) or some diseases of the liver.
To further complicate matters, it is estimated that between 75% to 85% of all exposure to toxins from food sources come from eating animal products. This happens in part because foods grown for animal consumption are often allowed many times the level of pesticides than foods destined for human consumption are allowed, and animals that eat these foods concentrate the toxins in their bodies. Because humans are at the top of the food chain and, at least for Americans, eat a large percentage of daily calories from foods composed of animal products, we are exposed to a large amount of toxins through these foods.
Also, animals, like humans, encase toxins in fat that can’t be eliminated through normal channels to help isolate them. This makes foods high in fat, such as butter and milk a potentially dangerous source of toxin exposure. The book Diet for a Poisoned Planet by David Steinman, broke foods down into three categories of toxin/pesticide contamination based on colors: Green Light (safe), Yellow Light (caution), and Red Light (danger). Red Light or potentially harmful high-fat foods include butter, cheese, ice cream, and whole milk. Steinman remarked of butter:
Among the approximately 76 million Americans who eat butter regularly, the risk of cancer — which I worked out using a standard cancer risk assessment formula — translated into as many as seventy-one excess cancer cases a year in one million persons; we should expect roughly 5,400 Americans alive today to get cancer from the pesticides lodged in butter.
Another important issue with animal products is the fact that the majority of farm raised animals are not allowed to eat the foods they would normally eat in the wild. This directly affects the nutrition of the animals as food for humans. For example, the main reason given by most for eating fish is to obtain the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids fish provide. However, farm-raised fish are usually fed grain, which is not something fish would eat in the wild. This practice significantly decreases the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the fish.
Similarly, cows fed on grain, when compared to grass-fed-only cows, also have a marked decrease in the amount of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a similar reduction in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamin E, and selenium. And Americans would be fortunate if the only unnatural food being fed to cattle were grains, despite the problems generated by this practice. Modern factory-farming methods, however, have given rise to any number of perversions of diet for animals destined for our food chain. For instance, for many years cattle that were sick, diseased, or which had died from unknown causes, called downer cows, were ground up and fed back to other cattle in the form of what were described as high-protein feeds.
Howard Lyman, the former rancher who was sued along with Oprah Winfrey for remarks made on Oprah’s program on Mad Cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE), made some telling remarks about BSE and “downer” cows in Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat when he wrote:
I couldn’t help but wonder if BSE, or something very much like it, might already be present in the United States. There had never been (and still has never been) any confirmed cases of BSE in the United States. But every year about a hundred thousand cows in this country die mysteriously of what is known as Downer Cow Syndrome. These cows — like the steers in Marsh’s experiment — look fine one day and drop over dead the next. I saw this happen many times on my operation in Montana, far more often in the feedlot cattle than in the grass-fed breeding cows. Since slaughterhouses don’t accept animals unless they arrive alive and ambulatory, I would typically — like other feedlot operators — sell my downer cows to the renderer. And so they were undoubtedly coming back to my feedlot and others in the form of feed.
Due to concerns that Mad Cow disease was being spread by feeding cattle to cattle, the practice was eventually banned. However, the regulations in place are often lightly enforced and repercussions for breaking this prohibition are almost nonexistent. And while feeding cattle to cattle has been banned, it is still legal to feed downer cows to hogs and other farm animals. Chickens are also routinely fed cow’s blood, which is sprayed onto their food to add protein to it.
Animals are also subjected to living conditions which also affect their quality and nutrition. As Rev. George Malkmus pointed out in Why Christians Get Sick:
Chickens that lay eggs sold in the market usually never see the light of day. These animals are raised in wire cages where they can hardly move, so that all energy will go into egg production. Their food and water is brought to them automatically by conveyor. Various chemical substances, including antibiotics are added to feed and water.
This is certainly far removed from the back yard flock our ancestors kept, which were able to eat greens, bugs, worms as well as having sunlight and a rooster, each adding nutrition to the egg.
The full repercussions of the horrors of factory farming may not ever fully be known. For one, the medical and scientific community rarely makes a connection between diet and disease, and if the connection is made, the powerful agribusinesses’ investment in well-placed government officials usually maintains enough damage control to keep the general public feeling safe and eating their products. For years the British government denied that Mad Cow disease posed any threat to human health. It was only after people started dying from the disease were they finally forced to admit the connection between Mad Cow disease and its human counterpart, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
If any lesson is to be learned from all of this, it is that consumers cannot wait to find out that what they are eating isn’t safe because it can easily be seen that no government agency is going to step in and tell everyone the truth about the foods we eat on a daily basis. The solution is to admit to ourselves that our foods are no longer safe and take matters into our own hands.