Sunday, July 27, 2008

all the news that is fit to print

I've been holding onto some news stories in order to do a "vegetarianism in the news" post, and I think I have enough now to provide you all with some interesting links to check out.

In the Huffington Post, Kathy Freston discusses why a vegan diet is much healthier for you than the infamous Atkins diet. I love this passage:
Basically, every reputable health agency knows that a mountain of evidence indicates that the saturated fat and cholesterol in animal flesh, eggs and milk clogs your arteries and increases your risk of heart disease, among an array of other problems.

Heart disease is of course just one meat-related health problem; eating animals also raises one's risk of cancer. For example, a massive Harvard study in 2006 found that people who frequently eat skinless chicken (often touted as the "healthy" way to cook chicken) had a whopping 52% higher rate of bladder cancer. The evidence that animal protein is carcinogenic is strong, and people who eat lots of it are raising their risk.

There's been a lot of coverage of the vegan "chicken" burger at KFC in Canada. I have to admit that I've found this story amusing since it first developed. Sure, it's great that KFC agreed to offer a veggie option at its restaurants, but am I not right in thinking that 99% of vegans wouldn't set foot in a KFC in the first place? I mean thanks for the veggie burger, but since I'm health conscious I don't really eat fast food, and since you still support the factory farming of chickens, I'm not giving you my money anyway.

Good for Johanna McCloy! But holy crap...
[Her efforts have] encountered pockets of hostile resistance.

Last month, after an article about McCloy appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle magazine, reader Marc Kimberly of Concord wrote: "For goodness' sakes, is there no limit to which annoying vegetarians won't go in their efforts to try to convert people from enjoying meat in favor of the bland mishmash of unappetizing and virtually tasteless 'food' these elitist snobs choke down their gullets?"

McCloy says she was equally dumbfounded when, during an appearance on a Denver radio station, her efforts were labeled un-American. Her only objective, she says, is to give fans a choice.

This one is a little boggling: A vegetarian named Jesse Simons won a hot dog eating contest in New York State. He gives up vegetarianism for contests like this one, and his prize was a gym membership and a voucher for 50 free hot dogs.

I can't be bothered to comment, but this article sympathizes with male vegetarians for being the absolute lowest forms of life. P.S. I haven't checked out the Harvard study that the writer mentions, but my own research on soy makes me think that everything will be okay.

Finally, from the U.S. News and World Report - Making meat without killing animals could fix a host of problems. This article mainly covers the scary prospect of creating "meat" in labs, instead of in factory farms, in order to solve the health and environmental problems of a meat based diet, without actually requiring people to go vegetarian. It's nice that the writer can quite happily make this statement:
It would make sense, of course, for the whole world to become vegetarian: A plant-based diet is more healthful, more economical, and more environmentally benign. (Cows are major contributors to global warming because they generate methane.)
But to otherwise imply that laboratory created meat is a better way to get away from the environmental and health consequences of factory farmed meat seems silly and scary to me. Not to mention unappetizing:
They used tissue engineering to grow two quarter-size disks of muscle on a polymer scaffold, then sautéed the steaks in a honey-garlic sauce, quartered them, and served dinner for eight. It was not a gourmet experience. The scaffold didn't degrade enough, Catts says, and the unexercised muscle had a texture reminiscent of snot. "It was fabric with jelly," he says. "Four people spit out the bits." That was five years ago, and he hasn't eaten meat since.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Veggies according to marketing groups

A while back on my cycling blog, I did a post about a market research report I'd found which discussed cyclists as a target market.

Lo and behold, similar stuff exists for vegetarians!

I came across a news story about an international market research group which had recently published a slew of reports on different veggie groups. Along with some miscellaneous reports, they have written on the following groups:

Their work shows the following dietary preferences in the United States:
- Avid meat consumers (14%) – consume meat with “every” meal
- Regular meat consumers (47%) – consume meat with “most” meals
- Moderate meat consumers (25%) – consume meat with “about half” of meals
- Semi-vegetarians (13%) – consume meat with “fewer than half” of meals
- Vegetarians and vegans (1%) – “never” consume meat
- Vegetarians are those who never eat meat, while vegans do not consume animal products of any kind. Combined, these groups make up a small, but dedicated portion of the population, comprising 2 million individuals, or about 1% of the total U.S. adult population.

This is the summary of the vegetarian and vegan consumers report:

The vegetarian and vegan segment has the potential to grow to nearly six times its current size, which would bring the total number of such consumers to almost 18 million adults.

Vegetarians and vegans are the most frequent purchasers of meat and dairy alternatives. As a consumer segment, they are extremely receptive to trying new grocery products and they self-report as being the first among their friends to do so. Most are willing to pay premiums for items that embody their ideals, including “humane” products.

The vegetarian and vegan group tends to skew female and toward the younger end of the age spectrum when compared with the base adult population. The group is nearly two-thirds women, and more than half are under the age of 35. This skew toward younger people may account for this segment’s greater interest in humane and environmental issues, as opposed to health, which is more important to older age groups.

Vegetarians and vegans are more issue-driven than any other consumer group. They are first and foremost motivated by animal welfare issues and to a lesser extent environmental issues. Because these issues are a priority for vegetarians and vegans, they are more likely than the typical U.S. adult to contribute time or money to related causes and they integrate these issues into their dietary decisions on a daily basis.

Vegetarians and vegans are motivated by a number of different concerns, but as a group they cite animal welfare as the biggest primary motivator in choosing a vegetarian diet. This is in contrast to non-vegetarians, who clearly indicate that health is the primary (and in some cases only) motivator for meat-reducing behavior.

Vegetarians and vegans have shown a willingness to make social sacrifices in support of their philosophies; many seek out support networks of friends who share similar convictions to help them remain steadfast in their lifestyles and dietary choices.

To engage this consumer segment, food producers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and others involved in selling vegetarian food products should adopt sales and marketing strategies that appeal to vegetarians based on their primary motivations.

Vegetarian food industry players should also utilize established vegetarian patrons as word of mouth advocates for their products to reach other vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers through the patrons’ social networks.

The Beef Industry will be the beef cops?

I don't remember what the food safety department is called in the United States, but several years ago they decided to stop doing safety inspections of slaughterhouses - to make sure that various safety procedures were in place - and decided to let the slaughterhouses self police themselves, i.e.
If you see a sick cow heading onto the disassembly line, we trust that you'll pull him off the line, instead of just prodding him on to get the couple hundred bucks his meat is worth!

Even when federal U.S. safety inspectors were on the job, you got horrendous practices like this. When the feds gave over safety inspection responsibility to the slaughterhouses themselves, the problem of downers got worse, and terrible stories like this popped up more.

As a Canadian, why do I care? Well, we're now following the American example. Health Canada is about to stop doing safety inspections at slaughterhouses, in favour of the slaughterhouses doing it themselves. "Now they have to do the inspections and record those inspections. We verify by doing checks. It puts the accountability on the industry."
The accountability is on the industry itself. I think that's great. I completely and fully trust the cattle industry to do a good job with this. To my meat-eating friends, have no worries, your hamburgers are just getting safer and safer.

Another cute thing from this news story is this - the federal government is going to pull the only incentive (besides honesty) that slaughterhouses have to destroy cattle that might have mad cow disease:
Freeman Libby of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Thursday the federal government may change a program brought in during the mad cow crisis in 2003 that pays producers $75 to identify every head of cattle suspected of having bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Now, I realize that it's of no interest to the cattle industry to have their consumers dying off due to mad cow disease, but wouldn't you rather have an iffy call on whether or not a steer has mad cow being made by an food safety official with no conflict of interest in the matter? Rather than the slaughterhouse that just bought a herd of cattle and will get a greater profit for the more cattle they process?

And, let's not forget this other beauty from Health Canada, as described in the CBC Passionate Eye documentary Frankensteer: after sifting through all the research that the European Union had looked at in deciding to ban all North American beef from their market, several Health Canada scientists said "Yes, we agree, there are far too many carcinogens in Canadian beef for it to be considered safe to eat."

What did Health Canada do? They fired the scientists.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Science to the rescue

I haven't been blogging very much recently, and if you're curious, my list of excuses is about three posts down on my cycling blog (you're looking for the post titled Mariposa Folk Festival).

To get back into the groove, I thought I'd check to see if any new research on vegetarianism or meat-rich diets has been appearing in the article databases, and I found a few things to help you prove to your parents and friends that a veggie diet is really the way to go.

In Australia, they studied 215 kids aged 14 and 15, and found that "Adolescents consuming predominantly vegetarian foods showed significantly better scores on markers of cardiovascular health, including, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, Cholesterol/High density lipoprotein ratio and low density lipoprotein... Surprisingly, exercise on its own was not statistically associated with any of the risk factors tested suggesting that diet may be the most significant factor in promoting health in this age group."
The relative impact of a vegetable-rich diet on key markers of health in a cohort of Australian adolescents

Picture One here depicts the effect on scientists of doing research on drug laced North American beef without proper safety clothing & gear.

There seems to be no doubt anymore that meat causes diabetes. A study following nearly 8500 people over a 17 year period found a 29 to 38% greater risk of diabetes when eating various types of meats, compared to a vegetarian diet. Over the long-term span of the study however it's even worse: "Long-term adherence (over a 17-year interval) to a diet that included at least weekly meat intake was associated with a 74% increase in odds of diabetes relative to long-term adherence to a vegetarian diet (zero meat intake)."
Conclusions: Our findings raise the possibility that meat intake, particularly processed meats, is a dietary risk factor for diabetes.
Meats, processed meats, obesity, weight gain and occurrence of diabetes among adults: Findings from Adventist Health Studies

This picture is a depiction of proper meat handling precautions for North American scientists.

And, going back to the tie between cancer and meat, a Canadian study of nearly 20 000 participants found that "Total meat and processed meat were directly related to the risk of stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung, breast (mainly postmenopausal), prostate, testis, kidney, bladder, and leukemia. Red meat was significantly associated with colon, lung (mainly in men), and bladder cancer... these findings add further evidence that meat, specifically red and processed meat, plays an unfavorable role in the risk of several cancers.
Meat and fish consumption and cancer in Canada