I always knew the “battle” would not come from the vegan crowd, but from corn fed middle-America and all the entangling alliances therein. The recent Fox “News” piece (Fair? Balanced? Objective?) on grass fed vs grain fed beef was likely the first shot across the bow of what will be quite an interesting showdown between Old Media, Government and mega-corporations like Monsanto on the one side and New Media (internet, blogging, Facebook), self governance and decentralized information, goods and services on the other side. The driving force behind this skirmish is nothing more than a full accounting of our food supply and the REAL costs of doing business.
Check out the following items, then let’s reconvene for a discussion:
First: The Fox News video featuring John “Porn Stache #2” Stossel and Prof. Jude Capper of Washington State University.
Second: The rough transcript of the above video.
Third: The abstract Prof. Capper used to justify her scientific positions.
Before we get to the good stuff you may be wondering who is “Porn Stache #1” given John Stossel’s 2nd place finish. Well, that goes to Fox “News” other mustachioed Man on the Scene, Geraldo Rivera. I’m not sure what the story is but Fox appears to be the next career move in the post 20/20 life of investigative reporters. Weird.
So, back on point, the video opens with a sing-song and condescending John Stossel talking to us about the perceived benefits of grass fed beef. In classic Fox “News” fashion he even manages to mention God in the first 10 seconds. Given his tone you are not left wondering where his bias is. He mentions “perceived” benefits of grass fed meat, including the notion that it tastes better than corn fed meat. To “test” this controversial subject John asks the studio audience to taste test four platters of hamburger. Supposedly* (I say supposedly because this is the same thing Stossel did in his transcript piece here in which he says “Restaurants serving burgers supposedly made from grass fed beef…” It’s a crafty little tactic to instill doubt in every element of the story. Fair, balanced and objective? Right.) two platters are grass fed, two are corn fed. John uses his same sing-song, leading tone of voice to arrive at the idea that there is not a significant difference in the taste of the meat. I’ll buy that, especially with regards to hamburger, but watch that video segment again from about 45 seconds to 1:25. Now look at this:
This is a screen capture of the video, and look at the meat! RARE baby. That is actually how I love my hamburgers and steaks, heck, I even do a fair amount of tartar type meals, but John…are you trying to kill your studio audience? One should NEVER consume beef that rare due to the potential of fatal E. coli exposure. Ironically however, corn fed meat appears to be the source of this acid resistant, potentially fatal strain of E.coli. Corn (all grains actually) raise ruminant stomach acid production, creating a selective pressure for acid resistant strains of E. coli. Now, one can certainly get this variety of E.coli from grass fed meat, but the source appears to be the grain fed herds. John is a decent actor, but I suspect if he had to relay these facts to the families of the ~200 people who die in the US every year due to E.coli exposure, he might receive a chair over the head like Geraldo did many years ago.
I love Your Accountant
At about 1:30 in the video John references the following quote from Michael Pollan’s 2002 New York Times Magazine article “Power Steer”:
“We have succeeded in industrializing the beef calf, transforming what was once a solar-powered ruminant into the very last thing we need: another fossil-fuel machine.”
Stossel dismisses the whole “fossil fuel” story with the following:
“That’s because farmers burn gasoline to ship the corn.” Emphasis mine.
It’s obvious Fox “News”, John Stosssel and Enron all share an accountant, because things do not fracking add up here. You see, the fuel of moving corn around is a tiny fraction of the WHOLE story. Pollan actually makes a good accounting of this complexity in his (selectively quoted) article. Nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers (keep your eyes open for those, we’ll revisit them) are necessary to grow the corn. The modeling of these systems gets remarkably complex but the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations digs into the topic with a little more gusto that John does. Here is part of the introduction for the UN’s “Framework for Calculating Fossil Fuel use in Livestock Systems”
“Intensification of animal production systems has required external inputs in order to achieve the high yields expected from the investment on facilities, equipment and breeding stock.
In contrast to integrated mixed farming where most of the resources including energy used to come from the farm itself, intensive production requires a variety of outside inputs, which in one way or another have required fossil fuels.
Fossil energy is used for the production of feeds (land preparation, fertilizers, pesticides, harvesting, drying, etc.), their bulk transport (rail and/or sea freight), storage (ventilation), and processing (milling, mixing, extrusion, pelleting, etc.) and their distribution to individual farms.
Once on the farm, and depending on location (as in the climate), season of the year and building facilities, more fossil energy is needed for the movement of feeds from the storage to the animal pens; for control of the thermal environment (cooling, heating or ventilation); and for animal waste collection and treatment (solid separation, aerobic fermentation, drying, land applications, etc.).
Transport of products (meat animals to abattoirs, milk to processing plants, eggs to storage), processing (slaughtering, pasteurization, manufacture of dairy products), storage and refrigerated transport also require fossil fuels.
Finally, the distribution to the consumer and the final cooking process may also require expenditures of fossil fuels.
The objective of the present analysis was to establish a methodology for calculation of direct and indirect consumption of fossil fuels for the various steps required for the production, processing, marketing and cooking of products of animal origin.
This methodology can be used to calculate (fossil) energy costs of animal products in various systems.”
Now, If I were in an interview with Stossel the Straw Man would be getting set on fire by now. The Fox “News” refrain would be that I’m an environmental wacko, who is anti-American and anti-business. Uh, NO, I’m not. I love business, LOVE America and I strongly dislike most elements of government and think it should be smaller, and less influential. Ungfortuantely, these are not the rallying points for most American Conservatives.
If given a chance I’d like to ask John Stossel a few things:
- How much money is put into government subsidies of corn and other grains?
- What are the relationships between Oil, Corn, and Pharmaceuticals?
- Do subsidies not count as “welfare?” If not, how so? Or does it no count if they are advertisers for Fox?
- Why no discussion of small, decentralized, family owned operations like PolyFace Farms which are NOT government subsidized, are sustainable (read: full accounting) and are more productive per acre than just about any other system on earth?
It’s just a nightmare world in some ways. Al Gore quoting Lefties who want electric cars, but no idea where that electricity is coming from (nor an accurate accounting of the costs in producing those electric/hybrid cars) or the Republican Right that seems to like business…but only if it’s large and has Oil, Pharmaceutical and subsidized food production ties. No transparency and accounting techniques that find real world applications for the square root of -1.
Well, Hello Prof. Capper!
- Update: Prof. Capper shot me a link to her Paper at midnight last night. I’ll read it and update the post later based on that.
- Update 2: The paper Prof. Capper forwarded to me relates to the us of recombinant bovinesomatotropin (rbST) use in dairy production. It’s kinda funny, rbST went through a public image make over similar to what MRI’s experienced. MRI’s used to be called NMRI (nuclear magnetic resonance imaging) but the nuclear piece made people skittish, so it was trimmed to the more benign sounding MRI. Most folks do not know that somatotropin also goes by the name “growth hormone.” Recombinant bovine GROWTH HORMONE makes people think they will grow three legs if they eat meat or dairy from treated animals. Yesh. Anyway, the gist of the paper is that the application of rbST increases milk yields and decreases both Nitrogen and phosphorous due to these nutrients being sequestered in the protein fraction of the milk. No problems with any of that, but it is NOT a paper that I’d be able to use to justify a globally sustainable meat/dairy production scenario given the lack of complete accounting of the inputs. There is absolutely no doubt that feeding cows corn and hitting them with rbST will increase both meat and dairy yields, but this does NOT address the sustainability issue. I have a friend in the diary scene and they only used rbST for a brief time due to undesirable effects such as decreased productivity over the long haul, so even that element seems to be a bit of a wash.So, keep this in mind as you read the rest of this piece and thank you to Prof. Capper for getting the paper to me.
- Update 3– In the paragraph below I wrote that I sent Prof. Capper 2 emails, in fact the 2nd email was still in my draft folder, so Prof. Capper did reply to the first email. Prof. Capper has declined to comment on the post, but sincere thanks for her time nonetheless.
At about 2:30 in the video we meet Dr. Jude Capper of Washington Statue University. This is an abstract of some work Dr. Capper cites for her position in improved efficiency of milk/meat production using the input of corn. No specific details are offered in the abstract, but a paper is apparently (supposedly?) in process. I contacted Prof. Capper twice about details of the paper, and about the potential of reading her stochastic model, and have received no response. I’ve actually put the posting of this blog off for more than a week in the hopes I’d be able to look at that data and get some sense of her accounting. Alas, Prof. Capper appears to respond to men with a stache better than my clean shaven self, so I’ll just have to run with the video and what we can glean from the abstract. In the video Prof. Capper makes a few claims:
- Grain feeding is better land use
- Grain feeding uses less water
- Grain feeding produces less carbon foot print (since when did Fox “News” care about carbon footprint?! I’m honestly not a fan of the idea either, but c’mon)
Prof. Capper justifies these comments, in part by the accelerated time to slaughter for grain fed vs grass fed cattle (15 months vs 23 months), but again…what about the water, land and resources that go into the corn production to feed the cattle!? Prof. Capper goes so far as to claim every grass fed cow is as polluting as a car driving on the freeway. Hmm, that had better be an amazing stochastic model, especially in light of what we know with operations such as PolyFace Farms. If oil were limitless, if we neglect all the other side effects of large scale monoculture, business as usual would be fine. Well, other than the antibiotics necessary to keep these animals alive long enough to slaughter (grass fed cows require little if any antibiotics), the downstream destruction of other habitats due to nitrogen/phosphorous run off, and the acid resistant E. Coli, the “business as usual” model is fine and dandy. Speaking of the nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P), this is part of what Prof. Capper uses to justify better efficiency in the current model of meat/dairy production. Here is s snippet from that abstract:
“Furthermore, 2.2-fold increases in N excretion and 3.4-fold increases in P excretion were observed for the 1944 system, which was also associated with considerably higher methane (2.2x) and nitrous oxide (3.3x) emissions per unit of milk produced.”
So, there are some interesting features to this:
- Methane production IS greater in grass fed cattle due to bacterial action on cellulose, but this is also the source of the organic acids which form the backbone of butyric acid and conjugated linoleic acid, good stuff. Again, from the “closed loop” perspective though, this methane represents carbon which was sequestered into the grass to start out with, not formerly sequestered carbon in fossil fuels which are now liberated into the environment in the process of growing corn. And it still begs the question IF the carbon issue matters at all (it reminds me of the fat phobia of the Mcgovern Commission, but I digress.
- Nitrogen and phosphorous excretion is, well, fertilizer. In the closed loop, grass fed model that means the nitrogen and phosphorous stays in the system, especially when biodynamic farming practices (PolyFace Farms) are used. This in contrast to the input of oil based synthetic fertilizers and organophosphates that (shocker) make up the backbone of Monsanto’s Corn-ocoupia of products. Oh, did I forget to mention the co-author of the paper with Prof. Capper, RA Cady, is an employee of the Monsanto Animal Agricultural Group? Fair, Balanced, Objective.
What do other experts in the field of agriculture and meat production have to say on topics like this? Prof. Ricardo Salvador had the following to say with regards to grass fed meat should be “produced in the natural way that meat should be produced, which is on lands suitable for grasses and perennial crops.”
If you have read this blog or listened to the podcast in the past few months you certainly have heard this controversial story…that “Cows Eat Grass.” According to Prof. Capper, we do not need a full thermodynamic accounting of inputs and outputs into systems when we make land/resource use recommendations. Then we have the additional wrinkle that saying things like “Cows Eat Grass” can get you dismissed from positions like the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, which is what Prof. Salvador faced in the corn-subsidy rich state of Iowa. Speak the truth, and get bounced.
But wait, there’s more. Under the current program, the nitrogen and phosphorous from both the feedlots AND the synthetic fertilizers go somewhere…downstream. Using that wacky thing called “full accounting” we see a massive “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico due to nitrogenous run-off from non-sustainable farming and meat production practices, severe enough to be comparable to the Gulf oil spill. Add to all this the RIDICULOUS use of ethanol in our fuel and you have even greater impetus to produce (subsidized) corn.
John Stossel, Prof. Capper…I don’t get it, why the lack of full accounting?
Is Grass fed meat healthier?
At 4 minutes into the piece Stossel makes the point that grass fed advocates claim the meat to be healthier than grain fed meat. Prof. Caddy says:
“There is absolutely no scientific evidence based on that.
Absolutely none,” she replied. “There is some very slight difference in fatty acids, for example, but they are so minor that they don’t make any significant human health impact.”
Hmmm. So, if we neglect the E. Coli issue and the fact grass fed meat does not require intensive antibiotic use (thus limiting the production and antibiotic resistant bacteria) we are left with only a ‘slight” difference in fatty acids according to Prof. Capper. I guess the increased amount of vitamin E, CLA, carotenoids and other products in grass fed/wild meat do not amount to much in the grand scheme? Or, again, perhaps this is some convenient accounting on the part of Prof. Capper and Fox “News”, because we get healthier meat, more nutrients and all for less input of resources AND less collateral damage such as killing of one of the most productive fisheries on the planet.
Can it all be “Green?”
You may think from the tone of this piece that I “hate” oil and think we should all go solar and wind powered. No, and no. I’d love to see the US get out of the Middle East, develop our own oil reserves and expand the use of things like natural gas, which we have a lot of. The driver in all this needs to be economics. The problem currently, is the myriad of governmental subsidies hides the real costs of oil and our food. Our current system looks cheap, but the full story is tough to find.
Should we use more solar? Sure, provide tax incentives in sunny areas to prop up that side of the equation. Push for more efficiency as we tend to fritter away about as much energy as we productively use. Fossil fuels are not going away but using them to grow corn, to feed meat, to feed us is a very inefficient system when the full accounting is taken. Nicki and I were in Nicaragua and they had amazingly good meat there. Grass fed is all you can find, and for a good reason: It’s too damn expensive to grain feed the cattle. There are also more efficient critters than cattle. At present we have about 96 million cattle in the US. At the height of population, bison herds in north America were ~70 million. Bison work better than cattle. Just Saying. Much of the grassland that used to see populations of bison roaming are now cornfields. The same cornfields that are sowed with proprietary Monsanto seeds, that then receive proprietary herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. Watch the movie King Corn for an interesting window into all this. The plight of cattle in this movie is pretty bad. The critters are dying from the grains they are fed to fatten them for slaughter. Nasty stuff. Nasty in a different way however is the loss of farms due to the encroachment of Monsanto’s patented corn into the field of folks who are still trying to go it on their own and propagate seeds like their fathers and grandfathers did. Monsanto tests the fields for patented genes (which are spread on the wind during pollination), finds them, and then sues for copyright infringement. It sucks, but folks can opt out. These farmers can adopt practices like those seen at PolyFace Farms and take themselves out of that equation, make a good living, restore some semblance of ecological balance and actually help national security because we’d have a food production system that is not tied to unsustainable energy inputs. And it is for this very reason, the fact these farmers COULD opt out and that there is an ever growing number of people who understand the benefits of grass fed meat go far beyond health or improved quality of life for the cattle involved, this is why we saw the Fox “News” piece.
We will NOT change this by going to our politicians, nor the media. But if we make choices with our wallets, we can change all of this. The big players know this, and they are scared. You will see attempts to ban grass fed meat due to “hygiene” issues, you will see attempts to up-end CSA’s and Farmers Markets. The fight is not upon us yet, but it’s not far off.
Robb this was the best all-encompassing argument that we should all be eating grass-fed meat(this is coming from someone who eats organic grainfed beef). If the farming-government complex saw the light and we got a huge influx of grassfed beef into the system, would the price of grassfed beef come down around the prices conventionally raised beef is now because the long and short of it is i can’t afford it in the quantities that i eat it. i do supplement alot of my organic beef with grassfed lamb because the australian and nz lamb found in run of the mill supermarkets is relatively cheap and grassfed. Thanks for posting, Robb. This will make me put my ass in gear and go find a good farmer…
“If given a chance I’d like to ask John Stossel a few things:
1-How much money is put into government subsidies of corn and other grains?
2-What are the relationships between Oil, Corn, and Pharmaceuticals?
3-Do subsidies not count as “welfare?” If not, how so? Or does it no count if they are advertisers for Fox?”
You obviously do not watch Stossel too often, as he calls for the end of farm subsidies on a regular basis and advocates to get the government out of our lives.
Just because he is off on one piece you paint him and Fox with a wide brush. I would not call him a conservative he is a self-professed Libertarian and is agnostic. He stands up for things few TV show hosts would dare to tread into such as advocating the end of drug prohibition.
You should let him know you are calling him out on this matter, as he has had people on the show that refute things he has said.
Robb Wolf says
Greatly appreciate the comment.
I sent a note to this to them, we’ll see if we get a ping-back. But again, why no mention of farm subsidies here? Why no ability to connect those dots?
damaged justice says
In other words: Stossel didn’t do his homework, and came off looking like a statist who hates free markets. Bravo.
Robb Wolf says
And I’m being told in other comments that Stossel is a self avowed Libertarian and hates farm subsidies? I don’t get it.
J Cortez says
Stossel isn’t some uber-statist. The problem with Stossel is that he is what passes currently for a reporter/commentator. This isn’t to excuse him, of course. I tend to agree with a lot of what he says, but I can’t stand his style of reporting. If he puts forth a particular point of view I agree with, I am usually conflicted. On one hand I hate it because it’s flawed argument or reporting, on another I kind of want to accept it because in the current 30 second sound byte world of news, that’s the only way to get a point across. The current quick soundbyte paradigm makes it impossible to have real arguments or detailed information.
As per his ideology, he is what I call a DC libertarian. He desires to have a strong central government that holds libertarian principles. Those principles among DC libertarians generally tend to be: end of drug prohibition, scaling back government regulation wholesale, no FDA, no minimum wage laws, scaled back EPA, ending all subsidies and welfare, lowering all taxes, institution of a flat tax, privatization of the post office and highways, scaling back gun regulation. DC libertarians tend to be atheists or agnostics, permissive of gay marriage, and are pro-choice. While pretty much every other strain of libertarians hate the wars, DC libertarians are split. Again, this is a generalization. Still, based on his books and various news shows over the years, I’d say Stossel would fall into what I describe.
Anyway, great post, thank you for the info. Stossel’s just straight wrong on this issue.
Robb Wolf says
I’d put myself in that camp.
Robb – Great post! Can you please add the abstract to it though, as I was unable to view it on the link provided. Thanks for bringing this to light!
Great post Robb! Facepalm at Fox “News”. “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal” by Joel Salatin is a great read for those more interested in PolyFace Farms and fully integrated animal operations. He’s a bit out there with a few of his ideas, but incredible book.
John Sebastian Worthington III says
Great write, Robb. Well done.
Edward Stedman says
Come on amigo…does it do any good to make your post more about bashing the right-wing bias of this story than just calling out the the actual facts and presenting people with the other side. You have presented yourself in no better light than Fox News has. I mean let’s be honest, there is no unbiased media out there. Fox, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, etc. etc., they all have agendas and present whatever they are reporting on from their politic viewpoints and allegiances.
Am I a conservative? Yes! Proudly so. Do I agree with Fox News’ every word? Heck no I don’t! Robb, I’m sure your concern is most people’s inability to think for themselves and to just accept whatever information people and the media present to them, so I understand the need for a rebuttal to the Fox News story. Unfortunately, the greatest message I took away from it is how much you hate Fox News and it’s anchors/reporters. Again, liberal media present their stories in the same lopsided and biased fashion. At this point I’ve pretty much stopped watching or reading much news.
Robb, most people who come follow you do so because they trust and/or agree with the information you offer here. Please try and keep it as unbiased as possible, and don’t worry about bashing poor reporting. It’s unfortunate, but it happens every day (on both sides of the political media).
I agree we need to be informed and aware, so as not to get behind in a battle if these big corporations come after our CSAs, farmer’s markets, and small, local, sustainable farmers/ranchers. I’ll proudly stand on the side to protect these people and groups to make sure they continue to grow and thrive.
However, let’s not rant about the bias media…it just makes us sound as like them.
Keep supporting your local CSAs, farmer’s markets, and small, local, sustainable farmers/ranchers!
Robb Wolf says
I hear ya, and it’s largely why I do not really watch TV. We get netflix, that’s the extent of it. The liberal media…it’s not worth lining a bird cage with that stuff, but Fox put’s itself out there as a bastion of Conservative thought. Just because “both sides do it” does not give Fox a bye on jackassery. Part of my point in the opening piece was that if you want credible information, it’s not Old Media you go to. CalFire uses a guys blog to plan and coordinate their activities during fire season because this one guy has better information and presents it better than CalFire! They fought it for a while, now they reference the guy and it’s a clear example of both new media working better to serve people AND the inefficiencies of bureaucracies.
BTW-This is the same stuff that ultimately got me kicked out of CrossFit. I can easily sing the praises of what is being done right, but I will not turn a blind eye to people being treated poorly or shoddily run operations. If that get’s me fired, so be it, but I can at least sleep at night. I could sell out “just a little” and sell supplements and whey protein off the site and make a pretty damn income from that given my traffic…but it would be wrong. Stossel was/is wrong and he needs hammering for that.
I can’t help but agree with Edward. I have read your book and have started to follow your writings, and have largely adopted a paleo life-style based on much of it. But you have lost some credibility in my eyes by joining the bandwagon on bashing Fox News and American Conservatives in general. I stopped reading this post after the first paragraph and had to force myself to go back to read the parts of your argument that actually addressed the issue.
Please stick to the facts and try not to make generalizing statements that may alienate some of your staunchest supporters. And honestly, you have commented a few times about how you could sell supplements and make a bundle but that would mean “selling out.” I don’t know how this is relevant to the topic at hand, but honestly I’d actually be grateful if you did “sell out” a little and make all our lives easier when navigating a part of the nutrition industry that can be convoluted and rife with contaminated product.
Robb Wolf says
I am grateful for the feedback, truly and honestly, but what this piece is about is free markets and Libertarian thought. IMO American conservatives jumped the shark a long time ago. If we do not believe in farm subsidies (as John Stossel claims) we cannot support things as usual.
As to the supplements, most do little to nothing, some (like high dose b-vitamins) may be harmful by increasing endothelial cancer risks. Certain deficiency situations benefit from large doses of these nutrients but the evidence is not compelling on the benefit side, frankly scary on the down side. So, if you see anything consistent here it’s that I’m doing my damnedest to navigate this territory with some semblance of integrity and honesty. If you think I’m wrong on my politics, fine, you are entitled to that butin my gut this is what makes sense. you make a compelling argument to change my mind and I’ll do it. I’ve done it on other topics, I’ve written retractions. Convince me I’m wrong on this. My sense is that both you and Edward are likely out of the Republican camp, and although I have some things in common there, Republicans shave soiled the bed on sufficient topics that “conservatism” does not automatically get a bye, especially on such a colossal blunder as stossel made on this.
Stossel is very hit-or-miss in general. On anything health-related, he usually misses by miles, like he did with the xenoestrogen/BPA plastics story awhile back. He should stick to government stupidities, like the Florida Interior Decorator licensing board, or federally-subsidized flood insurance.
Excellent job with the debunking Robb. It’s sad to see the corporations have such a stranglehold. Monsanto, in particular, terrifies me…
Brilliantly done and you’re right on the mark here. The way farming happens in this country is a joke.
Bobby Fernandez says
Yeah, I saw this when it was broadcast. Nearly choked on my grass-fed flank steak and eggs. What kills me is Stossel is a dyed-in-the-wool Libertarian. To me, there is nothing more Libertarian than some free-range cows and steer roaming around Joe-the-plumber…er, farmers property, feeding his local community. CAFOs go against everything Stossel stands for, unless he sees it a personal liberty to cut corners and turn a profit selling sick beef to the unwitting consumer.
David Csonka says
Stossel is a sell-out.
Ryan R Speed says
Holy Frakkin Shite Robb! Thanks for yet another episode of making me feel like I’m not the only lunatic wandering around. I con-cur, agree, and applaud every statement you’ve made in this post.
Happy – Healthy – Free
That’s been my mantra for a couple years now, every time I wonder what I’m working towards I use those 3 words to remind me. I told my wife over a year ago if we want those things a key element is going to be learning to grow our own food & associating with others that do the same. Otherwise we (or our worse our children) will be standing in bread lines waiting for government handouts, which most definitely does NOT lend to be happy, healthy, or free.
Thank you for the wealth of info; from the science-y geekness of biological mechanisms I will never fully understand to the practical “connect the frakkin dots” of big business & government are in bed together-of course they recommend “x”.
Train smart, Live easy
Robb Wolf says
Damn good motto, I like it.
Stossel seems to have changed. He had a bit more of a Libertarian streak (I typed steak by mistake and had to correct it. chuckle) while on ABC. I don’t know what happened. Oh yes, I do.
Thank you for this article and helping debunk popular fallacies.
“Alas, Prof. Capper appears to respond to men with a stache better than my clean shaven self,” – try sticking Deas on her…..
Weird, because on 99% of stuff Stossel isn’t a FoxNewsDrone – he leans libertarian on damn near everything. I bet there’s an awesome common ground/place to make an inroads there…
Robb Wolf says
That’s what folks are saying. I always thought Fox might be the one place the paleo idea might get some airplay. We are obviously not going to get it from Dr. Oz or similar outlets. We’ll see.
David Csonka says
You mean Faux News. It’s Republican Entertainment television.
Jeff Bonn says
First, I liked the Washingtonian “entangling alliances” at the opening.
Second I would like to give “Porn Stache #2” some little bit of support…but surely not on this subject. He’s 100% wrong here, but his show has produced a lot of legitimately good libertarian minded pieces and I don’t think we can throw those babies out with the bath water.
Regardless of that, please keep up the libertarian “rants”! There are many like minded folks who can talk this talk at home and with friends, but few of us have the audience that you do.
The only point I’d have to disagree with you on is the tax breaks to solar. I live in AZ where solar makes more sense than most places, BUT, the gov’t shouldn’t pick winners and losers. They picked oil as a winner decades ago and here we sit. It WAS a winner, but such a call by the gov’t has many unintended consequences.
I would strongly recommend submitting this piece for publication on http://mises.org I think it would fit and finally start to bring the austro-libertarian and paleo worlds closes together as they should be.
Robb Wolf says
My main point on the tax breaks was to incentivize innovation, net necessarily any one sector, but where and when it makes sense. I know fox covers some legit stuff occasionally, but man, the bad really overshadows the good most of the time.
Jeff Bonn says
Fox news in general (just like all the rest) is crap. I was only talking about Stossel’s show on Fox business channel.
Didn’t see this comment before I posted below. But I think the point still stands. I don’t think tax breaks really act as an incentive for innovation. The innovation has already occurred. The technology is here. The tax breaks simply allow the product to be offered to the consumer at a lower price. It works the same way with a subsidy. And I’m sure the makers of HFCS would say they did some fine innovating with the use of subsidies when they brought us that miracle. And I’m sure they would also say it makes sense to have ethanol subsidies for national security, etc. The point is that proper innovation happens organically to meet a need. It is not superficially sparked by the pet project of person who thinks they know what is needed and what makes sense and what is best for everyone else.
Robb Wolf says
Good points Justin, I like it.
Great post Robb. If the lobbies wait much longer, I don’t think
they’ll be able to win. This stuff is spreading pretty fast on the
A reduction in oil supply might break their model as well (it would
have a lot of bad consequences too, of course). We will not “run out”
anytime soon, but all of the new oil finds are much more expensive to
extract. Full accounting needs to be applied to oil as well. energy
return on investment (EROI) is a useful concept. New sources of hydrocarbons are very low EROI.
This can be applied to agriculture too. For most of human history, we got back more energy from our food than we put into it; it had a positive EROI. Otherwise we would have starved. Now our fossil fueled monoculture and feedlots are negative EROI. Only inexpensive hydrocarbons allow this lunacy.
I also don’t think climate change is like the McGovern commission. We can measure the effect CO2 concentration has on net energy in a lab. And atmospheric satellites are able to track the amount of energy entering and leaving the atmosphere. We have a pretty good idea of what the net energy surplus of the planet is.
The big question is, what will that energy do? Models can’t hope to predict it – most of this talk about “2 degrees of warming” being a critical threshold is something the politicians have latched on to, and it doesn’t really have a basis in anything.
But the energy is there, and it will do SOMETHING. Will it warm the upper ocean? The deep ocean? Melt ice? Warm the atmosphere? Something else?
That’s the major source of uncertainty. There are lots of things the energy could do. I look at this qualitatively, rather than quantitatively, since we can’t predict what a system as complex as the earth will do.
Robb Wolf says
Good points and that is part of the rub. We can load as much data as we want on weather patterns from a month ago, press play and immediately our model deviates from what we know to be true, eventual developments.
I think the scientists are in a bind with the models. The smart one recognize their limited use, but politicians demand hard predictions.
Much of the recent scientific commentary has actually been to the effect that models are underestimating the likely impacts, because they weren’t able to quantitatively account for many positive feedback effects such as lowered albedo from melting ice, oceans hitting their CO2 storage limit, melting of methane stored in permafrost and frozen in the ocean, etc.
I’m inclined to think that politicians aren’t going to do anything major. But if they do, I hope they leave cows out of it. If they believe (incorrectly) that ruminants living naturally are problematic, the logical response is…well, I wouldn’t want to be a Bison.
If they want to halt global warming, assuming we *have* overall global warming going on (I say yes, but I acknowledge we don’t have all the facts–but what else is gonna happen if you add carbon to the carbon cycle?), the best thing they could do is ban agriculture. Encourage people to adopt perennial permaculture for the plant foods they really want to eat, and let the prairie and other flatlands go back to grass and forest.
It was never ruminants that were that destructive to the environment. It’s been wide-scale agriculture, all along. Iraq used to be cedar forests that were so thick in places that the sunlight never reached the ground. They were also one of the original Agricultural Revolution sites. Coincidence? Hell no.
The vegans think they’re going to save the earth. Wait til they realize their dream of forcing everyone to subsist on soymilk and tofu. We’ll all cook. But by then we’ll also all be so B12 deficient and bats?!t insane out of our minds that maybe we won’t notice.
Fox News? Biased?! I think we need to keep in mind of the audience that they’re presenting themselves to. They’re the same people who doubt the existence of Global Warming (despite loads of contradictory evidence). They doubt evolution with a passion(again: contradictory evidence) . They continuously question the birthplace of OUR OWN President. AND, this is the same News program that reported (And I kid you not) “Cannibalism in the Streets!” during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Oh yeah, and before I forget, they’re same people who couldn’t pronounce “Paleolithic” when Art DeVany was on the program.
Don’t get me wrong, the Left pisses me off just as much as the Right does. The Right just happened to stir up the hornet’s nest in me today. Although, they did mention God at the beginning of the report…crap, I’m sold! We’ve been wrong this whole time, Robb! Off to IHOP with us! If we tell them to just cook the living crap out of the Gluten, it should be okay. 😉
Amazing piece, Rob.
I just watched King Corn a couple of weeks ago and was really amazed by how awful “Big Corn” really is. I spent the rest of the day researching grass fed beef and was very lucky to find a local farm raising grass fed cattle without antibiotics or added hormones. I loaded up my freezer and I’m a happy camper.
As for the news piece, that was the biggest load of crap I’ve witnessed in awhile. I always hear the comment that, “watching the news is better than watching a soap opera.” These days, more often than not, a soap opera tends to be more believable.
Caleb Whitfield says
Well done Robb, well done. I long ago gave up on any major “News” network and this pathetic example of half-ass reporting only reassures my decision. It’s a sad reality that many people will see/hear this story (Fox “News” story) and take it for gospel, writing off grass fed meat as another “tree hugger’s” dream or hippie solution to a REAL problem in this country. Thanks for the direction in your closing on how to combat this and what to expect in the future.
On a side note, Stossel’s atrocious facial hair and pretentious demeanor made watching the entire clip almost unbearable. All it needed was a closing line such as “I’m John Stossel?” and I’d have been reassured it was all a farce.
I agree with most of your post, but think you could strengthen your position by being more principled and consistent. You do a fair amount of criticizing subsidies for oil, ethanol, corn, etc., and rightfully so. But then you turn around and champion tax incentives for solar. I don’t see a difference between the government giving a subsidy check or a tax rebate; either way it is manipulating the market and distorting costs relative to alternatives. I think it would be more principled and consistent to decry all government interventions that distort the market, rather than selectively criticizing particular subsidy programs and supporting others based on the industry being artificially propped up.
Robb Wolf says
Good points here, but I see this a bit like some of the alternate tax models in which we donate to non-governmental charities instead of 30-50% of our income going to the government. How would you see some market based ways to incentivize this stuff? Just generally pull the subsidies, then let thee free for-all work it’self out? Kinda makes sense…Very interested in your thoughts.
I think there is a difference between subsidizing an established corporation/industry vs. incentivizing corporate investment in innovation and new technologies.
This is not a situation where someone in their garage is going to solve the problem of cold fusion and create a limitless energy supply for the benefit of the world. Solar, wind and other “alternative” power technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds but are still far from being profitable on a large scale. A large company that actually has the resources to make potentially significant progress in such areas is not going to risk bankrupting itself on unproven technology. If simply left to the forces of the free market, I believe you would end up with a catch-22. Alternative energy will be developed very slowly and only on the fringes because it is too expensive and risky, yet it is too expensive and risky because the technology is not being developed.
The government can jumpstart the process by reducing the cost of such technology development through the use of subsidies, tax breaks, etc. Incentivize actions and outcomes, don’t simply reward political donations and influence. Pie in the sky, I know…
First, let’s make a distinction between government research grants and subsidies/tax breaks/etc. I personally would still see government research grants to private corporations to be fruitless and unneeded. There is quite a bit of research, data, etc. out there to show that government grants simply replace private investment and increase the rate of bad investments. But I do see a benefit in government research grants to educational institutions, etc. I’m not saying there isn’t any benefit that comes out of certain programs that can actually be used to provide an incentive to innovate. But I think you are completely misguided to say that subsidies and tax breaks and the like have anything to do with innovation.
Second, the problem with solar and wind and other alternative technologies are not that it is more expensive and not profitable…it is that it isn’t as efficient…and there are signs that it never will be. And with all the subsidies alternative energy is still being developed very slowly (not to mention with the many unintended consequences, such as wind turbines wreaking havoc on the environment by killing birds and ethanol subsidies causing the destruction of once forested land, and so on, and don’t get started on the ecological nightmare that is hybrid cars that run on electricity provided by coal and use batteries that require the minding of rare earth minerals in a manner that destroys the environment). I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced that politicians who use so called innovation incentives to create jobs in their home district necessarily have the knowledge or understanding to determine what is worthwhile for assistance. So I tend to put my faith in that if we really need alternative energy, someone will create it without government incentives. And there are many examples out there.
Robb Wolf says
yea, the ethanol subsidies are insane. thanks Justin, if we ever roll through your home town the NorCal Margaritas are on me.
Michael Winks says
“Ethanol subsidies causing destruction on once forested land.”
Please supply evidence, not hearsay. Easy to find stories on biodiesel abuses in Indonesia, not ethanol.
Brazil grows crops for ethanol on 2.8 percent of their arable land.
For scalable alcohol fuel from a wide diversity of crops, go to alcoholcanbeagas.com
Ethanol can work if we had brains about how to do it. See website and book for how.
P.S. Interesting study would be to see how the mash leftover from ethanol production fed to cows (starch removed) affects the quality of the meat. Better than grain fed, starch filled s==t we fed them, I can bet you.
Hello kettle, my name is pot. But seriously, I’m not going to write a bibliography in the comments, and I’m sure there are white papers written on both sides to support multiple viewpoints. After all, Robb and many of the posts here talk about the influence of industries, organizations, and people with vested interests.
I will also note that you don’t directly refute that ethanol subsidies cause destruction of once forested land. You merely state that destruction from biofuel production has occurred, but that isn’t ehthanol. To that I would say, okay so the subsidies of alternative fuels in general have negative consequences. Then you say that Brazil grows crops for ethanol on 2.8 percent of their arable land, but that says nothing about whether once forested land was cleared for the growing of sugar cane. And there certainly are a wide diversity of crops to grow for ethanol, but that still says nothing about whether it is as efficient as gas, has negative consequences for the environment, increases food costs and shortages, etc. It is a complex problem that I don’t think the ethanol subsidy lobby nor the politicians are seriously addressing, which you indicate by we haven’t figured out how to make it work yet.
Michael Winks says
Justin, for some reason, I can’t reply below your comment. I would suggest you go to the website I mentioned and check out parts of the book that are there, as well as the section on ethanol myths.
Subsidies on OIL and its byproducts have had and continue to have negative consequences FAR above any ethanol has begun to have. Let’s have a little perspective here.
No forests were cleared for sugarcane, the sugar is grown hundreds of miles away from the Amazon. Check your facts please rather than parrot other people’s arguments.
88 percent of the corn we grow is for feed. The feed corn is lousy stuff. DDGs is better for the cow, mixed with grass.
Oh so all subsidies have negative consequences? How is a new alternative supposed to grow in this country when the existing fuel continues to reap all the benefits and pay no taxes (See Exxon-Mobil)? Once again,let’s have some perspective here Justin.
Ethanol bashing is the realm of no-nothings. The biggest critic of all time of ethanol, David Pimentel, has said the system on the website I provided works. He won’t go public with that because he gets too much funding from anti ethanol sources and is expected to tow the party line.
I refer you again to the website. Ethanol can solve problems of indoor cooking pollution in the developing world, make countries both food and fuel self-sufficient and provide cleaner air all around. Yes, we have figured out how to make it work. Big agriculture is in the way plus big oil plus a ton of misinformation that is out there, usually spread by city folk.
Can’t reply to your reply to my reply to…you get the idea.
Thanks for the suggestion, but I did that before I replied yesterday. Let’s just say I wasn’t convinced by the website and all the “evidence” it has. Just as I’m not convinced by David Pimentel. And yes, those city folks don’t no nuthin I tell you. My point, appeals to authority and ad hominem attacks aren’t very convincing to me.
Yes, subsidies of oil and the oil industry have had very negative consequences. Is that your argument for subsidies of ethanol? Again, not convinced that because subsidies of oil are bad we should subsidize ethanol.
I would dispute your claim that none of the Amazon was cleared to grow sugarcane, but even so it doesn’t change my view. I may have limited myself by the term deforestation, but any wild, uncultivated, undeveloped, whatever you want to call it land that was teeming with biodiversity before it become a monocrop site is what I would include.
And I guess I can just mimic you and condescendingly tell you to check your facts instead of just parroting what you read on one website.
Corn is bad for cows…so are DDGs. I don’t support growing corn for feed, nor do I support feeding it to cows. And I don’t support subsidizing any crop plant to be grown, including crops for ethanol. I don’t know why you keep citing percentages you give your basis for and that miss the point of what is actually being discussed.
How are new alternative fuels supposed to grow in this country? How the majority of innovation and technology and so on has grown in this country. You act as if nothing can happen unless we subsidize it. You act as if ethanol only came about because of government subsidies. Let’s have some perspective here Michael.
Again with the website. Yes, yes, the website has all the answers, just listen to whatever the website tells you because everything found on the internet is true, obey the website (see, I can be condescending too). And if you think we can grow enough ethanol efficiently and indefinitely to solve all of our fuel problems, then I would say you are know nothing (not no-nothings by the way). And ethanol comes from big agriculture, so I would agree that it is in the way. Ethanol simply doesn’t need the subsidies that it is getting, and I’m not being convinced by you or the magical website with all the answers.
Jeff Bonn says
I don’t know who said it first, but there is nothing more permanent than a temporary government program. The subsidies to the oil companies is a prime example. Now they seem antiquated and silly…but good luck pulling them back.
You don’t see a difference between the government letting you keep more of your money, and the government giving you more of someone else’s money?
I part company with libertarians when they get into the whole “me first and screw you” mentality; I don’t understand why any libertarian ever wants to identify as American (where they’re American), therefore identifying tribally with three hundred million other people, when they don’t care whether those people live or die. The concept of unrestricted personal property is not compatible with everyone being able to prosper under their own power, either. Oh, I could go on all day about how ideologically inconsistent libertarianism is with its own stated aims, but this isn’t my blog and I’d only bore you.
Nevertheless I have to agree with Robb that the government asking for less money from people who are less of a drain on society is a pretty darned good idea–and at the end of the day, people who are oil-dependent ARE a drain on society. Every time you put gasoline in your car or use a piece of plastic, you contribute to stuff like Deepwater Horizon happening. You’re Paleo, right? You should know, then, that shellfish are some of the best foods you could possibly eat, assuming you’re not allergic to them. Guess what’s been most impacted by that huge oil blowout. Shellfish. The filter-feeders. You’re shooting yourself in the foot. I am too. We all are. There is nothing libertarian about this because it’s eroding our liberty–if we are poisoned by our own food, that’s not liberty. There is nothing libertarian about this because it’s causing other people harm. Liberty is not unrestricted freedom. It is freedom plus responsibility. If you don’t have the responsibility, go move back in with your mommy til you learn some–and sure as heck don’t be trying to influence political decisions for everybody else.
Stossel may be a libertarian, but as a member of the media he is first and foremost a ratings hound. He has made his name and gets his ratings by being a contrarian and trying to show you that “what you thought you knew is wrong.” Maybe his attempt to “debunk” the benefits of grassfed cattle is a sign that demand and support for sustainable, healthy livestock is gaining mainstream traction.
Spot on, as usual, Robb!
The most telling part of her paper:
Conﬂict of interest statement: R.A.C. is a full-time employee of Monsanto, holding the
position of Technical Project Manager for POSILAC rbST with the primary responsibility of
ensuring the scientiﬁc integrity of Monsanto publications about POSILAC; he also owns
Monsanto stock. D.E.B. consults for Monsanto in areas outside the environmental impact
area and owns no Monsanto stock. J.L.C. and E.C.-G. have no conﬂict of interest.
And from her CV:
Industry funding: $71,000
National Cattlemens Beef Association; Elanco Animal Health; National All-Jersey Inc;
Sustainable Beef Resource Center
Federal funding: $40,000 planning grant for CAP grant (University of Nebraska PI’s)
Applying for two further CAP grants in Climate Change 2011: Total potential funding $50 million over five
Robb Wolf says
I have no problem with the funding, so long as the conclusions match the data.
Tami C. says
National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA) = no friend of the small cattle producer. They are always up to nefarious and shady shenanigans. They could be lumped in with Monsanto quite easily. They have been trying to squash the small independent ranchers for some time and it’s no surprise they would support drivel like this.
Fantastic post. I pray that this message of a full accounting of our current “conventional” ag system gets heard, and widely. People think this is a bunch of rich, foodie, tree-hugger BS until they hear the real story. So many times, friends of mine have approached my zeal for farming, producing my own food, and local food with a “good for you, but I don’t even want to know about what I eat” mindset. Then they see Food, Inc. or read some Michael Pollan and have lots of questions about who to buy grass-fed beef from, where do I find better chicken, how do I join the coop?
It’s pretty amazing, really. You just pull back the cover, reveal what’s going on and without any additional convincing, people know they don’t want any part of it and start looking for the alternatives. It’s especially nice that it transcends politics completely. I see parts of the issue that appeal more to lefties and parts that appeal more to righties, but the solution is the same for both.
That’s because there’s not an absolute 1:1 correspondence of leftie:statist, rightie:libertarian. There are left-wing libertarians and right-wing statists and all graduations in between. (I would say offhand that what’s most often referred to as “liberal” by conservatives and libertarians is actually a centrist statist. I can’t tell you how often the actual left-wingers find themselves screaming about a Clinton or an Obama because more often than not they stand for things we DON’T want.)
J. Stanton says
Stossel trotted out this same tired line of baloney months ago with an editorial article saying basically the same things in print…which I debunked here.
Once I found J. L. Capper’s sponsors (shown in the article), everything became clear.
Robb Wolf says
Nice work! So, this is a long running gig. Interesting.
J. Stanton says
Thank you, Rob! Yes, he’s been at it for a while.
We should all expect to see more and more propaganda like this as the movement towards eating locally grown, sustainably produced food grows. Monsanto, ADM, Cargill, Con-Agra, and the rest of corporate agribusiness don’t like seeing people unshackling themselves from total dependency on their products of industrial agriculture. Money and power = media support.
stone temple paleo says
The biggest problem with FOX news is not there bias, because every network is, one way or the other. But FOX is the only network that consistently makes things up out of mid-air, seemingly, and they present it as fact. Good rant Robb.
As Jon Stewart has pointed out so many times, they make up wild stuff on the “opinion” progamming and then it gets reported as “News” on the “News” programming.
And the faithful sheeple beleive anything they say.
Fantastic response Robb, more reserved that I would have preferred 😉
The video made me as sick as a grain fed cow. You’re 100% right about this being a shot across the bow from the respective special interests. The Grass Fed ‘fad’ is a scam because it contributes to global warming? There are so many red flags in that position. I think they might have showed too much of their hand on this one…the shills need to learn how to dial it back so they’re not so obvious.
Cows Eat Grass.
Good stuff Robb.
The whole equation of all inputs and outputs needs to be looked at, as you pointed out. The whole system of cows living on natural land and grass is synergistic and efficient, nature/evolution demands it. I saw a great article a while back about how they got some people in africa to start raising small cattle herds free range on the land and it started to restore the area back to where plants and trees were growing again and restoring the environment. I’ve been searching but can’t seem to find it again.
You would probably be interested in the work of Patrick McMillan (host of the show Expeditions with Patrick McMillan on ETV, http://www.expeditionswithpatrickmcmillan.com). He’s a professor, naturalist, botanist, etc. He’s traveled all over the country and has done a lot of work with grasslands/prairie and is trying to restore them, and also wants to bring back bison/buffalo. He does a talk called Against The Grain: Crisis and Hope in our Grasslands. I’ve heard he’s had some backlash from farmers out west, even receiving death threats.
Robb Wolf says
Interesting. The bison deal is certainly another layer to this.
I think this is what you’re looking for:
Yeah thats it, awesome, thanks.
Whoa!! Slow down turbo! It’s funny because when I hear the word “Libertarian” you and John Stossel are two of the people that come to mind. And if you ever had the chance to sit down with him over a Nor Cal Marg, my guess is you two would have much more in common than you think.
That being said, he totally screwed the pooch on this one. However, I attribute that to shoddy work on his part and somehow lumping the grass-fed movement in with the environmental/global warming movement which is mostly if not completely inaccurate.
I personally see movements like Polyface Farms and my decision to purchase GFB and produce through a local CSA as conservationism not environmentalism.
Final point, I hope you are wrong in your assessment of where the opposition to GFB will come from. As I stated, I see myself as a conservationist. I also see myself as a constitutional conservative similar to many of the values associated to the Tea Party movement. I believe these values are not only complimentary but the conservationism stems from the same values that form my political beliefs.
At any rate, keep up the great work.
Robb Wolf says
Yea, seems to be the case. Thanks man.
Love you. Mean it.
Robb, I encourage all your readers to Email John Stossel, politely, referencing “You” as an alternate opinion on the subject, and also to mention your shared libertarian background. I believe Stossel is generally fair, and if enough people Email Stossel there could be a real potential to get you on a segment, which I think would be great exposure for paleo nutrition as well as setting the record straight
Robb Wolf says
Do you think my Pron Stache comment will hurt my chances ;0)
My Email to Stossel and your welcome for the most excellent plug!
“Mr Stossel, I respect your point of view on a variety of different positions as I usually see you on the O’Reilly Factor. However, I recently saw your segment on Grass Fed beef and was taken back by your seemingly biased attitude against it, which struck me as being inaccurate, particularly concerning the nutritional part of your argument. I would like to point you in the direction of a New York Times Best Selling Author and a fellow libertarian Robb Wolf as an alternate point of view on the subject for a possible rebuttal on the topic.
I am a fox news fan and respect your opinion, but I must say that segment did not strike me as fair and balanced and hope you have a follow up segment with one of the many pro grass fed advocates if not for Robb Wolf. As O’Reilly would say “What Say You?” ”
Hopefully, he will get bombarded with Emails like this!
One a side note, enjoying the book, however, I am going to blame you for being late to work today for sleeping past my alarm due to my recently blacked out bedroom! Never felt so good being late!
Robb Wolf says
Concerned Citizen says
What is the email address we can send this to?
Nice work Robb but as a regular viewer and fan of Stossel, I would cut him some slack overall. You give the impression in this post that Stossel is like O’ Reilly, but he has a libertarian line on all issues.
Even if he is wrong about the substantive case of agriculture (which he should be hammered for), he is against all farm subsidies and the ridiculous food “safety” regulations that harm small farmers. He also regularly invites people who hate him and dispute what he has to say.
My guess is that this is simply not that well known of an issue and hence he was sloppy with his dismissal and sources. If we write to him in increasing numbers, there’s a chance he invites Robb or someone else to the show.
The most infuriating part about all this is that this is the perfect conspiracy for libertarians to highlight – the industrial ag + diet-cholestrol hypothesis + farm subsidies + govt regulation and false information has created so much damage. Libertarians should be OWNING THIS ISSUE and gaining cred from it.
Robb Wolf says
Good to hear John is not a shill in all this but the comment from an earlier person indicates this is the 2nd go around for this topic. I’d love to go on there and talka bout how this integrated model can fix food production, healthcare, national defense and number of other thorny topics.
Libertarians need to get organized and need a louder voice.
Josh P says
” Conﬂict of interest statement: R.A.C. is a full-time employee of Monsanto, holding the position of Technical Project Manager for POSILAC rbST with the primary responsibility of ensuring the scientiﬁc integrity of Monsanto publications about POSILAC; he also owns Monsanto stock. D.E.B. consults for Monsanto in areas outside the environmental impact area and owns no Monsanto stock. J.L.C. and E.C.-G. have no conﬂict of interest. ”
I stopped reading the paper right there.
Robb Wolf says
I’d never check out there. Look at the methods, look at the content. THAT is the important stuff.
Right on! Thats not how rational Bayesians seek truth. The funding source is to be noted and the skepticism lever pushed up a notch – that’s all. It does not mean you stop reading.
Robb Wolf says
exactly. Lots of good research has come out of industry.
Fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to post. The more I hear about this issue – watching King Corn, FatHead, reading your book and the Eades’, Taubes, Pollan, Food Inc, Salatin, etc, etc, the more incensed I get.
It would be a great to have Robb and Joel Salatin on Stossel’s show as counterpoints to this episode, especially given their shared libertarian leanings. Someone make this happen. Although, I doubt there is a lot of overlap between the paleo community and the mainstream media.
I never supported Fox view on politics or anything that has to do with business etc.. However after watching the video and reading your “review” of it(I use “” as it was more of a tongue lashing then a review) I don’t think I will support Fox by watching their channel at all.
Netflix all the way (You guys in the States have better content then us but I get Madmen so it’s all good.)
Keep of fighting the good fight Robb.
You didn’t rebut her on the “small difference” in fatty acids. Grass Fed beef tends to have a 2:1 O6:O3 ratio, whereas grain fed beef has a 4:1 ratio. Did you think it wasn’t that significant? Or that it wasn’t directly provable that it was unhealthy? [Obv. we know the S.A. Diet is unhealthy with all the industrial seed oil, but this difference is smaller compared to those products. Is that why you passed?]
Robb Wolf says
Bigger fish to fry.
Bobby Rodriguez says
Love the article but you have got to get an editor or do your best to look over what you are writing because your spelling is horrible and it makes you look unintelligent. Just and FYI from a guy that wants those with a good point of view to not shoot themselves in the foot while they broadcast that point of view.
The only problem with grass-fed beef is probably the same that accounts for the corn fed variant and that is space. I guess the gasses of cows can be neglected in comparison to what we blast in the air with coal power plants for example. The resources necessary to keep up corn fed is as I take it way higher.
The thing is, if you want permanent availability with slower growing cows you probably need either bigger or more herds. And if you don’t have the space for it either it gets expensive or development or emerging countries will fill in to deliver cheap grass-fed beef. And besides the transport necessary, the deeper impact might be that they will just make new space for herds and that might end up in slash-and-burn of parts of rainforest or destruction of other environmental regions necessary for a healthy planet. Of cause if you have just a permanent increase of the corn fed beef you need more space to provide the food and that might end up in the same way.
I’m by far no expert in any of those topics but it seems somehow it could be a good thing to have both side by side so that the lust for vast profit does not crush important eco-systems.
Thank you Robb for your fair and balanced comments! Stossel knows who is signing his paycheck.
BTW I highly recommend the most entertaining news show on television, Onion News Network on IFC!
Consuelo Werner says
if this had been edited in spanish it would’ve sounded even worse! ….I KILL for grass fed meat. Spot on. I couldn’t agree more. IS good I don’t own a television FOXY NEWS.
And i thought it was the wheat industry that was going to shoot first.
This article is one step away from a needed condemnation of the process of industrial agraculture as a whole.
Tyler Simmons says
Incredible article Rob,
It drives me crazy that conservatives are so quick to bash any socialist institution but turn a blind eye at subsidies… Like there’s a difference.
It’s FUCKING CORPORATE WELFARE.
Yes they’ll take our tax dollars as government subsidies, but any chance of public accountability or regulation? Not a fucking chance.
They’ll take tax payer money but refuse to be accountable to tax payers.
Fucking corporate welfare. The cognitive dissonance is mind blowing.
This really pisses me off. Maybe I’ll do a seminar on this at the university here.
Laurie D. says
I saw the same report by Stossel. I remember feeling annoyed at the time that he had not done his homework. But really, he just reflects the brainwashing that had infected so many of us before we stumbled across the work of folks like you, Sisson, and others in the paleo/primal world. I remember clearly the first day I started reading about paleo and the doubts that crossed my mind, even though I had been gluten-free for 2 years and had unbelievable benefits just from that dietary alteration. I was sure that I was missing out on some important nutrients by going completely grain-free and it wasn’t until I did research on each individual nutrient and found out that I could easily get the same in a paleo diet that I was convinced.
In other news, a local restaurant in Lancaster, PA is serving NorCal margaritas! Ahh, so good.
Thanks for the post, and I hope Stossel/Fox gets back to you.
You know what really blows me away about the subject of grass-fed/humanely-raised meat? It’s been taken up as a cause by the most unbelievable assortment of people: Left-wing, Berkeley “progressives” in the form of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, etc. who love grass-fed because it’s out of the mainstream (thus exclusive) and harks back to a purer era; ultra-conservative Christians who see it as a way of protecting nature as God created it (and there are a lot of these folks about); and dyed-in-the-wool Libertarians who don’t want the government telling us what to do.
So basically, the people who think CAFOs are good are big Ag, big Pharma, and the TV reporters/university folks who benefit from their advertising dollars and grant funding. Oh, and the bulk of Americans who don’t really care what they shove in their mouths as long as it’s cheap and there’s a pill to take when they get sick.
Wow, reading all of this was almost like listening to the Mat Lalonde podcast. I’m exhausted.
Seriously though, there was a lot of great info and level headed debate.
It might add further substance to your already meaty rebuttal: some of the research and case studies that free market organizations have put forth supporting grassfed beef. I’m certainly not an expert on the issue, but the Property & Environment Research Center comes to mind (tagline: Improving environmental quality through property rights and free markets).
For example: http://www.perc.org/articles/article1222.php
We obviously have great biochemical and medical knowledge backing up the benefits of paleo and the dangers of following government-imposed nutrition, but I feel like a sound dose of economic research on the issue hasn’t yet started to circulate.
Great podcasts, btw.
Robb Wolf says
John Calhoun says
As an alumnus of THE Washington State University, I can tell you that nobody on the agriculture side of that institution will have a bad thing to say about wheat/grain. Not if they need their job. They are in the middle of the Palouse where wheat reigns king and supplies a significant amount of revenue. Not exactly what I would call an unbiased expert.
wonderful post. In today’s world of spin and bs, I really appreciate this novel approach to debate that you embrace. I mean, using facts? backing up opinion with research and logic and reason? Who knew it was still possible?
Great response, Robb. Honestly, I could care less what Fox News has to say because I’ve done my own research and I’ve concluded that grass-fed/finished beef is superior to grain-fed beef. Ultimately, we decide what we eat. It’s a conscious decision, one that will produce either a positive or negative health effect. I’m aware of this fact, as is a majority of our community, and I think that’s why we go above and beyond your average Joe to stay informed, to do that extra research. But, honestly, we’re a minority because your average Joe would rather watch a 5-minute Fox News clip on why grass-fed beef is bogus and take John Stossel’s word for it because he doesn’t want to invest any time doing his own investigative work. I don’t think I have a moral obligation to convert these people to a Paleo lifestyle, but I can tell you that I will continue to buy grass-fed beef, to be part of a CSA, and to spend that extra dollar on “real” food… for my own long-term health. I’d like to think this will catch on. Like you said, money talks.
Thanks for writing this. I don’t know how to best get you the following comment so I’ll do it here — We’ve turned our lives around, and have you to thank! My dad is finally reading your book, and has been calling to brag about his abilities to make your recipes (even texted me a picture yesterday – now THAT is progress).
I wanted to praise the Paleo Gourmet Meals – people, this is a great way to STOP supporting the conglomorates that manufacture frozen meals!! My boyfriend was really getting sick of the paleo chili (with grass-fed beef, of course) that I would send with him every day for lunch (hey, it’s delicious, but every day….) but we bought the Paleo Meals from the Paleo Brands website (pack of 12), and he is just loving them! So great that we can get some convenient options that have grass-fed beef! His favorites – the Spaghetti Squash with meatballs and the almond crusted cod.
One question – I see soybean oil and canola oil listed as ingredients in the almond crusted cod (and canola/olive blends in other meals), and this doesn’t seem very paleo (??) I remember your podcast with Chris Kresser (spelling) and remember you both remarking that soybean oil is heavy in Omega 6 and a bad oil to eat? Is this something that will change in the paleo meals in the future?
Good point above though – there are bigger fish to fry. Just thought I’d ask about this though.
Thanks for the amazing work that you do, Robb.
Thanks for the clarification Robb. This really helped me since I am also suffering from the same inability [as these guys] to form cohesive logical conclusions based on the facts in these final hours leading up to William and Kate’s wedding!! I mean countdown to the event is real news and my excitement over it really preventing me from using simple thought processes. You can’t blame us, this is important life changing stuff, not anything like caring about our health and environment or any of that minor stuff happening in the middle east or Japan (I mean hello is been weeks I’m sure everything is back to normal since the news isn’t talking about it)….
Robb Wolf says
Luke R. says
Uh, yeah, not to mention the ethical treatment of the animals and proper slaughtering.
After watching the movie Food, Inc., and switching over to a Paleo style diet, I really wanted to know where my meat came from. So I went to pay a visit to the farm where I buy my beef and let me tell you… Having seen Wolf Creek Farm’s operation, and having talked with John (the farmer) for a good 3 hours, there is no where else on earth that I am going to buy my beef. Knowing the health benefits, and seeing the quality, the safety, and the ethical stewardship of the land and animals, actually made me feel good about eating meat by the truckload.
I guarantee you that if you pay a visit to one of the many feedlots out there that supply your average store bought beef, you won’t come home ready to fire up the grill and throw down on some rare sirloin.
I’d highly recommend visiting your local farmer and seeing their operation. If they’re reputable, and really believe in their product, they’ll most likely be happy, heck PROUD, to show you around.
I think it is funny that Dr. Capper talks about the 23 months time it takes to grow the cattle, and the subsequent amount of feed that would take. She says this to support her claim of additional fossil fuel use. I don’t know if she stopped to think about what ‘grass fed’ really means. What feed??? They are eating the GRASS!!! How does that consume fossil fuels? You could even argue it produces some fuels…. [methane? :)]
Robb Wolf says
Yea, this is why the accounting is like that seen at Enron.
Yes, when I saw her say this, she comes off as totally incompetent. Did anyone else notice that the online version was sponsored by Cargill?
Just goes to show that Fox News is just as biased and liberal as the rest of the media. So i’m not surprised by the content of their story.
Cam MacLellan says
Great post Robb, the most difficult thing about helping people is that we can’t help everyone.
Robb Wolf says
Indeed. I have literall anxiety type attacks at night trying to figue out how to get information out faster. Every day I hear from people for whom paleo saved their lives,a nd also every day I meet people who have lost loved ones or are suffering unnecessarily because the information is not broadly available.
Question – Jamie Oliver is doing the Food Revolution show again, and he showed the nasty truth about ground beef filler. Ammonia-soaked liquefied left overs that go into up to x% of the ground beef that is sold.
Does this happen with Grass Fed Ground Beef? At this point it might be wise to get a meat grinder and do it ourselves, but something tells me that it doesn’t have filler.
Love this post.
Thanks Robb, Ashley
When I clicked on the link to watch the clip, what comes up? An ad for Cargill!
I have never been a fan of Fox news, but recently read an article by John Stossel in Reason Magazine that I was impressed with. So I am sad to see his lack of integrity, and irritated by his condescension. It reminds me of someone arguing the facts to prove that we live on a flat earth.
Hopefully as more people realize the benefits (including environmental, spiritual and health), more will vote with their wallets. Keep on spreading the word, the paleo movement is growing exponentially. What you are doing is so important.
The farm bill is up for renewal next year. We need to be fighting to reduce grain subsidies, pure and simple.
It would not be a huge leap to guess that many of the same legislators who are so eager to cut the budget this year will be strangely silent on that issue when it rolls around next year. Sounds like they are already lining up their propaganda machine for the battle. They will protect the billions in subsidies to their constituents even while singing hymns to the free market.
We The People who care about fixing our food system need to make a lot of noise on this one.
Okay, that video and interview are infuriating! What a load of Crap! The sad thing is that people believe it because it came from John Stossel.
This article is awesome!
Great piece. Thanks for putting the work in. I’m off to go watch Fat Head on hulu. Nothing gets me spun up quite like reading about Ancel Keys or George McGovern.
Rob, I love your blog and your book. I have been following a paleo regime for a few years. I know you have great team dedicated to your site and products. Why not use a little SEO to out rank fox for BS like the video with Geraldo.
I would love to see this article (or a new article that is targeted) to rank number one for “Why Grass-Fed Beef Is Worse for Environment.”
Feel free to contact me if you want to out rank Fox and there BS propaganda. All pro bono. My email and website are in the comment information.
Funny how this completely contradicts the pro-grass fed beef story they ran a couple of years ago.
Shhhh, it doesn’t fit the evil Fox news narrative.
I can’t believe I’m clicking a link to Fox “News”.
Sasha B says
Love your post! Fox News is nothing but a factory of lies – it infuriates me that people listen to their garbage, accept it as truth, and never take the time to question it. People need to stop being tools and seek out the truth about their food (and everything else in the world for that matter).
Thanks for being a champion for food truths! 🙂
Jude Capper says
Man Robb. Watching that video made me want to smash and break things. I am absolutely impressed at how well you controlled your rage.
Keep up the good work.
Juicy stuff here
From the beginning I threw up in my mouth a little bit at his condescending tone. I knew the rest wouldn’t be good. Just goes to show how important it is to do our own research, and that we really can’t rely on our “news” for any accurate information. I too agree with you when you say: “I love business, LOVE America and I strongly dislike most elements of government and think it should be smaller, and less influential.” Aside from doing what I’m already doing (making my own choice with my wallet to buy from a local farm and tell anyone who will listen as to why)…what else can I do? It seems like a losing battle sometimes that can only be solved by moving to a country where gov’t isn’t as involved.
Alexander York says
This kind of stuff boils my blood. Fortunately for all of us, nobody takes this crap seriously … or do they?
Forget FOX news as Robb pointed out its’s main stream media vs. New Media outlet’s… I can’t watch main stream media anymore I don’t care if its FOX or MSNBC. They are so agenda driven that I can’t tell what is true and accurate anymore.
The problem is Most people take this crap as gospel… Not the people on this blog but the masses of sheeple who refuse to do their own due diligence and explore all the research and then make an educated decision.
Don’t worry though eventually more will see the light in time.
You should run for President! 🙂
Robb Wolf says
Ha! My sordid past would either make me perfect or ejected!
Rob-fabulous blog! I was stricken by a comment you made stating that you “have literall anxiety type attacks at night trying to figuer out how to get information out faster.” Just want to let you know that my “aha” moment did not come from watching Oprah or Dr Oz. It came when I found your blog, which in turn pointed me in the direction of other like minded folks like Gary Taubes, Chris Kresser etc. I have literally changed my mindset and diet with such positive results! Just wanted to let you know that you ARE having a positive impact and I appreciate all your efforts to get the message out there. I learn so much from your blog- Keep up the good work!
There is no such thing as “news on Fox” it is all corporate BS designed to get rid of individuals rights in favor of corporations or what is complete anti Americanism. Really it is more like terrorism than anything else. Unfortunately too many people have been brain washed to watching them. There is no other way that I can think o\f to counter it than to just tell the truth in as many places as possible.
As a research chemist it still boggles me that papers like the one linked pass the PNAS editorial board; I can’t imagine it is based on merit alone… but I am not entirely ready to throw my towel into the ring and end the fight for scientific integrity just yet. Bauman’s research has moved onto dietary changes in cattle to enhance production- maybe they’ll go paleo, too?!?!?
Interesting read. I was actually at an invent that claimed a difference between grain and corn fed beef. I tried both and they were the same to me.
IF that isn’t proof enough that getting cattle roaming and eating grass is environmentally friendly, then I don’t know what is. I don’t see any feedlot doing this much good. FYI Allan Savory was also the winner that year.
It’s sad they didn’t even have someone on the other side to present counterargument, but I suppose that’s how they are…
Fantastic post! I shared this with every grass based farmer I know and they all applauded your position. Being that THEY are the true authorities on this topic, their accolades are unsurpassed. You got it right, again, Robb.
Robb Wolf says
Thanks Tara, just trying to do the right thing.
My husband and I just recently moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina 4 weeks ago. The beef here is world famous because it is considered (with little argument) to be the best in the world. Why? The Pampas, where almost all the beef here is raised, is a giant grassland that also happens to be a flood plain. Every year the flood plains are replenished by the river, and so the natural food source of the cattle (G-R-A-S-S) is replenished. This is interesting to me. The best beef in the world comes from an area of a country with extremely fertile land where the geography allows for annual replenishment, therefore allowing said beef to graze on it’s natural, fertile, food source. Coincidence? I think not. The quality of the meat skyrockets when the animals are fed in the way they were designed by nature? What a revelation. And, for the record, we can EASILY taste the difference in the quality of the meat. It. Is. Amazing.
Thanks for this article!
Robb Wolf says
The Argentineans are doing it all wrong. they need a geopolitical agenda that involves dodgy alliances and a mushrooming defense budget to procure oil, to grow corn (that will need a remarkable amount of fertilizers and pesticides…also made from oil) to feed to the cattle to increase “efficiency”.
They can hide the real costs in a murky web of subsidies and taxes so the real costs are tough to find.
Enjoy your time there! Feeling a wee bit jealous ;0)
John Fawkes says
Yes, yes, YES! Fox News does stuff like this all the time. Check out this video they did on how the government is supposedly funding violent video games like Call of Duty.
Notice that the guest points out that only educational games are getting funded, yet they keep running a montage of all kinds of games which have no relevance to the story. Typical. I get most of my news from CNN.com and Reuters now; Fox, and TV in general, just dumbs it down too damned much.
Robb Wolf says
FOX I just the worst of the Republican Neo-Con scene. Almost a bigger bummer than the liberals.
I like you <3
Why don’t you check your politics at the door. Just because we agree with your diet information does NOT mean we agree with your far left politics. You seem to have a Media Matters (read George Soros) view of Fox “News”. I’m sure your treatment of the story would have been far different had it been on MSNBC.
Remember, this country is pretty evenly divided between Dems and Repubs. Why would you risk alienating half your audience with your personal political views. You lost a lot of credibility with me.
Robb Wolf says
Far left? Marc, I do not attract many morons to this blog, apparently I’ve attracted 1. I can’t even WATCH MSNBC….no amigo, YOU need to check your politics, and figure out something that actually has some continuity. So, calling for no subsidies and transparency in government is LEFTY? Mark, flesh this out for me, I’m fascinated. This is straight out of the Milton Freidman playbook…do you know that guy?
Laura Rogers says
Greetings from Australia. Thanks for the useful content. I’m doing a project at college and your stuff was quite useful. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I have read and reread the beginning of your article and I just don’t understand what you are saying about rare beef. You say you love it and you eat it and even eat tartar style but then you say “one should NEVER consume meat that rare” Well, which is it? Please explain.
I myself have eaten my beef rare for 50 years without a problem. I consider the risk and to my thinking it is way too small to worry about.
Daniel Chong says
I didn’t read every comment, so maybe someone mentioned this guy already but just on the off chance no one did and on the even less likely chance you don’t already know of him, very cool stuff: http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html?source=facebook#.UTo6ZUi5Wbo.facebook
Robb Wolf says
Yes! We’ve talked about him elsewhere.
I don’t have the foggiest idea who said it first, however, there is nothing more changeless than a brief government program. The endowment to the oil organizations is a prime model. Presently they appear to be out of date and senseless… yet good karma pulling them back.