Salty Talk is a special edition of Healthy Rebellion Radio. Each week on Salty Talk Robb will do a deep dive into current health and performance news, mixed with an occasional Salty conversation with movers and shakers in the world of research, performance, health, and longevity.
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This is the first installment of something that I hope y’all will like, a “fireside chat” with Diana Rodgers. Diana and I talk frequently, usually comparing notes on some of the insanity (and bright spots) we see we see in the food and regenerative ag space. Each time we talk we usually say “we should have recorded that!” Well, today, we did. We laid out some basic ground that we share and also dug into some news topics, including the first patient given a diagnoses of “climate change.”
The Healthy Rebellion Radio is sponsored by our electrolyte company, LMNT.
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Download a copy of this transcript here (PDF)
Nicki: Welcome to the Healthy Rebellion Radio. This is an episode of Salty Talk, a deep dive into popular and relevant health and performance news pieces, mixed with the occasional Salty conversation with movers and shakers in the world of research, performance, health, and longevity. Healthy Rebellion Radio Salty Talk episodes are brought to you by Drink LMNT, the only electrolyte drink mix that’s salty enough to make a difference in how you look, feel, and perform. We co-founded this company to fill a void in the hydration space.
Nicki: We needed an electrolyte drink that actually met the sodium needs of active people, low carb keto and carnivore adherence without any of the sugar colors and fillers found in popular commercial products. Health rebels, this is Salty Talk. And now the thing our attorney advises, the contents of this show are for entertainment and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast should be considered medical advice. Please consult your licensed and credentialed functional medicine practitioner before embarking on any health dietary or fitness change. And given that this is Salty Talk, you should expect the occasional expletive.
Robb: Welcome back, rebels. Welcome back, wife.
Nicki: Hello, hello. Welcome to another episode of the Healthy Rebellion Radio.
Robb: So we have something a little different today. Do you want me to talk about that now or get into housekeeping stuff?
Nicki: You mean like the …
Robb: The format of today’s show?
Nicki: You can go there if you like.
Robb: So, Diana Rodgers and I are maybe once a month going to get together and do a little bit more food justice, food systems related stuff. She’s calling in a fireside chat. And so, you will see this same episode pop up on both the healthy rebellion thread …
Nicki: Radio as well as Diana’s podcast.
Robb: … Diana’s podcast.
Nicki: So if you subscribe to both, Diana’s podcast and ours, you will see …
Robb: This episode is appearing in hers a couple of weeks.
Nicki: … this episode will appear in both feeds.
Robb: Yeah. Diana and I will get chatting on this stuff whenever we wrap up. I’m like, shit, we should have probably recorded that. And so, we jumped into some good material today. Do I talk about that right now or …
Nicki: Let me cover a couple of housekeeping items …
Robb: Okay, couple of housekeeping. Okay, cool.
Nicki: … and then we can go into the overview of today’s show. And then you’ll get into the interview.
Nicki: So just a couple quick things I wanted to mention. Next week in the Rebellion, one of our rebels, Marci Zavala from Reno, Nevada, she’s a physical therapist, she’s going to be hosting a five-day pelvic floor workshop, so that will run November 15th through the 19th. This course is for both men and women, and is free to members of the Healthy Rebellion. So if that interests you and you’re not yet a member, that would be a good time to join to check that out. And then the other thing I wanted to mention is that Robb is going to be participating in global grappling day for Tap Cancer Out. And that takes place on December 11th. And so, if you feel so inclined and would like to … What do you call it, sponsor?
Robb: Yes, yeah.
Nicki: Or donate, it’s a fundraiser. And so, on December 11th, Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners all around the globe will be rolling for a continuous hour and like a Jog-A-Thon, but it’s like a Roll-a-Thon or something like that. So anyway, we will post a link to the fundraiser to Robb’s fundraising page in the show notes, which will be on robbwolf.com, if you are interested in supporting that. All of the money raised goes to organizations in support of cancer. One of them that we love is Camp Sunshine, a dear friend of ours. Actually, Julie Mayfield, who you guys know from paleo comfort food, fame. She has been a volunteer.
Robb: She’s been volunteering at Camp Sunshine for over a decade, I want to say.
Nicki: I want to say even longer than that. Like when we met her 10 years ago, she had already been participating this. That’s an organization that’s very near and dear to us. It’s just wonderful what they do for these kids and families of kids who have cancer. So anyway, just a great event coming up. If you are a BJJ practitioner and you would like to participate in global grappling day, you can do that as well. I think it’s just globalgrapplingday.com. And then you can sign up to become a fundraiser and participate. So I just want to get that out there.
Robb: And I would expand that any grappler anywhere. Greco, freestyle, judoka, Sambo, everybody should get in and do this, whatever your flavor of grappling. If you want to throw me a few shekels towards my efforts, that would be amazing. But if you would like to spin up a donation page and get the folks in your scene to support you, that would be awesome. And the plan is on the day of one of the local SPG gyms will be open for the folks here locally that will be participating. And then we will hopefully live stream that as well. So basically, what you’ll see is me getting mauled for an hour. And so, man, that’s got to be worth a couple of bucks to do that.
Nicki: Yes, yes. Okay, I think that was all of the things I wanted to cover at the beginning. So, you and Diana, like you mentioned, this is going to be a regular cadence for these shows with her. Because, obviously, people following our show with in the Healthy Rebellion know the importance of food and regenerative agriculture …
Robb: Regenerative food systems.
Nicki: … and food sovereignty and all of this stuff. And there’s plenty of topics for discussion around that. So want to give just a highlight of what you guys chat about tonight.
Robb: I’m getting folk said, a teaser for one of the things that we talked about, which comes from the Indian Express, excuse me. And the title is in Canada, the world’s first patient diagnosed with “climate change.” And it’s really interesting. It is what we talked about in the podcast. I’ll talk about a little bit here, but it’s basically a woman who was admitted to the hospital with asthma and a host of interrelated problems. The doctor felt that it was reasonable to diagnose her with “climate change” because part of the issues were the worsening air quality due to the wildfires that have been affecting her area.
Robb: And I just think that there are absolutely dire and catastrophic consequences of going down this road. And as we discuss in the podcast, I am not a climate change denier by any means. Climate change is a real thing. Greenhouse gases trap of radiant heat from the sun and reradiated from the earth and all the physics there still holds. But the details are important. And we’ve seen within the era of COVID that the weaponization of healthcare to affect different social engineering goals due to health in every life matters and all that type of stuff.
Robb: And this is, I was saying for a long time, the next step with this is climate change that this is all going to get wrapped into climate change. And this is your beginning piece to this. And if you haven’t liked where the COVID story has brought us, as a society, where it’s brought our healthcare systems, you damn sure better be ready to get up and do some fighting and some debating and some thinking around the way that this is going to be woven into climate change. And so, we dig into that pretty in depth.
Nicki: Okay, sounds good. Before we get into the show, I want to do our sponsor bit here so that the interview can be uninterrupted, all Diana and Robb and all the goodness. So, this Salty Talk episode of the Healthy Rebellion Radio is sponsored by LMNT, our salty AF electrolyte company. And today, Robb, you don’t know this, but I made the executive decision to let the cat out of the proverbial bag.
Robb: The gato de la bolsa.
Nicki: The gato afuera de la bolsa on the new fall flavor of LMNT. So, some of our ambassadors have already been posting some sneak peeks already on social media, so some of you might already know … I don’t know, do we need a drumroll? Da da da da da da da. This fall flavor is mint chocolate. And I will say, as a huge fan of Girl Scout thin mint cookies, the mint chocolate LMNT is much like a thin mint in a cup, without the sugar, of course. It’s perfect in a mug of hot water on a cold winter day. Our girls absolutely love it.
Nicki: And mint chocolate salt will be available to purchase this coming Tuesday, November 16th. Like grapefruit salt, it’s a seasonal or limited edition flavor. So once it’s gone, it’s gone. So if mint chocolate type things are your thing, you might want to get your hands on that. One of our ambassadors shared the following quote, “Me thinks that mint chocolate LMNT will blow grapefruit out of the water as a limited edition flavor. I just got my little treat box and hubs immediately used it in his pour over coffee and declared it, what do you say?
Nicki: Earmuffs for kids listening, un-fucking-believable.” I think we may try and make an ice cream with it too. So, cats officially out of the bag. You can get your hands on mint chocolate salt on Tuesday, November 16th, by going to drinklmnt.com/robb. That’s drink L-M-N-T.com/robb. And be sure to keep LMNT in mind when thinking about the people on your holiday gift giving list as well. Okay, that’s the spiel. You ready to …
Robb: And the show must go on.
Nicki: The show must go on. So without further ado, Robb and Diana.
Diana: Welcome to a new podcast thing Robb and I are doing called the fireside chat on my end, I don’t know what Robb, you’re going to call this. But basically, we’re just killing two birds with one stone, basically, is how we’re doing it.
Robb: Yes, we chat a lot anyway. And usually, when we’re done chatting, we’re like, “Damn, we should have recorded that.” Because we just bitch and pontificate and yell, get off my lawn, multiple times. So we figured why not record it and get dual purpose out of this. So normally, I have the Healthy Rebellion Radio and/or the Salty Talk. So this is, for my side of the house nesting under the Salty Talk banner, and we’re going to be looking a lot at food, food policy, global food issues, it will bleed over into some other things also, because that’s just the way our world is. It’s a complex dynamic systems and there is not a way to just Sesame Street this whole thing and make it super simple and apolitical on all the rest of that.
Diana: Yeah. So maybe for folks that are listening to my podcast and don’t know who you are, can you just give a brief intro and maybe I’ll do the same?
Robb: The high watermark of my career is being the co-author of your book, Sacred Cow. And I’m a former research biochemist, have written a couple of New York Times bestselling books, and have been active in and around this ancestral health scene for the better part of 20 years. And I guess you should do the same thing for … Although, literally, all of my folks know who you are. But in doing diligence, we’ll do the same, yeah.
Diana: Yeah. So Robb, we met in like 2010 or so or something, long time ago, at the very first ancestral health symposium conference through Mat Lalonde, our mutual friend over at Harvard. And I was in the Nutritional Therapy Association program. I had to … At the time, there was an assignment where I had to read a book and follow a diet prescription in it and write about my experience. And so, I read this book called The Paleo Solution, decided to follow it. It made a remarkable improvement in my health.
Diana: I was already gluten free, because of a celiac diagnosis at age 26 that I had actually had my whole life, but finally found out then. But then shifting away from the higher carb, mostly vegetarian type diet that I was doing into more animal products, more animal fats, and lower carb in general, steering away from rice and lentils and the other corn, the other grains that were giving me problems, just … I mean, my life went from black and white to color, like Wizard of Oz level. And so, we’ve been chatting a long time.
Diana: And the sustainability food systems stuff has always been something we’ve chatted about. And so, really excited to have the book under our belt. The paperback just came out for folks who don’t have the hardcover and want to read it. A lot of people think that, well, I saw the film, so I didn’t want to read the book. But it’s so different than the film.
Robb: Do you want to talk about that a little bit? I mean, or maybe I’ll launch in on that just really quickly.
Robb: The book was our opportunity to … So in broad brushstrokes, both the book and the film address the ethical, environmental, and health considerations of a meat inclusive food system. I think is maybe a fair way to put that. And any one of those topics alone is probably deserving of a multi-volume treatment. And I think when we finished our rough outline, initially, for the book, it was nearly 600 pages. And to the credit of our publisher, we managed to get it down just a hair under 300 pages.
Robb: And I still think it’s very, very good, probably much more accessible than it would have been initially. But there’s kind of a … When we’ve had debates, both online and in real life with the vegans, healthier promoters, whatever, there’s a very predictable pattern that emerges when we’re talking to folks. It’s like, well … And it’ll depend on where you jumped in, whether it’s the health part or the environmental part or the ethical part. And then it just becomes this Whac-A-Mole where you address one issue and then another thing pops up.
Robb: And I have to give a real hat tip to Diana because early in the formative process of writing the book, we were really going to tackle the ethical angle first. But pretty quickly, you realize you’re like, hey, if you can’t reasonably feed a human properly without animal foods, that was one big thing. That was a big aha. It’s like, that would change the ethical story a lot. Because there’s a whole duality to the ethics there. And then if the environmental side of this thing is such that, oh, you can’t actually have a food system that goes on forever without animal product inputs.
Robb: Because the whole thing grinds to a halt, because all the topsoil is gone at some point, and it’s all for naught, that changes the ethical considerations too. And so, we end up addressing these topics, including doesn’t cattle use huge amounts of water? Does it make huge large amounts of land? And we end up tackling these things in what has become a very predictable sequential process when people raise one question and then we address that, then there’s a follow-on piece. And in the book format, it’s very amenable to addressing that in a serial format.
Robb: And I think people get an enormous amount out of that because you have this logical flow of consciousness, that almost no matter where you drop in, it’s going to bring them to this hopefully pretty satisfying conclusion. The film covers a lot of the same stuff, but it’s much more of a broad picture story addressing these topics, instead of almost like a graduate thesis starting at one point, then working its way forward, and then throw whatever other thoughts you have in on that.
Diana: Yeah, I was just going to mention we have that choose your own adventure, which I guess was trademarked and we couldn’t use that term. But it’s basically concerned about this, page 72 or whatever. So we take all those common questions that … I mean, over the last 10 years or longer, we’ve just seen as very predictable questions, you answer the methane, then it’s the water, then it’s the feed. Or maybe they asked about the feed before the water, but they’re always going to hit these certain things. We also toyed with environment first, but it’s like nutrition.
Diana: It’s just black and white. But animal source nutrients are essential for humans who are omnivores, period. And that ties into the ethics, as you mentioned. Because is it ethical to then tell people who can’t have the privilege to push away nutrient dense meat who are dying to get it, that they shouldn’t eat it because you are uncomfortable with how animals are raised?
Robb: Beautifully said, yeah.
Diana: And so, basically, you can’t have a reasonable ethical debate with anybody unless they fully appreciate the nutritional contribution that animal source food makes to people, especially in developing countries, but also in the US when we have this crisis of people who are over overfed but undernourished. So, I would argue that prioritizing protein for both malnourished and overfed people is useful. And that’s where meat period is healthy. And that ends up getting us in all kinds of trouble, because a lot of the grass-fed folks will say, no, less meat, better meat.
Diana: And that’s not okay. It’s ethically not okay from a public health perspective. And people who don’t understand the nutritional contribution of meat don’t get that piece. Well, why we don’t have to eat meat? Well, yeah, there’s a lot of people that do need to eat meat or animal source foods. I think you could make the case that a vegetarian who maybe gets enough eggs and dairy products can be okay.
Robb: Navigate things, yeah.
Diana: But most people do very well when they prioritize protein and cut out ultra-processed foods, which are the real villain. And they’re the ones who are winning when we infight like this when we’re debating about, well, less meat, better meat, only grass-fed regenerative meat. The whole food system is broken. We definitely need to be moving towards a more regenerative system, but that’s just not where we’re at right now. And even feedlot finished beef, this is going to cause all kinds of comments and stuff.
Diana: But even feedlot finished beef, the majority of their life is spent on pasture. Only about 10% of their overall diet is grain. And animals can convert grain to protein at a pretty amazing rate. And so, with cattle, it’s about 2.5 pounds of grain corn to one pound of beef. So as a dietitian, what’s more important? Do we want someone eating two-and-a-half pounds of corn or do we want them eating one pound of beef?
Robb: Right. In the book, you did the breakdown looking at the caloric inputs of if you want to hit a certain protein level, and this is still neglecting essential amino acids, cofactors like zinc and magnesium and iron, we ignore all that stuff. And we just looked at protein, I think it was like close to 800 calories to of been in rice approach, to equal what you would get, 250 approximately calories-
Diana: Less than that, yeah. It was like about 180 to 200 calories worth of beef to about 750 to 800 calories worth of beans and rice. I mean, I do go out into the vitamins and minerals that you’re still not going to get with that much beans and rice, but that’s just to hit your protein threshold. And that’s overall protein. That’s not, as you said, amino acids. Because we don’t have a protein requirement. We have amino acid requirements, which are the little things that make up proteins.
Robb: Tinkertoys that make up proteins.
Diana: When we look at just the nutritional inequity of telling people that they need to eat less meat, and less than what? That’s the other thing. It’s like, what … So people assume that Americans are eating these 72 ounce Tomahawk steaks every night, like Fred Flintstone. And that’s just not the reality. The beef consumption in the US is less than two ounces per person per day. And so, our chicken intake has gone way up, chicken is about 30% less nutritious than beef. But we see it as a cleaner meat, probably because it’s white and has less bones and it reminds us less of death. And it’s more socially acceptable to eat chicken, because chickens look less like dogs probably. Anyway, I could just go on and on.
Robb: Maybe it’s a lot to unpack, and I think that this is like … We just had this interesting thing end up in my inbox this morning, where talking about a health diagnosis of climate change, which we’ll dig into in a minute. But these topics are inherently super complex. And I’m a big fan of the DarkHorse Podcast, Bret and Heather. And they constantly talk about complex systems, like the challenges of understanding or navigating complex systems. And usually, more complexity doesn’t fix complex systems.
Robb: And this is where things like Impossible Foods and whatnot are such a laughable solution to a global food policy. Unfortunately, at least in that case, we’re seeing the market speak around it’s not just the market, it’s their infrastructure. They can’t make this shit profitable because it’s massively energy intensive, labor intensive, resource intensive, versus what we’ve been talking about, which is sunlight, grass, arable land that is mainly usable for grasslands, and then the organisms that have co-evolved in that space. That’s a shockingly efficient system.
Robb: Even when people piss and moan about like, well, you’re using a lot of land, well, what else are we going to use that land for? Are we going to turn it into strip malls? We can’t use it to raise other food, like it’s not cropable. And so, it evolved as grassland, it’s amenable as grassland. So we’re going to use that, and that is, in fact, a remarkably efficient system. There are some screwy economics of it because of the consolidation of meat production and whatnot, but even doing a compare and contrast, like why is Impossible Foods failing?
Robb: And it’s not just social stuff. They’ve had from Arnold Schwarzenegger to every star you could possibly think of endorsing this stuff. And I think people diligently being interested in it, but it’s still, it’s twice the cost of pasture need to buy something like Impossible Burger, and they still can’t make the shit profitable. And there’s a reason behind that. And this is some of the stuff that I think we’re hoping to dig into, is some of these topical news pieces and things that are occurring.
Robb: For me, I feel like a lot of this stuff is obvious, but it’s not because you and I have been dealing with it for 10 years and we just think about it all the time. So it’s clearly not obvious. And there are a lot of folks that are interested in it, but oftentimes don’t have maybe a frame of reference for being able to unpack why some of this stuff is really silly and ultimately really injurious. If we make bad decisions around how we tackle climate change, in my mind, the best analogy I have, it’s like asking someone to be a neurosurgeon, but giving them oven mitts and a pair of virtually opaque sunglasses.
Robb: It’s like, okay, go do your shit. It’s like you have no feedback, you have no real sense of reality here. And oftentimes, the real reality is unpleasant or counterintuitive or not the way we would like things to be, but when we throw a rock up in the air, it will come back down, unless we launch it at 17,000 miles an hour. So it can escape velocity. There’s just certain parameters that define what the physical universe is going to give us. And I think that that at least in part, part of our goal of doing this, is to be able to unpack some of that stuff and give some context around it.
Diana: Yeah. And so, COP26 is just wrapping up. And I saw on …
Robb: Tell folks what that is, remind them what that is.
Diana: It’s being held currently in Glasgow, Scotland, and all the member nations of the United Nations coming together and tackling climate change. And I saw on Twitter, there’s all these plant-based folks who are saying, serving meat at a Climate Change Conference is like handing out free cigarettes at a health conference or something like that. And then I saw a menu, and there were three choices. You could have the beef, and then it showed like a gas bubble at 34 whatever, level 34. And then the plant-based options were like 0.6.
Diana: So shaming people, and it was local beef from Scotland. And the amazing thing is, so I’ve been to Scotland, not a lot of vegetables can grow there because there’s hardly any sunlight ever. One of my best friends is from Scotland, and she lives in Massachusetts for the climate. Because she was telling me that you can go a whole entire year without one fully sunny day, the whole day of sun. It’s really cold. When I was there, it was August, it was freezing. And I saw a lot of grain production, but I did not see a lot of crop production. And I talked with farmers. No, we can’t grow.
Diana: You just can’t, maybe some root crops and some cabbage and stuff, but you can’t grow stuff. But what Scotland can do really well is grass. That’s the most sustainable use of their land is for grazing and …
Robb: And they’ve been doing that for a couple of thousand years, and it hasn’t destroyed their environment. You’ve even made the case that they could probably be a little more regenerative in some of the practices that they use. But you’ve visited some places that have a chain of custody that goes back 2000 years. Is that right or …
Diana: Yeah. And interestingly, they don’t really have as industrial scale like we do in the US. They don’t have a ton of feedlots. There are some in England, but in Wales, I’m actually speaking later today for a Welsh meat conference. They’re largely pasture based. Scotland is largely pasture based. These cattle are old breeds. It is the best use of that land. And you’ve got all these folks in the UK that want to just re-wild everything when there just aren’t natural predators. I mean, you … Anyway, so I just get really frustrated. You have to go around and call things or else they’re going to overgraze. Things have to be managed, because we don’t have the wild predators to manage them. Okay, so …
Robb: That was our pointed grass world in the book, just walking people through some really basic ecology. And I think in a pretty accessible way, we’ve had a fair amount of commentary that folks were like, wow, that opened my eyes to the need for complexity in these ecosystems. And that if you remove some of the features like predator prey interaction, then you’ve got to have something else or the whole thing craters.
Diana: Which we can do with electric fencing. So circling back to the whole reason why we started this part of our conversation, is that for those of you who have seen the film, I know it’s easier to watch a movie than it is to read the book. But the reason I made the film was because we were halfway through writing the book, and yet another vegan documentary had come out. And I was like, okay, I got to have something for these high school teachers to show when they’re showing just to have a counterpoint.
Diana: So, the film was really aimed at bringing the farm to people to show them, which is really fun. I’m starting to do on farm workshops with farmers where we’re in the field, looking at a massively diverse pasture, and then we’re in the classroom later, did that at White Oak. We’re going to be doing more of those next year. So the film is really just showing you how these concepts work on the farm. But the book is very much laying out the argument. And so, Thanksgiving is coming up, everyone’s got that plant-based sister-in-law who is going to be feisty at the table.
Diana: And if you want a crash course in how to intelligently review every single point that a plant-based person might make, this is the book for you. And I should also mention, before we finish talking about the book, but our publisher is the publisher of the China Study. They’re a vegan publisher. We thought that it was super interesting that they offered us a book deal. And who better to vet our arguments than someone from the plant-based side. Our environmental argument …
Robb: In every other large publisher had passed on it. And then, ironically, this vegan based publisher, which there’s the big five and that what is like number 6. They’re just right on the cusp of their large scale publisher, but it was interesting that the folks who published the China Study feel so compelled by the proposal that we had …
Diana: The environmental we both …
Robb: … the environmental piece. They’re like people need to see this. They at least need to have the conversation around this topic.
Diana: Exactly. Okay, moving on. Let’s talk about some of these current events you pinged me this article. Someone has been diagnosed with climate change.
Robb: Did that one go … Where did that one go? It was here.
Diana: Yeah. I put it right at the top of the dot.
Robb: The Indian Express, yeah. And it looks like you have something from the gram also that you … Okay, well, maybe dig into that one next?
Diana: Sure, yeah. You want to talk about the Instagram one. I just thought it was interesting. So I regrammed that today. But you and I have been talking about just this idea of food sovereignty and how people should have the right to choose their own food systems in the most sustainable way that’s culturally appropriate to them and how the anti-meat folks are really not taking that into consideration when they’re running around demanding that everybody comply to their moral structure, when that might not be other people’s desires.
Diana: And so, and especially when we’re talking about First Nations people and social justice issues, which is why I started this group, the Global Food Justice Alliance, which is really just trying to point out the inequity of a food system that denies people access, the choice to animal source foods. So it’s like, cool, if you want to choose a plant-based diet for yourself, that’s awesome. But don’t dictate that to other people who traditionally have eaten lots of animal source foods and don’t want to eat that way, may not thrive that way, may live in an area where only animal source foods do well, like most of the world. You froze up real quick on me.
Robb: Yeah. It’s maybe worth mentioning that this is an often overlooked piece of this whole story, which is what’s being suggested to traditional people, the developing world is that you all are going to abandon all of your traditional food systems and you’re going to eat exclusively of the output of the industrial real crop food system. And you will be wholly dependent on basically the United States, Europe, and a few other players to make sure that the bulk of your food arrives there because you’re not going to produce it locally. Because there’s not the infrastructure there.
Robb: This is what traditional food systems have done, whether it’s guinea pigs in South America or whatever we’re talking about. And this is another part of this story that is just forgotten. It’s not just cattle and it’s the bigger picture of these traditional food systems that have served people quite well for a very, very long time. And I’m a little bit different and that I’m not so weirded out about like an hour avocado going from Mexico to Canada in December, if that’s what the economics dictate.
Robb: But I do get prickly around the notion that local people should undo their systems in lieu of exclusively being tight to a row crop food system. Do you want to mention a little bit? So this one is one that you reposted. You want to talk about that? And we’ll definitely make sure it ends up in both of our sets of show notes too.
Diana: Yeah, let me navigate back to the post. I posted it on my Global Food Justice page. So this was a post by Well For Culture, which I’m hoping I’ve invited them on the podcast. I love this post. And they’re just talking about the importance of bison and how the bison were taken away from them, and how the genocide of wildlife populations and the destruction of biodiversity in the natural habitat is rooted in in the food systems that they were keeping going forever, before we came annihilated the bison and then plowed up the entire middle of the country and planted row crops and destroyed biodiversity.
Diana: And so, this whole idea they’re saying, it’s audacious to be pushing this plant based agenda on indigenous populations. And I was just really excited to see that because it was something that you and I brought up in the book specifically. And I’m really excited that there are other groups now grabbing that idea and running with it, because PETA and other plant-based anti-meat organizations have got to understand their privilege and their elitism when it comes to their preaching of how killing animals is wrong. I get that it seems that way. But when you don’t understand how food is produced and that things are going to die, the only sustainable solution is to go back to what the US looked like before White people came, basically.
Robb: Right, right. Or the least put an eye towards what parts of that had been in existence for tens of thousands of years, at least, and had not destroyed the natural environment, had not destroyed the planet writ large via biogenic greenhouse gas emissions and whatnot. And I get that we now have the carbon footprint of fossil fuels to contend with. But this is another one of the things that we are challenged with unpacking, is that when we take an overly simplistic view of greenhouse gases, then things like termite mounds and shellfish and deer and …
Robb: … moose end up getting a bad rap. And both their quantitative impact is a rounding error compared to everything else within like transportation and whatnot. But then the qualitative piece to this is that this is life begetting life, which is the goal. And it’s funny, when I’ve presented this stuff to kids, the kids get it immediately. They’re like, “Oh, that totally makes sense.” And it’s funny, presenting this to adults is a non-trivial challenge. It takes a while for folks to get it.
Robb: And then I’ll bring up some of the articles that I’ve seen like shellfish methane emissions are massive and maybe we should eradicate shellfish and termite emissions are massive, maybe we should be doing something to mitigate termites. With no thought about what are the knock-on consequences of doing things like this, so yeah, yeah.
Diana: Yeah, there’s a Twitter feed called SciMoms, as science moms, and I saw them posting the same stuff. And their whole position is that they dig deep into the science and really understand the complexities of everything. And I just pinged him and said like, hey, I’m a mom, I’m a scientist. Can I please have a dialogue with you about how you’re grossly misinterpreting the science like nutritional, environmental? I mean, it’s all about just misinterpretations of observational studies or looking at what kind of water are we talking about. We’re talking about blue water or green water. We’re talking about naturally occurring water or irrigation. And it’s all the same story. It’s like you have to just go a little bit deeper behind the headlines and really actually read things.
Robb: And the reality is pretty unsexy. It’s fencing, cowboys, leather gloves, boots with cow shit stuck to them. It’s not a lab that grows meat magically from nothing as we’re being sold this bill of goods. So it’s interesting. I think it’s almost kind of a letdown because people are so wanting this better than nature process. And whether you think the earth is 6000 years old or a couple of billion years old, either way, nature has had a long time to tweak and fine tune things.
Robb: And if you’re in this evolutionary biology mindset, there’s been an enormous amount of A/B testing going on to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And the assumption that we’re going to go in and do something that supersedes nature and improves upon it with no deleterious side effects is just ridiculous. And we do break this down in the book. And hopefully, I’m not getting too far afield here. But the application of synthetic fertilizer is a miracle in some ways. It’s really slick. It’s really cool. We dug into the Haber-Bosch process and everything in the book. It’s really cool.
Robb: But I see that being analogous, and people think that that is the way that things can work long term, but it can’t. And the best analogy I have here is the Haber-Bosch process and synthetic chemical fertilizers are to food production, what airplane flight is to gravity. Because an airplane can take off and fly, doesn’t mean the gravity doesn’t still apply. You haven’t nullified gravity. You’re imparting a huge amount of energy into this airplane and creating a moment of lift due to the difference in the speed of the air going over the top of the airplane wing versus under it.
Robb: And so, this thing lifts. But as soon as the energy runs out, that thing crashes. And this is a very similar story here in the crash that potentially awaits us on the industrial real crop food system side is both the energetic side, like if we have a run-on energy, then that’s going to be very problematic. But even more important than that, if we developed fusion power tomorrow and we had unlimited energy, there is still a reality that this type of process destroys our topsoil. And we talked about in the book.
Robb: We don’t know how long exactly we have for our topsoil to maintain like there’s some dubious claims out there. But when we look at the encroachment of desertification into different agricultural areas and whatnot, it’s clear that this type of process won’t work over the long haul. It is not better than nature. And so, I think that there is this general almost letdown that it’s like, wow, a system that’s going to be sustainable.
Robb: Well, on the surface look much more like an early 1900s farm, but it may have some GPS signaling with it some portable electric fencing, some solar panels to run all this stuff. So there’s some 21st technology woven into something that really isn’t that different than what you would have seen in the 1700s or something, as far as the operation of a farm.
Diana: Yeah, I was going to mention exactly that point. It’s not like you’re a Luddite and there are amazing technologies out there that can help, but it always comes back to how can we use that in a natural system. And for folks, you had mentioned to me Charles Mann’s book, The Wizard and the Prophet. And actually, I just finished reading Nick Offerman’s book, and he goes into this territory a little bit too and I pinged him that book, which I think you got it initially from Chris Kresser. So it’s this lovely chain here. But there’s beauty in both systems.
Diana: And at the end of the day, it’s a marriage of the two, but respecting the laws of nature that is going to win. And so, it’s amazing to me how bedazzled people are with this idea of lab meat and we have a couple of articles in our shared doc here about people finally realizing, oh, maybe it’s never going to be cost effective, it’s hugely energy intensive. And it doesn’t even really dive as deeply as you and I did. And this was just our common sense, but they actually did the research into it.
Diana: But it doesn’t go into this … You have to find some chemical extractive row crop, monocrop, in order to feed it in. You can’t just grow something out of nothing. And people still aren’t getting it. There’s a couple of newspapers that are like, I think it was the Financial Times. Let me look here. So Civil Eats did one. That was about the pork industry. I’ll get to that in a second. The counter did one. But it also said, but maybe this is better than hugely inefficient cattle. So it’s like, they still weren’t understanding that the cattle are taking energy directly from the sun, basically, and just converting that on land we can’t crop into.
Robb: With food, we can’t eat. And maintaining that grassland in the way that it’s been maintained for the … Before cattle, there was some a dinosaur that filled that ecological niche on grasslands. It was probably multi-gastric, and similar deal. So it is funny, like when you say the cattle are inefficient, it’s like, well, compared to what exactly?
Diana: Compared to a lab?
Robb: Yeah, compared to a lab. And we’re seeing it clearly. That is not the case. But this is going to be ongoing the battle that we face is that … And folks will do this roundtable of, well, it uses a lot of land. Well, what else are we going to use that land for? You can’t crop with it? If you do crop with it, how are you going to crop? Is it going to be synthetic chemical fertilizers that destroy the topsoil? Well, a better way of doing that is to actually have smart application of animal rotation and that whole story.
Robb: And then these giant lagoons of manure are utilized in a much more effective way than with they’re being now. I don’t know, maybe I am getting a little bit more hopeful about this. The more we jabber about this, it’s like, no, we do have some really direct solutions here. We just have to rejigger the way that the system works. But I will say one thing that’s ironic is the system that we have been advocating for is not super amenable to one or two multinationals owning all of it, owning the intellectual property, owning the physical property.
Robb: This is a system that really is best served by lots and lots of democratized individuals and collectives working together, but taking care of their particular patch of dirt in the way that they best understand because the microclimate needs of one area versus an area 5 or 10 miles away may be shockingly different. So, aggregating that under one giant banner isn’t really going to fix things. The way that you normalize that at industrial scales is massive inputs of energy and synthetic chemical fertilizers normalize that.
Robb: So even on that democratize like rage against the machine level, it’s ironic that the people who used to be very suspicious of corporations and multinationals and whatnot, when they are decrying animal centric food production in general, thereby implication supporting this consolidation of our food into the hands of a very, very few people.
Diana: Yeah. I mean, if Bill Gates had his way, everyone would be eating a Microsoft branded fiber bar that has an iron tablet and sodium. It would just be, just by my fiber bar that has your ration of protein, which I’ve deemed appropriate for you based on bad research. And interestingly, they do skew the research. There was a piece that came out, and I didn’t add that to the stack, but in India, they released the results of a study showing that vegetarian moms had better pregnancy outcomes than women who ate meat in India.
Diana: Now, what do we know about … And I even talked about this in the last one with James, but it’s like, wow, how tone deaf is that? And maybe I apologize to folks who maybe don’t get that right off the bat, but I’ve just been in this space for a really longtime. What do we know about people who have more access to healthcare versus people who have more stressful, harder lives and just access to nutrients in general? Those tend to be the people who are of religions that eat meat versus the people who are claiming to be vegetarian where apparently, a lot of them lie about it too.
Diana: Sylvia Karpagam wrote a really great story for the Global Food Justice Alliance on our website about it, but it’s just not fair to just make these … It’s just like the blue zones, just these observational, oh, it must be the meat when you’re not taking into account socioeconomic factors, so many other things that contribute to health.
Robb: I think early in our conversation here, I mentioned that our rough draft was almost 600 pages, I think close to that. And a big chunk of it was stuff like this. It was religious based stuff, some early stories about like the Nazi Party in Germany. And it was just too spicy for our publisher to deal with. And it was probably smart. It was probably smart, particularly at that time.
Diana: And I should just say, before I forget, it was not pro-Nazi.
Robb: Yeah, got it.
Diana: It was just pointing out how Hitler was able to raise himself beyond a political leader, into more of a spiritual guru, because he pulled in this anti-meat cleanliness energy that we see mimicked today.
Robb: And was really leveling like the kosher laws as being subhuman and whatnot…
Robb: Barbaric and whatnot. And I think it’s important historical lessons to be learned to just look at, so that maybe we can make sure that we don’t head down that path. But it is interesting that within India, like Hindu nationalism is a big deal. And so, we are just coming off of the past year where we had a ton of outcry around different treatment of folks within Western society and whatnot, and lots of legitimacy to all of that. But when we look over, like if you want to find an example of literally state sanctioned discrimination, it’s hard to find a better example than in India, in this example.
Robb: And so, the people who do consume meat, whether they’re Muslim or Christian, or even some of the other side wings of Hinduism, those folks are not treated well. And so, there’s a lot of … This is, again, where we’ve got the surface level news piece. But then if you spend a little bit of time digging into it, there’s possibly a lot more to the story. And immediately, you get to a spot where it’s very uncomfortable stuff, like super uncomfortable, very difficult to talk about, difficult to talk about in a direct reasonable matter.
Robb: And even just in the process of like, can we ask some questions about this? Not that we’ve necessarily arrived at a decision, but is the possibility that the state sanctioned discrimination within India around the Hindu nationalistic movement, could that have a negative impact on meat consuming women in the healthcare that they receive? That’s a big mouthful, and we’ll probably get cancelled for even throwing that shit out there.
Robb: But it’s another one of these things that, if we’re really going to tackle this like adults, like grown functioning people, maybe our assumption around there or even the questions of being invalid, maybe that’s not the direction that you look at. But it might be helpful to at least tick that one off the list with some analysis versus just taking the first pass of a news piece like that.
Diana: Well, I mean, I see it too here in the US if you eat meat. In my town, it’s very highly educated. Everyone cares about the environment. Nobody’s eating meat. For folks that don’t know, I’m now single, and I look on these dating apps, and someone who might see that I eat meat on there, because I make that clear, they’re not going to talk to me because I can’t possibly be somebody who thinks deeply about things and cares about the environment and then all my other values. So, it’s driving me crazy, socially. Yeah, anyway.
Robb: Well, I mean … And again, I think one of the cautionary tales around all this stuff is on a host of different levels. We have so many features of our modern world that are dividing us and Balkanizing us. And I don’t know how to quite say this, but it’s not globalization. I won’t call it that. But I remember Carl Sagan saying something to the effect that one of the main things that defined civilization, modern civilization somewhat differently than the past is that, although we still have differences, this thread of modern civilization, we have a sense of similarity that is sufficient that we don’t kill each other in mass.
Robb: And every turn, whether you’re talking about COVID or your perspective on climate change your social justice topics or what have you, they’re so polarizing. And when you layer in social media, which optimizes for outrage, we’re in a position where we can separate and Balkanize to such a point that it … The goal of warfare is to dehumanize the opponent in such a way that anything that we do to that person, it doesn’t affect us. We have no empathetic connection to that person because they’re subhuman.
Robb: And on a host of different levels were being really good at doing that. And this has been one of the alarm bells I’ve been ringing for a long time, is that we’re on this … It feels like a car on an icy road. And it’s starting to spin and there’s no control and you see either a chasm on one side of the road, threes on the other and it’s like, I don’t know which one we’re going to get, but feel really pretty powerless to do all that much about affecting it, which I think is, for me, one of my goals of having these conversations.
Robb: And there’s not a non-trivial risk to us talking about this stuff. Be really easy to just stick exclusively to eat some protein, make the protein whatever you want, just hit these macro levels, show transformation stories of folks and just stay out of this fray. But for whatever reason, we are just like moths to a flame to try to do something about this stuff.
Diana: Yeah, right. When you were describing the icy road, I was remembering when I came out this summer with Anson and the tire blew off the jeep we rented.
Robb: The jeep.
Diana: But just the day before we drove up to the peak of glacier and we were on a road just like that where there was … It could have happened on that road.
Robb: 1000 drop off one way or the other. Yeah, yeah.
Diana: Crazy. Well, we’ve wasted an entire hour and probably didn’t even hit any of the bullet points that we intended to. Is there anything else you wanted to toss in here?
Robb: Let me tackle this piece from the Indian Express, actually, where it … The title is, in Canada, the world’s first patient diagnosed with “climate change.” Since June, hundreds of people have died in a heat wave that broke Canadian heat records and … God, where do I want to get into this? Basically, the takeaway, and we’ll put this in the show notes, is that a woman arrived in the hospital and she had all kinds of different health problems. She had asthma and all kinds of problems breathing. And this had been exacerbated by poor air quality because of wildfires.
Robb: And so, this doctor diagnosed her with climate change. And this is such a gut emotional level wrongness for me that it’s hard to articulate in a intellectual way. It’s like flattered stuff. It’s like, I don’t even know exactly where to start with this. But Diana and I, off air, have talked about how social justice, COVID, climate change have all been mixed together in the stew where they’re inseparable. And this is a really powerful tool if you want to budge in people and keep them quiet in and corral them in a path that you want to get them going in. But it’s very disingenuous.
Robb: And it’s actually a terrible way to look at this stuff if you really want to do something about it. So it’s citing like these wildfires and whatnot. And I don’t want to go super deep into this. But there have been fantastic analyses that our current state of problems with wildfires, particularly in the North American West, is wholly an outgrowth of poor management. There was a time when forests were clear cut and destroyed. That was dumb. And now we’re at a part where far too many forests are left to nature, people just want them left alone. And then they overgrow and burn. And that is dumb. There’s usually some middle ground there that the unnatural processes which have included human interaction and a lot of places for very long time.
Diana: And the animals grazing the kindling and eating it, and they’re gone now.
Robb: Yeah, yeah. I mean, all the animals were gone. The soil is oftentimes sterilized down a couple of feet deep because there’s almost a classification of the earth due to the temperature and the intensity of fires. The case has been made that there is more dry kindling, there was more fuel ready to be burned, and it literally any other time in history. And it’s because there has been some degree of management and small fires and not camp fires and what.
Robb: And so, it’s an interesting article, and I encourage people to give a read, but this is one of the things where climate change is going to be injected into health more and more and more. And we’ve seen this already on the front just kind of animal husbandry and being able to choose the food that you want to be able to eat, because the implications of, oh, cows in methane, greenhouse gases, animals and food consumption. We’re reallocating resources to animals that we shouldn’t reallocate. We’re able to go through all that stuff.
Robb: But when you start putting climate change into some chronic health issues, like asthma, there was no discussion in this paper of, what was this individual’s baseline diet like? What was their vitamin D status?
Diana: Were they a smoker?
Robb: Were they a smoker? There’s none of that. There’s none of that. And so, we’re attributing all the stuff to climate change. And I guess my main point to this is that the danger of where this could go, and I don’t know that we’d want to turn this thing into a COVID discussion topic. People are all over the board on that. But I think it’s worth … Or a reasonably defensible position to say that COVID has changed the way that medicine public health and freedom is approached. There were some things that if, let’s say, in 2016, when Donald Trump was the President of the United States.
Robb: If there was some health scare that caused the type of lockdowns, mandates, and whatnot that we’re seeing today, people would have, perhaps, rightfully lost their minds. Folks aren’t really … Some people are losing their minds about like, this is very dangerous and very problematic, and there are other people that are completely signed up on this. And so long as it saves one life, we’re all in and these are the stories that totalitarian entities thrive upon in this weaving together of basic healthcare and health issues with this notion of climate change. I’m doing my rabbit ear finger quotes in the air for people who don’t see the video. This is just so …
Diana: And this doesn’t mean you’re a denier of climate change.
Diana: And I just want to save you a little bit from the wrath that you’re about to get from that rant, is that all you’re trying to say, everybody, is that we need to have conversations \. We need lots of information from lots of different sources. And we can’t have blanket canceling of people who have opinions or have counter points to be made to issues that are now assumed that if you don’t 10% agree, then you must be a racist bigot evil person. So, that’s what they’re saying.
Robb: And in a realm, this wildfire topic, let’s say there are two hypotheses out there. One is that it is solely a consequence of climate change. And then maybe there’s another one that this may be mainly due to mismanagement that the forests and both grasslands in and forested areas should be managed in a different way, so that If we don’t create a situation that is amenable for these massive types of wildfires. And maybe there’s some mix of the two that is where the ultimate reality lies. But if we focus exclusively on this notion that the only solution to wildfires is doing whatever we can to fight climate change, then we’re literally doing nothing that maybe …
Diana: That’s just …
Robb: … addressing the underlying problems …
Robb: … which is mismanagement of these forested areas. And then when you extend this to healthcare, if a whole swath of health issues is now being labeled due to climate change, and we’re going to wait around for climate change mitigation practices to address these underlying health issues, it’s never going to happen. We are not going to help people. We’re not going to say, people were actually not going to be doing things that are effective and helpful for the environment or addressing climate change. So thank you for pulling my neck out of that news.
Robb: When you get used to talking with and to folks that are maybe steeped in this stuff and reasonable and then … But it is worth mentioning that just any suggestion that there may be more to this climate change story and we should really pay attention to it, just saying that then makes me a climate change denier ultimately. I guess we’ll see how all that place. Aren’t you glad we did this?
Diana: I’m so glad. We’ll see if we still are even allowed to be on social media after you hear this and we’ll just …
Robb: Well, we may be 100% podcast and substack here really. So, we’ll see. Anything else you want to remind people where to track you down on the interweb?
Diana: Sure, yeah. Check out Global Food Justice Alliance, where I’m making the nutritional, environmental, and an equity case for why people should have the choice to have animal source foods. We’re going around in meat trucks handing out meat, talking to people. And largely, I have to say from that experience we did in New York City during the United Nations Food System Summit, we didn’t have any protesters. Everyone was super psyched we were there. I think that the anti-meat movement is extremely loud, but also very small.
Diana: We just need more people fighting back. And I believe I’m one of the only, if not, the only non-industry person that’s really just trying to point all the stuff out. So it’s Global Food Justice online and on Instagram as my new passion and otherwise, on not sustainable dish. And have a lot of fun stuff coming out in the next year. And hopefully, we won’t be off air by that time. And you and I will be able to have another conversation about that stuff in the future.
Robb: We’ll see how it goes, yup. Probably next show because we laid some foundation here. We’ll be a much more dive in and get the topical news pieces going and whatnot, just so folks are aware of …
Diana: Yeah, give us another chance.
Robb: … future format. Cool.
Diana: Okay, awesome.
Robb: And you all can track me down at robbwolf.com. That’s where most links, anything important can be found. And, Diana, take care and can’t wait for you to come back out to the great state of Montana to hang out with us.
Diana: I hope better car next time. Alright. Thanks a lot.
Nicki: Alright, thank you all for listening. Again, we’ll have Diana back on periodically, every four weeks or so.
Robb: Probably about once a month.
Nicki: Yup, once a …
Robb: They’re a boot.
Nicki: Yup, yup. And be exploring other topics in regenerative ag and whatnot as they come in.
Robb: We’ve got a long list of things to dig into.
Nicki: Yes, indeed. Thank you again for joining us, everyone. Be sure to check out our show sponsor, LMNT. Remember, you can grab your mint chocolate salt starting this Tuesday, November 16th. Just go to drinklmnt.com/robb. That’s drink L-M-N-T.com/R-O-B-B. And again, consider sponsoring Robb and his fundraising efforts for global grappling day for Tap Cancer Out. The link to his fundraising page is in the show notes for this episode at grapple.com. And thank you all, and we’ll see you soon.
Robb: Take care.
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Mark Madonna says
Great Episode. I had asthma and a cough, because of wildfire ash last year. A dry lightning storm, dry brush and dead trees. 1 million acres burned in a couple weeks.
Somewhere, I read, grasses sequester 4 times as much carbon in the growing season than trees. The trees could be cut down and chipped or buried, especially the dead ones. If you buried them they won’t burn.
You have to hear something 17 times before you hear it. Then one can take action. Keep Speaking.
I want to know where the vegan/vegetarian get there food.
There is going to be a grass developed bull sale Saturday Dec. 11 in Butte, Montana, (Pharo Cattle Company),