Moo Juice

MilkBecause I don’t think you can call it “milk” any more, especially if the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have their way.  You see, these two organizations are petitioning the FDA to allow aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to be added to milk and other dairy products without a label.

Without going into the debacle that is food labeling (that’s a whole ‘nother post), why on earth would anyone want to add artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, to milk?  Well, according to IDFA and NMPF, “aspartame and other artificial sweeteners would promote healthy eating and is good for school children.”

Just let that sink in for a minute.

Aspartame.

Healthy.

Good for school children.

Despite the claims of both the manufacturer of aspartame (would it surprise you to learn that between 1985 and 2000, that honor went to Monsanto?) and the Food and Drug Administration that the “non-nutritive sweetener” is harmless, there is a huge body of anecdotal evidence that says otherwise (something the FDA doesn’t deny).

There are over 92 different side effects associated with aspartame consumption, which can lead to a number of health problems.  Among these are:

– Blindness

– Loss of hearing

– Seizures

– Migraines

– Numbness of the extremeties

– Anxiety

– Insomnia

– Heart palpitations

– Nausea

– Diarrhea

– Hives

– Hair Loss

Those are just the mild effects; there have been claims of brain damage, birth defects, and even death.  And now these organizations are petitioning the government “to amend the standard of identification for milk, cream, and 17 other dairy products like yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and others to provide for the use of any ‘safe and suitable sweetener’ on the market” because it “would promote healthy eating and is good for school children.”

Did you know the European Common Market has banned aspartame in children’s product due to concerns about it’s safety?  But here industrial dairy producers and distributors are lobbying to have it added to all milk and milk-based products, without any sort of label indicating it’s there, because by golly, if you make something sweet enough, Americans will swill it down without question.

Normally, I wouldn’t be upset about this; I don’t necessarily agree with labeling, but even if I did I rarely consume anything that has a label.  What really peeves me about this is that if this is passed, all the milk kids are served outside of their home, including day care facilities and schools (even private schools often have to adhere to government regulations regarding the food that is served), will contain an ingredient that is A) toxic and B) potentially addictive.  School children that are already suffering from attention disorders and autism in rapidly increasing numbers every year.

I’ve got an idea for you, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation:  if you want to encourage the consumption of your products, especially by children, stop taking the fat out of it.  You’d be amazed at what it does for the palatability:

Me to The Young One’s Friend:  Want some milk?

Friend:  Nah, I don’t really like milk.

Me:  What kind of milk does your mother buy?  Skim?

Friend:  Yeah.

Me (pouring a glass of non-homogenized, vat-pasteurized, full fat milk):  Well, here – try this.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it.

Friend (tasting, then gulping down the entire glass):  That was wonderful!  What have I been missing?

Me:  Real food.

Fight Back Friday

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Edited to add:  This appears to only apply to sweetened milk products, such as flavored milks and yogurts (for now).  Nor does it mean that aspartame would not be included on the ingredient label, just not prominently.  However, it’s still a push to include something that is A) toxic and B) potentially addictive to products marketed to, and consumed in large quantities by, children.  And it’s still a bad idea.

Pimp My Plate

The Spin Cycle this week is about Decorating/Design.  I considered talking about how, when we first saw it, the dining room of our house was graced with wallpaper covered in huge hibiscus and a bamboo chandelier, causing me to wonder if the previous owners had hired a graduate of The Polynesian School of Interior Design to decorate their home.  The rest of the house was equally hideously “decorated,” and we’ve spent the last 6 years rectifying that with only the master and upstairs baths to be done.  I’ve posted many pictures of our house before – you can see a few of them here, if you’re so inclined – so I won’t bore you with it all now.  And since “design” is part of the subject matter, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on a little creative “redesign” conducted by our Ever Vigilant Government.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen that the USDA has thrown out the Food Pyramid in favor of a sectioned plate, showing what you should be eating at each meal, citing the Food Pyramid as “too confusing”:

I don’t know about you, but I’m really relieved to have my “optimal” diet dictated explained in such clear, concise terms. Seriously, though, it’s somewhat of a relief to not have 6 to 11 daily servings of inflammatory, refined grains shoved down our collective throats, although I’m somewhat concerned about the absence of necessary healthy fats on this plate (the USDA is still promoting low- or fat-free dairy and commanding telling us to keep our fat consumption to less than 30% of our daily caloires) and the fact that potatoes, corn, and beans are lumped together with vegetables when they’re really starchy tubers, grain and legumes.  Which is not to say that those things can’t have their place in a healthy diet when properly prepared, but let’s call them what they are, shall we?

Nor am I the only person frustrated with the USDA’s need to treat us like morons and tell us what to eat (they are actually required by law – by law!! – to issue “dietary guidelines” every 5 years), for redesigned graphics of “plates” are popping up all over the place – even vegans are getting into the act.  My personal favorites, though, have been designed by the paleo and real food communities, respectively.

Out of the many, many paleo versions floating around the interwebz, this is probably the best, and most direct.  However, as these silly plate graphics go, the following is as good as they get:

I couldn’t put it more succinctly if I tried, could you?

(Actually, I lied – this is my favorite.)

(Because you can never go wrong when you base your diet on bacon.)

(Oh, I kid.)

(Sort of.)

Your thoughts?

Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.

 

I’m Mad Cow As Hell, And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore

Yesterday, we took possession of our second side of grass-finished beef.  I can’t even begin to list all of the cuts we got, but in addition to the roasts and steaks and brisket, we asked for and received the tallow, marrow bones, liver, tongue, kidney and heart.

Think about that for a minute:  The tallow.  The marrow bones.  The liver.  The tongue.  A kidney.  The heart.

What really burns me about this is that the kidney and heart should not be in the list.  You see, we wanted those organs added to our ground beef (at least 60 pounds worth).  Organ meats are incredibly nutrient dense, and as a rule Americans don’t eat enough of them.  I certainly understand why; with the exception of liver, which I happen to adore, the thought of cooking and eating a beef heart/tongue/kidney gives me pause – and I’m fairly adventurous when it comes to food.

When we went to Whitefeather Meats a couple of weeks ago to discuss the butchering of our side of beef (and have a good visit with the Perkins family, who are just the most wonderful people), we asked about adding the organ meats to the ground beef and were told the USDA doesn’t allow it.  I was a bit flabbergasted (to say nothing of disappointed) and didn’t think to ask why at the time.  A few days later, I contacted them and asked – and was told that since mad cow disease came to the United States in 2003, the USDA changed what was deemed “edible” and organ meats could no longer be mixed with muscle meat and fat in ground beef.

But they can vacuum pack the damn heart and kidney and give them to me to do with as I will, if I want them.  WTF???  I can eat them alone, but not mix them into our ground beef.  Oooookaaaaaay.

Not that any of this really makes any sense, but if the USDA is using mad cow disease as the excuse to no longer add organ meats to ground beef it makes even less sense.  Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), “is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord.”  A neurological disease, which is why the sale of cattle brains or any part of the spine is no longer allowed.  The heart is the main organ of the circulatory system, and kidneys are the main organs of the urinary system.

Now, having said that, while the disease itself may be most concentrated in the nervous tissue (most notably the brain and spine) of the animal, it can be found in virtually any organ in the body, including the blood.  So basically, if there were a threat of contracting mad cow disease from our animal,  the heart and kidneys aren’t any more of a danger than the Filet Mignon or the rump roast.  And if you’re still trying to figure out why it’s okay for me to cook and serve those organs alone, but not have them ground into the parts that serve as our hamburger, you’re not alone.

What really makes all of this even more frustrating is how cattle contract mad cow in the first place.  According to Wikipedia, “A British inquiry into BSE concluded that the epizootic was caused by cattle, who are normally herbivores, being fed the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM), which caused the infectious agent to spread. There are studies indicating that the cause of BSE may be from the contamination of MBM from sheep with scrapie that were processed in the same slaughterhouse. The epidemic was probably accelerated by the recycling of infected bovine tissues prior to the recognition of BSE.”

So, basically cattle get mad cow by eating the remains and by-products of other animals. My cow was completely grass-fed.  Which means its chances of being contaminated with mad cow are basically…nil.  Nada.  Zip. Zilch.  Nothing.

After pondering this for awhile, I decided to ask the USDA why the heart and kidney from my personal cow, meant for my personal consumption, could not be mixed into my personal ground beef.  Have you ever tried to call the USDA?  Their “information hotline” is a joke – it’s only there if you want to know things like the internal temperature meat must be cooked to in order to be deemed “safe for consumption” or why so many people eat corned beef on St Patrick’s Day.  Oh, they’ll give you the same old song and dance about keeping meat safe if you ask them why organ meats cannot be included in ground beef, but offer no justification for why I cannot have it included if I wish in ground beef meant just for my personal consumption.

There is an extensive telephone directory on the website, if you know the name of the particular person you wish to speak to.  But a directory of actual departments?  Fat chance.  There is absolutely NO indication who might be the right person to speak with if you have a specific question.  There is an option to send an email to their “Ask The Expert” person.  So I did.

Twelve days ago.

I have received no answer.

We’re looking at meat grinders.  Anyone have a suggestion for a good one?

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

A Friday Gnashing of Teeth

There was a bit of grumbling among the blogging community this last Tuesday as the Ides of April rolled around and those of us who procrastinated about our taxes, for whatever reason, were under the gun to finally get ‘er done. My beloved, as usual, filed ours early and went about happy as a clam, tooting his horn about all the money we were getting back, while I grumbled, “It was our money to begin with!”

Most of the comments on the April 15 Woe-To-Me-It’s-Tax-Day blog posts were nothing but sympathetic in nature…except for one, from some woman who was chiding the blogger (I wish I could remember which) and those sympathizing with her, by sanctimoniously declaring she’s spent the last 10 years in some gawd-awful, barely-a-speck-on-the-map, third-world country where they don’t have the means to collect taxes so there’s no roads, no hospitals, no electricity, no safe drinking water, no public sanitation, blah-de-blah, ad nauseum, and shouldn’t we all just be ashamed of ourselves for taking those tax-provided luxuries for granted. I guess she must have figured out a way to get on the internet using two cans and some waxed string.

At any rate, I have a rebuttal for Ms. Third World.

I spent the last 7 hours filing sales tax returns, some that are required monthly and some that are required quarterly, for approximately 35 different states. NO TWO of which are the same. Some states require just one return for the whole kit and kaboodle, some require you break your sales down by county or city, and some states require that you file separate returns for each city AND each county you do business in. I do no less than FIVE sales tax returns for the state of Alabama – ALABAMA! – alone, on a monthly basis. You want hospitals and public sanitation? You just come right on up here, sweetie – I’ve got a calculator and a nice sharp pencil just waiting for you – and you can give me your honest opinion on which return is the most confusing to figure out: California, Texas or Hawaii. At this moment I would gladly – GLADLY, I tell ya! – take up residence in a piranha-infested mud puddle smack-dab in the middle of an Amazonian jungle during monsoon season to avoid what I’ve been through today.

There has got to be a wine bottle with my name on it somewhere today.