Food and health…a disconnect?

Yesterday I “attended” a webinar put on by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) on “Industrial food animal production and the high-meat American diet: Health and environmental consequences.” It was one of many preliminary events leading up to Food Day on October 24. Food Day is sponsored by CSPI, in partnership with too many organizations to count.
The Food Day tagline is “It’s Time To Eat Real, America!” (Yeah!) The primary goals are to:
  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting healthy foods.
  2. Support sustainable farms and cut subsidies to big agribusiness.
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger.
  4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms,
  5. Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids.
One of the webinar speakers was Robert S. Lawrence, a professor of public health and medicine at Johns Hopkins University and founder of the Center For A Livable Future. He said a lot of very interesting things, but one bit in particular that sent me scrambling for a pen and paper was this quote from Wendell Berry, whose recent book, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food, is on my hold list at the library:

“There is no connection between food and health. People are fed by a food industry which pays no attention to health and are healed by a health industry that pays no attention to food.”

Oh, my goodness. Has this man been inside my head? Seriously. It excites me to no end to have someone take the very problems that are driving me to study public health nutrition and phrase them so succinctly and eloquently. Mr. Berry, you’re my hero.
A few other statistics also stood out:
One. Humans take a combined 3 million pounds of antibiotics each year. The state of Iowa uses that same amount in farm animals (mostly from factory farms) each year. The state of North Carolina uses MORE than that in its farm animals each year. And people wonder why there are so many nasty strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria making us sick or, worse, killing us.
Two. People in this country eat an average of 220 pounds of meat each year, per person. That means some people eat less, others eat more. We love our meat (as the five years worth of Christmas cards from our beef people on the door of our basement freezer testifies), but the combined total of the quarter-steer and half-pig we get is less than 200 pounds…and that’s for both of us. At most, we each eat a half-pound of meat a week from Whole Foods or a restaurant, so that’s an additional 26 pounds each per year. Total per person in our household: Less than 120 pounds per year. If we ate more than that, you know what we probably would be eating less of by default? Vegetables and fruits. Aye, there’s the rub.
I believe that CSPI will make the audio and slides from the webinar available soon. When they do, I’ll share the links. And tomorrow’s post will be lighter, I swear. With a recipe!