If you've already decided what you're making for dinner, did any of the following points guide your decision - taste preference, convenience, familiarity, and nutritional or religious/ethical beliefs? Because most people don't have the time or interest in studying the scientific literature, our nutritional beliefs (especially those regarding animal products) are formed without giving them much thought. As a result, we rely heavily on recommendations created by governmental agencies and what's socially acceptable. Therefore, most of our meals are centered on a variety of animal products. We then pass these beliefs on to our children and grandchildren acknowledging their truth and necessity. But is this belief system really true? Surely we haven't been deceived! Federal policies protect us by regulating, overseeing, and recommending only what's safe and wholesome for us, right?
Knowing What our Dietary Standards are Based Upon is of Utmost Importance
This article discusses the powerful political and economic forces behind the production of meat, dairy, and egg products and how they pressure us into purchasing unnecessary and unhealthy food items for our families. You may be surprised to find out how these special interest groups manipulate and control our beliefs and spending habits.
Isn't the Majority Always Right?
From a parent's standpoint, we don't allow our children to participate in activities that we believe to be dangerous, just because "everyone else is doing it." Yet when it comes to food, we go along with the crowd - because "everyone else is doing it!" We need to remind ourselves that wrong doesn't become right, and untruths don't become true just because it's accepted by a majority.
Another Way to Think About "No Pain, no Gain"
Our health and welfare are not top priorities for large profit-driven entities; economic gain is. Due to very effective marketing and advertising campaigns, agricultural industries have convinced us that we need their products in order to survive and thrive. Without their products, they claim we will not only impair our immune system, we will become ill, weak, and nutrient deficient. As a result, the vast majority of Americans have fallen for these clever and erroneous marketing schemes and believe they provide sound nutrition necessary for optimal health.
Similarly, governmental policies are heavily influenced by regulatory agencies that have been persuaded by special interest lobbying groups whose agenda is to advance their cause. The USDA continues to ignore the scientific evidence, and instead favors the interests of big business. Politics, power, and economics affects the lives of every American, "contributing substantially to our current costly epidemics of obesity and sickness."
Large Food Corporations Instill Fear in Americans to Boost the Sale of Their products
Do you know of anyone eating a whole-food, plant-centered diet that's deficient in protein, calcium or other essential nutrients? Dr. John McDougall has seen thousands of people thriving on plant-based diets and emphasizes that "Protein deficiency is really a food deficiency." In developed countries, it is nearly impossible to be protein deficient as long as sufficient calories are being consumed. He says that he has never seen a single case of protein deficiency (kwashiorkor) during his 40+ years of practicing preventive medicine. However, he does see on a daily basis, patients that suffer from "dietary excess." The toxic effects from excessive protein, fat, cholesterol, acid, refined carbohydrates and salt/sugar work together and contribute to catastrophic rates of disease, disability, and premature death. In fact, he refers to these food components as "slow poisons." Diseases of calcium deficiency are also non-existent in populations eating a plant-centered diet.
Instilling fear of becoming nutrient deficient has not only led to an epidemic of chronic disease, it has crippled our nation's economy. The fear that animal-free diets won't meet our daily nutritional requirements is not based on scientific facts, but rather large industry strategies to boost the sale of their products. As noted in the Fall of 2013 Permanente Journal, "More than a half-century of creative marketing by the meat, dairy, egg, and fish industries has produced fears surrounding nonexistent deficiencies."
Omnivorous Diet Lacks Many Essential Nutrients
Contrary to popular belief, in many ways an omnivorous diet can easily lack essential nutrients. A diet rich in animal products leaves little room for plant foods which contain considerable anti-cancer phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, lignins, and carotenoids. These phytonutrients are essential for excellent health and offer powerful protection against acute and chronic illnesses, immune system disorders, and premature death.
A published study that measured the total antioxidant content of over 3,100 foods demonstrates how plant foods have between 5 to 33 times higher antioxidant content than meat products. Antioxidant rich foods originate from the plant kingdom while meat, fish and other foods from the animal kingdom are low in antioxidants. Diets comprised mainly of animal-based foods are thus low in antioxidant content while diets based mainly on a variety of plant-based foods are antioxidant rich, due to the thousands of bioactive antioxidant phytochemicals found in plants." To view the entire list of foods, click here. Dr. Greger's video regarding this comprehensive study illustrates how the maximum antioxidant content in animal foods is 100, while plant foods goes up to 289,000. Another video that compares antioxidant content can be seen here. According to Dr. Greger, on average, plant foods contain 64 times more antioxidant power than animal foods.
Where Do We Get Our Antioxidants?
Interestingly, USDA scientists analyzed antioxidant concentration in more than 100 different foods. The findings were published in the June 9, 2004, issue of The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The top 50 foods scoring the highest in antioxidant content can be seen here. Notice that there aren't any animal products that made the list. Another method of rating antioxidant levels is by using the "Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity" (ORAC) system. The ORAC values of the highest rating foods can be seen in the USDA Database of Selected Foods. If you scroll all the way through the report, you'll notice once again that there's not a single animal product listed. The report states: "Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are considered to be an excellent source of antioxidants." This report clearly demonstrates that whole plant foods offer superior protection against disease, not animal products. Remember, the two reports mentioned above were both analyzed and published by the USDA!
Additionally, the majority of illnesses seen by medical professionals today originate from a fiber-deficient diet. "Less than 3% of Americans get even the recommended minimum adequate intake of fiber." Another point often overlooked, is that "milk and cheese are iron deficient, and red meat, poultry, and eggs (unless you eat the shells) contain almost no calcium."
USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee - Conflict of Interest?
Have you ever wondered how our American Dietary Guidelines are formed? You may be surprised to see who sits on the Dietary Guidelines Committee. Out of the 17 USDA members, 14 of them have ties to the food industry! "The USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee has been made up of individuals funded by McDonald's, Coca Cola, the Sugar Association, the American Meat Institute, candy bar companies, and the egg and dairy boards." It's imperative to know that the members that design our food guidelines are the very same ones marketing the sale of their lucrative products! For more information regarding how the USDA Guidelines were established, click here.
Dr. McDougall's eye-opening article, "USDA Demonizes Starch, While Promoting Meat" explains how the "USDA has the responsibility for overseeing food safety. But, it also has an opposing responsibility to promote agricultural businesses. Nearly 150 years after its creation, tens of thousands of small farms have been bought up and concentrated into a few large politically influential corporations, and the USDA has become the 'Agribusiness Industries' Department,' primarily serving the interests of giant food production and distribution corporations." He also exposes the "revolving door policy" where "people who work for [the agricultural] industry move to roles as legislators and regulators in the government (and vice versa)." Please take a moment to view who's creating our dietary policies: Members of the USDA have had known associations with the National Cattlemen's Association, the Meat Packer's Association, the National Pork Board, the National Livestock and Meat Board, the American Egg Board, ConAgra Foods, the National Dairy Council, and Dairy Management Inc."
U.S. Dietary Guidelines Favor Food Industries - Not the Latest Scientific Research
According to Dr. McDougall, "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are designed to tell the public how to prevent chronic diseases through diet and lifestyle. Unfortunately, they are largely unsuccessful at promoting a healthy diet. The Guidelines need to be more consistent with current scientific knowledge. As a result of these conflicts, the Guidelines sometimes favor the interests of the food and drug industries over the public’s interest in accurate and impartial dietary advice. Current laws do not protect dietary advice from these conflicts, and thus, Congress should consider making two changes. First, the USDA should not have any role in dietary advice, as its duty to promote and support the agricultural industry is fundamentally inconsistent with promoting health and preventing chronic diseases. Second, Congress should make it more difficult for those with ties to the food and drug industries from serving on the Advisory Committee, as current laws are inadequate to do so. Studies show that the United States is not providing the public the best information available on diet and health." Dr. Michael Greger adds, "Dietary guidelines based on science rather than corporate influence could save millions of lives."
How do USDA Dietary Guidelines Influence our Spending Habits?
"The Guidelines direct how billions of dollars are spent in programs like the School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Food Stamp Program and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children." These Guidelines also direct the general public on what and how much to eat within the designated food groups.
Eating more meat and dairy contributes to eating fewer whole plant foods. Dr. McDougall expands on this by writing, "USDA Committee on Nutrition Standards for National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs recommended a reduction in starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes and corn... Children, however, are encouraged to eat turkey sausages, egg patties, cheese omelets, chicken quesadillas, beef eggrolls, hot dogs, hamburgers, pepperoni pizza, roast beef, deli ham, chocolate milk, and margarine. The second [governmental] policy prevents needy families from getting financial assistance to buy potatoes. Currently, the USDA provides vouchers through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program for fresh fruits and vegetables. However, fresh potatoes are now specifically excluded from the list of allowable vegetables. In other words, under this second wide-reaching nutritional policy, a WIC recipient can receive butter, cheese, whole milk, and eggs through the program, but not a single white potato."
Every year, USDA-managed programs spend $550 million to bombard Americans with advertising slogans urging us to buy more animal foods. Industries are desperate to maintain this lucrative market, thereby creating familiar slogans such as "Milk Does a Body Good" - "Got Milk?" - "Pork. The Other White Meat" - "The Incredible, Edible Egg", and "Beef: It's What's for Dinner."
How do the Food Industries Influence Consumer Behavior?
One technique that the food industry uses to influence consumers is called "unique positioning," which involves highlighting a particular nutrient which is plentiful in the product. For example, when calcium is mentioned, we think of milk and cheese. Omega-3 fatty acids is synonymous with eating fish, iron with beef, and eggs are well known as the best source of high quality protein. "Focusing on the abundance of an individual nutrient," Dr. McDougall says, "diverts the consumer's, and often times the professional dietitian's, attention away from the harmful impact on the human body of consuming all kinds of animal foods." Highlighting one particular nutrient while downplaying the risks has proven to be a very effective and profitable marketing tactic. "Because these highly sensationalized nutrients are always plentiful in basic plant foods, illnesses from deficiencies of these nutrients are essentially unknown, as long as there is enough food to eat. Thus, there are no real nutritional advantages to choosing red meat, poultry, dairy, and egg products with an especially high density of one particular nutrient."
This is an excellent 6-minute video on how industries specifically target our children.
If you read our article Unscrambling the Truth About Eggs, you'll recall how Dr. Michael Greger's video revealed practices used by the egg industry to promote the sale of eggs. As part of their marketing campaign, The American Egg Board pays scientists $1500 to answer questions that would disassociate eggs from cardiovascular disease. This is only one example of how large food industries keep the general public confused and misinformed.
Conflicting "scientific studies" regarding what characterizes a healthy diet also saturate our media daily. It's important to realize that studies conducted on animal products can be manipulated in order to produce favorable outcomes. These results are then widely publicized showing how animal products are not associated with serious health risks. One popular way in which large food industries conduct their studies can be seen here. Most of us don't have the time, energy or resources to research all the inconsistent nutritional data and evaluate fraudulent claims.
Meatonomics - We Have Lost the Ability to Choose on Our Own
A well-researched and well documented book written by David Simon, "Meatonomics," makes us stop to think why we choose some foods over others. It explains why we have lost our ability to make informed independent decisions on our own - regarding what and how much to eat. It describes in detail how our "decisions have been largely been made for us, by big producers of meat and dairy who control and manipulate our buying choices with artificially low prices, aggressive and misleading messaging, and heavy control over legislation and regulation."
Please take the time to view the following two videos:
(1) Meatonomics: The Bizarre Economics of Meat and Dairy (two minutes).
(2) David Simon addresses how our obsession with meat/dairy has driven the cost of these products unnaturally low, which has caused unprecedented rates of chronic disease in the U.S. (four minutes)
The U.S. Government Spends $38 Billion of Your Tax-Payer Dollars Each Year to Subsidize Meat and Dairy Products - Producing Artificially Low Prices
Isn't it interesting how a package of grapes costs more than an entire fast food meal? Parents that are struggling to provide nutritious food for their families are forced many times to purchase unhealthy food items over more nutritious ones.
Meatonomics adds up the huge externalized costs that the animal food system imposes on taxpayers. These costs add up to "$414 billion in hidden costs on American society yearly. That means that each time McDonald's sells a Big Mac, the rest of us pay $8 in hidden costs. A $5 Big Mac would cost $13 if the retail price included hidden expenses that meat producers offload onto society."
Our Tax Dollars Fund Governmental "Checkoff" Programs Which Promote the Sale of Food Items Such as Pizza and Ice Cream
Agricultural industries and governmental policies work together to promote everything from cheese pizza to sugar-flavored milk products in public schools. The USDA is responsible for overseeing the formation of commodity checkoff organizations. These organizations exist to increase demand of their products. "The annual government-managed 'checkoff' spending to promote meat and dairy = $557 million/year."
Below are many examples of how your tax dollars are being spent to promote the sale of milk and cheese products in schools and fast food restaurants:
- "Got Milk? is one of the most recognizable ad campaigns of the past 20 years. But the iconic ads are getting axed as the industry looks for a new hook to increase milk consumption amid declining sales. The dairy industry used celebrities at the time to help improve milk's image. The idea was to convey the message that everybody drinks milk, even successful cool people. A new dairy education campaign, 'Milk Life,' costing $50 million, touts milk's protein richness. It shows how milk can help you power through everyday moments and everyday achievements. The ads are intended to convey the power of protein after you drink milk. One ad shows a little girl jumping into the pool without any protective gear. Milk gives her the 'wings' (and, presumably, the confidence) necessary to make the jump. All the ads will use special effects to show the energy you get from milk. It could be through wings, a parachute or even propellers." (We are concerned how many children will be encouraged by this photo to jump into a pool unattended, because they believe milk will provide them with "wings").
- "Pizza Moving More Milk - About 10 billion pounds of additional milk have moved through the pizza category since the checkoff began partnering with Domino's 5 years ago. Successes include the Domino's® Smart Slice line of school lunch pizza, now available in more than 450 districts in 39 states. Fuel Up to Play 60 is the nation's largest school wellness program with more than 73,000 schools enrolled." This program encourages 14 million school children to consume more dairy.
- Checkoff programs helped Domino's Pizza "improve the variety and amount of cheese used on its pizzas. This helped increase sales of Domino's pizza. As a result, others in the pizza category followed its lead. A Quaker-led promotion that encouraged consumers to use milk instead of water when preparing oatmeal led to a 5-percent increase in fluid milk sales in 1,400 Safeway stores. The checkoff helped Taco Bell introduce double steak quesadillas and fancy cheese shreds that led to a 4-percent increase in dairy volume at the chain. The chain plans to launch a dairy-based breakfast menu in 2014 that will help grow Taco Bell's dairy sales by 5 percent. McDonald's used more than 1.7 billion pounds of additional milk through dairy-friendly items between 2009 and 2011. The goal is to move an additional 3 billion pounds between 2012 and 2014. McDonalds has introduced 27 new dairy-friendly products this year, thanks to support from onsite checkoff employees."
- Pizza Hut developed its 3-Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza and the Summer of Cheese ad campaign.
- Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk
- Chocolate Milk has Muscle - Flavored milk (sugar, chocolate and artificial flavorings) plays an important nutritional role in growing children. Removing flavored milk has "nutritional consequences - students are missing out on essential nutrients when flavored milk is not available. Muscles fueled with chocolate milk are muscles fueled with nutritious energy. When chocolate milk is not offered at school, kids miss out on nutrition."
- Checkoff programs partnership with McDonald's "yielded an additional 1.7 billion pounds of dairy sales in the form of desserts, yogurt, specialty drinks such as frappés and ice cream drinks, and cheese. The partnership's goal was to sell an additional three billion pounds of dairy between 2012 and 2014. This successful partnership has led to an additional 27 new dairy-based products on McDonald's menu."
- "The industry's checkoff program is quite effective at promoting dairy products, as measured by its high return on investment. For example, checkoff efforts helped sell more than 7 billion additional pounds of milk in 2011 alone. From 1995 to 2011, checkoff promotional activities resulted in a: 5.8 percent increase in fluid milk consumption, 2.8 percent increase in cheese consumption, 1.4 percent increase in butter consumption, and a 2.4 percent increase in all dairy products based on fat."
"In the last 15 years, two-thirds of American farmers didn't receive a single penny from direct subsidies worth over $100 billion – the funds mainly went to big corporations." Watch Dr. Michael Greger's video on Taxpayer Subsides here. To see how the majority of federal subsidy tax dollars are spent on meat and dairy products, click on PCRM's link here. For more information, see PCRM's "Why Does a Salad Cost More Than a Big Mac?"
Do you find it ironic how our government spends billions of our tax dollars to fund and encourage the consumption of junk foods at fast food restaurants - the same exact foods that contribute to the diseases the federal government is supposedly trying to prevent?
Dairy Protein (Casein) Has Been Found to be the Most Relevant Cancer Promoter Ever Discovered
The incidence of cancer continues to rise at an alarming rate. Currently, one out of every two men and one out of every three women is expected to develop cancer; so most likely, you will have a family member or close friend that has some form of cancer. "In 2015, there will be an estimated 1,658,370 new cancer cases diagnosed and 589,430 cancer deaths in the United States. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the U.S. accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths."
Milk protein (casein) raises our levels of a powerful cancer-promoting growth hormone which has been found to be the "most relevant cancer promoter ever discovered," according to T. Colin Campbell, PhD. Read how dairy products promote prostate cancer by raising the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1. Since dairy protein raises the powerful growth hormone IFG-1, a known cancer promoter, could the sharp rise in cancer rates be due to U.S. checkoff programs that have increased the consumption of dairy products? For more information, "Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow's Milk and Your Health" is a wonderful resource regarding the adverse health effects from dairy.
Our Current Protein Recommendations are Flawed
Contrary to popular belief, our protein requirements are much lower than what we have been taught. These standards are based upon flawed data and myths generated by powerful profit-driven industries. It is extremely important for us to know this, since our current epidemic of poor health is associated with this dangerous way of eating. "Your greatest need for protein is when you grow the most. The greatest time of growth in a human being's life is as an infant. We double in size during the first 6 months. The ideal food for a baby is mother's milk. Therefore, breast milk is the 'gold standard' for nutrition – during your time of greatest need for all nutrients, including protein. Five to 6.3 percent of the calories in human breast milk are from protein. This is the maximum concentration of protein we will ever need in our food supply. Knowing this value tells us that at no other time in our life will we ever require more protein. Consider the protein content of the foods we consume after weaning – these are even higher in protein – rice is 9%, potatoes are 8%, corn is 11% and oatmeal is 15% protein." Click on the above link to find out how our current recommendations were formed. Dr. Michael Klaper sums it up nicely by saying, "Look at what has become 'normal.' Americans eat animal flesh three times a day. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, cheeseburgers for lunch, and chicken for dinner. I tell my patients and colleagues, 'Not even mountain lions eat flesh three times a day.' The tigers in the zoo, bona fide carnivores, don't eat flesh three times a day. But we 'naked apes' give ourselves permission for this nonstop flesh orgy — every five or six hours a piece of muscle disappears down our gullets."
A Plant-Centered Diet Offers Protection Against Disease and Premature Death
"The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of deaths from heart disease can be prevented. The Interheart Study found that 90 percent of heart attacks in men and 94 percent of heart attacks in women could be predicted based on nine factors, each modifiable through diet and lifestyle. Further, clinical studies have shown that a plant-based diet of primarily whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes can completely prevent heart attacks in those with severe heart disease and even reverse the buildup of plaque in their arteries. About 50 to 75 percent of all cancers can be prevented, according to numerous organizations and scientific studies. Further, clinical studies have shown that the progression of cancer can be slowed by eating a plant-based diet. If 90 percent of heart disease deaths and 75 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented, then 11.83 million lives could potentially have been saved in 2002, about 21 percent of all deaths that year."
Don't become a victim of clever marketing schemes. Large food companies are not in business to protect and support our family's health, they are in business to make a profit. Education is of utmost importance. As a result of aggressive public relations and marketing campaings, we have been mislead regarding the necessity and benefits from consuming animal products. We hope this article provides valuable insight so that you can make wise choices when it comes to providing health-promoting meals for your family.
For more information, click on the following links:
(9) Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods" (This is an excellent resource)
(11) Two excellent resources regarding how our food choices are influenced by governmental policies and big industries:
For additional information regarding the USDA Checkoff Programs:
Preview the "Why We Do What We Do?" Trailer
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Photo credit: Meatonomics