New Hosted Site and Design Launched

If for some reason you have arrived at this page, please go to Agriculture Society. We are very excited to announce the launch of our brand-new site design under a paid WordPress account and new hosting environment. We may experience some technical difficulties and unavailability during the next 24 hours or so, but we’ll be back as soon as possible.

Happy 2010 and blessings to everyone!

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First Case of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in the United States

This startling story hit the wires on Sunday, December 27th of this week. Oswaldo Juarez, 19, of Peru came to the United States to study English. He became ill with a cough that wouldn’t go away, and then began to experience “rattling” lungs. The strain, XXDR, has never before been seen in the United States. It is so rare that less than a dozen people were thought to have contracted it.

The cause is none other than overuse of antibiotics in our medical communities and in the food system. If this is not proof of our industrial food system killing us, I don’t know what is.

This information is not new to the media or health communities. Doctors and health officials have been releasing information for years about drug-resistant diseases all over the globe from Malaria to MRSA, and from step to staph. We are literally inundated with bacteria that are predicted to become stronger and more resistant as time goes on. This particular case of TB was discovered back in June of this year, but until now was apparently kept “quiet” due to its insidious nature.

Approximately 75 percent of antibiotics used are found in the meat or dairy products of animals we consume. The majority of the meat and dairy eaten in the United States originates from CAFOs – concentrated animal feeding operations where many animals are crammed together in the most unnatural and unhealthy conditions.

Just yesterday, MSNBC also released this story about drug-resistant bacteria found in meat from factory farms yesterday.Animals and birds are administered antibiotics (among other toxic substances) to combat pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. E. coli and salmonella are common in the digestive tracts and on the hides and feathers of animals due to unsanitary conditions and the types of feed the animals consume. When livestock and poultry consume soy, corn, grains, silage, and other industrial feeds, virulent strains of bacteria are much more likely to develop as the digestive tracts of these animals is not intended to process these substances.

Arguments from pharmaceutical companies and farm groups say that antibiotic use keeps food costs down and animals healthy. But at what cost to the health industry, the environment, and the consumer?  Lobbyists from these groups and companies are well-known for repeatedly defeating proposed limits on antibiotic use in Congress. Drug-resistant infections have been responsible for killing approximately 65,000 people in 2009.

This problem is now coming to a head, but there is something we can do about it. Don’t buy meat and dairy products from conventional and industrial sources – buy your meat and dairy, and all your food local and from growers and producers who use sustainable methods! Talk to your farmers and food growers, and get to know their practices. Support your local economy and your environment and health will truly flourish!

Want more information about industrial meat and sustainable meat? Read the following articles:

Whole and healthy meat – does it really exist?

What do farms and antibiotic drugs have in common?

How well do you know your food? Find out!

Probiotics – the friendly bacteria that we need in our gut to keep bad bacteria away

My adventures in making yogurt – yogurt from sustainable milk contains friendly bacteria essential to health!

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How to Interpret the Glycemic Index (GI)

Have you ever been to the store and noticed the phrase “glycemic index” on packages or signs? Glycemic Index (GI) refers to the ability of the food to raise glycemic levels in your blood. When you digest food, your liver and pancreas have a big job.  And that job is to properly break down the food you are eating so your body can use it to function and grow.

How does the glycemic index relate to nutrition? The higher the glycemic index, the harder those organs have to work to process the food. If your pancreas has to produce larger amounts of insulin to process the food you are eating, it can cause a spike in your blood sugar that is unhealthy. When it comes back down, you will start to feel the effects. Effects can include fatigue, inability to focus, hunger, irritability, headaches, heart palpitations, and many others. Over time, eating these types of foods contribute to weight gain, health problems, and degenerative disease.

Those who rely on the glycemic index to decide about healthy food choices might say that although white bread would cause a spike in blood sugar, eating a protein with it would balance it out. The biggest problem with this thought is that using the glycemic index may cause people to believe that as long as they eat some protein with their processed white bread, it is okay to eat it. The truth is, the white bread is still unhealthy to consume on many levels.

One example of a processed, high glycemic food might be a loaf of bread. If you have ever looked at the nutritional information on the wrapper of an average loaf of bread, you can easily see that grams of carbohydrates can range anywhere from 25 to 40 grams per serving.

The nutrition label to the left shows information for a loaf of Filone bread – a type of white Italian bread. This bread contains a whopping 33 grams per serving. It is also made with processed, white flour that has not been sprouted, soaked, or fermented.

By contrast, (see label shown on the  lower right) a loaf of sprouted grain bread such as Ezekiel (or another type of sprouted grain bread such as the kind you would make at home), contains less carbohydrates – approximately 15 to 20 grams per serving.

Carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars by the body, transported in the blood, and then moved into the cells with the help of insulin. Carbohydrates give us energy to do the things we do every day. But if we have an unnaturally balanced amount of excess carbohydrates (such as those contained in processed breads), they can cause problems such as being stored in the body as fat which causes weight gain.

Natural, whole foods contain the right balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Processed, refined foods do not. If you are eating real, whole foods, there is no need to count calories, fat grams, or worry about the glycemic load in your food.

The glycemic index was created to provide people with yet one more way to justify eating unhealthy foods. If you rely on this scale for eating foods,  it is likely you will end up eating more processed foods – although you may be under the mistaken impression that you are making healthy choices. The only way to make healthy choices and keep blood sugars level is to eat foods that are the least processed and refined. Remember that even though a food may show a low glycemic index ranking, it may still be processed and unnatural.

Foods ranking low on the glycemic index take a longer period of time to digest. This gives the body a slow, steady stream of energy and provides a feeling of fullness and satisfaction for an extended period of time.  It prevents overeating, and promotes healthy cholesterol levels which lowers your risk of degenerative disease.

Many foods higher in glycemic load contain enough carbohydrates to spike your blood sugar unnaturally high. It takes much less time for your body to digest these foods, so it causes a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar and insulin levels.  This leads to frequent hunger, a a feeling of dissatisfaction, and the release of more stress hormones in the body. It’s those frequent irregularities in blood sugar that contribute to weight gain, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and so much more.

So when you see labels on food or signs in the store referring to “glycemic index”, remember that many foods with a higher glycemic index are more often than not produced unnaturally – in other words, they are processed or refined – and can create the unnatural high spike in your blood sugar that can cause health problems later on down the road.

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My Adventures in Making Yogurt

I have made yogurt about four times since my first attempt earlier this year. It’s definitely been a learning experience, and I’m happy to say I’m progressing each time I make it. Each successive batch has come a little closer in texture to what I consider to be the perfect yogurt. I just made another batch on Friday of last week and I think I’m almost there.

These are notes from my adventures of all the yogurt I’ve made thus far, and the results from each batch. All yogurt batches I have made were using certified organic raw milk from pasture-raised Jersey and Guernsey cows. My starter has been plain, organic, whole-milk yogurt from grass-fed cows (whatever store brand I was buying at the time – the first three batches were Nancy’s Yogurt, the last batch was Stonyfield Farm).

First batch

The first time I attempted to make yogurt, I found some random recipes on the Internet and sort of pieced the techniques together. I put my raw milk in a pan on the stove and added the yogurt before heating – don’t ask me why I did this. Most instructions I’ve seen for yogurt making instruct the preparer to add the starter after heating and achieve a certain temperature (which varies according to recipe).

Even though many recipes advised me to do so, I was never willing to heat my milk up to 180 degrees because doing so would destroy good bacteria. And in that defeats the purpose of making homemade yogurt in the first place. So I only allowed the milk to reach just above 100 degrees before adding the yogurt starter before turning it down and placing it in the jars to sit overnight.

The pouring process was difficult and I made a mess. I poured the milk from the pan into a funnel sitting on top of my jar. I disliked this part of  yogurt-making the most because I had a great deal of milk to clean up afterward.

This batch was left in a glass jar on the counter overnight. The results were adequate, and my son really like the taste (which is most important to my efforts), and my husband thought it was pretty good. But I had a hard time eating it because it seemed a little too watery to me. Unfortunately, even I am influenced to some extent by commercial yogurts and their perfectly uniform texture. The taste was just a bit too sour for me as well.

Second batch

I have definitely had some valuable learning experiences from yogurt-making, and one of them was learning how best to pour the milk from the pan into the jar. I made a big mess again, just like the first time because I tried pouring the milk from the pan into a funnel sitting on top of the jar. And even though it was in the sink, a lot of milk spilled anyway.

This time I decided to place the jars in a cooler and wrap it in a heating pad. I didn’t have much experience with the proper heat levels in making yogurt, but I knew it shouldn’t get too warm or it would destroy the bacteria. Well, that effort was a complete flop. When I checked it later, the yogurt had become hard and rubbery. So I had to throw it out and start again.

Third batch

The third time I used a yogurt-maker we had recently purchased (it was only about $50), because a friend had told me she used one and achieved perfect results. Of course, I didn’t take into account that there are many types of yogurt makers and I think that makes a difference in the way the yogurt turns out. My friend’s yogurt maker is one that makes the batch all at once in one big container.

The type I bought, a brand called Donvier, seemed very easy to use and comes with 8 little cups. But I found that when it came time to pour the milk into the cups, it was really difficult to keep the milk from spilling everywhere – even though I was using a soup ladle to pour it into the cups. And the amount of milk I had heated on the stove was more than I could fit in the cups, and I had to use additional jars anyway, which I placed in my oven this time and let sit with the oven light on for about 15 hours.

My results with the third batch were as follows:

The yogurt in jars in my oven turned out pretty good, better than my first two batches.  It was fairly thick and it definitely passed the family test. But the yogurt in the jars that were in the yogurt-maker, surprisingly enough, turned out very watery and was much too sour. Although my family thought it was okay, I really didn’t care for it and ended up throwing out half of it later. I should have saved the whey for something else like lacto-fermented vegetables or homemade condiments, but I was sort of running out of patience at that point and just wanted to start over again.

Here are my other thoughts about the yogurt maker: I didn’t like how little the amount of yogurt there was in each jar serving. I’d always have to get more from another jar to make it enough for one person. Also, the jar lids were exceedingly difficult to remove, and cleaning the jars and lids was not very easy. I had to thoroughly rinse out each individual jar and lid as the yogurt sticks to the containers quite stubbornly. My theory is that since the jars are plastic, this somehow affects the yogurt’s ability to stick to it even more than it would to glass.

Which leads me to yet another dislike of the jars – that they are plastic and are subjected to heat during the yogurt-making process. Although the heat is not high, it’s still heat, and plastic is not supposed to heated in the first place  due to leeching – especially when it contains food. I’m not sure if these cups are made with BPA or not, but it still concerns me. I’ve made a concerted effort to remove a lot of plastic from my home, so I was definitely not pleased when the yogurt maker arrived and I discovered the entire unit is made of plastic. So, overall, I’m giving this particular yogurt maker a grade of ‘F’.

Fourth batch

In our area, most cows are not producing a lot of milk this time of year until early spring because the weather is usually cold and most grass-fed cows are now either on alfalfa exclusively, or only graze on grass weather permitting. So we made arrangements with  Saint John’s Organic Farm in Emmett, Idaho where we get our milk to pick up a larger amount of milk to freeze for over the winter.

We had just received one of our pouches of raw milk (the third week of December). The first pouch we froze, and then thawed out. It tasted really sweet and my son didn’t like it. My husband and I weren’t crazy about the globules in the milk from the cream which froze, but still wanted to use the milk anyway. We talked to the farm about it, and the only thing Susan (the owner) could come up with was that since the cows were now eating alfalfa exclusively due to poor weather conditions, perhaps this had some effect on the taste.

I also believe the freezing process had some effect as well. But I’m still perplexed because before we started buying milk from Saint John’s Organic Farm, we were getting Organic Pastures milk shipped to us about every six weeks for over a year. We always froze it because we’d buy about 6 half gallons at a time.  Although we never had any taste issues from freezing their milk, there were the globules present from the cream.

At any rate, I figured it was time to make yogurt again, so we used most of our thawed out  2.5 gallon pouch for yogurt.

This time, we filled our big stockpot with milk to make yogurt and a smaller sauce pan with milk for kefir. I used the basic recipe for kefir-making from The Nourished Life’s kefir recipe. Besides the fact that I had a lot of milk sitting around that my son wouldn’t drink due to its over-sweetness, it was this post that motivated me to make kefir for the first time and make yogurt once again.

Here are the steps I used for my yogurt:

  1. I heated the milk up to approximately 100 degrees – I just tested it with my finger and it felt warm but not too hot. As Elizabeth from The Nourished Life says, some people may not think it’s sanitary, but I agree that it seemed to work.
  2. After the milk was warm enough, I added about 3 tablespoons of the Stonyfield plain, organic, whole milk yogurt to the milk and stirred it gently until mixed in.
  3. Then I ladled the milk-yogurt mixture into three different sized jars from my cupboard for the yogurt, and the milk-kefir grain mixture into one quart-sized container from Traderspoint Creamery yogurt (I just LOVE their jars, and their yogurt is out-of-this world!). Two of my jars were wide-mouthed, and this helped a great deal with keeping the mess to a minimum. One of the jars is small-mouthed, and that made a bit of a spill on the counter, but overall, I am much happier with the results of using a ladle for this process rather than a funnel.
  4. I placed the jars in my oven with no heat and just the oven light turned on. It’s quite amazing how much heat you can get just from the oven light, and it’s not hot, but it’s just enough for the yogurt to receive what it needs to culture.

Kefir

  1. I used kefir grains from Donna Gates’ Body Ecology web site. The directions say to stir it in, but my jar has a really narrow neck so, I gently shook the jar until it appeared to be mixed in.
  2. Next, I placed the kefir jar on top of my refrigerator to sit overnight. The longer you leave kefir or yogurt, the more cultures it produces. It depends on whether you want less casein and lactose, which is broken down by friendly bacteria during the culturing process. Then I placed all three of my yogurt jars in my oven and just turned the light on.
  3. I checked all jars periodically, but left the yogurt jars in the oven for at least 10 hours before opening it up to see how things were going. The yogurt needed to be in the oven longer, as it appeared to be still too liquidy for good yogurt texture. I took care not to jostle the jars, but very carefully examined the quality of the liquid by turning it very slowly around to look for liquid movement inside.

At the time I checked the yogurt, it was about just before midnight and I had placed the jars in the oven around nine a.m. that same day. I was unsure about leaving it in the oven overnight, but didn’t really want to have to get up just to check it again, especially if it still wasn’t ready. But I was too tired to worry too much, so I just figured the next time I woke up I’d see how things were progressing.

Final results

I woke up around 5:20 a.m. and went into the kitchen to peer at the yogurt. I gently turned one of the jars, and it seemed like it was doing well and solidifying nicely. So I removed all three jars from the oven and placed them in the refrigerator. About 7 hours later I checked one of the jars by opening it and tasting the yogurt. It was delicious!

I gave some to my son with some sliced bananas, and he absolutely loved it. The type of yogurt starter I used made a definite difference in the taste from the previous times. This time I used the Stonyfield Farms yogurt (which is delectable), and my yogurt turned out very similar in taste and texture to this brand.

My kefir turned out great too. I just opened it today and made fruit smoothies out of it for myself and my son, and it was tasty and tangy. I also used Bio Chem Greens and Whey protein powder – it has certified organic greens like chlorella, barley grass, alfalfa juice leaf powder, spirulina, broccoli sprout, kamut, coconut oil, and whey protein (99% undenatured).

www.mypicshares.com

Want more information about probiotics and friendly bacteria? Here’s a detailed article about those topics.

What are your experiences making yogurt and kefir? I’d love to hear from everyone about their experiences, both good and bad, and what worked and what didn’t.

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Raw Milk Trial in Wisconsin Could Set a Precedent for the Future

Are we going to continue to allow our government to dictate what we can and cannot put into our own bodies? Say it ain’t so!

Raw milk is once again come under the radar, this time in America’s Dairyland – The state of Wisconsin.  On Monday, December 21 2009, Max Kane will face prosecution in Viroqua, WI. His crime? Failure to release the source of his raw milk as well as the names of people on his delivery route. Kane, a farmer, promoter of raw milk and founder of the private buyer’s club Belle’s Lunchbox.Join us in our quest for freedom, justice, and the right to healthy food.

If you are in the Viroqua area, please come and invest your day to show support as citizens fight for our rights to obtain healthy food!

Watch this video about the trial and surrounding events:

According to Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, he is “under investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). DATCP is seeking to obtain from Max business records for Belle’s Lunchbox including a membership list of those who belong to the buyer’s club”.

The court hearing scheduled for Monday, December 21 at the Viroqua, Wisconsin Court House is in response to DATCP’s request for these records as well as its request to obtain testimony from Max about the operations of Belle’s Lunchbox. Max has refused to surrender any information requested by DATCP and submits that the entity has no jurisdiction over Belle’s and that the agency is attempting to violate his constitutional rights.

Schedule of events:

12:30 to 6:30 p.m. a free lecture/workshop at the Landmark Center – 500 E. Jefferson Stree, Viroqua, WI, second floor auditorium).

and raw milk rally, featuring as guest speakers:

– and more to speak about raw milk, health, freedom, and food sovereignty.

Max has been consuming raw milk to restore his health – he’s battled various challenges like Crohn’s Disease and found improvement from changes in lifestyle choices, including drinking raw milk. Max saw an opportunity to help others due to his own health-changing experience, and has become an advocate and activist for real food and real milk.

If you are unable to attend the rally and court case, do all you can to support the raw milk industry and your health by drinking raw milk and supporting local farmers in your area selling  clean, raw milk!

For more information, visit the Rally4Raw Milk web site and

The Raw Milk Battle: Shouldn’t Consumers Have a Choice? at the Chelsea Green web site.

Suggested reading:

The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights – David E. Gumpert

Why the Consumption of Milk is Harmful to Your Health

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