The revolution will not be pasteurized

From Harpers

Should raw milk be permitted?

Between 1919, when only a third of the milk in Massachusetts was pasteurized, and 1939, when almost all of it was, the number of outbreaks of milk-borne disease fell by nearly 90 percent. …

Over the past fifty years, people in developed countries began showing up in doctors’ offices with autoimmune disorders in far greater numbers. In many places, the rates of such conditions as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease have doubled and even tripled. Almost half the people living in First World nations now suffer from allergies. It turns out that people who grow up on farms are much less likely to have these problems. Perhaps, scientists hypothesized, we’ve become too clean and aren’t being exposed to the bacteria we need to prime our immune systems.

It’s an interesting dilemma. Clearly pasteurization was brought in as a measure to address declining hygiene in large dairy farms after the turn of the last century. Dairy farms had grown overcrowded and literally filthy with shit. Fecal bacteria was getting into the milk. Yes please pasteurize this stuff.

In a 2002 survey of American farms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found Campylobacter in 98 percent of all dairies and E. coli O157:H7 on more than half of farms with 500 or more cows. When the milk at these large farms was tested, the researchers discovered salmonella in 3 percent of all bulk tanks and Listeria monocytogenes in 7 percent.

But typically, the farmers who now specialize in raw milk, are small holdings with very strong controls surrounding cleanliness and milk quality.

When Schmidt emigrated from Germany in 1983, he wanted to start a farm that would operate in a manner fundamentally different from that of the average industrial dairy. Instead of lodging his cows in a manure-filled lot, he would give them abundant pastures. Instead of feeding them corn and silage, he’d give them grass. And instead of managing hundreds of anonymous animals to maximize the return on his investment, he would care for about fifty cows and maximize health and ecological harmony.

Now THAT is the milk I want.

I don’t want mass produced milk that has not been pasteurized… but I also want the right to buy raw milk from small farms that meet certain standards.

A lot of people freak out about the dangers of raw milk. But is the incidence of sickness from raw milk any higher than other foods? The article suggests the incidence is <0.01%

In the twenty-five years that Schmidt has operated the dairy, no one has ever reported falling sick after drinking his milk. Yet raw-milk illnesses do crop up. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the United States averages seventy cases of raw-dairy food poisoning each year.

The major concern seems to be that when there is an outbreak, children are the usual victims. It is clearly a difficult choice for parents to make – to weigh the risks against the benefits.

It’s worth noting that it may be possible to introduce the milk slowly and build immunity to the bacteria it contains.

In Brazil outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 are unheard of, though the bacteria exist there. A pair of recent studies show that Brazilian women have antibodies protecting them against O157:H7 and that they pass these antibodies to their children through the placenta and their breast milk. I found this interesting, especially in light of the fact that in every case I learned about, the victims of the Organic Pastures outbreak had just started drinking McAfee’s milk. Perhaps those who had been drinking the milk longer had developed the antibodies.

For the record: E. coli O157:H7 evolved in grain-fed cattle.


Tai Chi for the Cows
Tai Chi for the Cows


Burger Bonanza … and cheese skirts

Tips and Tools

Pre-make Individual Portions in Freezer Bags
Hamburger Portions

Essential for the best kitchen burgers: a cast-iron skillet
Cast Iron Skillet
I can make burger in a non-stick pan but the best burgers need to be a bit charred and, in the absence of a BBQ, a cast iron skillet is the way to go.


Of course I recommend these burgers bunless

Julia’s Pan-Fried Thin Burger

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots or onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pound fresh ground beef, preferably 15 to 20 percent fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

The key is to fry the onions/shallots first, then mix them with the raw hamburger meat (butter brings the taste of the beef out much better than olive oil). Randomly throwing in any spices that grab your imagination (onion powder, chili, chives, that leftover guacamole mix) keeps it interesting.

Make your patties very thin and pack them just enough that they won’t fall apart while cooking. Give them a good charring on in the frying pan or freeze them per above for frying later.


The Aussie Burger
… or simply “Get creative with stuff you throw on top”

  • Avocado – Yes
  • Any kind of sauce you can dream up without sugar – yes
  • Runny Fried Egg – absolutely
  • Cottage Cheese – why not
  • American Processed Cheese – why not go for the real stuff?
  • Fried Bacon, Onions and/or Mushrooms – of course
  • Something you made out of sour cream and dill that didn’t quite turn out right – load it up

Aussie Burger


Burger With Cheese Skirt

A 1/3-pound ground beef patty (80/20 meat to fat ratio) gets grilled on a flat top, and turned once. … The burger then gets blanketed in a mess of shredded mild cheddar cheese, and covered (partially) with the top of the hamburger bun. Then—and this is where the engineering comes in—a few ice cubes are tossed onto the flat top, and the whole thing is covered for 4-5 minutes, steaming and crisping up the cheese into what could be considered a skirt-like shape.

Warning: I’ve experimented with this and using ice to create the skirt is a disaster in a regular frying pan. It will only work on a flat top. In a pan you get cheese soup.

I’ve acheived the desired effect by simply using a non-stick frying pan and dumping a wad of grated cheese directly onto the burger after turning once.

Burger With Cheese Skirt


Cheese Skirt without the Burger
Using this same method, you can skip the burger altogether and make yourself a crispy naked “cheese skirt” (aka fried grated cheese). It is like eating the crispy part on the outside of a grilled cheese sandwich… without the sandwich.

Yummy… and high fat factor mean you are full pretty quickly. It’s a quick comfort food.

Pan Fried Cheese: This is probably as close to junk food as low carb gets.


Next Experiment: Cheese skirts with bacon… and onion.

Maybe you got that backwards

Everyday Movement Keeps You Slim
Scientists studied the daily acitivity levels of both obese and normal weight people and found that those who were obese… wait for it… moved around less! Yes it’s true.

Those who were obese moved 2½ hours less than lean people – which equates to about 350 fewer calories a day. Ambulation movement seemed to be the difference maker – not so much pre-planned power walking, but just constantly taking opportunities to move.

Or maybe: Obesity results in a propensity to conserve energy.


Low Levels Of Physical Activity And High Levels Of Obesity Found In Cancer Survivors
Finding: Despite getting cancer, many obese people don’t do anything to reduce their weight.

A new study reveals that many cancer survivors are inactive and obese, which may negatively affect the control of their disease. The findings, which come from a study of cancer survivors in Canada, show that a cancer diagnosis does not appear to prompt significant behavior change and that interventions to increase physical activity and promote better eating habits among cancer survivors are warranted.

Or maybe: Going through treatment does not mean that the factors which lead to obesity have changed – in fact they may have been exacerbated.

Just Maybe

Will The Economic Downturn Threaten Health?

Consumers Shifting to Inferior Goods

There may be some health benefits from consumers cutting back on spending…

Some are skipping drinks altogether. The number of people ordering an alcoholic drink fell to 31 percent last month from 42 percent last summer, according to a survey of 2,500 people conducted by Technomic, a restaurant industry consulting firm.

Other choices may be neutral – with a trade off from cheap take-away calories to even cheaper stay at home meals:

Wal-Mart Stores reports stronger-than-usual sales of peanut butter and spaghetti, while restaurants like Domino’s Pizza and Ruby Tuesday have suffered a falloff in orders, suggesting that many Americans are sticking to low-cost home-cooked meals.

However the long run would likely see many people moving down the nutrition spectrum, suffering the health risks that already plague the poorer members of society:

Burt Flickinger, a long-time retail consultant, said the last time he saw such significant changes in consumer buying patterns was the late 1970s, when runaway inflation prompted Americans to “switch from red meat to pork to poultry to pasta — then to peanut butter and jelly.”

Perhaps if hording is the strategy of the day, it’s a good time to stock up on frozen meat, before meat starts to track grain prices…

Social Status Plays Role in Brain’s Control of Health

Potentially another factor in why poverty is correlated with obesity and heart disease:

Using functional MRI scans, they found that different brain areas are activated when a person moves up or down in social status or sees people who are socially superior or inferior.

Previous research has shown that social status has a strong effect on health. For example, one study of British civil servants found that the lower a person’s rank, the more likely they were to develop cardiovascular disease and die early. Psychological effects, such as having limited control over one’s life and interactions with others, may be one way that lower social rank compromises health, according to background information in a news release about the study.


Mystery Meat

One of my all-time favourite movie lines is from Bill Murray in Meatballs:

Attention. Here’s an update on tonight’s dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal. The winner of tonight’s mystery meat contest is Jeffrey Corbin who guessed “some kind of beef”.

Well the following video is about “some kind of beef” but I’m not sure Jeffrey Corbin’s guess really covers what this stuff is.

While I think this woman is sadly mistaken in the belief that obesity can be tackled by removing one food item from your diet (“your vice”), her contribution to food science in the odd form of carrying around a 4 year old hamburgers should not go unnoticed.

Funny that they don’t make the obvious statement: nothing can live on these burgers… not even mould.

The idea that the burger once in you is stuck there like some undigested bubble gum (another old wives tale) seems to suggest a bit more science could be applied to how the body works.

But that burger… those fries.
Gross and cool all rolled up into one.

If any 10 year olds see this video they will all start carrying around ageing happy meals.

Slow Food East

The slow food movement interests me but as far as I can tell from the website, in Singapore it involves hanging out with these five guys as they get drunk:

To join it costs S$120 which means that the average Singaporean probably can’t afford it.

Q: In the west, is Slow Food a past time exclusive to the well-off?

I always had the impression it was spearheaded by the back to nature granola bunch. But given the menus I see discussed in the Singapore blog, this is clearly a high-end foodie past-time.

Not that the price for the events is outrageous given what you get.

Look at this gorgeous menu put together for S$130:

  • Gazpacho
  • Sautéed of wild mushrooms, Arrugula, dried tomatoes and candy of black truffle
  • Clear and fragrant consommé with celery and baby carrots, served with a toast of duck liver and Parma Ham
  • Pan fried with fresh thyme and garlic, Mediterranean couscous, confit of sweet pepper and shellfish emulsion
  • Confit of beef cheek, Potato gratin, shallots, sautéed of lard and mustard
  • Age Tomme de Savoie, and dried fruits condiment
  • Jivara Chocolate delight with pralines, sesame tuile and passion fruits jelly
  • Chocolate Swiss liqueur

Impressive. The cost is worth it if only for the wine paired with the food.

Nevertheless, I know very few people (outside my i-bank colleagues) who would spend $130 for an evening at, say, Redhouse Seafood. I think last time I was there, four of us dined for a total of $130 though we did skip the sharks fin… oh and the wine with every course.

And given my low-carb religion, there’s clearly not much value in me joining a food club in which I will be skipping every offering of rice, noodles, potato and flour in its many incarnations.

Something tells me that it is not in the spirit of decelerated gastronomy if I were to turn my nose up at the Seafood Fried Rice and Deep Fried Bun, not to mention the inevitable Shark’s Fin rant I would embark upon once I found endangered species in my soup.

Still, who knew that Chateau Les Inferets Corbieres Rouge would be paired with Chili Crab?

Is there a Paleo / Low-Carb slow food faction in the States?
Not necessairly forage cum scrape-it-off-the-road slow… but just getting together to pair Chateau Le Plonk with grass-fed beef?

I guess for now, slow food will continue to mean anything that takes me ages to cook myself.


Chili Crab with Steamed Buns and Satay

Photo By Daxiang on Flickr

The Health Cost of Poverty

Life Expectancy Drops for Some U.S. Women
Life expectancy falls in poorer U.S. counties

The hidden cost of cheap calories is now evidenced in longevity stats.

In nearly 1,000 counties that together are home to about 12 percent of the nation’s women, life expectancy is now shorter than it was in the early 1980s, according to a study published today.

The downward trend is evident in places in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and in one county in Maine. It is not limited to one race or ethnicity but it is more common in rural and low-income areas. The most dramatic change occurred in two areas in southwestern Virginia (Radford City and Pulaski County), where women’s life expectancy has decreased by more than five years since 1983.

The trend appears to be driven by increases in death from diabetes, lung cancer, emphysema and kidney failure. It reflects the long-term consequences of smoking, a habit that women took up in large numbers decades after men did, and the slowing of the historic decline in heart disease deaths.

It may also represent the leading edge of the obesity epidemic. If so, women’s life expectancy could decline broadly across the United States in coming years, ending a nearly unbroken rise that dates to the mid-1800s.

The phenomenon appears to be not only new but distinctly American. “If you look in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, we don’t see this,” Murray said.

The Washington Post article requires registration.
Circumvent via bugmenot or bethebot.

The Chemical Link to Obesity

Researchers say endocrine-disrupting chemicals can permanently harm the developing organism and may even promote obesity. But the chemical industry doesn’t want you to believe them.

I’m always weary of reports which start with a conspiracy theory: But the chemical industry doesn’t want you to believe them.

However the information in this report is neither new nor revolutionary – namely that growing levels of xenoestrogens are having a detrimental impact on the environment and human health.

The most cited culprit is bisphenol A (“BPA”) the building block of polycarbonate plastic and a known endocrine disruptor. Besides causing a range of reproduction related problems, research suggests that it is a factor for rising obesity levels.

For the most part, researchers investigating endocrine disruption had focused primarily on behavioural and reproductive consequences. But over the past few years, it’s become clear that some of the synthetic chemicals that disrupt the endocrine system also induce weight gain. What’s more, production of these chemicals closely tracks the rise of obesity.

“We think that environmental chemicals like bisphenol A are likely to target subpopulations of individuals that are rendered very sensitive to these chemicals by virtue of their genes, genetic background, maternal–fetal interactions . . . and the amount of hormones they’re exposed to.”

Given that high levels of natural estrogens are a risk factor for obesity, it doesn’t take much imagination to accept that high levels of xenoestrogens might be as well.


Recycling type #7 is the biggest risk for BPA.

There are seven classes of plastics used worldwide in packaging applications. Type 7 is the catch-all “other” class, and some type 7 plastics, such as polycarbonate (sometimes identified with the letters “PC” near the recycling symbol) and epoxy resins, are made from bisphenol A monomer. When such plastics are exposed to hot liquids, bisphenol A leaches out 55 times faster than it does under normal conditions. – Wikipedia

Experts typically cite the safest plastics as #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), and #5 PP (polypropylene).

Water is usually sold in type #1. Type #1 is considered safe for single use but should be disposed of thereafter as there is evidence to suggest that such bottles leach a compound known as DEHA, which is classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen, as well as acetaldehyde.