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The Tally Ho

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Agribusiness

I was sent two articles by a friend in public health. The first is, Is Agribusiness Making Food Less Nutritious? by Cheryl Long and Lynn Keiley. They write
This shift in production methods is clearly giving us less nutritious eggs and meat. Beef from cattle raised in feedlots on growth hormones and high-grain diets has lower levels of vitamins E, A, D and betacarotene, and twice as much fat, as grass-fed beef. Health writer Jo Robinson has done groundbreaking work on this subject, collecting the evidence on her Web site, www.eatwild.com, and in her book Pasture Perfect.

Similar nutrient declines can be documented in milk, butter and cheese. As one researcher writing in the Journal of Dairy Research explained, “It follows that continuing breeding and management systems that focus solely on increasing milk yield will result in a steady dilution of vitamins and antioxidants.” (Today’s “super-cows” are bred and fed to produce 20 times more milk than a cow needs to sustain a healthy calf.)...

...Fertilizers. Non-organic farmers use highly soluble nitrogen fertilizers, and keeping this nutrient in their soils is difficult. To be sure they get high yields, they often apply more nitrogen than the crops actually need.

This dependence upon chemical nitrogen fertilizers means we’re getting less for our money, says Benbrook. Numerous studies have demonstrated that high levels of nitrogen stimulate quick growth and increase crop yields because the fruits and vegetables take up more water. In effect, this means consumers pay more for produce diluted with water. “High nitrogen levels make plants grow fast and bulk up with carbohydrates and water. While the fruits these plants produce may be big, they suffer in nutritional quality,” Benbrook says, “whereas organic production systems [which use slow-release forms of nitrogen] produce foods that usually yield denser concentrations of nutrients and deliver consumers a better nutritional bargain per calorie consumed.”
As someone interested in nutrition and agribusiness, its a pretty good read. I also like this page, Looking for a bargain, a comparision between your typically supermarket tomato and your locally grown tomato.

Speaking of which, Super Size Me came out this week.

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