At Soil Health Academy, Ron Nichols tells the story of Ashley Armstrong, who forsook her training as a mechanical engineering PhD to pursue regenerative farming. Ashley and her sister Sarah run Angel Acres farm, raising chickens for eggs and meat, dairy goats, and hogs. (Read more about the anti-inflammatory benefits of choline in eggs from chickens like those on Angel Acres here). Nichols writes:
Although it seems like a big departure from a career in academia or in the mechanical engineering industry, Ashley says her regenerative farming life and career will always be positively influenced by her years of engineering studies.
“I have to take a step back and realize that my education and experience gave me a way of thinking,” she says. “And I think that way of thinking can be applied to so many things in life—especially related to what I learned in graduate school. I had to really learn how to read research papers, how to dig through the literature, how to criticize research papers, how to find research papers. And that process has benefited me a lot in our health and wellness business, but also in the regenerative ag space.”
Ashley says the value of her advanced engineering degree isn’t a result of the things she memorized or theories she learned in specific classes, but rather how that experience has allowed her to see things from a complete, context-based perspective. “What I appreciated about my mechanical engineering degree is it gave me more of a holistic picture of how things worked or how you should think about complex problems,” she says.
Ashley says her years of engineering study also provided the basis for finding her life’s passion. “I honestly feel so blessed to be even in this position because I am happy that I found purpose, my passion, my obsession,” she says. “I found that thing that made me tick. It’s the thing I just can’t stop thinking about.”
Being able pursue her passion, and armed with a holistic engineering mindset, is what Ashley says fuels her from day-to-day. “I feel a responsibility to give as much of my life as I can to this area because it’s given me so much,” she says. “And that’s kind of what ultimately fueled my decision to pursue this because one of my mentors helped me to see it that way.”
Ashley says it’s ironic, if not perplexing, that so many people believe a career in farming is “less prestigious” than a career in academia or mechanical engineering industry.
“There’s a perception that farming is not something that we need to be a part of anymore,” she says, “because it’s industrialized and that food is taken care of by the big guys, so we don’t need to worry about it anymore.” Some of her friends and family members have asked Ashley directly why she wanted to give up a higher-paying career in academia or the mechanical engineering industry to grow food because our food needs are “taken care of.”
But for Ashley, the answer is clear. “We are seeing the consequences of someone else growing our food,” she says. “A growing number of people in my generation are saying, ‘We are going to deal with it ourselves.’”
And she’s emphatic that being a regenerative farmer isn’t a “lowly position.” “It’s the highest, the most prestigious position there is, because health is wealth,” she says, “and if we can help create healthier food, prestige doesn’t matter.”
The regenerative road to health
With more than 90,000 social media followers and customers from nearly every state, the Armstrong sisters recognize there is an appetite for food-and-health related information—and for the access to regenerative food sources. By combining honest, effective communications with the production of regeneratively grown, nutrient dense foods, Angel Acres farm (and their farm cooperative, Nourish Co-Op) is providing nourishment to the bodies and souls of their growing following.
“Everything we do revolves around health and health optimization, and I think that we bring that perspective into the regenerative ag space,” she says. “Sometimes, understanding the connection between food and health is really hard to get across unless you yourself have dealt with health challenges and health problems. We are providing really high quality food, and showing that not only does the way animals raise matter, but WHAT they eat matters, too. Which is why we made our own feed for our layer birds, meat birds, dairy goats and hogs. We are what we eat, eats, and we’ve documented this by lowering the PUFA (specifically, Linoleic Acid, an Omega 6 fatty acid high in vegetable oils) content of our eggs by changing the feed.”
Having experienced the adverse consequences of consuming nutrient-deficient food themselves, the Armstrong sisters are uniquely qualified to communicate the connection between healthier soil and healthier food. “We know, first-hand, that the first step in refining your health is prioritizing where your food is coming from,” Ashley says.
For more information about Angel Acres visit www.angel-acresfarm.com and their farm cooperative, which delivers products to all 50 states, www.nourishcooperative.com.
Read more here.
Do Cows Get Cold?
In Organic Valley’s Roostock, Jennifer McBride explains that cows don’t get too cold in a normal winter because “An adult cow has a furnace inside.” She writes:
Organic Valley farmer Gene Mohs of Minnesota may have to throw on an extra layer of clothing when he heads out the door on cold Minnesota mornings, but chances are his cows are content.
At what temperature do cows get cold? Believe it or not, cows prefer it cool — they are built for this! The ideal temperature range for dairy cattle is 25 to 65 F, according to the University of Missouri Extension. Even at temperatures of just 68 F cattle can start to feel heat stress. When temperatures dip below zero, yes, cows may get cold but Organic Valley farmers take special precautions to keep cows cozy.
How do cows stay warm? One reason cows prefer it cooler is because of all that is going on internally.
“An adult cow has a furnace inside,” said Dr. Meggan Hain, Organic Valley veterinarian. She is speaking of food that is fermenting in the rumen (the first compartment of a cow’s stomach). As the rumen breaks down forage, digestion releases gas that keeps the animal warm.
Cows also acclimate to poor conditions. In the winter, cows’ thick skin and hair is a natural insulator, like a heavy winter coat, that protects them from the bitter cold. A cow’s hair grows longer and thicker during winter weather. When it snows, the hair coat catches the snow and forms a layer that creates an air pocket between the snow and the cow’s skin. The pocket is then warmed by the cow’s core body temperature of about 101 to 102 F.
Read more here.
Got Science? The Vindication of Whole Milk
Whole milk has been maligned as unhealthy for decades despite being filled with nutrients. Now, at Mercola.com, Dr. Joseph Mercola discusses a major shift in the perception of whole milk and its potential for protecting your heart. He writes:
For decades, Americans have been told to avoid whole milk due to its saturated fat content, which has been falsely accused of clogging arteries and causing heart disease. To this day, the U.S. dietary guidelines and health authorities like the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization recommend drinking low-fat or skim milk for this reason.
However, as Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Tufts University, recently told New York Times reporter Alice Callahan,1 this guidance goes back to the first edition of the dietary guidelines, issued in 1980, and most studies performed since then have exonerated full-fat whole milk.
In fact, most studies have found that dairy products are associated with lower risks of high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, regardless of fat content. What’s more, even though full-fat dairy products have higher calorie content, they don’t appear to contribute to weight gain, either.
Dairy Protects Heart Health
For example, a 2018 Lancet study,2 which followed 136,384 adults across five continents for nine years, found that, compared to those who did not consume dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese), those who consumed two or more servings per day were:
- 17% less likely to die from any cause
- 22% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease
- 34% less likely to die from a stroke
Milk and yogurt, in particular, were associated with a lower risk of mortality and/or major cardiovascular events, and there was no discernible difference between low-fat and high-fat products. Cheese and butter intake were not significantly associated with these outcomes. Serving sizes were as follows:
- Milk and yogurt — 1 cup or 244 grams
- Cheese — one slice or 15 grams
- Butter — 1 teaspoon or 5 grams
There’s More to Milk Than Milk Fat
As noted in the Lancet paper:3
“… dietary guidelines recommend minimizing consumption of whole-fat dairy products for cardiovascular disease prevention …
However, dairy products and dairy fat also contain potentially beneficial compounds — including specific amino acids, medium-chain and odd-chain saturated fats, milk fat globule phospholipids, unsaturated and branched-chain fats … vitamin K1 and K2, and calcium — and can contain probiotics, many of which also affect health outcomes.
Therefore, the net effect of dairy intake on health outcomes might not be reliably informed solely from its effect on a single risk marker (i.e., LDL cholesterol) or fatty acids.”
The authors also review the results from previous meta-analyses,4 none of which were able to discern a significant problem with dairy. For example, one meta-analysis of cohort studies found higher milk intake lowered the risk of high blood pressure while having “a neutral effect on cardiovascular disease.”
The DASH trial also found a link between milk consumption and reduced blood pressure. Other meta-analyses have punctured the LDL argument as well. One such analysis, which included 20 randomized trials, found a “non-significant” increase in LDL cholesterol among those who consumed either low-fat or high-fat dairy products. Ditto for cheese.
One potential reason for this is because milk fat is packaged in globule phospholipids, which help bind cholesterol in your digestive tract.5,6
Another large-scale trial,7 also published in 2018, which pooled results from 16 cohorts from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Taiwan, involving 63,682 individuals with a follow-up of nine years, found those with the highest levels of milk fats (odd-chain fatty acids 15:0 and 17:0, and trans-palmitoleic acid specifically) had a 29% lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
Read more here.
America’s Food Industry “Rife with Corruption”
At Mercola.com, Dr. Joseph Mercola explains that America’s food industry, specifically its beef industry, is “rife with corruption,” and warns consumers that their own tax dollars are being used to promote agricultural policies that are antithetical to public health. He writes:
You’re probably aware that the food industry has the power to influence your eating habits through the use of advertising and lobbying for industry-friendly regulations. But did you know the U.S. government actually funds some of these activities through the collection and distribution of taxes on certain foods?
And that by doing so, the government is actively supporting agricultural systems that are adverse to public and environmental health, and discouraging the adoption of healthier and more ecologically sound farming systems?
The beef industry in particular appears to be rife with corruption aimed at protecting big factory-style business rather than the up-and-coming grass fed industry. As explained in Washington Monthly:1
“Imagine if the federal government mandated that a portion of all federal gas taxes go directly to the oil industry’s trade association, the American Petroleum Institute [API].
Imagine further that API used this public money to finance ad campaigns encouraging people to drive more and turn up their thermostats, all while lobbying to discredit oil industry critics … That’s a deal not even Exxon could pull off, yet the nation’s largest meat-packers now enjoy something quite like it.
[W]hen you buy a Big Mac or a T-bone, a portion of the cost is a tax on beef, the proceeds from which the government hands over to a private trade group called the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association [NCBA].
The NCBA in turn uses this public money to buy ads encouraging you to eat more beef, while also lobbying to derail animal rights and other agricultural reform activists, defeat meat labeling requirements and defend the ongoing consolidation of the industry.”
Federal Tax Helps Beef Industry Promote Beef
In a nutshell, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) beef checkoff program2 is a mandatory program that requires cattle producers to pay a $1 fee per head of cattle sold.
It’s basically a federal tax on cattle, but the money doesn’t go to the government but to state beef councils, the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and the NCBA. All of these organizations are clearly biased toward the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) model.
The money is collected by state beef councils, which keep half and send the other half of the funds to the national CBB, headquartered in Colorado, which is in charge of the national beef promotion campaign. Nationwide, the beef checkoff fees add up to about $80 million annually.
As the primary contractor for the checkoff program, the NCBA receives a majority of the checkoff proceeds, which is used for research and promotion of beef.
But while the beef checkoff program began with the best of intentions, aiming to help struggling ranchers by pooling their money to pay for the promotion of beef, discontent over how the money is being used has grown over the years.
Read more here.
What You Should Know about Raw Milk Safety
At Heart and Soil, the H&S Crew discuss the safety of raw milk, writing:
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult your healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.
Is Raw Milk Safe?
Pasteurization became commonplace in the early 1900s in the United States after milk was linked to outbreaks such as tuberculosis (21). By 1900, an estimated 10% of human tuberculosis infections came from milk consumption, and in 1910, a tuberculosis epidemic impacted over 300,000 cattle in Illinois (22). But there’s a reason…
These outbreaks were often due to cows being raised in unnatural city environments, without pasture, in filthy conditions, and on poor diets (23). Cows were even fed byproducts from alcohol distilleries.
Many government agencies now ban raw milk due to prior outbreaks of pathogens such as salmonella, listeria, tuberculosis, and E. Coli (24). The CDC in the US and Health Canada advise that women, children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems may be at risk of serious illness from raw milk consumption (25).
Dairy can be contaminated by the passage of cow blood into the milk, fecal contamination, contact with insects, contamination from human skin, or udder infection (26).
Current outbreaks from raw milk are often connected to dairy farms that haven’t received proper training on hygienic milking or hazard reduction (27). Outbreaks connected to raw milk consumption are also subject to detection bias as it’s easier to trace issues back to a niche community with fewer consumers (28).
At this point, you may be asking, how many people actually get sick from raw milk consumption? The exact number is unclear, but here’s what we do know.
A review of dairy-associated outbreaks from 1993-2006 discovered 1,571 cases, 202 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths from unpasteurized products (29).
Another study reported these statistics on pasteurized and unpasteurized dairy outbreaks from 2005-2016 (30):
Despite increased distribution, outbreaks connected to raw milk have been declining since 2010, and the outbreak rate since 2005 has decreased by 74% (31).
Producers across the globe have demonstrated that raw milk can be produced safely (32).
Read more here.
The Grassfed Exchange
Each year, a group of regenerative ranchers, dairy producers, and sustainable food supporters from across the world come together at The Grassfed Exchange. The Grass Fed exchange is “a volunteer, non-profit organization of regenerative ranchers and grass-fed industry supporters. It is our desire to provide a means of education and exchange of grass-fed genetics between producers. With quite a few conferences behind us that have been well received, we continue to promote the grass-fed industry and grass-fed genetics through education and display. We hope you will join us at our upcoming conference.” Watch the clip below to get a good idea of what you can expect from The Grassfed Exchange:
Read more about the Grassfed Exchange here.
Dick Young’s Daily Staples
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