Sunday, May 22, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 4: So What CAN I Eat for Breakfast, Anyway?

Last time, we took a look at all the horrible ways McDonalds fills their fare with sugar, then calls it a healthy choice. Unfortunate, because no matter our resolutions to never, ever eat anything from McDonalds, even with their tempting all-day breakfast menu, you know something is going to happen where you end up in that drive-thru lane, anyway. So, what can you have there that isn't loaded with sugar, and is reasonably nutritious? Below are a few answers to that question.

#1. Egg White Delight McMuffin

For high protein and low, low sugar, you aren't going to do better than this, at least at Micky Dee's. It has the ideal number of calories for breakfast250and only 3 grams of sugar. It's pretty much the brass ring for breakfast at the place, maybe for any of their meals, in general. Despite this, it's not my favorite choice. I like to have at least one egg yolk a day, packed, as they are, with vitamins and minerals; plus, it has ham and cheese, as you see in the picture, neither of which I'm wild about. Also, even though this is by far their healthiest choice, it still has 800mg of salt33% of the meal! But high sodium is the price you pay for indulging in fast and processed food. For the complete numbers, click on this LINK.

#2. The Egg McMuffin

Even McDonalds couldn't screw up an egg with Canadian bacon and cheese on an English muffin. It clocks in at 300 calories, a little above average for breakfast, with 18 impressive grams of protein and just 3 grams of sugar. That said, this is not my personal go-to, either. I'm not much of a fan of cheese or Canadian bacon (even though it's leaner, i.e. better for you, than "American" bacon), and they butter the muffin, which is just a bridge too far, as far as I'm concerned. I prefer the Sausage McMuffin with Egg, (below) even though it gets an "F" from Calorie Count.

#3. The Sausage McMuffin with Egg

Why, Ruth Notes, why? Well, I know it has 450 calories, which is a whole lot for a breakfast but! It does have 21 grams of protein and only 2 grams of sugar! I request it without the cheese, so I am loosing out on about 9 grams of protein, but I'm also cutting fat and calories in the process. For me, this little bullet of protein fills me up and keeps me that way for four to six hours, at least. 

So, in an emergency situation, during the hustle and bustle of modern life, when it's the Golden Arches or nothing, at least now you can pick something filling, without also being filled with guilt. 


At the beginning of all this, we posed the question: what is a healthy breakfast? Is it the simple meal of yoremeatless, grain-based, coffee, beer? You're not really counting on the beer, though, are you? Over at Food Matters, they have put together a very nice list of ingredients and advice about what makes a nutritious and filling breakfast. It's loaded with choices; you're sure to find something you will like, can afford, and can make in a snap. Except you people out there expecting beeryou people are out of luck!

For myself, I have a breakfast go-to that fills me up for HOURS and is tasty to boot. Ready? Here it is:

This is the good stuff, folks. Bob's Red Mill 5-Grain Cereal. Natural grains loaded with protein and fiber, and not a speck of sugar in sight. Surprisingly, it's also available at my local Big Lots. Only $4.50 a bag, and it lasts me for a month, at least.

I used to prep it the way it says to on the package, which is to make it like rolled oats or oatmeal. Make on the stove, stir until done, put away the left-overs for consecutive morning zapping. Which works just fine, and I'm not knocking it, but after a while I just didn't have the patience for all that standing and stirring.

Sure, you can make it in the microwave too, there are also directions for that. But when you're super impatient/hungry (me), this is still too much of a process. The solution came in an unexpected way:

"Wild," starring Reese Witherspoon, is a movie that came out in 2014. Based on the memoir of the same name, it's about a woman on a journey of personal redemption, exorcizing her demons while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail alone. We follow along, watching both the agony and exhilaration as she completes 1,100 miles of the 2,650-mile wilderness trek (we highly recommend the movie, BTW). Now my point, before I stray too far from it, is that, in the movie, Reese discovers that her camp stove won't work, and she's left with nothing to eat for days and days but dry oatmeal, to which she can only add cold water and eat out of a tin bowl.  


It gave me the idea to treat my Bob's 5-grain as though it were meant to be a cold cereal. True, it's not as yummy as the warm version, but when you add a little sprinkling of coconut, like I do, and especially if you've got some nuts and/or blueberries to throw on top, with a cup or so of milk (ha ha no not water), you've got yourself a fast, tasty, nutritious breakfast that lasts for hours!

Long Story Short:
Breakfast, if it's part of your routine, should be filling and nutritious, not larded up with sugar that is going to leave you hungry, crabby, and ill-nourished. 

It's a daily struggle, isn't it? In this environment of fast food and highly processed food, finding something, anything, we can eat and feel good about, and that is good for us, feels like a major accomplishment. There are many obstacles put in the path to health and well-being, but everything we learn, every day we can avoid the bad stuff, is another day we win.

That concludes our series "Breakfast Epiphanies!" Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

McDonalds McTeacher Night

You know, sometimes it feels like we here at Ruth Notes do nothing but complain about McDonalds. It really wasn't something we set out to do; in fact, we feel somewhat bad about it. After all, McDonalds is a good old American business, a world wide success story. Nostalgia plays a part in this negative feeling, too, as does familiarity. Who doesn't get a craving for those fries, those burgers? Even when indulging that craving brings on a firm never again, as you experience the inevitable aftermath of guilt with a side of grease. Even my mother, who frowned on eating out in general and fast-food in particular, had a soft spot for McDonalds. She was a coffee connoisseur, and she assured me that theirs was the absolute best. She loved nothing better than to sit in a plastic chair at a plastic table and sip away at a boiling hot cup a' joe, nibbling on a small order of fries.

Even given all the happiness you gave my mom and many millions of others through the years, I just can't let this new atrocity slide, McDonalds, especially when Mom was a teacher, and proud of it. What am I talking about? Click on the below image to enlarge, and read at your peril.

This comic is by the award-winning, nationally syndicated cartoonist Jen Sorensen, who specializes in political and social commentary. This one is, as many of her cartoons are, spot-on with the machinations our not-so-favorite fast-food giant. It's a great introduction to the issue, which you can read more about by following this link.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy Mother's Day!

Today we celebrate Mothers everywhere for putting up with us all through the years always being there when we need them. 

In honor of the day, I'd like to share some memories of my mother. I remember her as a mom, certainly, but also as a working woman, a role model who taught me a lot about what it means to be a professional. 

Mom taught Home Economics for 30 years, and along the way introduced many, many students to the skills they would need to function in an adult world. I know a lot of kids I went to school with regarded Home Ec., along with shop class, as an "easy A," but to say so to my mother was a good way to get on her bad side. 

It's time for the boys to learn cake decorating, circa 1981.

To her, learning to scramble your own eggs and hem your own pants was more than domestic drudgery; it was learning to live an independent life. I remember when a boy in class complained to her that he didn't need to learn how to cook, because some day, he would have a wife to do all that for him. "You want to have to depend on some woman just to eat for the rest of your life?" she snapped back, and that was her philosophy in a nutshell. Teaching her students to read food labels carefully, to price compare, to budget, and to do as much of their own cooking and sewing as possible, created not just smart consumers, in her view, but good citizens.

Today, Home Economics is called Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) and, if you are lucky, you are in a school district that still provides it. 

So here's to all the moms, whether they work in the home or out of it, on their special day!

Mom, living it up in the laundry unit.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 3: Arch Villains

When McDonalds announced their "Breakfast All Day!" plan to much media hoopla last year, it seemed like a desperate attempt raise flagging business. Which, of course, it was.

Don't get me wrong. I love the sort of breakfasts McDonalds serves up (especially pancakes). And, double-whammy, breakfast is also my favorite meal of the day. Most of my fondest memories of eating are about breakfast. My dad, getting up early to make us dinosaur-shaped pancakes with what we would now call "locally-sourced" maple syrup. Hunting mornings, coming back in from the cold to deer steak and scrapple (scrapple, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" of meats). 

Anyway, let's just say it's tough to be diet/health conscious about a meal like breakfast, when nearly all the choices are bad (yet wonderful) and you can tell yourself you've got all day to burn it off. 

But it's really hard when the food engineers at McDonalds (and, let's face it, most any restaurant) tack on the sugar, making that questionable decision to a) eat at McDonalds and b) eat typical breakfast fare, an even worse one.

Let's take, for example, McDonalds version of the classic American breakfast: McDonalds Big Breakfast with Hot Cakes. According to this bad boy contains 1,090 calories, over half the calories of a 2,000 calories a day dietand that doesn't even include the calories from the juice, milk, or sugar and creamer you may put in your coffee. 

So what, right? Anybody that expects that particular meal to be healthy probably thinks birthday cake and donuts are too. There are plenty of other, better choices under the "golden arches," right? Like … oatmeal!

McDonalds offers "Fruit and Oatmeal", which you can get with or without brown sugar added. Great. You like fruit, you're not eating enough. And oatmeal? All the good stuff there, right? All those whole grains you're supposed to get, all that fiber! Sadly, McDonalds is sticking it to you again, by loading up what should be a healthy alternative with sugar.

Undeniably ... suspicious.

If you were making oatmeal at home, how many teaspoons of sugar would you sprinkle on top of it? One, maybe two, but probably not more than that. One teaspoon is the equivalent of four grams of sugar, so at most you'd be putting 8 grams of sugar on your oatmeal. But McDonalds has put 18—EIGHTEEN—grams of sugar, four and half teaspoons, into the "without brown sugar" version of their fruit and oatmeal.

And the one WITH brown sugar? Hard to imagine that you'd add more than one teaspoon at home—brown sugar is pretty potent stuff. But McDonalds adds EIGHT TEASPOONS (THIRTY-TWO grams) of (presumably) brown sugar to this "heart healthy" option.

Well, just how much added sugar should we have in a day, anyway? Take it away, Photoshop!
As you can see in the above chart, after you've had the non-brown sugar option oatmeal, AND put 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, you've had your sugar quotient for the day. If you've had the one with brown sugar? No sugar in your coffee, and it's STILL two teaspoons more sugar than you should have for your entire day.

Okay fine. Let's try the "Fruit and Nut Parfait." Fruit, nuts, and yogurt. Three ingredients, each healthier than the last—how could they make a McSucrose McCluster McBomb out of that? Well, they managed. This rather small item contains 160 calories, and 21 grams of sugar. Again, basically all the sugar you're allowed for the entire day.

Frustrating? Yes. Infuriating? Absolutely!

Don't despair. Next time, we'll find out that, indeed, there are heathy choices to be had at McDonalds, plus, we'll share our favorite home-made breakfast go-to's! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Doughnuts to Doughnuts

I hope everyone out there is making it through their day today without having their shoes tied together, or finding Vaseline on all their doorknobs. That's right; in case you neglected to flip your calendar last night, it's April Fool's Day today. Ah, now it aaaall makes sense, doesn't it?

To be honest, though, doesn't it sometimes feel like every day is April Fool's Day on the Internet? So often, you come across something that makes you say, "You've GOT to be kidding me!"

I came across an info-graphic recently that had me hoping it WAS an April Fool's Day prank.

It shows, in pictures, how many grams of sugar certain food items have compared to a Kripsy Kreme doughnut. Some of the numbers won't surprise you, of course. For instance, this sample below shows that a single Sprinkles Red Velvet cupcake is equivalent to four and a half Kripsy Kreme doughnuts, having 45 grams of sugar. 

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37.5 grams if you are a man, and only 25 grams if you are a woman. In other words, by eating just this one cupcake, you've blown your quota for the day, no matter who you are.

That's okay, though. Nobody thought a cupcake was a healthy choice, did they? It's a given that some things are just loaded with sugar and calories; the yummier they are, the worse they are for you, that's just life. It's not fair, but we get it.

It's when sugar is in the most unexpected places that it is a real problem. 

Here's you. You're out doing your thing, being good, avoiding sugary sodas, even the chemical-filled diet versions. You're doing the right thing by keeping hydrated during the day, but for crying out loud, a person can only take so much water, am I right? You pick yourself up a bottle of Snapple, specifically, a Snapple Peach Tea. So delicious and refreshing! What the heck, we'll take a look where that falls on the Kripsy Kreme doughnut meter:

As the infographic shows, an unbelievable  39 grams of sugar is in this 16-oz. drink—more added sugar than anybody should have in an entire day, and the head-slapping equivalent of four Kripsy Kreme doughnuts, only a half a doughnut less than the freaking cupcake!


For more astonishing doughnut equivalencies, check out this link to see the full list. 

And, in other apparently-not-a-hoax news, Krispy Kreme has announced on its Facebook page that they are giving away FREE doughnuts today! Not sure if it's an April Fools or whatonly one way to find out, I guess!

Because this is just mean!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 2: Whither Bacon?

Mmm, mush!
Last time, we took a look at the history of breakfast. We learned that breakfast had always been a fairly light affair, considered rather unimportant, as meals go, to our foreparents. We asked, if this was the case for most of human history, why do we Americans eat like lumberjacks in the morning? You know, pancakes, smothered in syrup. Eggs, potatoes, and bacon. Especially bacon.

No, not you!
It seems there was this company called Beech-Nut. Today you may know it as the premier maker of baby food. Way back when, they made all kinds of stuff. Peanut butter, chewing gum, candy, ham, ketchup, pork and beans, coffee, chewing tobaccoif it could go in a container, Beech-Nut put it there and sold it to the public. After all, they had patented the first vacuum jar, the kind with the gasket at the top, which kept food fresh longer and also made it easier to transport. One product they were especially proud of in the early 1900's was their bacon. Bacon, in a jar!

Hand-packedwith loving care!

The trouble was, people just didn't eat all that much bacon back then. It was used to add flavor to other dishes, and sometimes on its own as a side dish, but it just wasn't a regular thing. This, Beech-Nut felt, was a problem. Something had to be done.

Fortunately for them, there was a guy who had just what they needed. 

This guy.
Edward Bernays
Edward Bernays was a whiz at getting people to do things they didn't want to do. He was pretty familiar with psychology, (being the nephew of Sigmund Freud) and he had gotten famous inventing what he called "public relations." Beech-Nut hired him to create a public demand for bacon.

A now familiar technique, and one that he pioneered for manipulating public opinion, was the indirect use of "third party authorities" to plead his clients' causes. 

"If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway," he said. He used this to perfection in the cause of Beech-Nut's jarred bacon. He went to a doctor and posed the question: which is better for health, to have a light breakfast or a heartier one? The doctor (who worked for … Beech-Nut … ) said he supposed a heartier breakfast would be healthier. He asked the physician if he would be willing to write 5,000 physicians and ask them whether their opinion was the same. About 4,500 answered back, all concurring that a bigger breakfast was better for the health of the American people than a light breakfast. Which is a little like saying "more money is better than less money," but whatever. Bernays then arranged for this finding to be published in newspapers throughout the country. I'm not talking about paid advertising—I'm talking about articles that looked like legit reportage, with headlines such as "4,500 Physicians Urge Bigger Breakfast." Other articles he placed at the same time, seemingly unrelated, stated that bacon and eggs should be a central part of breakfast—a one-two punch that resulted in? a rise in the sale of bacon. 

Pretty hard to imagine a time when people had to be buffaloed into eating bacon, isn't it?

This manufactured love affair has never really stopped, but in 1955, something happened that put the brakes on it, for a little while, at least.

Let's call it the "Eisenhower Effect."

When President Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower suffered his heart attack, not only was it front page news, but a real turning point in the American diet. Having a heart attack is not really at the top of anyone's "to do" list; however, today, there are many medical interventions to make it survivable, under certain conditions, and having a normal life after the fact completely do-able. However, back in the '50's, surviving a heart attack was regarded as something that took you out of the game; the only thing prescribed was bed rest, for the rest of your life. Any amount of excitement, it was felt, put the patient at risk. 

Eisenhower, former Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, however, was not the guy who was going to take such a prognosis lying down. He had a re-election to win in 1955, and had no time or patience for bed rest. Ike also wanted to do everything he could to prevent being thought of as an invalid. He decided to publicize the steps he was taking to recover, particularly the dietary changes he was making on the advice of his doctors. They had been ordered by the President to come up with a treatment that would both keep him on his feet and improve his health. Their solution (based on very little scientific evidence, it seems, from what I've been reading) was to create a radical new remedy: the low-fat diet. 

Happier days ...
Naturally, after rigorous adherence to this diet, the President was able to maintain a healthy weight and never suffered another heart attack, living to the ripe old age of 102!

Actually, no, that's not what happened. Eisenhower suffered seven heart attacks in total from 1955 until his death by congestive heart failure in 1969, at the age of 78. An autopsy unexpectedly revealed an adrenal pheochromocytoma, a benign adrenaline-secreting tumor that may have made the President more vulnerable to heart disease. Which is really sad to think about. It probably didn't matter at all what the poor guy ate. He could've been using the time he had left stuffing himself full of his favorites, like beef stew, corn pudding, and Mamie's Million Dollar Fudge. 
Mamie and Ike, post-heart attack, presumably.
Which brings us back to breakfast.

The low-fat diet has been, perhaps, the most persistent of weight loss fads. It sounds like logic: eat fat, BE fat! Oh, the artery-clogging, infarction-causing eggs and bacon! Grains, we are told, are the ticket. Whole grains and multi-grains, "heart healthy" grains. The problem is, too often the benefits of whole grainsfiber— is lost to the incredible amount of sugar that is added to make something this good for you taste like candy. And sugar, in the amounts we are unsuspectedly consuming it, is poison.
Unless you are the ones profiting from throwing it into the food supply, then it's the opposite of poison; it's life-sustaining mana from Heaven.

Of course I'm talking about you, McDonalds.

Join us next time for more "Breakfast Epiphanies."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Don't Be Afraid of the DARK

Almost exactly one year ago, we posted this article about the so-called DARK Actlegislation that would overturn existing laws, and ban any new onesthat would mandate labeling of GMO foods in the US.

Those who are anti-GMO foods and pesticides are often accused of being just a bunch of hippie freaks, luddites who cannot accept that we've embarked upon a new and beautiful age of scientific dominance over Nature, the benefits of which far exceed the negatives. If that is so, then the vast majority of Americans are, in fact, hippie freaks (click on the image to enlarge, and you'll see what I mean):

Our post was a call to actionliterally, contact info was provided for your Representative’s office in Washington. And while that bill passed the Congress, we are pleased to report that last week it was defeated in the Senate. Good on you, US Senate, for standing up for the will of the people.

Regrettably, no major news outlet (that I could find) has reported on this very important story. Here's a link to the best source I've found:

From The Environmental Working Group:
"In a major win for consumers, [Senators who sponsored the pro-GMO legislation] yesterday [March 16, 2016] failed to attract the votes ... needed to end debate on a bill known to opponents as the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act. It fell far short of the 60-vote threshold required to advance the bill."
" ... The defeat of the DARK Act gives Congress the opportunity to craft a national mandatory GMO-labeling compromise that works for consumers and the food industry."

So it seems that the DARK Act, with your help, is done for now. 

Would you like to know how your representative voted? Follow this link to find out!

In the meantime, if you did contact your lawmaker over this, give yourself a pat on the back!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Breakfast Epiphanies

Let's talk about breakfast. Not everybody does it. Either they don't have time for it or they just don't wake up hungry. Personally, it's always been my favorite meal of the day (more about that later). Any diet plan will tell you that it's also the most important meal of the day, providing your body with nutrients and energy, and helping to keep your metabolism at an even keel to help loose weight.

That said, what's the best kind of breakfast (for those who do breakfast) to have? It's a question that's had its share of discussion over time. For centuries, beer was considered a healthy breakfast. Yes, beer! Affordable, filling, and commonplace, as well as far less risky than water itself, the malted beverage was just the thing to start your day, back in the day, for man, woman, and child. FYI, what they consumed wouldn't be something our taste buds would recognize as beer; it was also far more nutritious, and did not have a fraction of the alcohol content.

Wait ...
... is she giving that baby ...
... BEER?!
So what happened? Why do we not still enjoy a brew for breakfast (college days notwithstanding)?

This. This happened.

That's okay, take your time. I'll wait.

It seems coffee as a beverage was first discovered in Africa around the 15th century CE. It arrived in Europe in the 17th century, where it quickly became popular, spreading from there to the Americas. Coffee became especially sought after in the US during the tea boycotts of the Revolution. Coffee replaced beer as the drinkable meal, or, at least, as the center piece of the first meal of the day.

Obviously, breakfast was, traditionally, a pretty light affair. This idea that breakfast should be small, mostly grain- and coffee-based, and meatless, sustained our ancestors for generations. Then, somewhere along the line, we got the idea that we shouldn't do that anymore, and that we should, in fact, eat like lumberjacks in the morning. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, washed down with juice, coffee or milk, probably all three. How, and why, did this happen?

I'm glad you asked! Tune in next time for "Breakfast Epiphanies, Part 2."

Monday, February 8, 2016

Why Was I Not Told About This Sooner?!

Apparently, today, February 9th, is Pancake Day, celebrated every year on the Tuesday before the start of Lent. Also known as Shrove Tuesday, pancakes are traditionally eaten to use up foods like eggs and milk before the 40-day fasting period of Lent begins.

Ol' Blue Eyes? He knew about it!
How is it possible I never heard of this holiday before?? Pancakes are right up there with popcorn for me in the favorite food department. Not to be eaten with as clean a conscience as popcorn, I know, but, darn it--pancakes!

It must be carb loading day at The Rock's house!
Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, is not to be confused with IHOP National Pancake Day, which is coming up on March 8th, 2016. So today, let's use up those eggs and milk, and celebrate!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Grass-Fed Omaha Steaks!

We've talked before about the benefits of grass-fed cattle for our environment, and our health.

We've also talked about our favorite purveyor of meat-through-the-mails, Omaha Steaks. Last year in March we blogged about their introduction of vegetable meal options--a laudable effort (and hopefully a successful one for them). In that post, we also said this:

"… I'd also like to see (Omaha Steaks) offer organic, grass-fed beef and cage-free chicken, etc., choices, too, but maybe we'll get there eventually."

I was only mildly hopeful, given this statement on their website:

"For nearly 100 years, Omaha Steaks has sold grain-fed beef. Simply put, we wouldn't still be successful today if it were not the best way to consistently produce the highest quality and best-tasting steaks on earth."

We all know what that means: factory-farmed meat gives them the best bang for their buck, while meeting the expectations of the beef-buying public on what a steak should look like and taste like.

I should back up a bit. If you've ever ordered anything from Omaha Steaks in your life, you know that that is a high-maintenance relationship. If you gave them your e-mail, they WILL be updating you several times a week with new and tempting bargains. Of course, they'll have your mailing address, so expect packets of full-color and extremely glossy special offers arriving frequently, with pictures so succulent you seriously contemplate eating the paper they're printed on. What you NEVER want to do, fyi, is give them your telephone number. They pestered my 80-something father so badly he stopped answering his phone all together, and has informed my sisters and I that if we are expecting any more styrofoam boxes of meaty goodness from him in the future, we are out of luck. Thanks a lot, Omaha Steaks Pester Department.

I bring this up because recently we received one of those luscious picture packets in the mail, and what did my wondering eyes behold?

Hah! I admit to a slight feeling of satisfaction, as well as being impressed that Omaha Steaks continues to be so responsive to food trends

So that's the good news. As with anything else, quality does not come cheap. Click on this image to take a gander at those prices!

click to enlarge
According to The Google, pasture grazed, grass-fed beef is currently going for between $6.50 to $6.75 a pound on average. So by that score, Omaha Steaks' burgers (the fourth selection on the page above) is on sale for $24.99 for four six ounce burgers. That's a total of 24 ounces. There's 16 ounces in a pound, so that's a pound and half, making these burgers cost $16 a pound--quite a mark up over the going rate, and that doesn't even include shipping. Not to mention, if one fails to take advantage of the "bargain" and orders them at the regular price of $59.99, that would make your price per pound rise to, what, $36 a pound? My math skills are punking out on me here, but you get the idea.

Now if you're a bargain shopper, or, if you're a "green" shopper, you're probably not an Omaha Steaks customer anyway, so you aren't feeling my pain.

But you do have to wonder: why does it cost more to let cows eat what they find on the ground than go through the planting, harvesting, milling, and feeding of corn and grain to them?

This article, written by a grass-fed beef farmer, explains it in detail (not for the faint of heart, I might add) but I thought these statements were the most relevant (emphasis mine):

The key to profit in the grain/corn fed beef industry, which operates on extremely low individual margins is volume and speed
The sooner an animal can be brought to slaughter weight . . . the higher the volume and hence the greater the profit in the grocery store beef industry. Once placed in a feedlot, hyped up on growth hormones and grain/corn . . . the animal can be pushed to gains of of 3.5 to 5 lbs/day.
Animals finished on our grass pastures gain a natural 1.5 to 2 lbs/day.  While our cattle are still being fed and treated the way God intended, the grain/corn fed cows have already gone to market and the large producers are developing their next group of cattle.

Long story short, grass-fed takes longer, and, as we all know, time is money.

Some people, like Patrick Martins, founder of Heritage Foods USA and Heritage Radio Network, and the co-author of "The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat", believe that meat should be expensive, and that if the price were high enough, we would be getting a higher quality, healthier product, with far less negative impacts on the planet. As far as where that leaves those with less ability to pay, he reasons they would just have to eat less meat--not the worst thing in the world for their health, anyway. I understand what he's saying, and I don't even necessarily disagree, but it does sound an awful lot like "let them eat carrots," doesn't it?

Exorbitant prices aside, I think that Omaha Steaks move shows hope for the future. As Americans weaned on Capitalism, we know that supply follows demand. Omaha Steaks is throwing their hat in the grass-fed ring--many more venues have, as well. The demand is going up, and, inevitably, the price will come down (though even when it does, we probably shouldn't be eating all that much meat, anyhow).

Meanwhile, Dad has his own solutions to the price of grass-fed meat:

So stop calling him, Omaha Steaks.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fear of the New

Starting new things is hard, and it can be scary. Whether it's a diet, an exercise program, a new school, a new job, or a new year, fear of the new and unknown is a completely natural response.

But what if that natural reticence is so overwhelming that it becomes a problem? Well, there's a word for that: neophobia.

You knew I was going to do that, right?

You may have seen the ABC News report a few years back on a little girl who was so opposed to trying new foods she would not deviate from her standard fare of french toast and pancakes. Now, as any parent knows, there's nothing ground-breaking about having a kid who's a picky eater. In this girl's case, however, she had such a fear of different foods, probably caused by stomach problems she'd experienced as a baby, that her doctors labeled it "food neophobia." The report follows the girl and her family as they seek help from a therapist to help her lead a more normal life.

Neophobia can also affect businesses and the marketplace. There, it's known as "disruptive innovation."

This could also be called "why we can't have nice things." Business, it seems, is a bit allergic to innovation, no matter how much you will hear that word tossed around. Sure, any business likes to offer new products before the competition can, just as long as it's not too new, or causes them to have to change much (or spend much) in their already established way of doing business. 

Tom Fishburne, marketer and award-winning cartoonist, explains it nicely:

For myself, my neophobic moment came a few years ago, and its name was ALDI.

I had been told it was a bargain food market, but that logo certainly looked like a paint store. Or maybe hardware. But food?

Come on, Photoshop! Let's give 'em a hand!

Not perfect, but at least looks more like food!

Anyway, I had never even heard of ALDI before, obviously. But I'm usually up for new things--or so I thought. 

First off, you have to deposit a quarter to use a shopping cart. That was new, alright. A small, gas station-like food mart, but stocked like a regular grocery store, sort of, greeted me, beyond the shopping cart lock-up. I felt like maybe I was hallucinating, because none of the brands were anything I recognized, and yet, somehow familiar …

The whole appearance of the store--bare walls and cement floor, lack of muzak, narrow aisles, and limited choices on the shelves made me feel like maybe this whole thing was a clearing house for surplus grocery supply. Still, the prices were terribly low, so I chose some items and headed for check out. There, the new new information was that a) my items would not be bagged and b) if I wanted to bag them myself I would HAVE TO BUY A BAG or use an emptied cardboard box. The feeling of irritation was becoming immense (it had been a long time since I had been so challenged by a grocery store) but the coup de grĂ¢ce came when I faced the checker, who told me that I couldn't use my bank card as "credit"--they only accepted debit or cash transactions. 

That was it, I was out.

First world problems? Definitely. A little too much "new" all at once? Absolutely. However, I had plenty of other options so I figured ALDI would just be a blip in my grocery store tail lights.

Flash forward three or so years. A few months ago, they put one in less than a mile from me, making it one of the closest grocery stores around. Hm. Was I going to have give up my anti-ALDI prejudice after all? I started reading about the store, taking into account that perhaps it was my lack of preparation that had lead to my less-than-satisfactory experience. I discovered that ALDI is a German-based company that also owns Trader Joe's. Interesting--I had often been to Trader Joe's and liked it. I kept reading.

It turns out, the things that had so put me off were the very things that attracted others. Enthusiastic consumer bloggers were writing that the small size, and lack of selection were actually selling points to them. That ALDI was a "boutique" experience, less Big Box American and more grab-a-bagette-on-my-way-home European. I had to admit, my usual grocery store offers a head-spinning array of choices that can make a person in hurry (me) long for the no-choice-but-one selection of ALDI. Another thing I learned was that the baggage issue, as well as the cash/debit-only tactic, weren't there just to throw a monkey wrench--they were cost saving measures, and, with a little pre-planning, easily dealt with. And the quarter shopping cart deposit? Is so you'll have an incentive to return your cart yourself, and they don't have to pay someone to do that--again, keeping costs down.

I was also impressed by the way ALDI treats it's workers. 

Pay starts at well above minimum wage, and all employees receive full benefits--dental and vision care as well as medical, 401(k) retirement plans, vacation time and paid holidays. Also, the cashiers are allowed to sit while they check you out. That, in my opinion, is pretty awesome.

Needless, to say, I realized I needed to put aside both my fear of the unknown AND the known, and give this ALDI paint store food market another try. I'm glad I did, because its prices are incredibly low compared to my regular market, even on the organic offerings, which they have quite a lot of. Also, everything I've bought there has been really tasty, despite its weird-looking knock-off packaging. Can I do all my shopping at Aldi's? No, more's the pity. They only carry one flavor of herbal tea--'nuff said! And the experience is a lot closer to Soviet Russia than baguette-grabbing Euro boutique. Example: once they run out of something, it's GONE. A while back, they ran a special on this great chicken apple sausage, and I happily bought it every week. 

A side note: this sausage was part of their "Never Any!" line, which includes products made without any antibiotics, preservatives or artificial flavors. These delicious chicken apple sausages contained: chicken, dried apples, water, honey, salt, spices, and parsley, period. No nitrates, no carrageenan, no long chemical concoctions or three different ways of saying "sugar." I've noticed this to be the case with many of their items, even things that aren't under the "Never Any!" banner.

Now, back to our story: I did notice that the packages disappeared as I bought them, and were not replaced. Then the day came when there were no more, and something else had appeared in its place. Dasvidanya, Comrade.

However, for great prices on staples, like cooking and baking needs, bread and meat, pre-made salads and fruits and veggies, as well as my own peculiarities: almond milk or lactose-free milk, ALDI, not a paint store, is a nice addition to the neighborhood.

What are you afraid of?