Women in Ag look at advocating for beefWritten by Saige Albert
Casper – The 2014 Wyoming Women’s Ag Symposium featured a wide array of speakers looking at practical application of communication tools from blogging and living off the land to advocating for the agriculture industry.
Keynote speaker Gary Sides looked at the implications of incorrect information in the media on Nov. 20 at the Symposium.
Sides, a cattle nutritionist with Zoetis, said, “We have access for more data than anyone in history. It is phenomenal the amount of data that we have, but to turn the data into wisdom is something we lack.”
He further commented, “When I look at how agriculture has communicated what we do to folks not only off the farm but folks in today’s generations, we haven’t done a good job.’”
Sides noted that in today’s United States society, most people don’t have any education related to food production, and poverty as viewed in the U.S. is greatly skewed.
“How many folks have taken a course in food production?” he asked audience members. “For those who did, it was agriculture or FFA. If we ask the same question to high school students, no one would raise their hand.”
“We have done a terrible job of communicating what we do and why we do it,” he continued.
Sides also mentioned that many people are three, four or even five generations removed from the farm and don’t understand where food comes from beyond the grocery store.
“One of our problems is that we are really good at what we do,” Sides mentioned. “Our populous and our citizens have never been hungry.”
Those U.S. citizens considered to be impoverished today frequently have a cell phone, car, house and even pets – a standard that is distant from what poverty looks like around the world.
The major news media and others have also portrayed food in a negative light over the past 40 to 50 years.
“If we eat fruits and veggies, we will never die and never get sick – or that is what we would believe if we believed everything the news and in print over the last 40 years,” Sides explained. “Fat is all bad for us, and red meat will cause cancer, diabetes and obesity. Fruits and veggies are the perfect diet.”
For the last 50 years, a diet high in carbohydrates and low in fat has been touted as the best diet for humans, but Sides asked, where is the evidence?
“As a result of 50 years of low-fat, high-carb diets, we have obese children and overweight Americans,” he said. “We have an epidemic of Type II diabetes. I thought dropping fat and meat from the diet was going to cure this?”
“Fat has become a four-letter word,” Sides continued.
A look at fat
Sides noted that even the beef industry doesn’t defend fat.
“If we listen to the beef industry, we advertise ‘lean’ beef,” he said. “We also advertise that beef is for dinner. There are three meals a day, but we only want to eat beef at one.”
Fat is criminalized across the food spectrum.
When looking at milk, fat-free and one-percent milk are promoted, but Sides noted that whole milk is only 3.5 percent fat.
“What if this has all been a big, fat lie?” Sides asked.
Looking at blood profiles, the fat in beef can be helpful for the diet.
“When I go to the doctor and get a blood test, my doctor looks at triglycerides, very low density lipoproteins (vLDLs) and high density lipoproteins (HDLs),” Sides explained. “If triglycerides are high, vLDLs are high and HDLs are low, I am a prime candidate for heart disease.”
Looking at the fat in beef, Sides noted that 30 percent is steric acid and 40 percent is oleic acid – both of which decrease vLDLs and triglycerides and increase HDLs.
“The fat in beef is actually heart-healthy,” he said.
A study released in 2011 looked at 21 major clinical trials found that low saturated fat diets and heart disease are not correlated.
Looking the other way
The same study, however, found one common factor linking obesity, diabetes heart disease and other health problems – sugar.
“In Sweden in 2013, a Council of Health Assessment did a two-year analysis of 16,000 studies,” Sides explained. “Their conclusion was that they were going to reject the traditional low fat, high carb diet. Sweden is the first western nation to promote a low carb, high fat, high protein diet.”
When eating refined sugars, including pasta, white bread and white rice, Sides noted that insulin spikes and carbohydrates are stored as fat. With a diet high in fat and protein, insulin drops and fat stores can be burned, helping people to lose weight.
USDA still recommends use of the food pyramid that Sides said is “180 degrees wrong.”
“USDA is going to come out with their new guidelines for Americans this year, and they are going to double down on this,” he said. “We just keep piling on the bad information.”
He noted that until Americans learn the truth about their food, health will not improve, even though studies do not affirm what USDA and many organizations recommend.
“We have to defend what we do, and we have to spread the word. We have friends and relatives who think beef is toxic and ag is horrible,” Sides said. “The only thing that separates our kids from children in third-world countries is our ag system and our Constitution, and they are both worth defending.”
The news badly portrays cattle and beef production.
“The number one articles on the internet in the last month are about how meat eaters are destroying the planet because livestock cause CO2 to rise, and that causes global warming, which causes rainforests to deteriorate and glaciers to melt,” Zoetic Cattle Nutritionist Gary Sides said, parroting popular media. “We are horrible for the environment.”
Animal welfare, hormones and antibiotics are also misrepresented in the media.
“However, beef has all of the 20 essential amino acids,” Sides said. “We have to get those in the diet.”
Beef is also the best source of biologically available iron and provides a variety of B vitamins, as well as other nutritional benefits.