When you think about it…what have bacteria done for us lately?

Antibiotics ingested by eating animals can throw off the balance of helpful bacteria working in our bodies.

When we hear the word “bacteria,” we think of “germs.” We don’t like germs. Germs cause infections and diseases. But are all germs bad? Scientists have found “100 trillion good bacteria that live in or on the human body.”

So, we need to make sure we’re keeping our good bacteria fit and ready for action. How can we do that? One way is to avoid the overuse of antibiotics. The more we ingest antibiotics, the more likely we are to kill off not only the bad bacteria causing us illness but also the good bacteria that help us maintain proper balances for good health. That case of the sniffles may not need an antibiotic to clear it up. The fewer prescriptions we get for antibiotics, the stronger our body may be.

But there is another source of antibiotics we may not be aware of—the antibiotics that are used to fatten livestock being raised for slaughter. The overuse of antibiotics in factory farming can lead to antibiotic-resistant germs—super bugs as they are sometimes called—that we will not be able to defend against. While this is a real problem and one that should be addressed by the Food and Drug Administration, we can make sure we’re taking care of our healthy bacteria by eliminating antibiotics in our diet. The less often we ingest meat that comes from animals who have been fed antibiotics, the less often we will be killing off our good bacteria.

If our good bacteria are healthy, active, and plentiful, we benefit. When you think about it, they’re one of the best defenses we have against infection.

When you think about it…what is the true cost of fast food?

Hamburger

Travel anywhere in the world and you can almost be certain to see a fast food restaurant. Whether it’s the golden arches, the late great Burger King mascot, or any of a dozen other symbols of fast food, we are assured that a once purely American way of eating has made its way around the globe.

What isn’t seen is the environmental devastation fast food has caused. In Central America the rainforest is being clear cut at an alarming rate just to create grazing land for cattle. In many parts of the world, monoculture farms of soy beans and other grains are planted not to feed starving humans but to feed cattle, pigs, and chickens who will be slaughtered to fill the massive need of the fast food industry. Nor will you see the amount of water used to raise these animals, or the tons of antibiotics fed to them to keep them healthy long enough to reach slaughter. You won’t see the pollution engendered by the amount of waste generated by cattle, pig, and chicken factory farms—but if you live near one, you will see, and smell, it.

How did we wind up here? How did we decide that fast food is an appropriate way to eat and that exporting the concept and the chains was good for the rest of the world? To make cars more affordable, the assembly line was created. That same assembly line idea was translated in the mid-1900s to mass producing many products, including food. Before the advent of fast food, the average person might eat small amounts of meat and rarely more than once a day, if that. Today because the cost of mass production brought down the price of meat products, we can eat them three times a day, every day.

We may pay only $.99 for a quick bite, but what do we pay in hidden healthcare costs, what does our planet pay in terms of environmental degradation, and what do the animals pay in terms of lives lived in horrid conditions? When you think about it…fast food costs far more than $.99.

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When you think about it…what does modern Thanksgiving really celebrate?

Photo by John Eckman/Flickr

Today, the Thanksgiving holiday can have different meanings to different people. For most of us, it is a time for celebrating family and friends (and football). For others, it is a time for volunteering in their community and helping the less fortunate. Somewhere among this is a varied remembrance of traditional harvest festivals, and all the imagery that entails. Most of all, modern Americans associate Thanksgiving with lots of food, particularly seasonal favorites that we think to with child-like nostalgia and excitement. Casseroles, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, and bread dressing are all expected to be present, featuring a baked and basted bird as our holiday centerpiece. Ironically, few of these things were fare that the pilgrims  would have enjoyed, and even turkey didn’t become a mainstay of the American holiday table until after major advertising campaigns by the poultry industry following World War II.

Many are surprised to learn of Benjamin Franklin’s disapproval of our choice of the Bald Eagle as national bird, thinking it looked more like a turkey as it was originally drawn on the seal, and preferring the latter. In a 1784 letter to his daughter Sally, he stated:

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America . . . He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

Its hard to imagine what Franklin’s reaction might be to learn that our main relationship to the turkey nowadays is as an object of over-consumption during the winter holidays. It isn’t hard to imagine his alarm at seeing the conditions of turkeys raised for food today: birds bred to grow so large so quickly that they cannot fly or even move much on their own (a Broad Breasted White will grow to 35 pounds in 19 weeks, and have been bred to grow 57% larger than they normally would). They are unable to reproduce naturally, and rely instead on artificial insemination methods by humans, without which they would die as a species in one generation. They have their toes and beaks cut off without the use of anesthesia in painful measures that serve to keep the birds from maiming each other in the dark, confined spaces they are kept in by the thousands. Over 46 million turkeys have been raised and killed just for consumption on Thanksgiving day, last year.

The historical legacy of Thanksgiving celebrates abundant harvests, but perhaps our modern celebration of abundance has this backwards. New research reveals that Americans end up wasting a staggering 50-60% of the food that we grow. Further, we use large amounts of grains to fatten Thanksgiving turkeys and other livestock on factory farms; grains that could be better utilized feeding needy humans rather than force-feeding it to animals who aren’t adapted for such foods in their diet anyway.

Turkeys have been shown to recognize each other through the unique qualities of their individual voices, and over twenty distinct turkey vocalizations have been identified. They have also been shown to communicate amongst each other by the way they change the colors of their skins and necks. When you think about it…perhaps the best way to give our thanks for the bounty of the Earth is to appreciate and respect its wonders.

Be an example of compassionate living to your family, friends, and loved ones this holiday by embracing both tradition and taste-buds! Check out these amazing sites below for a slew of vegan and vegetarian recipe ideas and menu plans. Have fun trying something new, or better yet take a conventional favorite and re-imagine it meat-free!

Vegan.com Thanksgiving Holiday Feature 2008 – An entire meal plan; check out the stuffed winter squash! This is a great introduction to  veganizing those mashed potatoes and gravy, etc.

Vegan.com Thanksgiving Holiday Feature 2009 – The Roasted Wheatmeat with Oyster Mushroom and “Sausage” Stuffing makes our mouths water (even if it does have a funny name)! Of course more traditional favorites are to be found.

Meatless Mondays: 15 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes – We can’t wait to try the wild rice pilaf with butternut squash, cranberries, and pecans; the picture of the Seitan Roulade with Sage and Sweet Onion Stuffing blows us away!

VegKitchen Thanksgiving Recipes – A wide collection of recipes sorted by category for quick reference.

VegWeb.com Thanksgiving Category – This user-submitted recipe site is a great source for finding ideas for specific ingredients, or to take ideas from to make your own concoctions.

21 Day Kickstart India – Vegan Cooking Videos – Indian cooking videos galore, for those of you who want to bypass convention this year, or for the simply culinary curious.

Happy Thanksgiving from NHES!

When you think about it…do commercials affect our food choices?

Photo by clstal/flickr

We see commercials on television of cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys out in the farmer’s yard, eating grass, scratching for grubs, wallowing in water holes. Sometimes these animals are portrayed as actually talking to us to let us know how happy they are to be members of the farmer’s family. They let us know how nutritious their products are. Sometimes they claim to give us strong bones and healthy teeth.

These commercials are intended to make eating meat more palatable to the viewing public. If these animals could really speak our language, or we theirs, they would be unlikely to tell us they want to be confined in small spaces while all their nutrients go toward creating a glass of milk, an omelet, a package of bacon, or a fast food hamburger. Their happy portrayals also leave out the hectic, crowded conditions when the animals are herded onto trucks bound for the slaughterhouse.

When you think about it…as consumers, we have the right to know how our food is produced. Do happy farmed animal commercials hinder our ability to know?

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New Vegan Cooking Show Jazzes Up Conventional Cooking

Paws Up!

To the National Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Oregon Public Broadcasting Service (OPB), and the National Educational Telecommunication Association (NETA) for supporting, promoting, and televising the new cooking show The Jazzy Vegetarian.

In an exciting new milestone for compassionate lifestyles, PBS has started airing the first nationally-broadcast, all-vegan cooking show, The Jazzy Vegetarian. Veteran radio personality and performing jazz singer Laura Theodore will host the 30 minute episodes on various PBS networks in 21 states. Following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, Theodore has tried to embrace conventional American cuisine in a way that makes it healthful and cruelty free, without sacrificing taste or tradition. In a recent interview, she says:

My mother and my grandmother both made lasagna, and when I became a vegetarian in 1981, there just weren’t any recipes (for that dish). I started taking all of these family recipes and started making them vegan. And then I started taking the recipes that I had collected as a cook and made them vegan. And then I just started coming up with my own new things that I felt reflected the taste of classic American food.

This show will illustrate to even more Americans that plant-based cooking can yield healthful dishes every bit as flavor-packed as their conventional counterparts. Potentially, it could inspire other vegan and vegetarian-themed cooking programs on other networks.

A list of networks that are broadcasting The Jazzy Vegetarian and the times it will be televised can be found on the PBS website.

Take Action: Join us in writing the NETA, OPB, and PBS to thank them for this new step in highlighting the health and taste benefits of plant-based eating. Let’s encourage them to expand their broadcast of this show, and promote other vegetarian-themed cooking programs in the future.

Gayle Loeber
Programming and Information
National Educational Telecommunication Association
PO Box 50008
Columbia, SC 29250
Email: gloeber@netaonline.org

Lynne Clendenin
Vice President of Programming
Oregon Public Broadcasting
7140 SW Macadam Avenue
Portland, OR 97219
Email: radiovp@opb.org

Mary Gardner
Director of TV Programming
Oregon Public Broadcasting
7140 SW Macadam Avenue
Portland, OR 97219
Email: tv@opb.org

John Wilson
Senior Vice President and Chief TV Programming Executive
Public Broadcasting Service
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202

Sources:
Public Broadcasting Service
Oregon Live

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When you think about…aren’t miracle drugs supposed to perform miracles?

When you think about…aren’t miracle drugs supposed to perform miracles?

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, 80 percent of antibiotics used in the United States are administered to farmed animals to promote their growth and to reduce the risk of their contracting illnesses in the crowded living conditions of the factory farm.

Photo by Amanda Scheliga/Flickr

Weren’t antibiotics meant to save lives? Aren’t they supposed to attack nasty germs like salmonella, MRSA, e.coli, and other others? So, what are they doing being fed to supposedly healthy animals (after all these animals are going to be slaughtered for our consumption so one would hope they are healthy)? With such widespread use of antibiotics on the factory farm, it was bound to happen—this overuse of antibiotics created bacteria resistant to the very antibiotics were meant to destroy them.

A Center for Science in the Public Interest survey of foodborne illnesses indicates that contaminated foods were most often found in dairy products followed by ground beef, poultry, pork, seafood, and eggs.

While even vegetables have been linked with foodborne illnesses, they are less likely to be as contaminated as meat, fish, and fowl products coming from factory farms. Therefore, a vegan or vegetarian diet reduces our risk of contact with these bacteria and therefore our need for antibiotics to combat their attack on our bodies.

There is currently a bill before Congress, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act—HR 965/S 1211). This bill will protect human health by limiting the use of antibiotics in livestock.

When you think about it…factory farming is contributing to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria which puts us at risk and definitely puts the animals at risk who are raised for the dinner table.

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When you think about it…Meatless Mondays could spread—to Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, on to….

Photo by Siel/Flickr

When you think about it…Meatless Mondays could spread—to Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, on to….

Meatless Mondays, part of a conservation effort on the part of the United States during both World War I and World War II, was restarted in the early part of the 21st century by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future and the Monday Campaigns Inc. The premise behind Meatless Mondays is Monday is often considered the start of the week—back to work and school for many. We think about Mondays as starting points, especially if we’ve had a busy and maybe overindulgent weekend. It becomes the day we get back on track or resolve to start a new.

Even school cafeterias are joining the healthy start to the week. Students in the Santa Cruz City Schools are served tacos and baked enchiladas (hold the meat) and have access to a salad bar. Other school cafeterias are doing likewise. Giving our children healthy, nutritious, plant-based food choices might encourage them to ask for the same at the dinner table. Educating our children on healthy eating is one way adults might learn, too. School is not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic; it’s about living a healthy life, making humane choices, caring for the environment, and saving lives.

To start you on the road to Meatless Mondays, and maybe Tuesdays, and on through Sundays, here are a couple easy dishes for you to prepare. Eating a plant-based diet is simple, delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive.

When you think about it…Meatless Weeks may not be too far off.

Vegan Sloppy Joes

Ingredients:
• 1 tbsp olive oil (or other cooking oil)
• 1 16 oz tub of firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
• 1 tbsp molasses
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 1 red bell pepper, diced
• 4 oz of your favorite mushrooms, diced
• 1 small can tomato paste
• 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 medium tomato, diced
• 2 tbsp chili powder (use more or less to taste)
• 1 tbsp oregano
• 2 tbsp ketchup
• 1 tbsp rice wine or apple cider vinegar
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Hearty whole-grain sandwich buns, or baguettes quartered and sliced lengthwise

In a saucepan or skillet on medium heat, add oil, and molasses.
Crumble tofu with fingers into pan and brown, stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Once tofu has lost some water, but before completely browned, add onion, pepper, and mushrooms.
Add tomato paste and mix well, add increments of water if needed to keep from sticking.
Stir in mustard and tomatoes. Add oregano and chili powder and continue stirring. Add ketchup and vinegar.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on buns or bread when thoroughly heated and enjoy!

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