Why don’t we love pigs?

We are a nation of animal lovers. Dogs are a mans best friend. A clip of a fox on a trampoline gets 500,000 FB likes, so where did it go so wrong for pigs?

Pigs can often outsmart dogs and are on about the same intellectual level as our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, according to a new paper. The research project, described in a paper published in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8sx4s79c aims to put a face on animals that are traditionally just viewed as sources of meat.

“We have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans,” neuroscientist Lori Marino of Emory University and The Nonhuman Rights Project said in a press release. “There is good scientific evidence to suggest we need to rethink our overall relationship to them.”

They found that pigs:

  1. Have excellent long-term memories
  2. Are excellent with mazes and other tests requiring location of objects
  3. Can comprehend a simple symbolic language and can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects
  4. Love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, similar to play in dogs and other mammals
  5. live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and learn from one another
  6. Cooperate with one another
  7. Can manipulate a joystick to move an on-screen cursor, a capacity they share with chimpanzees
  8. Can use a mirror to find hidden food
  9. Exhibit a form of empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual

No animal deserves to be treated inhumanely but considering the way pigs are treated with respect to their mental capacity, it seems inconceivable that we allow this to happen. Pigs, specifically breeding sows take my number one spot for worse off animal in factory farming systems (there are close contenders). What they endure would be considered mental and physical torture were it applied to humans. I would challenge any person with even a shred of empathy to learn how pigs are treated in intensive systems and see this any other way. You are welcome to learn more via: https://www.ciwf.org.uk/farm-animals/pigs/pig-welfare or simply make the change to buy ethically raised pork. See the Compassion (CIWF) buying guide https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/meat-poultry/pork-and-bacon

The key message is to buy pork with extreme caution. A lot of pork is intensively farmed, 60%+ in the UK and higher in the EU. Read the labels, there are a lot of good pork producers, so look for organic, free range, outdoor bred or reared. Buy UK pork – UK laws are tighter and better regulated than the EU.

I will also publish posts with ideas to replace pork products as I know a bacon sandwich is hard to give up!

P.S. Remember pork means – Pork and all pork products (bacon, sausages, ham, salami etc.)

Oink Oink!! The Ethical Omnivore

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Good steak should never be chewy!!

One of the best dishes going is Steak and chips. It is a treat we eat very occasionally, one of my favourites and something I am very passionate about. It breaks my heart to see people sawing away at meat, chewing to the point they wear their teeth down. Hearing comments about steak being tough or tasteless. It should never be that way. Sadly we buy steak (from the supermarket?) over and over again and put up with this. People don’t realise what we are missing out on. As part of my quest to only eat the best quality meats I decided to try to find out why good steak was so hard to find.

So what’s the difference? Well as far as I have gleaned there are two main issues;

  1. Not all beef is from cattle breed to produce quality meat. A lot of beef is a byproduct of the dairy industry (either young male dairy calves or culled ex service dairy cows), breeds that have been developed for high milk yields but not for their meat quality.
  2. As with a lot of modern farming the faster and bigger they can grow it the cheaper they can make it whilst keeping the profit. Farmers are under pressure to fatten cattle and get them to slaughter as quickly as possible. Meaning the cattle are taken off pasture, keep in barns, feed grain and slaughter before the meat is mature. As young as 9 mths but typically 12 mths (http://www.fwi.co.uk/livestock/slaughtering-beef-animals-at-12-months-is-most-profitable.htm)

The best meat comes from cattle that is a specific meat breed e.g. Angus, English Longhorn, Dexter, Sussex Red, has been naturally raised and slow grown. Pasture feed, ideally organic and allowed to mature at a natural rate. I understand this to be around 2+ years but I’ve eaten 8 yrs old beef and it was truly amazing.

The next element that is essential is how long the meat is hung for. Even good meat that is not well hung can loose quality. But hanging meat costs money, the meat loses weight as it drys, extra storage costs and time passes. It is ironic that the industry boasts ’21 days hung’ as a selling feature, when that is the industry standard and in my view inadequate. Look for 30+ days hung, you will notice the difference.

And finally the cooking. Cook an average piece of meat correctly and it might pass as a meal, cook a great piece of steak correctly and you make an exceptional meal. How to cook great steak – First I ensure the meat is at room temperature (take it out of the fridge hours in advance – make sure the dog can’t reach it!), then oil the meat and season with salt. Great the pan really hot, I used a cast iron skillet, then add the steak, (don’t over fill the pan otherwise you will loose temperature, get moisture and there is a risk of stewing the meat.) Let the meat do it’s thing and get well browned (known as sealing) before you turn it over. There is a great tick I use to determine how well cooked the meat is without cutting into it, especially important for thick steaks. On the same hand touch a finger to your thumb (just so the tips touch) don’t squeeze, just connect. The fat part of your thumb (even thin people have them) is the same consistency as the different types of cooked steak. First finger = rare, second = mid rare, third = medium, and forth = well. Gently press your thumb and then press the meat (with a knife or fork) you’ll see what I mean. I always cook meat a like less than I want it then take it off the heat and let if rest in the pan e.g. 10 mins. It will carry on cooking which is why I undercook it slightly. I slice the meat and serve in the middle to people to pick/fight over – crispy fries, creamed spinach, mushrooms, onions, salad (if you want green), horseradish or creamy Bernaise – Yummy!

So I know you are all desperate to talk about cost. It sounds so expensive, how can organic meat raised for 2+yrs, hung for 5 weeks be affordable. Why here’s is the great news, because it is a great steak you don’t need sirloin or fillet, you can go for rump, skirt, feather steak it is all good. Also there is no waste as there is not gristle to cut off. We go for rump every time as it is better than any shop bought fillet, sirloin, ribeye I have tested. We buy directly from the farmer which also means we get maximum value. Also with reduced meat consumption the concept is you buy less but better quality meat. See https://www.longhornbeef.co.uk/our-beef as an example, the meat is the same price as supermarket finest meat, but this really is the finest!

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Beans beans good for your heart…

We can’t talk about a plant based diet and beans without taking about wind, farts, flatulence. A lot of people are talk to have a great fear of beans and their supposed ability to blow a hole in their designer jeans. Below is a great article I have reposted from Michael Greger site https://nutritionfacts.org explaining the facts.I can personally vouch to the finding, it does take time for your body to adjust (to the correct amount of fibre) and it is essential to prepare and cook beans correctly to deal with undigestible sugars but the good news is you can eat beans without the fear of bending over in public.

Beans & Gas: Clearing the Air

More than a decade ago, the Quarterly Journal of Medicine published a review entitled: “Vegetarian Diet: Panacea for modern lifestyle disease?” The answer was in the affirmative, noting those eating vegetarian appear to have less obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancers, kidney disease, maybe less stroke, less age-related vision loss, less diverticulosis, fewer gallstone and of course, less constipation. But after going through the laundry list of benefits, the researchers did identify two drawbacks of a plant-based diet: 1) the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, which I’ve covered previously, and 2) increased intestinal gas production. So on one hand, we have half of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, and on the other, flatulence.

Let me start off by saying that intestinal gas is normal and healthy. When patients present to physicians complaining of too much gas, they are typically instructed to go home and keep track for a week. “Although this may sound complicated,” wrote researchers in a gastroenterology journal, “we have found that patients rather enjoy keeping such a record.”

Americans report passing gas an average of 14 times a day, with the normal range extending up to a frequency of 22 times daily. Many people who think they have too much gas fall well within the normal range, concludes famed flatologist Michael Levitt, M.D., “and they simply have to be informed of their ‘normality.’”

Wondering who funded this research? You may be surprised that the real ground-breaking work in this area was done by NASA in the 1950s—our grandparents’ tax dollars hard at work. NASA was genuinely concerned that astronauts might suffocate, or some spark would ignite the methane. So papers with names like “Recent Advances in Flatology” represent space age research! As one NASA research scientist recommended, “it may prove advantageous to select astronauts…who do not normally produce large quantities of flatus.”

I’ll never forget the first time I lectured on the subject. I asked if anyone in the auditorium cared to venture a guess as to how many times a day the average person passes gas. I was expecting the students would posit maybe 5 or 10 and then I could wow them with the fact that no, the norm is more like once every waking hour, up to 22 times a day. But the first guess? 200. OK, so maybe some people do have too much gas! For those wanting to cut down on emissions, here are some tips (I’ll try not to be too long-winded :).

Flatulence come from two places: swallowed air, and fermentation in the bowel. Things that can cause you to swallow extra air include gum chewing, ill-fitting dentures, sucking on hard candies, drinking through a straw, eating too fast, talking while you eat, and cigarette smoking. So if the fear of lung cancer doesn’t get you to quit smoking, maybe fear of flatulence will.

The main source of gas, though, is the normal bacterial fermentation in our colon of undigested sugars. Dairy products are a leading cause of excessive flatulence, due to poor digestion of the milk sugar lactose, though even people who are lactose tolerant may suffer from dairy. One of the most flatulent patients ever reported in the medical literature was effectively cured once dairy products were removed from his diet. The case, reported in the New England Journal of Medicineand submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records, involved a guy who, after consuming dairy, experienced “70 passages in one four-hour period.” Cutting the cheese, indeed.

Other poorly digested sugars include sorbitol and xylitol in sugar-free candies. The fizziness in soda is carbon dioxide, which gets absorbed by our gut, but the high fructose in the soda’s corn syrup may be another culprit. Cruciferous vegetables may also contribute (kale-force winds?). Some grains can do it—the word pumpernickel stems from Middle German and means, roughly, “goblin that breaks wind.”

Beans have been christened the musical fruit, but could it just be a lot of hot air? A randomized controlled crossover study published last week, “Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies,” concluded “People’s concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated.”

Noting that “An increasing body of research and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans supports the benefits of a plant-based diet, and legumes specifically, in the reduction of chronic disease risks,” they started people on pinto beans, black-eyed peas, or vegetarian baked (navy) beans. During the first week, 35% reported increased flatulence but that fell to 15% by week three, 5% by week five, and 3% by week eight. Much of the bad rap for beans grew out of short-term studies in the 60’s that didn’t account for our body’s ability to adapt.

Long-term, most people bulking up on high-fiber foods do not appear to have significantly increased problems with gas. In the beginning, though, “A little bit of extra flatulence,” reads the Harvard Health Letter, “could be an indication that you’re eating the way you should!” The buoyancy of floating stools from trapped gasses can in fact be seen as a sign of adequate fiber intake. The indigestible sugars in beans that make it down to our colon may even function as prebiotics to feed our good bacteria and make for a healthier colon.

Even if at first they make us gassy, beans are so health-promoting that we should experiment with ways to keep them in our diet at all costs. Lentils, split peas and canned beans tend to be less gas-producing. Tofu usually isn’t an offender. Repeated soakings of dried beans and tossing the cooking water may help if you boil your own. Worse comes to worst, there are cheap supplements that contain alpha-galactosidase, an enzyme shown to break up the bean sugars and take the sail out of your wind.

Odor is a separate issue. The smell appears to come primarily from the digestion of sulfur-rich foods, so to cut down on the stench, experts have recommended cutting back on foods such as meat and eggs (hydrogen sulfide is called “rotten egg gas” for a reason). In “Contribution of Dietary Protein to Sulfide Production in the Large Intestine” researchers found that meat-eaters generated as much as 15 times the sulfides as those eating vegetarian.

There are healthy sulfur-rich foods, such as garlic and cauliflower. If you’re about to embark on a long trip in a confined space after a big meal of aloo gobi, Pepto-Bismol® and generic equivalents can act as a windbreaker by binding up the sulfur in your gut to eliminate odors, but should be used only as a short term solution due to the potential for bismuth toxicity with chronic use.

Then there are the high tech solutions, such as carbon fiber odor-eating underwear (cost: $65),  which were put to the test in an American Journal of Gastroenterology study that included such gems as “Utilising gas-tight Mylar pantaloons, the ability of a charcoal lined cushion to adsorb sulphur-containing gases instilled at the anus of eight subjects was assessed.” Assessed, that is, by a panel of fart-sniffing judges. And the name of the charcoal lined cushion? The “Toot Trapper.”

To reiterate, though, intestinal gas is normal and healthy. No less than Hippocrates himself was quoted as saying “passing gas is necessary to well-being.” As one chair of gastroenterology wrote in a review of degassing drugs and devices (and yes, Dr. Fardy is a real name), “Perhaps increased tolerance of flatus would be a better solution, for we tamper with harmless natural phenomena at our peril.”

 – Michael Greger, M.D.

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Ethical Omnivore 101 (the basics)

With a sea of information to read and digest it would be easy to get lost. Here is summary of the basics to get you started, my top ten.

  1. Support independent ethical farming – You can find better produce at a better price by cutting out the middle men. A direct farmer to consumer marketplace would really enhance our food choices.
  2. Avoid all factory farmed animal productschoose free range, organic, grass fed, traditionally produced.
  3. Make time to cookLoosing the ability to cook a wide variety of food, slow cooking meat, really enjoying veg, understanding pulses really reduces our food choices and control over our diets.
  4. Waste not want notuse up left overs, don’t over buy, cook and serve food. Think about how much food you throw away and work to reduce waste.
  5. Embrace a plant based dietthe easiest way to a healthy diet and freedom to choose is to understand how to enjoy a plant based diet. I’ll help you!
  6. Cut down on your intake of animal products – replace with veg, grain, legumes etc
  7. Raise your expectationsfor all produce, animal or plant to be good quality. If it isn’t change your supplier, rethink what you buy.
  8. Ask questions and read labelsquestion what is considered ‘normal’ and don’t make assumptions. Fancy restaurants or smart packaging doesn’t mean ethical produce.
  9. Open your mind Being an omnivore doesn’t mean we can’t access and use technics, ingredients, information normally reserved for veggie diets.
  10. Take responsibility for your own diet and health – Don’t rely on the industry for a healthy diet, their view point is biased and focused on profit. Read and learn, all the information you need is out there.

The Ethical Omnivore

 

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A must read book

I highly recommend reading this book. You’ll learn things you probably won’t have ever considered. The writing style and balanced viewpoint make it a pleasure to read. The author doesn’t dictate his views, rather shares a wealth of experiences through his global investigations. Leaving the reader to digest and reflect.

Reviews – Lymbery brings to this essential subject the perspective of a seasoned campaigner–he is informed enough to be appalled, and moderate enough to persuade us to take responsibility for the system that feeds us. – Guardian Book of the Week

This eye-opening book, urging a massive rethink of how we raise livestock and how we feed the world, deserves global recognition. – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

A devastating indictment of cheap meat and factory farming. Don t turn away: it demands reading and deserves the widest possible audience. – Joanna Lumley

This incredibly important book should be read by anyone who cares about people, the planet, and particularly, animals. – Jilly Cooper

Offers the kind of realistic and compassionate solutions on which our prospects for a truly sustainable world depend. – Jonathon Porritt

This meaty account makes a distinctive and important contribution, eschewing the narrowly domestic focus of many of its predecessors in favour of a global investigation . . . An engaging read–and it also gives a full enough picture of the situation in the UK to preclude any smugness on the part of the British reader. Anyone after a realistic account of our global food chain, and the changes necessary for a sustainable future, will find much to get their teeth into here. – Felicity Cloake, New Statesman

There s no end to techno-idiocy in pursuit of profit. But far more concerning is Lymbery s contention that the wastefulness of feeding human-edible plants and fish to animals is not just absurd but catastrophic. The main reason for hacking down the remaining South American forest is to grow soy to feed the pigs and chickens of China. – Evening Standard