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‘What The Health’ claims get debunked

Some determined activists will say almost anything to convince people to go vegan. One example of this is “What The Health,” a film you might have seen while scrolling through Netflix. If you’ve watched the movie, it may have left you feeling confused about the nutritional value of meat, milk, poultry and eggs.

Several scientists, dietitians and agriculture advocates have started speaking out against the film and helping viewers find factual information to make decisions about their diets. Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise analyzed each health claim made in the film and concluded that 96 percent were bogus and not based on sound science. Dr. Harriet Hall, a retired family physician says the film “cherry-picks scientific studies, exaggerates, makes claims that are untrue, relies on testimonials and interviews with questionable “experts,” and fails to put the evidence into perspective.”

Here are some of the main claims from the film debunked:

Red and processed meats cause cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) report that brought this controversy to the forefront relied on a few weak studies and ignored numerous other studies that have affirmed the nutritional benefits of consuming meat. Since the report was released, the WHO said “meat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet.”

A 2015 meta-analysis of 27 studies concluded that the link between cancer and red meat consumption is actually pretty weak. In another 2015 meta-analysis of 19 studies, scientists concluded “the results from our analyses do not support an association between red meat or processed consumption and prostate cancer.”

Sodium nitrite, a salt used to cure meats like sausage, bacon and ham is often brought to the table when discussing cancer and processed meat; but the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is considered the “gold standard” in determining whether substances cause cancer, completed a multi-year study that found nitrite was not associated with cancer. NTP maintains a list of chemicals found to be carcinogenic. Sodium nitrite is not on that list.

Sugar and carbohydrates don’t cause diabetes, instead it is caused by eating meat

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), type 2 diabetes is caused by genetics and lifestyle factors. Starchy foods can be a part of a healthy meal plan, but portion size is key. Being overweight does increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and a diet high in calories from any source contributes to weight gain. Research has shown that drinking sugary drinks is linked to type 2 diabetes. The ADA recommends that people should avoid intake a sugar-sweetened beverages to help prevent diabetes.

A 2016 study and meta-analysis regarding sugar and diabetes concluded, “habitual consumption of sugar sweetened beverages was associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes.”

Eating one egg is the same as smoking five cigarettes

Yes, they actually made this outrageous claim. There’s no way an egg has the same health effects as smoking cigarettes. Eggs are packed with 6 grams of protein, 14 essential nutrients (including choline and vitamin D) and they’re only 70 calories each – how can you beat that combo?!

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three healthy eating patterns…all of which include eggs. According to a 2015 peer reviewed study about the effects of egg and egg-derived foods on human health, “eggs represent a very important food source, especially for some populations such as the elderly, pregnant women, children, convalescents and people who are sports training.”

Pregnant women who eat meat, milk and eggs are introducing toxins to their child

Wrong again. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a pregnant woman should eat lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas to obtain the daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy.  A 2013 study states pregnant women “should eat foods that contain adequate amounts of choline” and milk, meat and eggs just happen to be choline-rich! Now you may say – pregnant women can skip meat, milk and eggs if they take a prenatal vitamin, right? Nope. The study also states that “prenatal vitamin supplements do not contain an adequate source of choline.”

Milk contains pus

Let’s put this misinformation, frequently used to try to scare you out of drinking milk, to rest. Here’s an awesome explanation from Carrie Mess, a Wisconsin dairy farmer…

Somatic cell count (SCC) is a measurement of how many white blood cells are present in the milk. “White blood cells are the infection fighters in our body and so an elevated white blood cell presence or on a dairy farm an elevated SCC is a signal that there may be an infection that the cow is fighting. Dairy farmers are paid more money for milk that has a low SCC, if our cell count raises above normal levels they will dock the amount we get paid for our milk, if it raises even higher they stop taking our milk and we can’t sell it. So not only do we not want our cows to be sick, it would cost us a lot of money and could cost us our farms if we were to ignore a high SCC. While the current US regulation is that milk must have a cell count under 750, dairy coops and companies generally require under 400 and most dairy farms aim for a SCC under 200. So, does this mean that we are allowing some pus into your milk? No. All milk is going to have some white blood cells in it, that’s the nature of a product that comes from an animal, cells happen.”

For these and more claims from the film debunked, check out this resource from the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The Alliance also provides detailed reports to its members on popular books and movies pushed by animal rights activists along with films that are positive towards farmers and ranchers.

This film is tagged as a “documentary,” but I would argue it should be categorized as a comedy because it has so many absurd allegations about food and agriculture.

As always, if you have concerns about your health or the foods you eat, you should consult your doctor!


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Keep calm and agvocate on

The Animal Agriculture Alliance recently released a new campaign highlighting the importance of animal protein in a healthy, balanced diet. The Meat Matters campaign includes a webpage with fast facts and resources along with an eye-catching Meat Matters guide, social media graphics and a pledge encouraging participants to tell their friends why they believe meat matters. The campaign works to debunk myths and misinformation spread by groups that push for a meatless diet.

Online food fight?

On the third day of the campaign we caught the animal rights activists’ attention on Twitter and were slammed with every vulgar word you could think of. The hateful language came in all at once from about five different accounts and lasted an hour before the food fight was over. A few days later hateful comments started pouring in on our Instagram. I couldn’t actually hear what they were saying, but the tone made you want to cover your ears…because we all know complaining loudly gives you instant credibility, right?

ProteinsMeat matters

The Meat Matters campaign is about consumer choice. The choice for you and I to have the ability to choose what types of foods we want to include in our diets. If we want to include lean, protein-packed meat alongside our veggies then we should have the choice to do so and feel confident about our choice. If others don’t want to eat meat, then they should have the choice to do so as well without pushing their beliefs onto others.

Keep calm and agvocate onkeep-calm-and-agvoate-on

In a social media food fight it can be tempting to lose your temper or even forfeit to avoid the stress, but it is important to stand your ground, remain passionate and positive about agriculture.

One person who has experienced one of the most intense backlash from activists is the Canadian dairy farmer behind the “farm365” hashtag. His name is Andrew Campbell and his goal was to share his daily experiences as a dairy farmer and drive conversations with consumers about agriculture and food. Campbell was shocked by the response he received, with thousands of other farmers from around the world joining in and using the hashtag to share their own stories.

Campbell’s effort quickly drew the attention of animal rights activists, and the #farm365 hashtag was flooded with gruesome images, misinformation and lies about animal agriculture. Despite the online harassment and direct threats, Campbell refused to forfeit and lose sight of his mission. He continued to post positive and engaging photos every day of 2015. Campbell will be speaking at our annual Stakeholders Summit this May to share his experience and advice on social media engagement.

So remember, no matter how messy the food fight might get, keep calm and agvocate on!

 


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PEDv: A Matter of Biosecurity

Best management practice is to maintain your farm and herd in a way that reduces or eliminates introduction and transmittance of pathogens.  Biosecurity is this best practice, and it is something everyone who works with animals should be familiar with – in particular, those working with livestock.  Food safety is essential for farmers and ranchers growing food animals and the introduction of illness to your herd can be devastating.  Having a biosecurity plan is essential and is your insurance in the event that endemic illness does occur.

The best tool in developing a biosecurity plan is working with your veterinarian to know what viruses and pathogens are local to you, what your species of livestock is susceptible to, and modes of pathogen transference.  Being in the business of animal agriculture, several animals likely inhabit the same pen and housing, so the best place to start is providing and maintaining clean water and food sources.  After transporting animals, clean the trailer and other equipment – and if you are transporting animals into your facility, have quarantine procedures in place.  Not only that, but make sure you are diligent regarding the animals you are importing so you avoid introducing new pathogens to your herd.

This all sounds familiar, right?  But while you know to have a biosecurity plan, how exactly do you prepare for undercover agents?  An important facet to biosecurity is minimizing nonessential personnel and monitoring visitor access, expecting employees to be observant for sick animals and familiar with biosecurity practices in the event of illness.  Well, when you unknowingly hire an undercover animal rights activist, your livelihood is suddenly in jeopardy.  As seen in a recent undercover video, not only was the farm subjected to the humiliation of undercover footage, but as consequence they had someone on the premises who had no regard for biosecurity.

In the agricultural industry, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) is something we’ve seen in headlines for months, especially in the wake of this video’s publicity.  As hog farmers, PEDv has serious implications and has likely influenced biosecurity plans.  Because it’s transmitted by the fecal-oral route, you’re minimizing environmental contamination and actively identifying and separating infected sows and piglets.  With no registered vaccine or cure, fighting dehydration is about the best you can do, still losing almost 100% of piglets less than four weeks old if they contract the virus.  But there’s feedback.  Familiar to every livestock veterinarian, feedback is the process of feeding pregnant sows the diarrhea or intestines of infected/dying piglets to build her immunity so she can then pass on antibodies to her piglets through nursing.  And yet, this desperate effort to save lives is now called “cannibalism” by those same animal activists that pay for undercover video footage.  Not to mention that the undercover activist that betrayed one farm are likely on their way to the next target with PEDv-positive manure on their boots.

This is a sad reality, the Humane Society of the United States being just one of the animal rights groups who puts their own agenda over the very animals they are trying to “save.” These farmers fight back, though, going from one day to the next with greater experience and a better understanding of what they can do to produce healthy animals while also holding up an entire industry.  It is our sincere hope that the effects of PEDv can be minimized and reliable prevention can be identified, supporting protective efforts against undercover agents along the way.

Biosecurity

**As an undergraduate student studying Animal Science, my work in the dairy industry and in animal agriculture makes this topic not only relevant to me, but something I incorporate into my education and life experiences every day!**

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