Welcome to my cooking blog. My name is Michelle Jenkins. Let me start by admitting that these are NOT gourmet meals, they are NOT fine dining, but they are mine. I have cooked all of these recipes and taken my own photos. They are fairly simple recipes, most of them are quick to prepare and cook and all of them are delicious. I only post my successes! If something doesn't work out, I don't post it. I hope you enjoy this blog.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nutrition Basics: Pesticides, Antibiotics and Hormones in Farming

When you're shopping for food or whilst cooking, do you ever think about what is in the food we eat? Do you ever wonder about the pesticides which are used on freshly grown produce? Or the added hormones and antibiotics in our meat?

If you eat a steak bought at the supermarket, you're ingesting a lot more than meat with every bite... you're also consuming hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. The same goes with a typical glass of milk you drink. That's because agriculture has take every step to ensure it squeezes the absolute most out of the animals it farms regardless of how it affects your health, or the welfare of the animal.

Let's talk about pesticides

Pesticides are designed to control the nuisance and damage caused by pests, and have contributed to reducing disease and increasing food production worldwide. But the availability and widespread use of pesticides also has the potential to pose unexpected risks, both directly and indirectly, to our health. (Source: Earth Easy). Chemicals such as pesticides, antibiotics and hormones are used in plant and animal farming to boost production and ensure adequate food supply. The crops are sprayed with pesticides and inevitably some of those pesticides remain on the crops. When animals eat grain, they are ingesting pesticide residue and when we eat the animals, we too are ingesting this residue. Residues can be harmful to humans if taken in large amounts and that why chemical levels in food are set by law. Since pesticides accumulate in the fatty portions of plants and animal foods such as red meat...butter and cheese are pesticide magnets. Some people choose to buy organic produce to avoid pesticide residues. Organic farming grows produce without the use of synthetic chemicals or pesticides (Source: Better Health).

Let's talk about antibiotics

Antibiotics are used widely in food animals as growth promoters and to prevent and treat infection. Avoparcin, a glycopeptide related to the human drug Vancomycin, is used in Australia as a growth promotant in pigs, chickens and cattle. As well as oral administration and injection of antibiotics, small amounts are mixed into animal feed for weeks or months at a time. Feed dosing provides ripe conditions for the emergence of resistant strains. Antibiotics are also sprayed onto fruit trees to prevent and treat infection. Traces of antibiotics that remain after the initial spraying may encourage emergence of resistant strains of bacteria. During spraying the wind can spread low concentrations of the antibiotic further afield, possibly increasing the risk of resistant bacteria. In both cases, it is possible for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to enter the food chain, ultimately reaching humans (Source: ABC).

Let's talk about hormones

In today's large factory farms hormones are widely administered to cattle in order to artificially accelerate their growth and increase their milk production. Hormonal growth promotants (HGPs) are naturally occurring hormones such as oestrogen, or synthetic alternatives, which are used in cattle to accelerate weight gain. HGPs—used in Australia for more than 30 years—are used on about 40 per cent of Australian cattle and annually add $210 million to the value of the beef industry. (Source: Food Standards Australia). 

Cows treated with hormones produce 15% more milk than regular cows and they grow 20% faster so this is great news for the farmer. The bad news is that this has no benefit for us and actually poses a significant threat to our health. Dairy contributes to extensive hormonal problems and can also lead to acne and diabetes as a result (Source: One Green Planet).

Many cancers are hormone-related, such as breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Any excess hormones in your food may increase your risk. Giving hormones to cattle has significant implications on the animal's welfare. Many calves are stillborn or die shortly after birth, while, as a result of induction, mother cows are susceptible to dangerous health complications: retained foetal membrane (placenta), weakened immune systems, and risk of infection. (Source: Shell Ethics).

An interesting fact: Russia has banned the importation of both American and Australian beef due to growth hormones (Source: ABC). Despite the World Health Organisation, international studies and the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration concluding: "there is unlikely to be any appreciable health risk to consumers from eating meat from cattle that have been treated with HGPs", the European Union has banned the use of HGPs and the importation of treated meat. Average hormone concentrations in cattle treated appropriately with the ‘natural’ hormones are within the normal hormone range of untreated cattle (Source: Truth About Hormones).

What can I do?

You could change your shopping habits. When you buy food from now on, it will help to know the following definitions:
  • 'Natural' means minimally processed and doesn't include artificial ingredients or preservatives
  • 'No Antibiotics' means documentation has been provided to Food Standards Australia proving no antibiotics have been used in production
  • 'No Hormones' means documentation has been provided to Food Standards Australia proving no added hormones have been used in production
  • 'Cage Free' means poultry raised without battery cages
  • 'Free Range' means poultry allowed to roam outdoors
  • 'Organic' means organic meat and eggs raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics. Feed must be 100% organic and have access to the outdoors
  • 'Grass Fed' means cows who eat grass instead of grain. This means the meat is lower in saturated fat and contains higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids
  • 'Pasture Raised' means not only were the animals raised without cages and with access to the outdoors, they actually got to live the way we imagine farm animals should live...outside on fresh green pasture
  • Buy locally grown produce from farmer's markets
  • Buy organic produce
  • Wash fruit and vegetables before eating
  • Know which fruits and vegetables have higher levels of pesticide residue
  • Grow your own produce
  • Use non-toxic methods for controlling insects in the home and garden
  • Understand food labels 
For information about food labelling requirements in Australia, see Food Standards Australia.

Previous blog post...Soil Quality and Fertiliser

Next blog post...Organic Farming

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