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Care about food and health? Here are 3 books worth reading

September 04, 2020

Here at Ember, we’re constantly asking ourselves this question: how did choosing what to eat get so complicated? Seriously, how many opposing messages do you hear a day about what is truly healthy - for you and the planet? It makes life pretty complicated. There are a lot of voices out there, and it can be overwhelming. But the thing is, when you strip it back, it’s really not that complicated at all. Luckily, we have scientists and authors around to explain this stuff. 

In honour of National Read a Book Day, we wanted to share our thoughts on a few books that break through the noise. Though we can't tell you we 100% buy into every word (that’s all part of collecting a range of opinions that help us form our own), all three of these are a cracking read. 

Before diving deep into the details of each book (which each have their very own quirks), here are some fundamental messages in all of them that we absolutely agree with:

  • Our food system is broken, and urgently needs fixing. Policy changes can save lives (human and animal) and our planet. Sounds lofty, we know - but it can be done.
  • Mono-culture chemical farming is destroying our environment, the nutritional value of our food and the life left in our soil. And it really is all about the soil. Meat or plant - we need to grow our produce in a non-destructive way.
  • Grazing animals are the only answer for a regenerative approach to the way we produce our food.
  • Food waste is something we desperately need to fix by feeding it to pigs (The Pig Idea helps explain this a bit more).
  • Factory farmed animals are one major part of many, many problems with our food system.

So, onto the books…

Book 1: Farmageddon; the true cost of cheap meat by Philip Lymbery


Rating: 4/5

What was the key message?

This is a good one. Lymbery is essentially letting us know that factory farming is one of the major global issues we need to put a stop to if we want to leave the next generations with a planet worth living on. How? Through a big old government policy change. The most alarming (and, frankly, depressing) thing is that the UN is forecasting for the number of factory farmed  animals to double by 2050. So massive action is needed. 


Favourite fact?

70% of the global animal population are factory farmed. These factory farmed animals consume 30% of the planet’s cereal crops, 30% of the fish caught in our oceans (in the form of fish meal), and in the USA, factory farmed animals consume 80% of the antibiotics that are produced in that country. We know, crazy right? 

 

Summary of our thoughts:

  • This book is super informative, and as far as very serious topics go, easy to read. 
  • A few of the broader health claims made didn’t quite feel like they had enough substance. 
  • It's hard to stomach some of the realities that we face as a society. But Lymbery lays it out in a digestible, realistic way. 
Buy it here

Book 2: The Carnivore Code by Paul Salidino

Rating: 3/5

What was the key message?

Saladino’s core argument is that the impact of our food choices reminds us of our connection with the Earth, and to take care of our precious ecosystems. Essentially, the carnivore diet is about remembering how our ancestors lived for millions of years; with animals as our primary food. This, he argues, is the reason we grew into the intelligent problem-solving species we are today. Intelligent enough to right our wrongs? That’s another question...


Favourite fact?

Vitamin B12 is vital for enabling the movement of methyl groups between molecules within cells. Basically, we need it to function. B12 deficiencies can damage the building blocks for DNA, and impair normal cellular growth and division. B12 deficiencies can also lead to neurological disease, which presents appellants issues and progress to Frank dementia. Sufficient levels of vitamin B12 cannot be found in plant foods. Makes you want to get your B12 in, right?

 

Summary of our thoughts:

  • We admit, this one was a little too scientific for us. It does come with its credibility, though. Saladino is, unsurprisingly, a scientist, and he clearly breaks down the facts behind a lot of the noisy headlines we read about good and bad when it comes to meat and plants. 
  • The thing we struggled with was seeing how his views on the amount of meat we should be eating align with the pasture-fed farming system he promotes. Is this truly a realistic solution for the global population? 
  • The writing was a little ‘yee-haa’ for us. If you read it, you’ll know what we mean...
Buy it here

 

Book 3: Sacred cow; The case for (better) meat by Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf. 

Rating: 5/5

What was the key message?

Rodgers and Wolf are telling us that there is a disconnect between consumers and nature. Chemical mono-culture farming is destroying global biodiversity, and it just doesn’t need to be this way. Sacred Cow argues those challenging the ethical side of meat-eating are misinformed, as the process of producing mass-scale mono-crops is killing even more animals globally than classic farming. The book puts forward a solution based on nutrition, environment and ethics. 


It’s quite a lot to get your head around. So here are a few points summed up:

  • Soil is the solution! By taking care of our soil we can restore biodiversity and capture carbon. How do we achieve this? Through pasture-fed animals. 
  • Regenerative agriculture and eating whole foods is essential. 
  • Meat is a vital, nutrient-dense food, and something we humans have evolved to eat.
  • Processed foods are directly related to the diabetes and obesity epidemic, funded by the government and lobbied by the corporate giants. 

 

Favourite fact?

Humans are omnivores, and always have been. Our biology has evolved around a meaty diet. How do we know? Our small intestines are longer than the average primate, and our colons are smaller than average. This basically means we’re unable to break down certain plant foods like a herbivore (say, a gorilla) would be able to. Us humans also need vitamin B12 in our diet to avoid potentially fatal health issues. 


Summary of our thoughts:

This one’s really well written and brilliantly thought through. It doesn’t feel like it has (too much of) an agenda, and it answers all the questions we so often ask ourselves. All of the claims made are backed with strong evidence. Getting everyone farming in the way they are suggesting does feel pretty far fetched. In fact, it seems near impossible unless there’s a global, knee jerky policy change. 

 Buy it here

 

Ultimately, do we feel any clearer on issues of nutrition, health and meat having read these books? 

Yes, 100%. 

 

Do we feel better about the planet and where we’re heading as a race? 

We do feel comforted by the solutions out there. And far more driven to do our bit as a business, help end factory farming and minimise our footprint. 

 

Do we feel more informed about health and what to eat? 

For sure. Eating the rightmeat is the solution to a healthy diet - and promotes a thriving environment. Eating less meat is probably a natural outcome of this, as good meat is more expensive and harder to come by. Which is kind of how it should be, anyway. 

We recommend all three of these books, and can’t wait for you to dig in too. We’d love to hear your thoughts on them, so drop us a line if you do.

Harry and Jack

 

 


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