[S]tandard-issue hog farming involves the practice of tail docking—that is, shortly after piglets are born, their tails are cut off short. You might ask: why would we need to cut the tails off of pigs? Good question! Pig tails need to be cut off, in factory farms, because the pigs stand around all day in tiny, crowded spaces. Some of them seek to amuse themselves by biting other pigs on the tail. Often, the pigs being bitten are really just too listless to stop the biting. So their tails bleed. This can lead to infection, of course, but it could also lead to cannibalistic attacks on the bleeding hog—after all, pigs are omnivores! Now, having the tails docked won’t prevent tail biting, because there’s still a stump. But the stump is extremely sensitive, so even an otherwise very listless pig is likely to quickly put a stop to anyone’s gnawing on his stump. Hence, the infections or cannibalistic attacks can be prevented.
Now, tail docking is an extra task, requiring extra labor from pig farmers. So it would be nice if it were unnecessary. Fortunately, science plans to come to the rescue here—we’re working on isolating the stress gene in hogs, so that we can create new hogs that can be crowded into horrific conditions without becoming stressed out. If they’re not stressed into listlessness, they’re more likely to react quickly to anyone’s biting their tail. Problem solved.
Posts tagged ‘health’
In 2016 in the United States, most parents have no reason to worry that their children will be malnourished; in fact, obesity is more of a problem than undernourishment. Our grandparents grew up in a time of war, and with that mindset, they raised their own kids with a healthy sense of perspective. But the current generation of parents, raised without knowing real deprivation, lacks that perspective. In this climate, having a child who is a picky eater has gone from mild annoyance to potential health crisis in need of a solution. Kids aren’t sent to bed hungry anymore, nor can they be allowed to eat their chosen limited diet; instead something has to be done. And since we live in a society that would never miss a marketing opportunity, a company that occupies an entire toddler food group—Cheerios—has discovered a way to play to those fears with a new product: “Cheerios Protein.”
Cheerios Protein is marketed as “fuel” in a new ad campaign. This isn’t the standard parenting trick of tossing some vegetables into baked ziti or pureeing butternut squash and slipping it into the mac & cheese. Cheerios Protein has put more protein into its cereal in the production stage, evidently to combat the supposed problem that some kids eat Cheerios as their major food source. The problem is that the company also ended up adding far more sugar than protein into the final product (seventeen times as much as the original version) with very little added actual protein to show for it.
This is a familiar story for anyone familiar with how food companies have engineered our food from its more natural state into one that is supposedly more “healthy” according to the sensibilities of current food fads. The unintended consequence of altering food in order to make it fit with our current ideas of health is that food engineers often end up accomplishing the opposite of what they intended. The war on fat led companies to take real fat and butter out of our food, replacing them with carbohydrates, sugar and trans fats.
Robert Lustig is a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a “poison” culpable for America’s obesity epidemic.
A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, you’ve read Yudkin. Lustig shook his head. John Yudkin, said the scientist, was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly.
“If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive,” wrote Yudkin, “that material would promptly be banned.” The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.
Perhaps the Australian scientist intended a friendly warning. Lustig was certainly putting his academic reputation at risk when he embarked on a high-profile campaign against sugar. But, unlike Yudkin, Lustig is backed by a prevailing wind. We read almost every week of new research into the deleterious effects of sugar on our bodies.
For an alternative, see the Perfect Health Diet