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Ralph Loglisci

Ralph Loglisci

Food and Health Policy Writer

Eat Less Meat, Eat Better Meat

Nicolette Hahn Niman

The list of Meatless Monday supporters continues to grow across the globe, and surprisingly to some, many of the latest enthusiasts make their living either cooking meat, such as chef Mario Batali or producing it, like rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman. What makes Meatless Monday so successful is its simple and inclusive message which promotes moderation with the goal of improving public health and the health of the planet.

Nicolette and her husband Bill run the BN Ranch in Northern California near the seaside raising beef cattle on pasture and heritage turkeys. Bill knows a thing or two about ranching. He founded the famous Niman Ranch Inc. known for its sustainable and humanely raised meats. Nicolette is a Renaissance woman of sorts—new mom, writer, environmental lawyer, and interestingly, a vegetarian.

I recently was able to catch Nicolette for a few minutes by phone to ask her why she and Bill support Meatless Monday. She made it clear that she didn’t have much time; she was in the midst of a writing project, running the ranch (Bill was traveling) and taking care of her 14-month-old son who I could hear in the background chatting and occasionally clinking the keys of their piano. Knowing that time was short; I got straight to the point:

RL: A lot of people mistakenly believe that the Meatless Monday campaign is promoting the demise of all meat production, while it has always maintained that its message is simply one of moderation and inclusion of omnivores and vegetarians alike. As a rancher yourself, what would you say to any farmer who is threatened by the MM campaign?

NHN: Bill and I are very supportive of the Meatless Monday campaign and here’s why: We think that to really improve the way food is being produced and the way people are eating in this country people should eat less meat but eat better meat. All food from animals—meat, dairy, fish, eggs—should be treated as something special. Anyone who is raising food animals in the traditional healthy way, without relying on industrial methods, drugs and chemicals, is someone who will benefit from people embracing that approach. We think the Meatless Monday campaign is part of a shift in attitudes about meat, towards something that is precious not something that is consumed without thought or in enormous quantities. Read More >

Nearly 1,000 Chefs Answer First Lady ‘s Call to Adopt Local Schools

The White House Garden, June 4, 2010

The White House Garden, June 4, 2010

History was made Friday in Washington, DC as hundreds of chefs from more than 37 states descended on the South Lawn of the White House in hopes of accomplishing one thing — bringing an end to childhood obesity. Each of these gastronomical experts answered the call of First Lady Michelle Obama to adopt a school in their community and share their knowledge and passion for food. The Chefs Move to Schools program, a project of the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, was conceived by White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass, the man behind the White House garden. So far, Kass says almost 1,000 chefs have signed up to be a part of the ambitious initiative.

Perhaps one of the most famous volunteers to take part in the event was celebrity-chef Rachel Ray. Ray has long championed the fight against childhood obesity. In 2006, she launched her own non-profit organization, Yum-O!, designed to “empower kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking.” Not afraid to get her hands dirty, Ray joined the First Lady, fellow chefs and students from a nearby elementary school in harvesting veggies from the White House garden. Graciously, Ray took a few moments to answer a few questions from me.

Coming up soon, complete coverage of the Chefs Move to Schools program and more inspiring words from the First Lady, Sam Kass and several other trailblazing chefs from Maryland to Haiti

When Famous Meat Eaters Adopt Meatless Monday, “You Know Something is Happening”

When super-chef and restaurateur Mario Batali, self proclaimed lover of all forms of pork, decided to join the Meatless Monday movement, Washington Post food writer Jane Black took notice. In an article published today, she wrote, “when Mario Batali starts to push people to eat their vegetables, you know something is happening.”

Black does an excellent job of laying out the many issues surrounding the public health campaign’s call for everyone to cut meat out of their diet just one day a week. The current Meatless Monday campaign was launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diets by about 15 percent. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) serves as a scientific advisor for the campaign. CLF recognizes that by adopting Meatless Monday individuals can improve their health and potentially reduce demand for meat products, particularly industrially produced meat, which use huge amounts of natural resources and pose significant public health and environmental risks. Read More >

Meatless Monday: A Campaign Rooted in Public Health

Wellness Corner at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Cobblestone Cafe

Wellness Corner at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Cobblestone Cafe

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health embraced the Meatless Monday campaign back in 2003, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has proudly served as the national campaign’s scientific advisor ever since. Today I welcome and laud The Johns Hopkins Hospital for launching its own Meatless Monday campaign. In an effort to promote the health benefits of eating more grains, fruits and vegetables the “Wellness Corner” in the Hospital’s main cafeteria is cutting out meat and serving only vegetarian options on Mondays. (Meat options will still be available in other parts of the cafeteria.) The national Meatless Monday campaign’s primary focus is to reduce the consumption of saturated fat by 15%, following the recommendations of the Healthy People 2010 report issued by then U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher in 2000. Read More >

CBS Evening News Investigative Report Highlights Urgency for PAMTA Passage

I hope every lawmaker on Capitol Hill had a chance to watch CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric’s two-part investigative series on the risks of using antibiotics as growth promoters in food animals. After viewing both pieces it would be difficult for most people to question the immediate need to pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). PAMTA would effectively end the practice of administering constant low doses of antibiotics important to human health in food animals in the hopes of reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases among the general public. As we mentioned Tuesday, the first installment of the series highlighted the connections between industrial food animal production and the growing number of antibiotic resistant infections across the country. Couric’s second installment dismantled several arguments which critics of PAMTA often use to dissuade passage. I’ll point out just two.

First, the report puts to rest the deceptive claims by PAMTA opponents who point to outdated data from Denmark that they say proves an antibiotic-ban in the U.S. would hurt farmers. Opponents allude that the Danish ban on non-therapeutic antibiotics in food animals was a failure, claiming the numbers show the ban increased the mortality of piglets and required the increase of therapeutic antibiotic usage to treat sick pigs. Couric’s second report opened in Denmark, focusing on the “Danish Experience.” Farmers and researchers there tell a much different story. Couric interviewed Danish hog farmer Soren Helmer, who said, “We thought we could not produce pigs as efficient as we did before. But that was proven wrong.” Couric reported, “since the ban the Danish pork industry has grown by 43 percent making it one of the top exporters in the world.”

As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, Danish scientists, from the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark, Drs. Frank Møller Aarestrup and Henrik Wegener, submitted last July written testimony for a U.S. House Committees Rules hearing on PAMTA. They wrote, “As you may be aware, representatives of organizations funded by U.S. agri-business have criticized and mis-represented the facts on the Danish ban of antibiotics since its inception.” The scientists found that the total antibiotic use for pork decreased by 50% and that piglet deaths initially increased, but after improving animal living conditions those numbers have since dipped below pre-ban numbers. Read More >

Study Finds Menu Labels Including Daily Caloric Requirement are Much More Effective Than Labels Alone

Last week I discussed why obesity experts, such as Drs. Kelly Brownell and David Kessler, believe highly processed foods are leading to excessive overeating. Until healthier unprocessed foods are more readily available and affordable, today I want to focus on one way we can thwart the cravings believed to be triggered by eating foods engineered or prepared with extra fat, sugar and salt and that’s by reducing your daily caloric intake.

With our fast paced lives and limited time to prepare meals, Americans are eating out much more often than just a decade ago. The latest numbers show that we spend almost half of our food expenditures outside the home.

Since foods purchased outside the home are often higher in calories and served in larger portions there’s been a push at all government levels to encourage restaurants to post calorie labels on their menus to give consumers a better idea of just how many calories they’re consuming. New York City was first to pass a menu-labeling law in 2006. Since then several cities and states, including Philadelphia, Nashville, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Oregon have all passed their own menu-labeling legislation. The latest state to approve a menu-labeling bill is New Jersey. And soon we could see a federal law passed. Both House and Senate versions of the Health Care Reform Bill have menu-labeling provisions attached. Read More >

10 in 10: Ensure Every American Child Has Access to Healthy and Affordable Food: A “Gentle” Wish For a New Decade

10in101A new decade brings new opportunities and challenges. The interaction between diet and health received significant attention during “The Aughts.” What will we do during this next decade to respond to the call for action for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle? This is the fourth in a continuing series highlighting 10 ways you can help this year.

Knowing that the obesity epidemic in the United States has some scientists predicting that for the first time in history American children will live shorter lives than their parents, my wish for the next decade is to see First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama and his administration succeed in their mission to ensure that every American child has access to healthy and affordable food. A recent gathering of Obama Administration officials invited to discuss their efforts to improve America’s food system left me hopeful that my wish will come true.

Courtesy: White House Blog

Courtesy: White House Blog

Last month in D.C. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Dora Hughes, Counselor to the Secretary of Health, and Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and Food Initiative Coordinator for the First Lady each shared their goals for the next year during an event for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Community Program. Surprisingly it wasn’t their words that left me so inspired; rather it was the words of 10-year-old David Martinez-Ruiz. Kass shared with the audience a letter that the D.C. elementary school student had presented to the First Lady following his class visit to the White House Garden.

One of the things that I want to say about being at the White House was how gentle the feeling was. It felt surprisingly natural to be there. We planted on a warm day. The sun was out and there was a little breeze. The grass was beautiful and green. The people made us feel good. I liked the way the staff person who helped me was very gentle with the worms we found. I think about the garden as being gentle: gentle with nature, gentle to your body, and gentle with each other. Read More >

How Can You Combat Climate Change? Nobel Laureate & Music Legend Say Eat Less Meat One Day a Week

Nobel Laureate Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Sir Paul McCartney, former Beatles superstar turned environmental activists addressed the European Parliament (EP) today (Dec. 3. 2009) in hopes of encouraging legislators to consider what actions Europeans can personally take to combat global warming, such as going Meatless on Monday. Today’s hearing entitled “Global Warming and Food Policy: Less Meat = Less Heat” was organized by EP Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott and opened by Parliament’s President Jerzy Buzek.
Citing the United Nation’s report, Livestock’s Long Shadow, Pachauri and McCartney warned that global meat production is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined. The United Kingdom Press Association (UKPA) quoted McCartney as saying, “People are confused about what they can do – they can try one meat-free day a week. It’s kind of interesting once you get into it.”

Dr. Robert Lawrence, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, who has long supported and served as a scientific advisor for the Meatless Monday Campaign, was invited to attend today’s hearing in Brussels. While he couldn’t make it to Belgium in time, he did provide EP leaders with a letter. Read More >

Protein 101: Dispelling the Myth Surrounding Meatless Meals

It is disappointing to see members of the media spread misinformation due to their own ignorance, gullibility, or, worse, disinterest in digging for the truth — especially when it has to do with the health of children. Case in point, a reporter from a South Dakota talk radio show apparently believes that Baltimore City Public Schools’ Meatless Monday meals are lacking in protein. Last Friday, Tom Riter asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a rather leading question (notice how many times he said “bother”) during a USDA news conference to preview the Obama administration’s priorities for the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization:

“Mr. Secretary, I was wondering if it bothered you… that… you were talking about the importance of the nutrition for the school children… and I was wondering if it bothered you that school districts like Baltimore, Maryland institute Meatless Mondays… not letting the children have protein in the diet by doing that. Does that bother you?”

Seriously? He thinks Baltimore City Schools are denying kids their recommended daily allowance of protein? I hate to break it to you Mr. Riter, but meat isn’t the only food that contains protein. Read More >

School Lunch Revolution Blossoms in Baltimore

Baltimore City Public Schools' Great Kids Farm

Baltimore City Public Schools' Great Kids Farm

Sometimes change happens in the most unexpected places. When I learned that Baltimore City Public Schools was on a mission to change the way its more than 80,000 students thought about food, I have to admit, I was surprised. The cash strapped school system has long faced difficult challenges and the last place I expected to see noticeable reform was with its food services department. To top that off, you could have bowled me over, when I heard that the City Schools’ new chef/dietitian, Mellissa Mahoney, convinced her boss, Tony Geraci, to let her develop her own Meatless Monday lunch menus. To be honest, I doubt that Mahoney needed to do a lot of convincing. When it comes to dreaming up innovative and cost effective ways to feed kids healthy, tasty, whole foods, Geraci isn’t shy about pushing the envelope. It’s Geraci’s bold and sometimes brash entrepreneur spirit that has captured the attention of food policy experts across the country, including the White House.

Read More >