Our Soil is Our Health

Today scientists and agronomists are discovering what farmers have known all along - our health depends on the soil. In the 1950s, a French scientist, Andre Voisin wrote a book entitled Soil, Grass & Cancer, summarizing his study of the influence of the soil on the metabolism of the living cell. He found that soil controls specific immunity and studied how nutrient balance in the soil effected the health of grass, the cows and sheep that eat the grass, and the humans who eat both the crops and the animals. His data is still being used today by progressive farmers.

Changes in Agriculture: The Impact of Health

A little over one hundred years ago about 90% of people lived in a family unit on a small farm, growing their own food crops and often raising their own dairy herd and beef. And doing this organically. Life started changing around the turn of the century with industrialization and major changes in agricultural practices. Production of synthetic chemicals skyrocketed particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. As a result, the soil has become depleted causing serious nutrient loss in the food chain since that time.

Many people today mistakenly believe that eating beef causes cancer. In fact, it is not the beef but the agricultural practices that are contributing to, if not causing, cancer because these practices have changed the nutritional profile and quality of the soil, and therefore of food and animals.

In studying the nutrient quality of beef, some researchers report finding no Vitamin A in commercial beef today, whereas it used to be plentiful. Since hormones (routinely given to the animals) and pesticides (in the corn silage and feed) are oil soluble, these are going to be found in the fatty tissues of the animal and its dairy products. Pesticides, in particular, have found to be highly concentrated in dairy products such as butter. Recently, researchers at Harvard Medical School found a relation between greater milk consumption and higher levels of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) in the blood of women. Higher levels of IGF-1 has been associated with increased risk of colon, lung and breast cancer. Bovine growth hormone, which is banned in every developed nation except the United States, has also been found to boost IGF-1 levels in milk.

Conscious, conscientious farmers are slowly turning more to smaller herds, where the animal can range feed on select pasture on a rotation basis. Recognition is being gained on the importance of allowing the cows to feed on organic grass and this is leading to a remembrance that to achieve a high-quality, nutritious grass, one must tend to the soil first and foremost. When the soil is healthy, the grass is healthy and the animals are healthy. Good health and good nutrition go hand in hand.

Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids in Beef

The very flavor of beef was found to be enhanced when cows were grazing organic pastures, allowed to walk around, inhale clean air, enjoy good water and humane, healthy living conditions. Of course the flavor would be enhanced! Most of the flavor comes from the fatty tissue of the animal. The fatty acid content of cows commercially raised on corn silage predominantly consists of Omega 6 fatty acids; while that of cows raised on organic grass is found to be highest in the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids. A typical feed lot cow, fed grains, has nearly a 20:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 oils. Omega 3 fatty acids are created in the green leaves of plants, where they are essential for photosynthesis. Beef raised on good grass has a ratio of 3:1 or better, which is considered the ideal healthy ratio, and is close to that of wild game or wild salmon. This information applies to dairy products as well.

CLA and Grass-Fed Cows

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a fatty acid that has received a lot of press recently. It is found to help modulate insulin pathways, to help inhibit carcinogenesis in experimental animals, and shows anti-cancer efficacy at levels available from a healthy diet. CLAs have been found to inhibit human malignant melanoma, colorectal, breast and lung cancers. Due to modern agricultural practices, very little CLA is now found in beef or dairy, which are the two main sources of these important fatty acids. As ruminants, cows have bacteria in their system that converts linoleic acid into CLA. CLA is found in grass fed cows. In fact, in one study it was found that pasture grazing cows had 500% more CLA in their milk fat than regular feed-lot cows. Other researchers have found five times more CLA in cheese from grass-fed animals as from grain-fed animals.1 Grass-feeding also provides a good blend of trace minerals, as grass transports minerals, and is a rich source of beta carotene, Vitamins A, E and B.22 All provided the soil is well-tended and free of pesticides.

Eating Beef and Dairy in Moderation

From a nutritional viewpoint, beef and dairy foods are very rich, and best eaten in moderation. Eating beef daily can cause congestion in the system. Too much dairy, especially on a regular basis, can be congesting to the lymph system in particular, for most people. Some people do not tolerate beef or dairy at all and are better off without them in their diet. Knowing your constitutional type and current health status helps you to determine this. Some people instinctively know that they feel better and have more energy when they eat a little beef on a regular basis. This is because beef supports the Spleen Qi and gives both good stamina and strength to the system and can be important to help give someone the energy to heal. Only small amounts are needed because beef is a concentrated food.

Written by Suzanne E. Sky, L.Ac., MTOM


1 Acres USA, November 2001: E.W. McDonagh, DO; Processed Food & Cancer, page 38; September 2002: Staff Report; Grassland Beef Comes of Age p. 11-12

2 Ibid and Mother Earth News April/May 2002: Jo Robinson; Pasture Perfect p. 46-50


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