I read this book months ago and have been meaning to write a review of it on this blog since then. It is so chock-full of information that I want to share, that I found it hard to figure out where to begin.
The book is written by John Robbins, the son of the founder of Baskin Robbins ice cream. While he grew up eating ice cream daily, he now believes that better health can be achieved by avoiding animal products. The Food Revolution (2001) is his updated argument for a vegan diet, following his popular book A Diet for a New America (1987).
The book is broken down into four parts:
- Food and Healing – the role of animal products in human health.
- Our Food, Our Fellow Creatures – an examination of the treatment of the animals we eat.
- Our Food, Our World – how our diet affects the planet.
- Genetic Engineering – an alarming account of genetic engineering, written before it became as pervasive as it is now.
Here are some interesting facts and excerpts from the Food and Healing section:
- Average cholesterol in the U.S.: 210. Average cholesterol of U.S. vegetarians: 161. Average cholesterol of U.S. vegans: 133.
- Incidence of high blood pressure in meat eaters compared to vegetarians: nearly triple.
- Patients with high blood pressure who are able to completely discontinue use of medications after adopting a low-sodium, low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet: 58%.
- According to the National Cattlemen’s Association “The basic reason why heart disease and cancer have become the number one and number two causes of death in the U.S. and other affluent counties is that people are living longer. What has allowed us to live long enough to run these risks? Meat, among other things.”
- William Castelli, M.D. (the director of the Framingham Heart Study at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute), says that “some people scoff at vegetarians, but they have only 40% of our cancer rate. They outlive us. On average, they outlive other men by about six years now.”
- U.S. children who eat the recommended levels of fruits, vegetables, and grains: 1%. U.S. vegan children who eat the recommended levels of fruits, vegetables, and grains: 50%.
- Protein in human breast milk: 5% of total calories. Minimum human protein requirement according to the World Health Organization: 5% of total calories. U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance for adult protein intake: 10% of total calories.
- The meat industry claims that children must eat meat in order to have proper brain development. According to research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the average IQ of U.S. children is 99, while the average IQ of vegetarian U.S. children is 116.
- The more animal protein people consume (which makes the blood more acidic), the more calcium is lost by our bones (which the bones leach to try to balance the pH of the more acidic blood). The National Dairy Council funded a study in which post-menopausal women drank three additional 8-oz glasses of skim milk compared to a control group (providing 1500 mg of calcium daily). The results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that the women who drank more milk actually lost more calcium from their bones than the control group.
- A study of diet and hip fractures in 33 countries found “an absolutely phenomenal correlation” between the consumption of animal products and weaker bones/hip fractures. The more fruits and vegetables eaten and the less animal foods consumed, the stronger the bones and the fewer the fractures.
- The countries with the highest consumption of dairy products are also the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis: Finland, Sweden, United States, and England.
- Amount of calcium lost in the urine of a woman after eating a hamburger: 28 mg.
- Daily calcium intake for African Americans is more than 1000 mg. Daily calcium intake for black South Africans is only 196 mg, yet African Americans experience a hip fracture rate 9 times greater than black South Africans.
- 80 different antibiotics are allowed in U.S. cow’s milk.
- 65% of adults worldwide do not drink milk.
- Cow’s milk provides 9 times more saturated fat than soy beverages. Soy beverages provide 10 times more essential fatty acids than cow’s milk.
- The amount of antibiotics used in U.S. hospitals in 2001 was 100 times greater than 35 years previously. Despite this, the Union of Concerned Scientists declares that antibiotic use in factory farms account for the overwhelming majority of antibiotic use in the country.
- In 1998, the journal Science called the meat industry “the driving force behind the development of antibiotic resistance in certain species of bacteria that cause human disease.”
- 3 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to people in the U.S. annually, while 24.6 million pounds are administered to livestock.
- The European Union has prohibited treating any farm animal with sex hormones to promote growth (since many of these hormones are known to cause human cancers and reproductive dysfunction) since 1995. After the EU banned the sale of hormone-treated meat within the EU, the U.S. complained to the World Trade Organization about the lost profit. The EU had to pay the U.S. $150 million per year as compensation, but they are willing to do this to prevent U.S. beef from being sold in their countries.
- In 1999, the EU tested meat samples from the U.S. Hormone Free Cattle program and found that 12% had in fact been treated with sex hormones.
Facts from the Our Food, Our Fellow Creatures section:
- Traditionally, it took a broiler chicken 21 weeks to reach 4-pound market weight. But today, with the birds having been systematically bred for obesity, it takes only 7 weeks. 1/3 the time! If a 7 pound human baby grew at the same rate that today’s turkeys and broiler chickens grow, when the baby reached 18 weeks of age, it would weight 1500 pounds.
- Broiler chickens now grow so rapidly that the heart and lungs are not developed well enough to support the remainder of the body, resulting in congestive heart failure and tremendous death losses. As the birds become rapidly obese, severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common, leading to blindness, kidney damage, bone and muscle weakness, brain damage, internal bleeding, anemia, deformed beaks and joints, etc.
- 90% of broiler chickens are so obese by 6 weeks of age that they can no longer walk.
- Turkeys today grow so fast that it is impossible for them to mate naturally. They simply can’t get close enough to physically manage. All 300 million turkeys born annually in the U.S. are the result of artificial insemination.
- The natural lifespan for a dairy cow is 20 – 25 years. Under modern conditions, they are lucky to live 4 years.
- In a natural situation, cows produce enough milk to feed one or two calves. In today’s dairy factories, they actually produce 20 times that amount. As a result, half of dairy cows in the U.S. have a painful udder infection called mastitis.
- According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation (2001), “Current FDA regulations allow dead pigs and horses to be rendered into cattle feed, along with dead poultry. The regulations not only allow cattle to be fed dead poultry, they allow poultry to be fed dead cattle.”
- Recycled chicken manure is routinely incorporated into the diets of U.S. chickens.
- 90% of U.S. chickens are now infected with leukosis–chicken cancer–at the time of slaughter.
This book was the final nail in coffin for my decision that my family would eat a mostly vegetarian diet from this point forward. My journey began with the book The China Study and seeing the film Food, Inc. It continued with a trial summer of eating as vegan as possible and getting most of our food from a local, organic CSA. In the past 6 months, the only meat we have consumed has been grass-fed, organic, free range, and often local (and we eat it less than once a month). We have cut back significantly on dairy and eggs and eat more vegetables and fruit than ever before. We haven’t eliminated meat entirely (we had turkey for Thanksgiving), but it is consumed rarely and mainly for special occasions (as recommended in the book The Blue Zones). Most importantly, we only consume meat/poultry when the animal’s life and death is satisfactory to us. I actually find this way of eating very enjoyable and not nearly as limiting as I was worried it’d be. We subscribe to Vegetarian Times and love cooking recipes from the cookbook Vegan Planet.
But what about my children and their health? Even my own mother, who understands much of the reasoning behind our decisions, still believes it’s good for her grandsons to eat meat (and will often feed it to them when they visit her). Why is it so hard for Americans to believe that good health can be achieved without meat and dairy? The true testament to our family’s new diet is in the health and weight of my 2-year old. Starting in June, he drank only water (no cow’s milk, soy milk, or juice) daily. All his calories came from food. I started giving him nuts (except peanuts) for fat, along with lots of avocados. Unlike most American children that get their fat from dairy products (which means mostly saturated fats), my son was eating only unsaturated fats. My children ate mostly beans, grains, vegetables, fruit, and olive oil. They each had probably 2-3 eggs per week. We ate very little soy (mostly in the form of soy milk splashed on our oatmeal). We hardly ever ate processed foods and even made our own bread. Five months after this began, my 2-year old has his annual check-up with his pediatrician. And he had actually gone up from 20th percentile to 30th percentile on the weight chart. This from a child that drinks only water and eats veggies, fruits, nuts, and beans! His blood iron levels were also well within the healthy range. I am confident that eating fewer animal products means my family is getting better nutrition than we were before. Even the pediatrician was impressed!
You don’t have to go completely vegetarian or vegan. In fact, I think it’s best to make major lifestyle changes slowly. Try finding a few vegetarian recipes you like and replacing meat dinners with them a couple nights a week. Try using less cheese in your dishes. Try eating more nuts, seeds, and nut butters. You might be pleasantly surprised, as I was, at how satisfying meat-less food can be.
For more, visit John Robbins’ website foodrevolution.org.