Red Meat Didn't Make Us Fat

Prairie Gleanings

Finally, a Newsweek article about food that doesn't take (much of) a swing at mainstream ag.

Published on: May 9, 2012
When Newsweek arrives in my mailbox, standard operating procedure has been to toss it in the trash on the way into the house. I’m not a fan of one-sided, liberally-skewed reporting.

This week’s cover sucked me in. On it is a photo of a baby holding a huge thing of French fries with the headline “When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Weigh 300 Lbs. Help!” My past experience with this magazine led me to believe I’d find another scathing critique of modern food production. I was pleasantly surprised.

Gary Taubes, the article’s author, contends the U.S. is getting it all wrong in the war on obesity. When the USDA rolled out the Food Guide Pyramid, the government essentially told us it was o.k. to eat sugars/sweets "sparingly" and refined grains were perfectly fine. Taubes says the prevalence of sugars, refined flours and starches are making us fat.

“These are the cheapest calories, and they can be plenty tasty without a lot of preparation and preservation,” he adds.

There are a couple wins for agriculture here, if you’re paying attention. The first is his explanation of sugar. The article is fair in its explanation of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Both are described as being a combination of glucose and fructose. I’d like to have seen a little more on the fact that sucrose (table sugar) contains the same amount of fructose as HFCS. But, I’d also like to see HFCS drop the “high fructose” portion of its name.

The other important take home for ag are Taubes’ comments on red meat. He notes health agencies have been waging war on meat consumption in this country since the mid-1970s. Apparently it has worked. Red-meat consumption peaked in the mid-1970s. Yet, our waistlines continue to grow.  Reading between the lines, it appears red meat didn’t make us fat.

Late in the article, Taubes takes a slight jab at the ethics of eating meat, saying there are valid ethical arguments for becoming a vegetarian. Still, I’ll take the good with the bad, especially when the good is an article on food in a liberal-leaning magazine that doesn’t once mention organic, local food or Frankenfood.