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EDITORIAL: America’s 1970s Health Craze: Death For Dinner

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 Editorial: America’s 1970’s Health Craze: Death For Dinner

America’s

Poison

Food ?

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Consider the possibility, for a moment, that Society’s efforts in the 1970s to “get America healthy” may have inadvertently poisoned our food.

Did we create stronger diseases by misunderstanding nature’s processes?

Then, America’s Health Craze of the 1970s becomes a social fad, rather than a movement. And, the issue of changes in farming practices and the preservatives added to extend the lives of fruits, vegetables and meats should make us wonder what we are really eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

America’s Health Craze in the 1970s took off like a brush fire in a high wind. But, America’s Health Craze spread like an infectious disease that could not be stopped. Time and again people were told if they got “healthy” they would live longer.

1960s’ Bad Health Habits

Rewind to the 1960s. In 1960, many adults smoked cigarettes like choo choo trains and they drank like fish. By the 1960s, it was fairly common knowledge that a chemical known as “Red Dye Number 2” was routinely added to meat to give off a color that shoppers expected their fresh meat in the butcher shop to have.

DDT Outlawed

In the 1960s, DDT had been a popular pesticide that was used to kill insect pests in farm crops. By the 1970s, the serious concerns about the after effects of DDT was getting it off the market quickly and farmers would have to rely on pharmaceutical companies to come up with a safer pesticide.

The 1970s arrived and the American Health Franchises sprang up like Texas oil wells belching crude sky high. As the Ecology Movement and the First Earth Day was gearing up in America, the idea of organic farming and gardening was catching on quickly. Americans wanted “natural” methods used to treat the crops and feed the livestock, which would end up in their supermarkets and on their dinner tables.

From The Soil To The Table

Spade and Seeds – Organic Gardening became popular in the 1970s as Americans sought for natural ways to control insect pests in their gardens without running the risk of endangering the vegetables for the supper table. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

While people in the cities were wondering how to “safely” grow their food. Small family farms kept planting their “truck patch” gardens and kept “fattening” up a calf or feeder pig like they had done for generations. The majority of their food came straight from the soil of their gardens to the dinner table.  

Corn in the garden – Home gardeners in Stone County, Missouri use their skill and knowledge of the soil, insects, local wildlife and weather conditions to grow “roasting ears” for the dinner table. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.



A farm family’s meat was usually a calf or feeder pig that had been penned up and fed to a given weight. In the fall or the winter, the calf or pig would, then, be “processed” with the pieces of meat being “sugar cured” and hung up in the smokehouse.

Red Angus calf in a pasture on Warren Land – In the 1960s, in Stone County, Missouri, rural farm families would usually select a calf to fatten up and a pig to be a feeder pig for their beef and pork for the winter. By fall or early winter, the animal would be taken to either Crane or Highlandville to the packing plant. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

By the 1960s, in southwest Missouri, the fattened calf or feeder pig would be taken to the Crane or Highlandville packing plants. The meat would be wrapped in paper and readied for families to pick up to put in the freezer until ready for use.

Meanwhile, in American cities in the 1970s, gymnasiums sprouted up like weeds. The enthusiasts were pushing “Running” like carnival barkers at an amusement park. “Jogging” quickly became the fad of the day and by 1973, it seemed everyone in America had a gym membership, polyester headbands, wristbands, jogging suits and sneakers.

Even before critics and legislators went after cigarette smokers and breweries, the health entrepreneurs were churning out everything from powdered health drinks to the “No Pain, No Gain” T Shirts.

The American Health Craze Theory of the 1970s

The theory was America was going to get healthy. Americans would live longer. Some optimists even claimed that most major diseases would be a thing of the past.

In 2011, it seems “America’s Health Craze” was simply a “craze,” that flashed like lightning and disappeared like white shoes, white belts and platform shoes of the 1970s.

American Health Craze Significant Results ?

Americans are still dropping dead of Heart Attacks, Heart Disease and Strokes. Cancer seems even more vicious now than in 1960, or, perhaps, we have felt the need to “segregate” the different types of Cancer into specialized categories

I remember some adults in the 1960s had diabetes, but no one ever said “Type II Diabetes.”

I remember a few overweight people in the 1960s, but, in 2011, it seems “Every American alive has a weight issue from kids to adults.”

Old Timers or Alzheimer ?

In the 1960s, I remember, there were some elderly people who were said to be going senile or had a case of “Old Timers.” The name Alzheimer had not been used yet. I remember very few people who became so stricken that they would be helpless and bed-ridden until death. “Hospice” and “Home Health Care” were unknown terms in the 1960s, especially in southwest Missouri, where rural families looked after one another.

In 2011, Alzheimer seems to have become an accepted step on the road to an elderly death.

If Americans health is getting worse in 2011; what really happened in the 1970s ?

I suspect, two major changes: (1) A Significant Change In Farming Procedures and (2) Preservatives allowed more foods to be stocked on grocery store shelves

In the 1970s, the first heart transplant was performed. It would seem the American Medical Community was on the right track. Where did the American Health Craze Train slam into the mountain?

Why The Change In Farming Procedures ?

The healthy ideas to improve America’s Food Supply may have poisoned it. A farming idea to improve poultry and livestock in the 1970s may have backfired.

Livestock Logic

Livestock gets their nutrients from the soil. Cows eat grass and the nutrients get absorbed into their bodies. Hogs root their noses in the dirt and you can watch them smacking away at insects in the soil. Chickens scratch at the soil and peck their beaks in the dirt. But, the concept of “Confinement Farming of the 1970s” was aimed at changing the traditional approach.

A Red Angus and a Polled Hereford cow in the old tomato field pasture on Warren Land. These cattle are in the pasture that in the 1970s bloomed with “Red Gold of Stone County, Missouri ” – tomatoes. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Poultry Penitentiaries

The poultry change seemed to happen quickly. Chickens and turkeys were no longer free to roam around outside and peck and scratch in the dirt. Suddenly, they were confined into long poultry houses that became Maximum Security Prisons For Poultry. Rows of cages in a controlled environment of heating and cooling. They either laid eggs or remained in their cages until plump enough to be shipped off for “processing.”

Since chickens and turkeys were no longer free to scratch in the soil and absorb minerals into their bodies that would mean that those minerals would have to be artificially induced, either through feed or vaccinations. Nature quit feeding the chickens and the turkeys, who were being raised in controlled “cradle to the grave” environments with no access to nature.

Confinement Farming

My 1970s Ag Ring. Hand model- Samuel E. Warren Jr. Photo by Christy Warren.

I was in the Future Farmers of America and the vocational agriculture courses in the early 1970s. I remember in 1972 information was everywhere about “Confinement Farming,” especially beef cattle. farmers were being encouraged to “confine” their cattle into new styles of barns to restrict and eventually eliminate the livestock’s movement into the outdoors.

On the surface, the idea seemed logical. Data was being distributed that a single cow could eat X amount of pasture that translated into significant amounts of money in terms of acres of pasture needed to feed a cow.

Plus, in the fall and winter, when pasture dies, farmers had to have the money to supply bales of hay to feed their cattle through the winter. A dry spring or summer in southwest Missouri meant local farmers would try to contact farmers in Arkansas or Texas for hay, which then added the cost of transportation to the cost of the hay.

Thus, Confinement Farming would be cheaper and reap more profits faster if cattle were taken out of the field and imprisoned in these barns. It was a hard sell issue. I remember, farm magazine after farm magazine seemed to applaud the ideology because it was aimed at cutting expenses and increasing profits. The obvious size difference of cattle in comparison to chickens was one of the drawbacks to trying to confine cattle into barns from the cradle to the grave production cycle.

In southwest Missouri, in Stone County, cattle are still allowed to graze in pastures. There are no large cattle beef farms or factory farms in southwest Missouri.  In 2011, the majority of Stone County farmers are part-time farmers, who have to have a “day job” to make a living and supply money for farming.

I’ve heard local farmers complain that it seems the state and federal governments are constantly coming up with new laws to force farmers to increase record keeping and vaccinations of beef cattle. The Mad Cow Scare of the 1990s is the supposed justification for the mandated government changes, but the rise in cattle vaccinations began in the 1970s in Stone County, Missouri.  

My mother, a hog farmer, who had a herd of 25 Hampshire, Yorkshire and Duroc hogs in the 1960s and 1970s had begun to complain in the late 1970s that there were fewer “feeder pig” buyers coming to farms to buy the pigs

And, the rumors of hog farmers being forced by the government to adopt the practices of “confinement farming” for hogs was a persistent rumor and concern in the late 1970s.  By the early 1980s, my mother  had sold off the swine and “gotten out of the hog business.”

Beefing Up The Beef”

As a kid, a Black Angus bull normally weighed in about 400 to 500 pounds. In 2011, they seem to look more like 800 pounds. That might not be a problem if the cattle are naturally evolving into bigger beef physiques, but if government regulations are forcing the “beefing up” of bulls, then, essentially you may have the “bodybuilder using steroids issue” being forced on cattle through official channels.

The increased weight could also cause a problem for farmers. If the bigger bulls are being used to service the cows then there is the possibility that the cows will be unable to breed.

Like a woman, it takes a cow nine months to deliver. If a farmer has a cow that does not give birth to a calf or the calf dies then that is a year’s time plus a year’s food and water is wasted. In a herd of 25 or more cattle, you multiply the sterile or still births and the outcome is a farmer is facing the real possibility of bankruptcy.

The irony is that Black Angus was always a favored breed among local farmers because the calves were born small and naturally and quickly grew to a respectable size for beef to be taken to the market in a short period of time in comparison to other breeds of cattle.

Pork Prisons

Once the move to imprison turkeys and chickens had caught on and the idea to confine cattle seemed to be catching on , then, the experts focused on hogs. Again, the solution was essentially the same as with cattle. Confine the hogs to a building to reduce the amount of pasture needed and increase profits quickly by fattening up the hogs and getting them processed quicker.

While a cow chews the grass in a pasture, a hog roots their snout deep into the dirt and enthusiastically consumes the minerals in their mouths. Experts may not have realized the importance of the minerals being naturally consumed. Hogs will also find a shade in a hollow and lie on beds of dead leaves or root up the dirt to create a hog wallow, where they can roll in the dirt to refresh themselves.

After a rain, they will wallow in these ruts and cover themselves with mud to stay cool, during a hot day. Since hogs root under fences in search of earthworms, grub worms and plant roots, farmers would put a ring in their noses to keep the swine in their own pastures. Hogs always seemed committed to making a major environmental impact on nature.

Experts’ theory was that hogs could be kept in buildings with concrete floors that would be easy to clean. No longer able to root around over acres of land, the cradle to grave production cycle of hogs would result in savings to farmers who wouldn’t need acres of land to raise herds of hogs.

However, the inability of hogs to root in the ground and wallow in the pasture to interact with nature would mean that the swine would have to receive the minerals artificially in the feed or through shots.

Another benefit of the hog confinement operation over the traditional hog farm was: The Smell. Growing up on a hog farm you learn quickly that hog manure has a distinctive strong odor and if the wind shifts toward your nose, then, you have no doubt you are on a hog farm. Confinement farming of hogs solved the problem of neighbors’ sensitive noses and local planning and zoning regulations.

Vegan Victims ?

Vegans and vegetarians are not immune to the changes in farming. Without livestock in the pasture to continue Nature’s chain of recycling; there has to be a way to replenish the soil. In southwest Missouri in the 1960s, farmers basically relied on the Holy Bible instructions of farming a piece of land for six years and letting it lie “fallow” – unused for the seventh year.

Burning Brush

While the land laid unploughed and unplanted for a year, brush was cut off of the land. Farmers would then choose a calm evening in the fall and stand watch as they burned the brush piles. Burning the brush piles, destroyed winter habitats for snakes, chiggers and ticks, while the burned woods would contribute minerals back into the soil to promote pasture growth in the coming year.

In 2011, in Stone County, Missouri, local farmers haven’t burned any of their brush piles for years. Natural decay of dead leaves and rotting wood takes years to return the minerals to the soil. Spring and Summer of 2011, I have noticed several snakes on the land and the number of ticks seem overwhelming just by walking through the yard.

Without brush being burned to put minerals back into the soil, some local farmers have to resort to buying chemical fertilizers to spread on their pastures to promote the growth of grasses. Thus, minerals have to be artificially replaced into the soil for livestock to consume.

Usually cattle, hogs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, sheep, and goats would digest the nutrients in their bodies and return the digested waste in the form of manure to the pasture, thus, Nature’s fertilizer would break down and naturally feed the plants and grasses.

Once poultry and livestock were taken out of pastures and confined on concrete floor rather than the earth, then, of course, alternative fertilizers had to be added to the soil. Plus, without getting the minerals naturally from nature meant that the poultry and livestock would have to receive the nutrients through either feed or shots.

Vaccinations for Disease not Vitamins

In the 1960s, farmers usually vaccinated their livestock to prevent or quickly stop the spread of a possible disease. In 2011, I’ve noticed that farmers seem to be required to give their cattle a series of seemingly never ending vaccinations.

Danger of Preservatives ?

The real issue of the distances of geography in the United States means that businesses have to have a solution to keep food “fresh” from the pastures to the market. While the government seemed to support the “confinement farming” concept, there would also have to be a way to try and preserve “freshness” in the foods until they reach their destinations.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is the agency that is charged with trying to figure out what works and doesn’t work when it comes to food and drugs. The fanatic push of health enthusiasts of the 1970s had to have FDA officials and Department of Agriculture inspectors under the gun to get healthy produce on the shelves quickly.

In the 1970s it seemed almost every week there was a new powdered health drink going on the shelves that suggested it could turn 98-pound weaklings into buff bodybuilders and do it healthy. Perhaps, rigorous testing was done, but, the persistent push for healthy foods quickly expanded the ingredients labels on boxes to include a plethora of words that read more like the periodic table of elements rather than natural ingredients.

Personal Conclusion

The claims of the American Health Craze of the 1970s were that by living healthy and eating healthy fruits, meat and vegetables, Americans would live longer and not have the debilitating diseases and health problems of their parents and grandparents.

Yet, in 2011, I notice that virtually every American wrestles with weight issues in their lives. Middle age and senior Americans visit their doctors to be put on diets to control their blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, calories, weight and the amount of salt in their diets. I don’t remember hearing adults in the 1960s routinely going to their doctors for diets.

Vegetables Grow In The Garden – In the 1960s, Stone County farm families usually picked their vegetables straight out of the garden and took them into the kitchen to wash, clean and cook for the evening’s dinner table. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Personally, my parents and grandmother seemed healthier physically than middle age, senior and, even the younger people that I see on the sidewalk.

Vegetable Row In The Garden – In 2011, Americans and Missourians, who live in major metropolitan cities like Kansas City, St. Louis, Jefferson City, Springfield, Republic,Nixa and Branson may have to rely on supermarkets for fresh fruits, meats and vegetables. In rural communities like Galena, Abesville, Crane and Reeds Spring, southwest Missouri residents can “go to the garden” and pick their produce. Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

There is even news stories in 2011 of how medical officials are suggesting to legislators to pass laws to remove children from their parents because the kids are “obese.” The irony is the issue may be that Society is responsible for the childrens’ weight gain overall and not necessarily the parents.

In the 1900s, arsenic was used to kill pests on tomato plants. A buildup of arsenic in the body leads to death, thus, people quit using arsenic to kill off tomato plant pests.

Buying bottled water, counting calories, watching the cholesterol number, jogging and working out on a regular basis to live longer may not mean much if we are all eating poisoned food on a regular basis that have added preservatives and artificially substituted synthetic minerals rather than natural minerals from the earth.

The irony of America’s Health Craze of the 1970s is in our enthusiasm to get healthy and live longer, we may have created new health problems, increased old ones and essentially “poisoned our own food supply” by trying to take short cuts to produce healthier meat, fruits and vegetables while trying to make more money quicker for businesses within the overall food processing system.

Bon Appetite !

Sam

Story Sources

Confinement Farming – Factory Farming – Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factory_farming

DDT – Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT

Mad Cow Disease – Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovine_spongiform_encephalopathy

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Written by samwarren55

July 18, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Posted in Editorial, Family, HEALTH, Opinion, Photos

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5 Responses

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  1. […] Visit link: EDITORIAL: America's 1970s Health Craze: Death F&#959r Dinner « Sam I … […]

    • I found this piece to be very unfocused. I agree with you that factory farming is an abomination, but you seem to be blaming a health craze in the 1970s for many of the health issues of modern-day America (correct me if I’m wrong). I also get the impression that you don’t understand the mechanism of organic farming.

      Soil is a very complex ecosystem, and you need to understand how it works to get the best out of it. You bemoan the fact that your local farmers no longer burn the brush on their land, which you claim is the fastest way to return nutrients to the soil. It may be the quickest, but is the least efficient. When you burn off the organic matter, you deprive the soil of an essential component. Soil with a low organic content is very poor at retaining nutrients, all of which are water-soluble. You’re short-circuiting a natural process for short-term gains.

      On a factual note, DNA wasn’t “discovered” in the 1970s. Crick and Watson worked out the complex structure of DNA in 1953, in one of the most significant scientific papers of the 20th century. Presumably, it’s existence had already been known for some time.

      I don’t want to sound too critical, because I sense that your heart is in the right place, but speaking as a retired book editor, there are quite a few passages here where I’d have needed to ask you directly what you meant by a particular passage. I get your central point though. Our food’s crap. Still, my wife and I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and we cycle 100 miles a week. I’m 65 next month, and I think I’ll be around long enough to see the beginning of the future I foresee in:

      http://dennishodgson.blogspot.com/2011/06/future-imperfect.html

      Dennis Hodgson

      July 19, 2011 at 2:08 AM

      • Dennis,

        Think you for taking the time to read my editorial. I get passionate about an issue and sometimes I let it take me in to too many different directions, In vo-ag in the 1970s, it was called, “Confinement Farming,” ; only recently did I learn that it is the same as “Factory Farming,”

        My intent was to suggest that the change in farming practices, questionable livestock vaccinations and putting chemicals in the food may have done more to harm health that help it.

        I do wonder if the “Rush to Judgement” in the Health Craze create more problems than it solved.

        I probably don’t understand “organic farming.” I grew up on a farm and we just called it farming. To me the term, “organic farming” is like “investigative journalist” All journalists by the nature of the job are essentially investigators, thus, the term becomes redundant. The same is probably true for “Organic Farming,” because on the farm in the 1960s and 1970s we didn’t go out of our way to use chemicals if there was a natural or common solution,

        Brush piles and dead leaves take years to decay naturally. The soil in this area is filled with numerous rocks and requires sufficient effort just to be able to plant anything. There is an abundance of limestone in the area. While soil may be a very complex ecosystem, unfortunately in southwest Missouri with the fragipan potential, the incline of the terrain and a moody weather system of rain and no rain – the soil usually comes down to tomatoes, corn or pasture.

        I would hope the editorial reminds people not to be so quick to “jump on a bandwagon” simply because their friends do it. I hate to think that some doctor and cop is going to take a kid from his parents simply because the parents didn’t buy the kid ” a weight control system” or a diet book that “the doc and his medical buddies were out pushing on diets.”

        Fisherman and Farmers would probably both benefit more from “support” and less “official guidance” from the federal and state governments. Thanks again for your comment. I’ll stop by your blog.

        Sam

        samwarren55

        July 19, 2011 at 4:00 PM

  2. Thanks a million for this, I appreciate the info

    癌症

    July 30, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    • Dolce33,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Thank you for the comment.

      Sam

      samwarren55

      July 30, 2011 at 2:26 PM


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