A Note From the Founder: Today’s essay is something special. It’s part of what I recently sent to Manward Letter subscribers as a way to celebrate the launch of my new book, Nature’s Miracles: 73 (New) Alternatives to Modern Medicine. If you enjoy today’s essay… you’ll definitely want to get your hands on one of the 150 free copies of the book I’m giving away today. Click here for all the details.
Each time we tell somebody we’re headed to Maine with a handful of readers this fall, they ask me the same question.
“Sounds fantastic,” they say. “Are you going to eat some lobster?”
It’s the perfect question.
It hits on the reason we’re headed to this beautiful resort with presidential connections.
You see, the story behind America’s love of lobsters is a bit of a fascinating tale.
It will open your eyes. It will prove there are often surprising forces behind what we eat and why we eat it.
You see, lobsters haven’t always been the food of kings.
In fact, in the 1800s, lobsters were considered the “cockroaches of the sea.”
They were so unworthy of the average man’s palate that the crustaceans were fed to prisoners. But even that was frowned upon… as eating lobster was considered the equivalent of eating rat meat.
But then came new technology. Folks in the northeast were able to can their catches and send the lobster to big cities down the coast via train.
Savvy marketers took advantage of the newfound sales territory. They slapped beautiful labels on their cans and took their product to the rails, selling lobsters to traveling Americans.
Taking advantage of the fact their new customers in the south and in the west didn’t know lobsters were literally piled 2-feet high on the Maine coast, they aggressively marketed the seafood as rare and exotic.
Soon rail passengers were asking for this new “delicacy” in restaurants.
And as demand soared… supply plummeted. Prices rose and lobster could no longer be afforded by the poor.
Thanks to a bit of savvy marketing, lobster went from a food that was barely allowed to be fed to prisoners to a rich man’s food.
Think about that the next time you pull up to a Red Cockroach, er, a Red Lobster.
Of course, it’s not just lobster.
It’s all over what we call the Machine-to-Table food system.
Our meat… our corn… our fruits… very little is as it appears.
The system has infiltrated our lives. Its marketing campaigns are huge, successful and manipulative.
If folks knew the truth… they’d never eat the same way again.
At least that’s our goal, anyway.
The Machine Lies
Take this hugely growing organic food trend of the last decade or so. In some ways, it’s quite good. It has shone a light on sustainable farming practices, cut the use of pesticides and helped develop some useful new technology.
But much of the claims are bunk.
“Let me be clear about one thing,” former secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman said when organic certification was first being considered. “The organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.”
But once again, marketers slapped a label on our food, took out some ads and made us feel good about what we were eating… and what they charge a premium for.
The truth is the organic craze is just another way for the nation’s agricultural system to grow. It’s a smart way (at least if you’re a producer) to boost profits in an industry with razor-thin margins.
It’s paid off handsomely.
A nonprofit group led by experts in the food and ag sectors recently studied hundreds of industry and news reports, marketing campaigns, and speeches dating back more than 30 years.
What it found should not shock anybody who’s paying attention.
“Consumers have spent hundreds of billions of dollars purchasing premium-priced organic food products based on false or misleading perceptions about comparative product food safety, nutrition and health attributes,” and that this is due to “a widespread organic and natural products industry pattern of research-informed and intentionally deceptive marketing and paid advocacy.”
What we find crazy – but certainly not surprising – is how the federal government is actively subsidizing the effort.
Thanks to the USDA’s Organic Seal program and the National Organic Program, consumers are being duped into believing that a sticker or seal slapped on their food somehow makes it better.
To be sure, some foods raised with organic standards do offer unique benefits. Organic, grass-fed beef has proved much healthier than feedlot-raised steers. The meat is leaner, contains more omega-3 fatty acids and has higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid, which is known to reduce risks of heart disease and cancer.
We’ve written before about the devastating trend that has lowered the amount of vitamins and nutrients in the fruits and vegetables on our tables. But according to a recent Stanford study, that’s equally true of organic and conventional produce.
And we’ve written extensively about some of the dirty tricks used by companies like Monsanto.
But a good man is a fair man.
And fairness dictates we must throw stones in both directions.
Organic Doesn’t Mean Healthy
Few folks know it, but a groundbreaking article from Scientific American shows that “organic pesticides pose the same health risks as nonorganic ones.”
“Natural,” the paper concludes, is not synonymous with “harmless.”
In the paper, the author, Christie Wilcox, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii, compared the organic chemicals copper sulfate and pyrethrum with their top synthetic competitors.
The findings were stunning. The organic versions were more acutely and chronically toxic.
Her research backed data from Europe that showed copper sulfate – again, a popular chemical in the organics game – is far more dangerous than synthetic alternatives.
You won’t see that fact on an organic label.
Further, a study of rotenone – a popular plant-derived chemical used to kill anything from insects to weeds and even fish – has been shown to be quite dangerous to humans.
In fact, several studies have linked the “organic” chemical to Parkinson’s disease. A surprising 2010 study showed that even undetectable limits of the chemical caused symptoms of the disease in lab mice.
Another study by the National Institutes of Health showed a clear link between rotenone and Parkinson’s disease in farm workers.
And a study out of Texas found, get this, the Parkinson’s risk associated with rotenone was five times higher than that of chlorpyrifos, the synthetic alternative.
The clear conclusion… “Organic” does not equal “safe.”
Voltaire once said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
With that line in mind, we beg readers to take some time to think about the nation’s food system.
Take some time to ask questions.
The bottom line is that our nation’s food system is designed to feed an ignorant, lazy population.
Those words are harsh, but they’re the truth.
Most folks never stop to think. If we judge them, as Voltaire begs us to do, by their questions… they fail.
They see a pretty box with a fancy label and pay a bit more for it. They’re happy about it – and so are the marketers.
But you shouldn’t stand for it.
What we eat in America has more to do with slick advertising than health.
Don’t succumb to the Machine-to-Table fallacy.
There are better alternatives.
P.S. I recently released my latest book. It’s called Nature’s Miracles: 73 (New) Alternatives to Modern Medicine. If you think the organic food industry has gone astray… wait until you hear what’s happening in the world of medicine. My incredible journey starts with the tale of a powerful all-natural powder that Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about. The full story is at this link.