Friday, April 29, 2011

Economic growth we could do without

My husband is in construction and regularly receives requests from general contractors to bid on upcoming commercial projects. Lately, he’s been seeing an increase in the number of bid invitations for new McDonald’s stores. Also, not long ago, the company announced that it would be adding about 25,000 jobs to their payroll. It seems the company is planning an expansion.

It is likely that McDonald’s anticipated growth is the result of market research the company has conducted to determine feasibility. In other words, they wouldn’t be expanding if there wasn’t a “need” or demand for their product. And this is exactly what I find so troubling – that this development reflects what consumers want.

I boycotted McDonald’s over 20 years ago. The only way I’ll step foot in one now is if I’m on a road trip and need a bathroom. For me, the company embodies so much of what’s wrong in the world today, namely 2 things: 1) the disappearance of many “mom and pop” restaurants that served homemade food that simply cannot compete with fast food chains with their enormous buying power, and 2) that these mega chains have grown so large that they have begun to dictate to farmers what to produce and how to produce it, and what varieties to produce, thereby virtually eliminating crop varieties in favor of those that produce the greatest yield, fight the most bugs, look the best, etc. Slowly disappearing are the varieties of fruits and vegetables that we once knew and I think these big companies have something to do with that. I find these developments to be harmful to not only farmers and the environment (let's face it - these farms are not organic, that's for sure), but also to the consumer. There is less and less to choose from and less and less control and we are losing out because of it.

Large global corporations are not concerned about the welfare of others. They are driven by profits, and will cut every corner possible to save money and increase the bottom line for their shareholders. I was a business major, so I understand this concept. I am living it, too, running the day-to-day operations of a small business. But I have to draw the line somewhere, and I do when it comes to food. How have we arrived at this point where we have lost nearly all control over the purity of the food supply? Why have we allowed companies to get so large and powerful that they’re telling farmers what to grow, and us what to eat? (For example, McDonald’s is the nation’s largest purchaser of potatoes. Imagine the kind of power the company has in determining the type of potatoes to grow). Are we asleep at the wheel, folks?

Mostly, I am dismayed that our food standards are so low. Today, when there is so much good food available to us, in terms of quality (produce at farmer’s markets and health food stores) and abundance, why people would settle for cheap fast food, so devoid of fresh taste, nutrition and value of ANY kind, is beyond my understanding. And it's not even that cheap! I can make dinner at home for less.

Despite fillers in the meat, genetically-modified fruits and vegetables, high-fructose corn syrup, and all the fat and calorie-dense, nutritionally-deprived, addictive foods they produce (oh, and let's not forget the harmful chemicals in their food containers)…Americans want more - more McDonald’s!

So, while I am excited that there are companies out there wanting to expand and thereby improve our sluggish economy, I am not happy about this one.
Though I find this news terribly depressing, I am encouraged when I hear about the organic movement gaining momentum, and that more and more people around the globe are questioning what's in their food. I believe we need to make one another more aware of what's going on in companies like McDonald's so that we can make better choices. Who we buy from sends a strong message. We may be individuals with little power, but collectively we can make a difference and evoke changes for the better.
For more reading on these subjects, you can visit the websites of the Environmental Working Group and Generation Green for starters. I hope you are then encouraged to investigate further and make informed decisions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why I cook for my dog

Ok, so I've been away for a while and now I'm back writing an article with a crazy title. What's this all about?

Sister, Mother, Me
in Laguna Beach, CA
First, let me explain the absence: my mother and sister were visiting for about 4 weeks and I only had time to squeeze in a post about carrots. We were busy sightseeing, lounging at the beach, eating as much Mexican food as possible (they don't get that where they live), and watching endless shows on the Food Channel. A good time. But they've both gone home now, and it's time to refocus.

As I was deliberating on what to post next, I was sitting here, looking at my dog, and thought "how can I combine writing about her, and food?". Well, here it is. And I'm gonna just put this out there: I cook for my dog.

I've had dogs for nearly 15 years, and over those years I've become more and more convinced that true dog health is not possible eating the Standard American Doggie Diet (SADD). Let's think this through. If you think about kibble, for instance, it's a bunch of substandard, usually "unfit-for-human-consumption" food ground up and made into something that looks a lot like cereal, and then cooked at very high temperatures to kill the bacteria. Does that sound appetizing, let alone healthy, to you?

What on Earth is this stuff, anyway?

Kibble hasn't been around for even 100 years. What in the world did dogs eat before kibble was invented? REAL FOOD!!! Usually some sort of slop consisting of human dinner leftovers and some bones and meat tossed in for good measure, and you know what? Those dogs were a lot healthier. Today, the incidence of cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, IBD, and all sorts of other debilitating illnesses are plaguing our pets, and why is that? I'm completely convinced it's because of the lousy diet they are being fed. What's missing, I believe, is the life inside real food. You know: the vitamins, enzymes, and nutrients that are taken in by eating a wide variety of foods. Your dog simply can't get adequate nutrition from eating the same thing day in, day out. There is no variety, and I've long believed that feeding something different to them very day is as important to them as it is for us. I've never believed this hogwash about being careful to not vary their diet or they'll get sick. I think that's a bunch of garbage sold to us by kibble manufacturers intent on selling us more kibble.

So maybe you've purchased a premium dog food and think you are feeding your dog better. You probably are. I mean the worst thing you could do is feed your dog (or cat) anything by Purina or any of those bargain-basement commercial dog foods that you find at Wal-Mart or the grocery store. PLEASE tell me you aren't feeding your beloved that! That would be the equivalent to you eating donuts for breakfast and McDonald's for lunch and Pizza Hut for dinner every day. Maybe you are...........mmmmh, therein may lie the problem. See, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not good for humans, nor is the SADD good for our dogs. So if you clean up your act, you might as well do the same for the pooch.

What is the solution then? You don't have a lot of time or money and you certainly can't see yourself spending hours on end in the kitchen cooking for your pooch. Well, let me tell you that this isn't as time-consuming or crazy as it may sound. I've been doing it for years. If I am running late in the morning or am not feeling well, I throw out some high quality kibble myself. A little every now and then isn't going to hurt. But I make sure to supplement it with a spoonful of yogurt on top, or some cottage cheese. For treats, she gets sliced apples, carrots, green beans or any other veggie we've got around. Sometimes she gets oatmeal and cooked eggs for breakfast, like I make for myself. This morning she got multi-grain/flaxseed pancakes.

The easiest thing to do is to feed your dog what you are eating, with a few modifications, of course. For me this usually consists of some chicken or fish, beans or eggs for protein, steamed veggies, and some rice, potatoes or pasta. I make a little extra for Lucy, and that's it. Easy. Healthy snacks? Yogurt and fruit, cheese and whole-grain crackers, carrot sticks and hummus, guess what? She gets all of that, too.
My Lucy
Now, before you begin, let me advise you to do some homework first. Radical changes too soon are not good for humans, nor their animal companions. Read up. A good book on this subject is by Dr. Richard Pitcairn, called "The Complete Guide to Natural Health". Here's a link to where you can buy it at Amazon. He's really quite the authority on the subject of natural health for dogs and cats. I highly recommend reading this.

I also have this one, which is a great step-by-step, 8-week plan for converting your dog from junk food to healthy food. It's written by the woman who started Halo's Pet Foods, found in health food stores. Click here to go to the author's website. Both books offer recipes for meals and snacks to help get you started.

Feeding your dog a home-prepared diet is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for their health. You love your dog, now get into the kitchen and make something special for them. Lucy's birthday is coming up and she's getting a steak and potatoes!


I googled dog kibble and found an interesting article. It pretty much sums up my take on the whole dog food dilemma. Click here.

If my current career doesn't work out, I might start an Orange County version of this brilliant idea. Check this out.  Then I can really put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. 

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