It's National Agriculture Week, with all sorts of celebration and fun. Renowned dairy blogger and traveling speaker Carrie Chestnut Mess, AKA Dairy Carrie, issued a challenge to farmers and agvocates to mark the week. She suggested that instead of asking our customers to thank us for feeding and clothing them, we thank them for buying our products. She mentioned that her father-in-law was not afraid to shake the hand of a lady hauling a gallon of milk out of the cooler at the convenience store, for buying the milk that his cows produced.
I like the way she thinks, and actually have thanked quite a few dairy drinkers and cheese lovers over the years. I'm not brave enough to step up to someone in the store, but online, whenever one of my far-flung, never-met-in-person, non-farm friends mentions grabbing a gallon of milk, or buying a nice, cheesy pizza, I tell them I appreciate that they buy dairy products.
I don't know if it makes any difference but it makes me feel better.
The event was even noticed in Washington, D.C. Representative Frank Lucas of the House Agriculture Committee kicked off with a salute to farming pioneer Norman Borlaug, who would have turned 100 years old this week. "It is fitting that we honor our nation's great agricultural pioneer on National Ag Day. Dr. Borlaug's groundbreaking work to advance agricultural production and his steadfast support of new technologies have saved billions from hunger and ultimately laid the foundation for the way of life we enjoy today. I hope when visitors see his statue in the U.S. Capitol they will be reminded of how far we have come in agricultural production and how important it is that we continue agricultural research and innovation for the security of our food supply."
Another interesting story that surfaced during Ag Week was the massive study released recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It proved what our grandmas knew all along. Butter is better. I sure hope you didn't spend the last few decades passing up delicious for barely adequate, because turns out Granny knew of which she spoke.
I am really sorry if you bought into the low-fat fad, and spent the last couple decades eating "heart healthy" foods and snacks. Gave up butter for unsatisfying imitations. Gulped anything liquid as long as it wasn't milk, what with all that artery-clogging saturated fat. Or if you did imbibe a nice, cold, glass of milk, you either swallowed your guilt at drinking the full-fat version, or drank thin, bluish, skimmed milk instead.
I'm sure you knew you were missing out on all the goodies, but you wanted to stay as healthy as you could. So you sacrificed quality and flavor and satisfaction for freedom from food guilt.
And then you watched as trans fat, which had long been held on high as the healthiest of substitutes for actual, real food, was in its turn reviled and banned. This resulted in flat wrecking the taste of many recipes, and causing folks who used traditional vegetable shortening in their pie crusts to tear their hair and sing angry songs.
I am so sorry.
Because now, it is beginning to look as if all that sacrifice and starvation was pointless.
I'll bet that big study will make you grumpy when you read about it. Seems this analysis of data from 600,000 people who had been included in 49 studies and 27 randomized and controlled trials revealed that you are no more likely to die of heart disease if you eat butter and cheese and drink full-fat milk, than if you consume the skinny sort or the pseudo stuff.
You can actually read the analysis of the compiled study for yourself, or there are dozens of articles that will summarize it for you. The bottom line is that food regulators, food gurus, and a lot of the medical community got it wrong. And grandma, who put real butter on your toast with jam and encouraged you to drink your milk, was right all along.
From the Boston Globe comes a powerful quote from Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health: "I think the evidence is really clear that the dietary guidelines shouldn't be focusing on reducing saturated fat. There is no good evidence that low-fat dairy products are healthier than high-fat dairy."
In fact the main conclusion of the large study, quoted directly from the source was, "Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats."
Of course word of the study quickly produced nay-sayers, who responded that it was irresponsible to tell people to go ahead and eat fat. Tufts University nutrition professor Alice Lichtenstein, who just happens to be a coauthor of new dietary guidelines, which did not reference the material revealed by the large study, said, "To give people the message that they don't have to worry about saturated fat and can go back to butter, cheese, and lots of red meat would be really wrong."
In light of such comments, it might be hard to step away from the traditional viewpoint that has become so deeply ingrained in our culture, but other trends revealed by recent studies are certainly food for thought.
For example, people who consume full-fat dairy appear less inclined to develop diabetes. This has been shown by several studies as far back as 2010. The percentages are impressive. One study showed that increased consumption of yogurt compared to no consumption decreased the incidence of the disease by a whopping 28 percent.
If indeed butter is better, then recent trends in sales show a real positive for health. Annual butter consumption in America has risen by 25 percent over the past decade.
Seems to me that it would be fitting to raise a glass of nice cold milk to National Agriculture Week and Dr. Norman Borlaug, and to maybe have a bowl of buttery popcorn, too.
Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS
is a regular columnist. She blogs