I hope that everyone had a wonderful weekend! If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the really cool giveaway I am hosting right now with Actual Organics (just two days left!). They are giving out a sampler pack of organic perfumes and I am very excited about this product. I will hopefully be sharing some Valentine worthy recipes soon. But before I get to that, I realized that I needed to address an issue that got brought up about one of our sponsors, US Wellness Meats.
Some of you know US Wellness Meats (they were also one of the sponsors for the Wise Tradition’s conference and they served some of their delectable meats at the conference). This small time company sells meat from family run farms (you can read about the farms here).We love them for their commitment to raising high quality grass fed meats and that’s why we have them as our sponsors. We also have found them to be delightful people.
Because of their unusual high standards with hard to find products (like delicious grass fed liverwurst, salami and summer sausage and pastured chicken livers for example), we have been thrilled to be working with them. Recently another blogger with a severe allergy to corn reacted to meatballs she made using their ground beef among other ingredients ( although she had not reacted to some other cuts of meat she had from them). She then contacted John Wood who runs the company to ask about any corn derived additives to the meat. John was surprised to hear that someone would have a reaction to their meat because they actually sell to a lot of high allergy people, but he (being the great guy that he is) started working on tracking down any possible point that anything corn derived could have touched the meat. He told her that it may have been lactic acid, most often corn derived, which was USDA required to use to spray on the carcass when it was first butchered (the part that is sprayed is cut off when they break the animal down into smaller pieces). This blogger then posted comments on several of our blogs (including mine) and posted on her own blog about how “US Wellness Meats are contaminated” with GMO corn because of the lactic acid spray.
After much research (thanks to Ann Marie from cheeseslave.com), we feel that we have adequate information to address this issue.
Ann Marie reported about her findings here and I will add my own thought in this blog post. First, here’s what Ann Marie found out.
“I spent the better part of that day calling around, talking to grass farmers, butchers and meat processors. I also spoke with Mark Kastel at the organic watchdog group, The Cornucopia Institute; Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, founder of The Institute for Responsible Technology, and global expert on GMOs; Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and author of Nourishing Traditions.
Here’s what I found out.
Report from US Wellness Meats
I contacted US Wellness Meats first to find out what they had to say. Farmer John Wood told me that he had spoken to his processor and while it’s true, they do use a lactic acid spray in the processing of the beef, they do not believe that it is harmful in any way. John explained to me that the fermentation that occurs is the act of living fermentation bacteria acting like a factory using corn sugar as a fuel to produce lactic acid. This is the same product humans produce every day in our muscles.
John spoke to a few different people at PURAC, the company that manufactures the lactic acid spray (the specific product is called FCC88). I also called Purac myself. The people John and I talked to stated that while they do use a percentage of Midwest corn to make the lactic acid (which is derived from the sugar from the corn), they have have labeled the lactic acid spray “GMO non-detectable”. They said this means there is no detectable GMO DNA in the lactic acid product.
PURAC FCC88 is approved for organic cattle. The people at PURAC also said that the GM proteins cannot survive the process of lactic fermentation. I was not able to verify this. PURAC also sent a letter stating that there is no GMO DNA present in the lactic acid product, FCC88. Click here to download the letter.”
In a nutshell, Purac which was approved to use with organic products (and I’ve seen lactic acid in a lot of other organic products on the shelves), is derived from corn. They do get a percentage of their corn from the Midwest and we can assume that some of that corn is genetically modified. However, after the lactic fermentation, none of the DNA from the GMO’s are present. Ann Marie was able to contact Jeffery Smith who is a leading expert on GMO’s to find out what his opinion on this product (read about it on Ann Marie’s post).
Let me give you six thoughts here:
1) First, no, I don’t think it’s ideal to be supporting any GMO crops even a tiny bit. I wish that there were better products and different regulations by the USDA on the butchering process. This isn’t US Wellness’s fault and we need to place the blame on the regulations and crops we as a country have allowed. We then need to work effectively politically to change this. I think that the unfortunate insinuations made by some that we need to effectively boycott US Wellness Meats is taking this fight in the totally wrong direction. There are excellent ways to fight GMO’s and I do urge you to follow through with them if this is important to you (which I hope it is). Here are some instrumental organizations to join to help in this important battle.
Weston A Price Foundation: http://www.westonaprice.org/Become-a-member.html
Institute for Responsible Technology (fighting GMOs): http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/Donate/index.cfm
Cornucopia Institute: https://app.etapestry.com/hosted/TheCornucopiaInstitute/OnlineGiving.html
Farm to Consumer Foundation: http://www.farmtoconsumerfoundation.org/donations.php
Let’s not put small farmers out of business, let’s fight from the top down so that small farmers have more choices!
2) Secondly, I think that the actual health risks from this spray that is used on the outside of the carcass (in diluted form) and pretty much completely cut off the meat are very small. If you are concerned about GMO’s (which I am very concerned about), then I would recommend that you try to cut out the real, more serious sources of it. To put this issue in context, one corn chip from a Mexican restaurant would be much more of a concern to me than eating a whole cow from US Wellness Meats. The same goes for any type of corn or soy product found in pretty much all processed food (anything fried, anything corn, anything with corn syrup, anything with soy products is going to be a much bigger concern). This includes “natural products” by the way.
3) US Wellness Meats is following a routine regulation that they can’t control. I realized the processing place my local farmer uses could be using this same process (they use their own butcher, but I believe it is slaughtered by a third party). If it is very important for you to avoid this, I recommend that you avoid all meats from any store (including Whole Foods), work with a farmer in your area, and directly call the place he uses to have his cow slaughtered at. The farmer will probably not know what is used unless he has specifically searched this out himself. Better yet, buy land, raise your own cow and butcher it yourself or hire out to a place you can completely trust and control how it is butchered. That’s what it takes sometimes.
4) The two separate issues of the corn allergy and GMO’s have gotten easily confused in discussions about this issue on other forums. Some corn allergy people have made suggestions about other non-corn derived solutions that US Wellness Meats can use (which actually may not be an option in their particular state), but those products could easily have a higher concentration of GMO’s (like a vinegar based solution). PURAC, as imperfect as it is, at least has gotten the “green stamp” of approval because the DNA from GMO’s is not found in the product. Many of us without corn allergies might like some of the other options even less. One option that US Wellness Meat could use is submerging the slaughtered cows in hot water and effectively flash cooking the outside of the cow. However, this would substantially raise their prices, and because it would discolor the meat (from the partial cooking), would make for unhappy customers, which is why they opted out of that option. I should also note that many corn sensitive people have purchased meat from US Wellness Meats in the past without issue.
6) When this issue was first brought to my attention, I carefully thought through the issue to decide whether or not this is something I would feed my family as I do work hard at avoiding GMO’s. As any real life friend knows, I am very particular about what we eat, and especially so for our daughter. I take food very seriously, so I seriously considered this decision.
I personally decided that this is food I am very comfortable feeding to my family. I truthfully feel that this issue has gotten blown out of proportion and I will gladly continue to offer support to US Wellness Meats. I personally feel that supporting US Wellness Meats is a wise choice in how I spend my food money. Not only am I supporting farmers that take grass fed meat seriously and have worked hard to bring a quality product to our table, but their products bring the very important animal organs into our diet through their really delicious sausages, which truthfully is hard to do. For that reason I just placed a large order with them and will continue to support them. I would never ever risk my daughter’s health to help someone else out (even my best friends!) by buying their product. So my personal choice to eat their product was very thoughtfully and seriously made. (For those interested, Ann Marie also had very similar conclusions as reported in her post).
I hope that this adequately explains the situation. None of my readers are under any obligation to follow any of the same choices that I do, and I respect that. I only felt the obligation to my readers to explain this situation fully. I am so thankful to you all, my readers, and I would never want to promote any product that I didn’t fully want myself or already use.
And now, we can return to our regularly scheduled program (of yummy recipes!)! See you soon!