Our diets affect farm products especially the fats we consume


What we eat affects what farmers grow. Feedback to farms runs slow, but it alters farming. I’ve watched farming and consumers long enough to see changes.

When I began reporting, pork markets listed “fat hogs.” Then, early, I was admonished to write of “finished hogs.” That didn’t imply that eating pork would make you fat. In fact, fat is bad.

I thought that this week while shopping for groceries with olive oil topping my list. That’s the cooking oil at the back of our stove. Olive oil supposedly helps my heart.

Growing up, the tin can on the back of the cook stove held bacon grease. That was our favored cooking oil. As I recall, bacon fat tastes better than olive oil.

When I studied animal husbandry certain breeds of hogs were noted for their ability to put on fat. That became cooking fat, lard.

To the end my Mom knew that the best shortening for pie crust was lard.

I doubt I can buy a can of lard at my supermarket. I haven’t seen a five-gallon can of lard in ages.

At MU this time of year, I hear lots of seminars by students reporting their research. Last week one was on feeding high-oleic soy oil to fatten steers. The hypothesis was that “good” oil in soybeans would change carcass fat in fed steers. It can.

A problem: You’d eat lots more beef than your tummy can hold to get an high-oleic benefit in your diet. For taste and health, we won’t see much use of oleic soybeans to make calves into Prime beef. But, unexpected things happen in science. The student found that high-oleic oil in beef extends meat case shelf life in supermarkets.

Adding one day to shelf life boosts financial returns to the meat department. Groceries may seek that from feedlot operators, Science continues to amaze.

Our consumer tastes change. In football season, demand for chicken wings drives up the price of chickens. I thought it would be chicken breasts. Nope. What were unwanted wings now drive the market.

Likewise, bacon came back into favor for the flavor. As the food science professor asked at the seminar: “Who buys bacon for the health benefit?”

Taste still attracts. Just as consumers finally realizes, the taste of Prime grade beef rates better than Standard grade. In fact, hamburger we eat at the fast-food joint probably has some Prime fat added to low-grade beef for better taste.

Having a bad heart for 25 years I’ve learned lots of lessons on how to change the fat I eat. However, I do know better than how I do eat. But, changes in diet allowed me to live longer I’m sure.

After that first heart failure, I learned to take off about 50 pounds. That came mostly from belly fat. I have not given up eating beef, nor bacon. For years from farm days on, I ate bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. Now, that’s rare. Oatmeal starts my day. Now fat comes from yogurt and whole milk.

The first diet lessons were “no beef, no bacon” and the milk was “nonfat.”

In recent years, dieticians have let up. Beef came back into the diet, but in smaller portions. In fact, my dinner plate shrank smaller these days.

Yes, I miss country cooking with mashed potatoes and gravy at every dinner.

Now, there are more green vegetables and salads. Daily weighing every morning gives reminders if I fall off the low-intake plan. My heftier weight after Easter dinner showed up the next day.

My advice, if you no longer see your belt buckle, change. Just cut intake. There’s still plenty of flavor (and fat) possible on the small dinner plate.

It’s easier to cut sugar which adds weight. No dessert dish. There’s a lot less pie for dinner. A tablespoon of ice cream settles the sweet tooth.

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