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Monday, August 27, 2012

Does America Need a Fat Tax?

Dedicated readers,

Have any of you ever heard talk about state or federal governments putting in place a "fat tax"?

Our country has become the poster child for obesity in the modern world. While there are still around 1 billion people in the world that go to bed hungry, the USA and some other 1st world countries (I'm talking about you Australia and England!) are facing an obesity epidemic where, according to the 2010 WHO report, over 68% of the adult population is overweight and 34% are obese.

So.....what actions do we take to right the ship?

Some might argue that it is each person's own responsibility to maintain their health by eating better and exercising regularly. I think this is a logical thought process and everyone should be able to show a little restraint at the local all-you-can-eat $9.99 dinner buffet, or at least run a couple miles the next day to work it off.

However, some people have taken a different approach to possibly curtailing our intake of fatty, sugary and generally unhealthy foods. They argue that humans are unable to restrain themselves from eating the cheap, convenient, and often unhealthy foods that on-the-go Americans find themselves indulging in way too often. From a scientist's perspective, I find myself agreeing more and more with this argument because we are innately programmed through our sensory systems to prefer the foods that are more calorie-dense. To add even more credence to this, a 2002 study by Horgen and Brownell in the Journal of Health Psychology indicates that eating behavior may be more responsive to price increases than nutritional education.

Apart from the possible reduction in intake of unhealthy foods and drinks, a fat tax does offer some additional advantages. The tax revenue could be used to offset medical costs generated by obesity-linked health conditions, to improve nutrition education and to incentivize physical activity.

There are also many arguments against a fat tax. As a supporter of small government, I can appreciate those that don't want Big Brother involved in our food choices and telling us what we can and cannot eat. One of the most compelling arguments against is that a fat tax would be regressive, disproportionately affecting the poor. The poor typically rely more heavily on cheaper foodstuffs (typically those that are more highly processed and unhealthy such as fast food), and therefore some argue that a fat tax would be the equivalent of a tax on the poor.

One idea that I've had is that if we tax unhealthy foods, could we use the tax revenue as a way to subsidize healthy foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meat so that food costs wouldn't increase as much?

The biggest hurdle regarding the implementation of a fat tax would be how to decide what foods and drinks would or wouldn't incur the tax. Perhaps we can wait and see what happens in Denmark, one of the only countries that has put a national tax on unhealthy foods.

If you have any input or thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading,

Hyatt Frobose

Friday, August 17, 2012

Incredible, Versatile, Healthy

I'm talking about eggs of course!

What other food can you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Also, did you know that eggs contain almost every essential vitamin and nutrient needed by humans? True story.

One large egg contains over 6 grams of protein, and only 70 calories, - that's quite a powerful punch! Two eggs for breakfast is almost 25% of your daily requirement for protein and less than 10% of your daily caloric intake. I call that a bargain.

Incorporating eggs into every meal may be difficult for some - creativity runs short in my household. That's why I'm glad I found this infograph that is also quite fun. Created by Mark Bittman, food columnist for the NY Times, it shows a plethora of ways to make eggs the center of attention.

picture courtesy here

Check it out - tons of cool ways to eat eggs with salads, breads, veggies, meat - you name it! Try them all out. 

Until next time (happy egg-ing),
~ Buzzard ~

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rain makes corn.... and is a good thing!

I've started off a rather somber post with a song - I hope you enjoy having it stuck in your head for the rest of the day - also, I LOVE the intro to this song. These farmers are really adamant about the critical role rain plays in food production.

Corn makes lots of other things besides whiskey by the way; cereals, baking powder, vegetable oil. You get the point.

As you've probably noticed, there hasn't been much rain in the midwest this year - or in general, actually. In fact, a report from the USDA as of August 1 highlighted pointed out the following sad facts:

- 65% of U.S. farms are in areas experiencing drought
- Severe or greater drought is impacting 65 pecent of cattle production, and about 75 percent of corn and soybean production.
- As of August 1, more than half of U.S. counties had been designated as disaster areas by USDA in 2012, mainly due to drought.

I live in God's country (Kansas) and we've needed rain badly for the past 2-3 months. In fact, the state of Kansas has placed all 105 counties into a drought emergency status and all but 3 Kansas counties have been declared a disaster. The good news is that it's supposed to rain tonight; the bad news is that when we really needed the rain, it was nowhere to be found.

In May, which is a very crucial time on the corn growing timeline (most corn is planted in late April), Kansas received a statewide average of 1.10 inches of rain. That's not very much to get good seedling growth started. June and July didn't treat us much better which has really had a negative effect on both corn and soybean growth.

For visual explanation let's look at this ear of corn

that came from this field near my hometown in Anderson County, Kansas. That's my husband's hand and that ear of corn is only about 4.5 inches long. This is a sad, sad sight for farmers.

Folks, it's August 8. Corn fields aren't supposed to look like this for another six weeks or so. There are just a few tiny specks of green in that field, some fields don't have any green in them and the corn stalks are half the height of this field.

Then compare to this ear of corn from Wood County, Ohio, where they've gotten  more rain this year than we Kansans- about 2.6 inches in May. That number is still a decrease from their normal precipitation but if you look at the difference that an inch of rain can have on a corn crop, that's a pretty important inch!

Here they are side by side - again, the corn from Ohio is on the left and although it's not near the size that farmers would like, it is better than our poor little Kansas ears.

So what does all of this rain and crop talk mean for you, the consumer? Unfortunately, food prices will likely increase in the long run and let me explain how.

Livestock producers (beef, pork) are having to cull their herds to avoid spending so much money on feeds. This could lead to a short-term increase in the meat supply which will lower costs. However, in the long run, once the shortage of corn and soybeans reaches the retail end (cornmeal, flour, cereal) we'll likely see an increase in grocery prices.

Furthermore, if producers are selling off parts of the herd now, they will have less to sell in 10-12 months which will probably lead to a long-term increase in meat prices.

So, if in the next 6 months you notice meat prices decrease only to increase again, please don't be upset with the farmer or grocery store. Farmers, especially livestock producers, are getting hit very hard this year. Many crop producers have insurance but that type of reassurance isn't available for beef, pork and poultry producers. They must feed their livestock regardless of feed prices because they're committed to utmost care for their animals. To read more about the strain on livestock producers and the perilous conditions that Mother Nature has created, you can read this blog post by pork producer, Chris Chinn.

We'd love to hear your thoughts and concerns about the drought or your situation. Leave us some comment love!

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


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