Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Ractopamine Hydrochloride - the diet wonder drug

For fat pigs.

Any cook or chef worth listening to knows that fat is flavour. You can dress a chicken breast up any way you like, and cook it perfectly - but unless you stuff it with cheese or butter, wrap it in bacon, or find some other way of injecting fat into it, I think you're unlikely to truly enjoy the experience of digesting it. 

That is, of course, unless you have developed a great talent for deluding yourself.

And when you think about it like that, that is, logically, using chicken breast at all is ultimately a pointless exercise. Don't get me started on turkey meat. I imagine that people do eat it for the 'healthiness' of it, but when your idea of healthy eating is ultimately fallacious, I really can't be bothered arguing with this kind of delusion. 
A blatant atrocity committed in the name of 'eating healthy', 
I believe that the need for fat in preparing tasty food is expressed most profoundly in one of my favourite food items, the humble sausage. The problem with using lean meat to make sausages, isn't just that you're minimising the oleogustus, but you'll most likely end up with a dry-as-sawdust tube of protein. 

As it happens, I recently embarked on a session of sausage-making, subsequent to a long hiatus instigated by the reluctant realisation that I was crap at it. My first two attempts were pretty good, but then something went seriously astray and I wasted many hours producing inedible rubbish. I’m sometimes accused of being a sook, usually by the other adult in our household, and while I would argue that is a bald-faced lie on almost all occasions, it was probably fairly close to the mark here. I took my bat and ball and went home, so to speak.

Enter Mr Kenji Lopez-Alt, a bloke who sits alongside Heston as one of my two culinary man-crushes. His recently published book - The Food Lab – explained to me exactly why I was fucking it up so badly. The reason isn't important for this post - my point is that I had the motivation to give it another whirl and I set out to find some fatty pig meat.

slabs of beautiful piggy deliciousness - shoulder and belly
Now, one would think this would be relatively easy, but it has become surprisingly difficult, and I figured it was because pigs are working out a lot more or something dodgy is going on in the form of selective breeding, genetic engineering or steroid abuse. 

The lean shoulder - too many deltoid side raises in the barn?

the belly wasn't too bad, and saved the day
Now the pork I bought was most likely steroid free, so you could have blown me down with a feather when it was suggested, by the internet no less, that pigs are commonly on the juice. 


I’m not shitting you. 

Apparently the pork farmers in America, Canada, Australia and a few others got together and decided that feeding pigs with a beta agonist was a great way of quickly giving the animals muscle growth while reducing fat.

The beta agonist of choice is called Ractopamine hydrochloride, and the brilliantly apt brand name for the product is Paylean® and it will not surprise you to learn it’s marketed by a large pharmaceutical company, namely Eli Lilly, who sell it through their subsidiary Elanco. Elanco, according to their website, "markets a range of well-known products that improve the health, performance and well-being of livestock and companion animals."  

While that is all very nice, if the use of a drug to make your pigs put on muscle at an unnatural rate doesn't concern you, particularly if you're a pig farmer, that there are about 160 countries* that ban the use of it in raising pigs and cattle, should leave you without a shadow of doubt that the practice is highly questionable, if not downright disgraceful.

*I kept seeing this number but didn't actually bother to see if it was accurate. I did notice that Europe, China and Russia were among those that ban it, so let's just say that the number of countries that think it's a bullshit thing to feed our swine friends is 'a lot'. Unfortunately my country is among the immoral pig-haters.

As I mentioned, Ractopamine is a beta agonist, which are "medications that relax muscles of the airways, which widens the airways and results in easier breathing.” Running through the list on wikipedia, I saw a name I recognised from my youth – Clenbuterol. While Clenbuterol is apparently used for conditions such as asthma, I remember it as something body builders injected themselves with to, you guessed it, put on lean muscle. Apparently it is damn effective and is definitely not something you want to have in your system if you plan on competing in the Olympics. Or living to a ripe old age, for that matter. 

Eli Lilly and the pork industry reps that defend the use of Paylean®, appear to base their arguments on: 
  1. Without Paylean®, pigs take longer to get to butchering stage, and this leads to higher costs, more feed and less efficient farming.
  2. There’s no evidence that Paylean® pork will harm humans that eat it.
If you are looking at those two points and think there is one fairly large and obvious topic that is missing, well, congratulations, because you clearly have a sense of morality and a functioning conscience.
A fairly big motivation, and they're not ashamed to admit it
I’m not suggesting that Clenbuterol = Ractopamine, exactly, however if you’re silly enough to inject the former on your quest to be leaner and larger, you’re at a real risk of turning into a very muscular patient at your local emergency ward. 

Similarly, it didn’t take me very long to find anecdotes of farmed pigs, that have been fed Ractopamine, that have some very serious health problems. In fact, a recent paper by Lui et al would suggest that Ractopamine is a full agonist, remarkably similar in structure to methamphetamine, and that the research to date on the safety of eating Paylean® Pork is very flimsy indeed.
Sounds safe, doesn't it?
All this very brief and amateurish research leads me to believe that the whole situation is seriously messed up, and can, in part, be blamed on the human nutrition industry that peddles lies and misinformation about the goodness or otherwise of lard. The other parts of the blame, of course, belonging to the pharmaceutical industry and the pig farmers. Which came first and who is bullshitting who, is probably arguable.
I think they're trying to say that it's all cool because humans are ignorant.
TLDR: the more Paylean you feed your pigs, the better you are at pig farming
Australia’s grocery market has two main players, Coles and Woolworths. Thankfully Coles has used its power and influence to put a stop to their suppliers using Ractopamine in their pigs’ feed. Woolworths, on the other hand, has been eerily quiet on the issue, so one would have to assume they have no problem with its use.  I contacted them for a comment and will publish their response when or if I get it.

So while I initially felt inconvenienced by the fact that all the pork I buy is usually too lean, I now feel pretty shitty for being so blasé about how my pork has been raised. I love pigs, and I don't know what I'd do without their delicious flesh, but even if I didn’t, the practice of abusing these wonderful animals has to stop.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The race to the bottom

First a disclaimer – I fully appreciate that the internet is chockablock full of people, with varying degrees of intelligence and sanity, ranting about whatever they happen to be annoyed at, usually after waking up in their priveliged, comfortable, non-disease ravaged, non-war-torn environment. I’m certainly guilty of ranting about inconsequential nonsense from time to time, but I try not to make it a regular thing. Unfortunately, things have been building up lately and it is time to purge the rage before my senses give up and refuse to let me read the useful stuff on the internet. 

The US Presidential ‘race’ – while I will never understand the celebrity status of this position, particularly given the role has been filled by a long and consistent line of rich, war-mongering arseholes, I certainly get the importance, in theory, of not electing a mentally deranged lunatic to control the buttons that launch nuclear warheads. Never mind the emetic ludicrosity of Hollywood making movies where the POTUS is cast as an action hero who saves the day or shoots all the bad brown people with foreign accents, the thing that really shits me to tears, beyond all said idiocy, is the lead up to the election, the so-called ‘race’ to see who can be the most popular wanker.

For starters, I have no idea when the American people actually get the chance to vote, but I’m pretty sure it’s not any time soon. Even if a certain dickhead billionaire with ridulous hair wasn’t involved, I can’t, for the life of me, grasp why any country that is not the US, would be interested in who is leading in any particular popularity contest at any given time. I don’t know what a "primary" is and I have zero interest in finding out.

I ate in the staff lunch room the other day and sat next to a table full of university graduates in their early 20s. As far as I could ascertain, because it’s damn near impossible to understand young people when they use the word “like’ at least 15 times per minute, they had a pretty good handle on which candidate was doing what and who’s policies were less shit. Pure madness.

I can’t imagine a bigger waste of time and effort than following this circus when anyone with a skerrick of common sense realises that whoever is better friends with the rich pricks and spends the most of their rich friends’ cash, will win, and you can guarantee it won’t make a lick of difference to anything, or anyone, anywhere. Rich people will still be rich and hold on to power, and the poor will…well, y’know.

The deterioration of the English language is accelerating

While this was just one of the predictions penned by Mr Blair in his classic 1984 (he called it newspeak, I call it being a fuckwit), I have this sick feeling in my guts that it’s like some massive shopping trolley that started at the top of an immensely steep hill in the 90s. Some smart arse stumbled into it, drunk, and set it on a downward course with the infinitely moronic non-word ‘lol’ and ever since then, an endless line of wankers have been throwing new non-words into it and setting it on the inevitable course of destruction at breath-taking speed.

The verbal use of “like” is maddening. Like, totes infuriating, brah. It has become the new ‘umm’ for those that cannot bear to leave even a suggestion of a pause in their conversation.

I’m certain that an increasing number of people are so infatuated by the sound of their own voice and believe that the world must know their every thought (fuck you, Twitter), "conversations” are more monologues, with any semblance of an audience becoming superfluous. That is fine with me, because I’m, like, totes not listening anyway.   

I've given up on correcting people on the difference between your and you're because they most likely think I'm an anally retentive twat. That may be true, but it annoys the crap out of me. I would love to just send them an email and type "YOUR AN ILLITERATE IDIOT", but again, I'm simply too nice. 


A frivolous anecdote

It is 2016 and presumably intelligent people still don’t realise that a big cup of fruit juice has no business being in a human digestive system. I was recently in an elevator with a man and a woman and the man, holding a coffee, commented that the woman’s drink, a similar size cup of juice, was “obviously healthier” than his. Sometimes I wish I was an arrogant arse, just so I could blurt out to idiots like this “what planet are you on, you complete and utter shitforbrains?”

Alas, I am not, so I held my tongue and chose to be arrogant here instead.

While I’m at it, have a spurious hypothesis based on pure speculation*

Humans like speculating on the causes of problems. I often speculate that fruitarian poo will eventually eat through a toilet bowl, just like fruit bat poo eats through the paint on your car if you don't wash it off within 24 hours. 

I also speculate that the global obesity issue is not caused by too much ‘food’ or ‘sugar’ or 'carbs’ but too much frothy milk. I love coffee, but my imbibing involves 2 shots of espresso and a small dash of milk or cream. I can therefore shoot it down in one or two gulps and feel completely satisfied. The number of humans walking around with massive takeaway cups of coffee is staggering. Assuming there is a maximum of two shots of coffee in said cup, it therefore means these people are drinking extraordinary amounts of lactose and probably added sugar.

I rest my case.

*and perhaps a little bit of mischief considering I know it is certainly bullshit.

Finally, if you've worked your way through all that nonsense, have a sleeping, fat puppy.

Everyone likes puppies. We bought one last week and it is very cute. A bit predictable, but cute all the same. 
being cute is tiring

Monday, 1 February 2016

Plants do not like us.

And will surely destroy us from within, or enslave us with their prickly appendages.

It's no recently-revealed secret that plants have evolved to defend themselves against predators - and we all know who the apex predator is on this little planet of ours. You only have to walk into a garden and casually brush up against a few different shrubs, bushes or vines to fall into the itchy hell that is your plant 'friends' trying to kill you.

Despite their arguable value as nutrients, plants don't like us, and there is quite an interesting argument that they certainly don't like being inside you

I'm usually up for a good conspiracy theory - hell, I could even buy into the suggestion that certain public figures are actually alien spies, transported here by intergalactic beings roughly 10-15,000 years ago. Promoters of agriculture, they have worked their way up to head propaganda machines like the FDA and Heart Foundations and various fruitarian cults.

There's really only one way to disprove that hypothesis, but unfortunately it is illegal to crack open "people" like Ornish and Campbell and see what is actually making them tick. Blood and bones? Ha, likely story.
it's like they didn't even try to make him look human
So, call me delusional, but what if I'm right? What if Day of the Triffids was some brilliant prediction, on par with the very best of Eric Arthur Blair? 

If flora Armageddon did come to pass, while it would be nice to spend some time gloating to your vegan neighbour, the joy would be fleeting. It's probable that she's now your "Sector Obersturmführer" and will soon be pulling out the bamboo whip, strapping you down with vine and juice-boarding you. If you do not submit to your new Overlords, I'm sure you'd make a very nice pot for growing kale, after they've scraped out your insides and used them as fertiliser.

These visions came to me on a recent visit to a local mango farm. As I walked through the rows of fruit trees, I came upon a section that stopped me in my tracks. The considerable hair on the back of my neck prickled with electricity. 

Was this the start of the end? 

Well, hello there, stranger.

The army, waiting for orders to unleash Hell.

innocent fruit or appendages to suck out our brains?

arsehole bees working for the enemy
do not leave your gun unattended

The human name for these creatures is dragon fruit or Pitaya.

Make no mistake, they lie in wait. Don't say you weren't warned.