A spring salad from recently harvested organic Romaine lettuce or a dish from organically-grown, steamed chicken? What would contain less contaminants per gram?
Contaminants – the traces of human activity – are on every step. And unless you are hiding somewhere in the Arctic or Antarctic, you are subjected to all kinds of contaminants on the continuous basis. But plastics and pharmaceuticals reached even those remote places (although to a lesser extent). So, sadly, nowadays, the only way to avoid contaminants is to live in a vacuum…
Living in a vacuum won’t feel like life… so the only choice we are left with is to pursue the path of the lesser evil. In other words, choose foods that contain as little contaminants as possible.
So, returning to the above question: organic Romaine lettuce or organic chicken, what would expose you to less contaminants? The answer is lettuce. It would contain less pesticides and heavy metals than organic chicken.
Certified organic vegetables and fruits… Free from pesticides?
Before I explain why Romaine lettuce is more contaminant-proof than chicken, let me ask you the following question. Are you aware that nowadays, for the most part, there is no such thing as 100% organic vegetables and fruits?
That’s because matter cannot be destroyed, it can only be transferred. In other words, unless humans or microorganisms convert Roundup herbicide, for example, to something more safe, that Roundup can end up in the organic field 1000 miles from the place it was applied on. (1)
To see how Roundup goes far and beyond of where it was applied, picture workers in masks applying Roundup in an apple orchard. Then in the few days it rains. The run-off with Roundup ends up a nearby pond. Roundup is water-soluble, so when the water from the pond’s surface evaporates and the rising air currents take it up into the atmosphere, Roundup is taken up too. Above, cooler air causes that vapour to condense into clouds. Air currents move these clouds for hundreds and thousands of miles. When clouds meet, cloud particles collide and condense further becoming either liquid or solid (which becomes rain or snow, respectively).
Now, because rain or snow are heavier than air, the force of gravity pulls these down, and voila, it’s raining or snowing on our end! But remember that this innocently looking-rain or snow is contaminated with Roundup!
If you never heard about Roundup before… Roundup is a herbicide and its main ingredient is glyphosate. Glyphosates are very bad – they are ‘associated with practically every major disease epidemic humans currently face’. (2)
Now, when it’s summer and it rains over an organic Romaine lettuce field, that Romaine lettuce is no longer fully organic as now it contains traces of Roundup. Obviously, this lettuce would have much less Roundup than the apples from an orchard where it was applied on, but nevertheless.
Romaine lettuce or chicken that feeds on that Romaine lettuce? What is the lesser evil?
The second part of the story…
A local farmer – Arno – who grows this Romaine lettuce also has chickens. Arno is an outlier in many aspects including how he grows his Romaine lettuce and chickens. Only cow manure for lettuce, and only organic non-GMO grain mix for chickens.
His chickens rarely get sick as they are free to run and fool around as they please. When they do get sick, the farmer’s wife, Rose, nurses them back to health with natural remedies.
Chickens’ favorite foods are nice fat worms and Romaine lettuce. Although the farmer’s kids have lots of fun shooing them, chickens still manage to gnaw the lettuce, to the farmer’s unfortune (it makes it a bit harder to sell).
But remember that Romaine lettuce is contaminated with traces of Roundup? Well, not only the lettuce but every little and big green on Arno’s farm. Anyways, let’s stick with the lettuce.
In summer, when you go to a local farmer’s market you always buy Romaine lettuce from Arno, as you personally know him and his mischievous chickens, and slightly gnawed lettuce doesn’t concern you too much.
You also sometimes buy one of his chickens for your husband.
Now, with all the things being equal, who would consume less Roundup? You, eating lettuce or your husband who occasionally eats chicken?
Let’s assume that it rained 10 times on the crop you are eating. Lettuce grows fast and the one you got took 1 month to grow. So, in other words, your lettuce saw 10 rains with Roundup in its lifetime.
The chicken you got is 4 months old and in addition to organic grain mix, worms, insects, and other greens it ate Romaine lettuce.
Let’s assume that it rained on average 10 times per month that summer. So, the chicken saw 40 rains with Roundup in its lifetime.
Who would be exposed to Roundup less?
10 rains vs 40 rains… The answer is you!
Given the above, what is difference between the amount of Roundup that ends up in your body versus that of your husband?
10 rains vs 40 rains… You will consume 4 times less Roundup than your husband.
You may think hmm.. doesn’t the chicken poop? Wouldn’t its liver break Roundup down and eventually poop it out? Yes, this chicken may excrete the majority of Roundup if it’s very healthy or if Roundup levels are not significant. Otherwise, this chicken bioaccumulates Roundup in its little body.
Obviously, the above estimation of Roundup in lettuce and chicken is VERY rough. Rain is just one of the potential sources of pesticides and other contaminants. But you get the idea. Simply because an animal lives longer, it has more contaminants in its body. That’s not to say that plants don’t bioaccumulate. They do. But most of the time the plants we eat are quite ‘young’! A few months old at the most.
Generally speaking, in order to properly run this sort of experiment that I described above, dozens and dozens of variables need to be controlled. For example, the amount of Roundup, weather, chickens’ diet; diet, age, health status, occupation of you and your husband, etc. As you can see, for the most part, it’s not plausible. And I don’t think there is a need for it because it’s obvious anyways that pesticides can’t practice self-extermination :). So, unless humans take care of Roundup it can hang out in places where you don’t expect it to.
Biomagnification also adds to the amount of Roundup in the chicken
You also get exposed to more contaminants when eating that chicken (or eggs and dairy) due to biomagnification. Biomagnification simply means that the amount of contaminants increases as you go up a food chain.
Here is a simple food chain with your husband at the top of it:
Lettuce -> Smaller Insect -> Larger Insect -> Chicken -> Your Husband
So, first, a smaller insect eats lettuce. Then that smaller insect gets eaten by a larger insect. A chicken then eats this larger insect. And finally, your husband eats that chicken.
Now, the relative amount of Roundup at every trophic level:
Lettuce (traces of Roundup) -> Smaller Insect (a bit more Roundup) -> Larger Insect (more Roundup) -> Chicken (even more Roundup) -> Your husband (a lot of Roundup)
So, the amount of Roundup that ends up in your husband’s body is much higher than that in the lettuce.
I hope the above little bio tutorial makes sense and you see the most important point.
WHICH IS, ANIMAL FOODS CONTAIN MORE CONTAMINANTS THAN PLANT FOODS.
Please drop any of your questions below.