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Does Free Speech About Beef Only Apply To Oprah?

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A health blogger is facing a lawsuit for writing dietary advice on his personal site. What could this mean for the beef industry?

When Oprah Winfrey defiantly stood on Amarillo’s courthouse steps and declared “Free speech rocks!” many in the industry quietly wondered if that applied to everyone. Now it appears a court in North Carolina will answer that question.

Nutritionists and dietitians in North Carolina are suing a blogger over his claims that beef is a health food. More on that later. First, let’s look at the facts.

Let’s start with the 29 lean cuts of beef. According to beefitswhatsfordinner.com, “All lean beef cuts have less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-oz. cooked serving.”

Next, let’s talk nutrients. Beef offers 10 essential nutrients such as iron, choline, protein, selenium, B vitamins, zinc, phosphorous, niacin and riboflavin. A 3-oz. serving of lean beef provides 25 g (about half) of the daily value for protein. How about a study proving that beef is good for the heart?

“In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Penn State University found that people who participated in the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study, consuming lean beef daily as part of a heart-healthy diet, experienced a 10% decline in LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol,” cites the beefitswhatsfordinner.com website.

What about healthy fats? According to Men’s Health, “Most people consider turkey, chicken, and fish healthy, yet think they should avoid red meat – or only choose very lean cuts – since they've always been told that it's high in saturated fat.

“But there are two problems in that thinking. The first problem is that almost half of the fat in beef is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid – the same heart-healthy fat that's found in olive oil. Second, most of the saturated fat in beef actually decreases your heart-disease risk – either by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, or by reducing your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol.

“And besides being one of the most available sources of high-quality protein, beef also provides many important nutrients such as iron, zinc, and B vitamins. So the idea that beef is bad for you couldn't be further from the truth.”

Finally, beef tastes good! Plus beef is a filling protein that helps keep us full and fueled to take part in active lifestyles. Just look at all of the Team Beef members competing in athletic events across the country. They are all powered by beef!

Beef is a health food, and I’m not afraid to say it. As a blogger, it’s understood that I provide my opinions. I don’t have any qualifications to write about nutrition. I’m not a doctor, nurse, nutritionist or dietician. I can only share my experiences with how eating beef has helped me compete in Team Beef races and lose weight. Other than that, I’m just another average Joe writing about beef, something I love.

Let me repeat: Beef is a health food, and I’m not afraid to say it. But perhaps I should be.

An ongoing lawsuit in North Carolina squares a nutrition blogger, Steve Cooksey, against the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition. When Cooksey started blogging about losing weight and curing his diabetes with the Paleo Diet, and encouraging others to follow suit, the board took legal action against the blogger.

 

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Cooksey responded by including disclaimers on his blog that he wasn’t a doctor or nutritionist. The advice he offered was simply based from his own personal dietary success. The case has gone from the board wanting individuals to respect registered dieticians and to follow standard government dietary guidelines, to the counter argument of free speech.

It’s a troubling case for anyone in the cattle industry who wishes to promote the beef we produce. Men’s Health magazine asks the question, “Should giving diet advice be against the law?” You can read the play-by-play of the case here.

Depending on how the case is resolved, we have to ask ourselves a few questions: Is it okay for a National Beef Ambassador to serve jerky samples at the Boston Marathon and talk about the healthfulness of beef? Is it okay for a Team Beef runner to promote beef as a part of their healthy diet? Is it okay for me, or other bloggers, to write about the health benefits of beef? Is it okay for someone to post on Facebook or Twitter about how they lost weight on a protein-based (beef) diet?

The answer could be no to all these questions if the courts decide it’s not okay to talk about diet, as it could be perceived as advice. Call me crazy, but I don’t think I need to rely on the government to tell me how to eat. With more people struggling from obesity, obviously the quest for health is still elusive, so who is to say who is right and who is wrong? I believe individuals should be entitled to choose freely and discuss those choices freely as well, without fear of prosecution. Then again, that’s how I feel about the ranching business, too. Let me do my own thing. We’ll take care of ourselves.

How do you feel on this topic? Is this a free speech case or an infringement on government and medical rights? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 20

W.E. (not verified)
on Aug 21, 2013

Beef absolutely is a health food. If we speak truth about it, we have no need to fear the consequences. But beef advocates need to know the whole truth to tell the whole truth. We did not learn the whole truth about beef until our eyes were opened to the benefits of the unique fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid, which is found only in the meat and milk of ruminant animals like cattle, sheep and goats. There is a limitation, however: CLA virtually disappears when the animals no longer get their nutrition from grass. The following appeared in an article from NCBA entitled SIGNIFICANT HEALTH BENEFITS LINKED TO UNIQUE FATTY ACID FOUND NATURALLY IN BEEF, DENVER, Colo. (Jan.19, 2001) - Two recently published studies found significant health benefits from diets containing a fatty acid called Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). The fatty acid is found naturally in ruminant products, such as beef and milk. It is not found, to any great extent, in other animal products or in plant products.
The first study . . . shows that feeding CLA during the early stage of breast cancer development is able to reduce the number of precancerous lesions in mammary tissue. The second study. . . confirmed earlier observations that CLA can inhibit atherogenesis in rabbits. It was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in August 2000. Both research efforts were supported by cattle producers through their $1-per-head beef checkoff. . . .
At dietary levels of 1 percent CLA caused substantial (30 percent) regression of established atherosclerosis. This is the first example of substantial regression of atherosclerosis being caused by diet alone.
In laboratory and experimental animal studies, CLA has been shown to be a powerful anti-carcinogen at relatively low levels. It has also been shown to exhibit other positive health effects, such as being anti-atherogenic, anti-diabetic, providing enhanced immune function and improved body composition (under some conditions). Work continues on CLA to further document and explain these exciting findings from animal studies and then expand the research to more human studies.
Ideally, beneficial dietary components (such as CLA) would be obtained from food sources like beef rather than from supplements. Because of the functional properties of CLA and its presence in beef, The American Dietetic Association (ADA) named beef as a “Functional Food” in its 1999 Position Paper. A functional food is defined as any potentially healthful food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains.
“Consumers should be aware of where potentially beneficial dietary components are found in the food supply,” said Kritchevsky. “They should also be made aware that all fats are not bad, with CLA being an excellent example of a ‘good’ fatty acid, and that dietary pattern is more important than any single ingredient.”
Unfortunately the NCBA quietly pulled its support of CLA research after it was confirmed that only grassfed beef contained helpful amounts of CLA, and that grainfed beef did not. To claim these benefits for all beef, regardless of feeding and management, would be false.
Freedom of speech is not the freedom to spread falsehoods and half truths. It's about the freedom to tell the whole truth and let truth make us free. The benefit of good health, unfortunately, is a unique freedom that often falls by the wayside when the whole truth is ignored for the sake of a limited ideology like veganism that ignores the laws of return. Good health comes ultimately from good fertile soil, the dust we are made of. Our grazing livestock return fertility as they graze. Their beef passes along the richness of the soil where they graze to us, improving our health.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 21, 2013

There's no reason to eat beef. People can get by fine without it. It's not really worth the cost & effort.

on Aug 21, 2013

I'll give you two good reasons to eat beef. It tastes great, and it's good for you.

Jenn (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

It's got all kinds of health properties and b-vitamins/iron you can't get elsewhere. that's why. but arguing with you is probably not worth my time.

farmerdave (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

beef is great food my family and all our friends have eaten it forever we raise our own and sell beef on our farm and everyone loves it
and anyone who leaves a comment and not thier name isnt really a very sincere contributor

on Aug 22, 2013

Good catch on this, Amanda...this deserves attention. All you say in response has merit and needed to be said. I know a lot of people who blog about their farm operations and often say how their products (milk, beef, grains, etc.) are healthy and full of nutrition. This court action sounds like it's directly challenging our right of free speech.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

Based on that line of thinking the truth about trans fatty acids would never been allowed to be told. Also the claims by every group about the health effects of their products would not be able to make any statements.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

Think our new tagline should be:

BEEF . . . for the Health of It!

Health Expert (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

I have followed this case fairly closely, and it is NOT about beef or meat or even about free speech, really. It is about the protected license of a registered dietitian, and the harm (read, physical harm) that an unlicensed nutritionist can bring on the general public. If you dig into the North Carolina Dietetics Board’s objections, they aren’t around this individual blogging about beef nutrition. They are about this individual giving one-on-one counseling advice to specific conditions. This would be like my neighbor, a mechanic, giving telephone advice to my mother about her dosing of her cholesterol medication. It is medical advice, and it can cause harm if not done correctly. That is why the licensure protects the R.D. This isn’t about beef, it isn’t about ag, it isn’t about free speech or even blogging.

glen (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

Mr. health expert. I think you are wrong. If you are correct then how do all the celebrities get to go in t.v. and radio and talk about their programs I have yet seen that these people as registered dietitians. This again is about government getting involved where it should not.

Health Expert (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

Mrs. Health Expert :)
First Amendment Law: When you’re talking to somebody individually, that is not actually speech. Instead it’s considered conduct, the practice of an occupation. That is what this issue is about. Amanda went to Journalism School and knows this full well.
See the dietetic board's specific comments on his blog, here:
http://www.diabetes-warrior.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Website_Revie...

MontanaCows (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

So are we going to go after "Dear Abby" next? The topics discussed in that piece of journalism are so widespread that no single person could have expertise on them. She/He is certainly not a licensed psychologist, counselor, therapist, legal counsel, care-giver, dietician, and whatever else is discussed. I'm not familiar enough with the situation in North Caroline, to say whether or not he is or is not licensed, but there are a number of different licenses that allow one to give lifestyle advice--not just being a registered dietician. I also feel that as advocates for our industry, we're obligated to reccommend BEEF for most situations--especially those in which there is research, stating the benefits, to back up the reccommendations.

on Aug 22, 2013

Mrs. Health Expert,
I appreciate your clarification of the actual issue. I do think it has far-reaching implications depending on how the ruling will be interpreted. As a "beef blogger" myself, I am concerned with the glut of "advice" out there that says beef is bad for you from people with no dietetic or medical training. I also think that when I suggest that beef can be a strong component of a healthy diet, as a mom and definitely not a dietician, I should supply the link to the study or information.

I hope that the bigger picture is not ignored--in which people are able to say what is on their mind, but it may help to encourage bloggers to provide evidence to their claims.

Interesting case--and I will follow it closely!

Debbie Lyons-Blythe
http://kansascattleranch.blogspot.com

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

It doesn't matter whether beef is a health food or not. That argument is a red herring. The question is whether you are owned by the government or not. In North Carolina, the government believes it owns the citizens of that state. Does your state believe it owns you? Most of your legislators do.

ken johnson (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

In countries where people are starving, they don't worry about this. They are happy to get any meat, they eat things we would not dream of. Just be happy you live in a country with plenty of food and don't tell others what they can eat. Some people have too much money and time on their hands. They could actually do some good, but they get sidetracked by others.

Keith Evans (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

All this controversy comes from the growing false claims by nutritionists and doctors that food is medicine. If you accept that premise then it follows logically that food consumption and food advice should be in the hands of licensed professionals. These North Carolina "experts" follow in the footsteps of those who once claimed that eating eggs was life threatening. They ignore both science and common sense.

Keith Evans

on Aug 22, 2013

Health Expert:Celebrities with no education in nutrition are on TV daily spouting about and promoting their "healthy Vegan and vegetarian" life styles which we all know if not done correctly can cause major health issues so I fail to see the difference between what they are doing and what this blogger is doing. I have seen shows where they have taken questions from the audience and given one on one advice to audience members about their eating choices so yes I would say this is certainly a double standard. But this could also be a great opportunity for the beef industry if this goes to court it could be a good way to get some real truthful information about beef in the spotlight. My support is with the blogger hope all goes well, keep us informed Amanda

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 22, 2013

W.E.- As usual you only present half the truth that you want known, several feeds such as flaxseed can be fed that easily bump up the amount of CLA in the meat but a little piece of salmon is gonna give me more overall CLA per ounce than your grass-fed beef. There's several university trials feeding cattle to increase CLA and guess what it works which is bad for you.
I know you raise grass fed beef and Im glad you can fill that niche but I've never had a piece of grass fed beef that didn't taste like glass flavored shoe leather. About 90% of the people I know don't like it and the 10% that do like it eat if for supposed health reasons, even though I seem to be healthier than those "health nuts". Your grass fed operation is just a different aspect of beef production but it doesn't make you any better than anyone else the raises beef differently than you!

Terry Church-----N. Carolina (not verified)
on Aug 25, 2013

I hope the court system rules in favor of Steve Cooksey. He should have the right to offer his advice based on his personal experience, the same as anyone else. Nutritionists and Dietitians are paid for their advice, but that don't mean that it works for everyone. It seems that the public takes to heart that everything Oprah(and others like her) say is the gospel truth. But they shouldn't !!! Much of what they say on their shows and in public are personal opinions. Steve Cooksey should have the same right as Oprah to offer his opinion.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Sep 23, 2013

If BEEF is so bad for you why does Oprah look so healthy? Funny how money makes some people so smart.

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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