Episode 145: To Meat or Not To Meat with Sacred Cow Author Robb Wolf
This week we welcome Robb Wolf. Robb is a former research biochemist and Best Selling author of The Paleo Solution and Wired To Eat. Robb has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world via his podcast called The Healthy Rebellion, his books, and countless seminars. In this episode, we discuss short sidedness of restricting protein for longevity, the complexity of ecosystems, how being vegan still contributes to the loss of life, and how to scale regenerative farming. We also touch on the ethical case for better meat, the disconnection from the food system, and how to approach holistic food production.
- 6:00 Robb’s Origin Story
- 17:22 Should You Restrict Protein for longevity?
- 29:34 Protein Leverage Hypothesis
- 31:55 Does Being Vegan Still Cause Loss Of Life/Death?
- 39:05 Understanding Ecosystems
- 44:00 Is Regenerative Farming Scalable?
- 52:50 Regenerative Vs Conventional Soil
- 58:45 How We Are Disconnected From The Food System
- 1:03:19 The Ethical Case Of Meat
- 1:13:30 The Complexity of Holistic Food Production
- 1:20:56 The Importance Of Electrolytes
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Hey, Hey, welcome back to better with Dr. Stephanie. I am your host, Dr. Stephanie Estima today's episode is a great one. This is a conversation that I bring you with Rob Wolf. Now, Rob is a former research biochemist a two times New York times best-selling author of the paleo solution and wired to eat. He is also the author of sacred cow and a documentary of the same name. Rob holds a purple belt in Brazilian jujitsu is a former California state powerlifting champion, 565 pounds squat, 345 pound bench, 565 pound deadlift. Like these are serious numbers and an amateur six and O amateur kickboxer. He is a force of nature and we talk about, and this could not have come with more perfect timing with the president, Joe Biden's new announcement this week that he plans to cut Americans red meat consumption by 90% in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now, whether or not you agree with that initiative or not.
Dr. Stephanie (00:03:00):
We talk about in this podcast, the environmental considerations for meat consumption, the nutritional values for meat consumption. What is regenerative agriculture, and why veganism is really very much a white centric view of the world, really not taking into account some of the more traditional livestock cultures across the world where, and you'll hear this in our conversation where Rob talks about this idea that there are in many countries where they grow livestock. This is the only way that many women can have an income and have any property, and to get rid of this with monocropping and soy and corn products is really just such a simple solution. So we talk a little bit about this fantasy around everybody eating all types of meat all the time. And we talk about bill Gates, who is one of the largest owners of some of these monocrop lands across the States and some of the plans that are in the works to try and take away meat and replace it with plant-based you know, bleeding burgers with heme and all of that stuff.
Dr. Stephanie (00:04:16):
So very, very robust conversation. We talk about protein. We get for all my for all of my science nerds, we talk a lot about M tour and the activation of mTOR and whether the we can use M tour as an anti aging strategy or a cyclical approach to that. We talk about animal-based proteins, why the, who has classified red meat as a possible carcinogen. And then we talk about things like the protein leverage hypothesis and, and much, much more. I had such a wonderful time on this conversation, and I hope that you enjoy it as well. And just before we get into the conversation, I do want to make a exciting announcement in terms of what we are what's happening in hello, Betty land. And we are, as of this week, as of this podcast release, we are releasing our second fitness program.
Dr. Stephanie (00:05:16):
It is called Betty booty. And as you might guess, it has something to do with building strong glutes. I've spoken on a few geeky magics and lots of podcast episodes with people around the idea that our glutes are our strongest organ and our strongest muscle rather, and we need to work the glutes if we want to protect our back, our knees, our posture, all of the things in order to live a long life. So the Betty booty challenge, if you go to www.bettybootychallenge.com, you'll find all the information we are starting to, we will be releasing the program this week. So when you go to it you'll see either a wait-list or an opportunity to purchase it. And I would absolutely love for you to join in. So without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Rob Wolf, Rob Wolf. I am so thrilled to welcome you to the better podcast. Welcome to the show.
Robb Wolf (00:06:22):
Huge honor to be here. Thank you.
Dr. Stephanie (00:06:24):
Yeah, we, and I'm excited to talk to you because we are going to be talking about all the things today. We're going to be talking about a nutritional science, anti aging, and then I also want to talk about your more recent book or the most recent book that you have sacred cow and talking about the environmental argument for better meat, the ethical argument for meat and the nutritional considerations as well. But
Robb Wolf (00:06:51):
Longer than a five-hour podcast to do a decent treatment.
Dr. Stephanie (00:06:55):
Exactly. He's like get ready, everyone. Yeah. okay. So just before we dive in to all of these juicy topics I've known of your work for several years, of course, I've read most of your books. And I want to introduce you to my Betty. So the F we were, our better podcasts are Betty's or the fans. So tell us a little bit about your background, how you got started in the paleo and the keto world, and sort of bring it up to where we are today, present day with sacred cow and and your work now.
Robb Wolf (00:07:27):
Sure, sure. You can tell that I'm getting near 50 because this story keeps stretching out further and further. I'm definitely getting the wandering old man syndrome, but by training, I was a biochemist in my undergrad was looking at either a research track in the auto-immunity in cancer, potentially an MD track or, or maybe a MD-PhD combo. And it was in grad school that I developed a pretty debilitating kind of complex of, of health problems side. Ultimately, maybe the most crippling of all of it was ulcerative colitis. That was so bad that I, I got down to a low of about 125 pounds. I'm about 170 pounds right now. And so I was suffering malabsorption so bad that my hair was falling out. Nails were split. I mean, it was really terrible. And I, I knew enough about medicine at that time that I knew that surgery, which was kind of the primary recommendation from, from standard of care medicine and, or immunosuppressant drugs were really bad long-term option.
Robb Wolf (00:08:30):
They can save your life short term, but I just knew long-term that things weren't going to go particularly well with that. So I, it almost, in a moment of desperation, I started doing some kind of out of the box research, and this was in 1998 and it, it struck me that my mother had suffered similar problems to myself throughout her whole life, all kinds of, kind of weird GI related problems, skin issues. And what we figured out is that both of us had celiac disease as a beginning, kind of, kind of, you know, point, which is this auto-immune reactive condition to the gliadin protein. That's common in wheat and Ryan oats and barley, and there's all kinds of interesting kind of cross-reactive, you know, molecules that are out there in our food system. So that, and also kind of a realization that I may not do that well with a lot of dietary carbohydrate kind of led me into researching.
Robb Wolf (00:09:28):
I remember it was kind of a weird chain of consciousness. When I realized that I probably didn't do well with grains, legumes and dairy, like there, it's kind of a long story, how I arrived at that idea. And I was thinking, man, no grains, no legumes, no dairy. Like what on earth does one eat? If you don't eat that? And, you know, it was just this thought it was like grains legumes and dairy K that's like neolithic. What did we, before that there was this thing called the paleolithic. And in remind you again, this was in 1998. And so there was kind of a new search engine called Google that I went in and turned on my dial up and waited for the computer to do its hamster wheel thing. And into, into Google, I put a paleolithic diet and there wasn't a lie at that time, but I discovered some pretty interesting information.
Robb Wolf (00:10:18):
And a lot of it was very GI gastrointestinal and autoimmune related. You know, this kind of mismatch between our, our genetics and our more modern environment. And I was so sick. I figured what the heck have I got to lose? And so I went on to kind of a lowish carb, paleo keto type diet, and it was miraculous for me. And it was so transformative that it, it really, it made it such that I couldn't then continue on a mainstream medicine track because I knew I was going to be spending eight to 10 years learning to deal with emergency medicine and then, you know, very ineffective approaches at chronic disease management. And so I was really casting around about what to do. And I was working at a biotech in some cancer research and spending probably too much of the company's time doing my own research and stumbled across this website called CrossFit.
Robb Wolf (00:11:18):
And this was in 2000 2001. And I started, they were very aligned with this kind of keto, low carb paleolithic type diet to workout seem kind of wacky and interesting and a good friend of mine. Who's a retired Navy seal. He and I started working out in his garage together. And within about three months, we had about 15 people training with us. And so I reached out to Greg and Lauren Glassman, the founders of CrossFit and said, Hey, we love your stuff. We want to open a gym. We want to call it CrossFit. And they said, go for it. And so that was to become the first CrossFit affiliate in the world, CrossFit North. And then I had an opportunity to move back down to Chico, California, not too long after that. And I opened CrossFit nor Cal, which was the fourth CrossFit affiliate gym in the world and worked in and out of CrossFit for, you know, a number of years and got to work with just tens of thousands of people in a variety of capacities.
Robb Wolf (00:12:13):
And you would think that being in this CrossFit scene, I would really focus on kind of elite athletic performance. And I, I did a little bit of that, but really my, my true passion was helping people who were like me, who had, had exhausted every option within conventional medical circles particularly with gastrointestinal on the auto-immune conditions. And you wouldn't believe the number of things that actually have an auto-immune underpinning to it. And so I've, I've really oriented the bulk of my work more in this kind of health and wellness, you know, direction with a little, little spattering of elite athletic performance type stuff. I was on the Naval special warfare resiliency committee for about six years and spoke to the, the seals teams, the special boat teams, and also their families about every topic of resilience that you could think of a circadian rhythm appropriate glycaemic index caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, I mean, you, you name it.
Robb Wolf (00:13:15):
And so I've been able to have a pretty eclectic career thus far working in these different areas, but definitely my, my kernel of orientation, the way that I orient my world view is from this kind of evolutionary biology perspective. Not that I'm advocating that we go out and live as Hunter gatherers again, but just when people are experiencing problems, maybe a good place to start asking questions is, you know, how divergent are we from our ancestral Lifeway? You know, COVID has been fascinating because usually during extreme events, like there, there are accounts like during world war two, that when people in London were getting bombed, that it was the most rewarding part of their life because everybody came together and everybody worked very closely together and whatnot, and they actually had a sense of community that they had never experienced in their life. And then interestingly with COVID, we not only have this stress of the pandemic, but we have extreme social isolation, which is in complete contrast to what is normal for us having evolved in small extended family hunter-gatherer group. So I really like to use that as a starting place to begin discussing or unpacking these problems. I don't think it's sufficient. This is where like the randomized controlled trials and the studies and whatnot come in to flesh things out. But I think it's a wonderful place to start having a conversation around health and wellness.
Dr. Stephanie (00:14:39):
I, I do too. And, you know, just piggybacking on what you were saying with the pandemic, when you think about, you know, what happened in 1940s in London, England, and you have this coming together, you've almost the exact opposite here with the, with the social distancing, the physical distancing, but also with our opinions, you don't actually see people coming together as a community and banding together. And, and I think we are starting to see these extremes, you know, you have, you know, what might be called, they all left and now you have this extreme left, or alt-right rather, and alt-left where there's, you know, if you ask questions, if you just say, well, why do we think this? Why do we think, you know, six feet, for example, you know, why six feet, the number, what, where did that come from? Then? You, you have this swarm of, of cancel culture and people saying, well, you're a conspiracy theorist, you're an anti, this, you're an anti that.
Dr. Stephanie (00:15:35):
And w what I, what I appreciate about you throughout the breadth of your work is this adherence to scientific inquiry, which is to ask questions and that's actually that's science, right? I, I always get a little like nervous tick when someone says, well, the science has settled. Well, that's not what science does, science doesn't, it's not dust, you know, science is continuously evolving as we understand, or we expand on a theory or we can add to a mechanism as our understanding broadens. So I really appreciate that about your work. And I think one of the things that I wanted to discuss with you today is in particular, this we're going to talk about nutritional science and also this meat and this anti meat narrative that we, that we see. And it seems now at least from my observation that there seems to be in the social, you know, the general public forum, that meat, particularly red meat you know, we don't see it as much with, you know, white, like the chicken, or maybe we do, but like meat is cancerous.
Dr. Stephanie (00:16:44):
If you want to live a long life, you need to avoid this. We have a lot of science, like a lot of, you know, well-written well referenced books that have talked about the restriction of protein, the restriction of red meat as a proxy for longevity. So we're, and I want to contrast that with some of the, some of the things that you propose in in sacred cows. So maybe that's a good, good place for us to start in terms of, you know, given your background and your just you've, you've been demonstrative in your ability to parse through science. So let, let's talk a little bit about protein and red meat in general. So do you think yes or no? And then you can explain maybe why that we need to be restricting protein over time, and we can, you can get as mechanistic as you want. We were talking in the pre-chat about maybe talking about, you know, a million target of rapamycin about and tour. So is that a reasonable stance to take, should we be restricting protein as a proxy for life?
Speaker 3 (00:17:45):
I think it's a terrible move and I am absolutely a, a
Robb Wolf (00:17:50):
Vocal, but kind of ostracized minority on that. You know, you had some very famous people Valter, Longo Mark Mattson, who has done just amazing longevity research more specific to fasting some more popular folks, but very, very well versed in this Rhonda, Patrick and Peter Tia that are very, very geeked out on this notion that limiting protein intake is going to confer some sort of a longevity benefit. And, you know, for a bit of context, I wrote my first published article on fasting and the potential of longevity around 2005. And by 2006, I deeply regretted publishing this piece and wished that I could pull it out of the internet, but releasing something on the internet is like peeing in a pool. Like you never get it back out again. And what's interesting. And I've been trying to figure out how to concisely address this, but also due diligence to the science, because it really is complex.
Robb Wolf (00:18:52):
I did a talk at the beginning of 2020, it's called longevity. Are we trying too hard? And that was supposed to be my, my kind of antique road show where, you know, I go around and, and kind of present my case around this. And clearly there wasn't a lot of public speaking gigs. And so I going to make that I recorded it internally for our healthy rebellion community. And then I'm going to make that generally available because I feel like it's some really important stuff, because I see people limiting protein to a degree that we start seeing other really significant health problems, but looking at the science around protein restriction and longevity, it's interesting. You, Berkeley, always, this is in the context of feeding lab animals, lab food, which is an interesting piece to this is nutrition is really difficult to do as a science because in science, we want to change only one variable.
Robb Wolf (00:19:49):
And that's almost impossible from the get-go, just because the fact that we have protein fats and carbs as a baseline. So if I increase protein, but don't modify the fat and carbohydrate amount, then I'm modifying the amount of calories I eat. So we start changing more than one variable, which gets very difficult to unpack when you're doing you know, what the ideal circumstance in science, we're able to run one group one way, another group, another way, and only change one variable and see how those things kind of operate over time. And it's kind of impossible to do that, but a way to get closer to that within nutrition is to feed both humans and animals, highly refined diets that we know exactly what is in those diets and in a free living ancestral diet, whether we're talking about a mouse, a horse, a human a cat there's, it's very difficult to quantify exactly how much of what that individual is eating.
Robb Wolf (00:20:53):
You know, because if you just go into a field, you know, we used to, to raise sheep and goats. Part of the field was Clover. Part of the field was this kind of Bermuda grass. And other part was this kind of more native grass that was there in each one of those plant species has completely different nutritional profiles. So how on earth do like, you know, the animals are eating and you don't know how much of one versus the other. So to do a study that you need, I know how much protein fats and carbs eat and how many calories the eat, you process it in, highly refine it, and then feed it to these animals. And I think we're at a spot. Now, if we know one thing that whether you're paleo or vegan, or what have you processed foods are really challenging for a host of different reasons.
Robb Wolf (00:21:41):
But what we've seen in the research is that animals fed a lie lab, chow diet, for lack of a better definition of that seemed to benefit from both caloric restriction, glucose restriction and protein restriction. An interesting part of that is that people have only focused on the calorie restriction and the protein restriction. They kind of ignored that glucose restriction or carbohydrate restriction also appears to confer some longevity benefits. So that's just kind of something that we can like set aside and maybe, maybe unpack that a little bit later, but very few studies have been performed where they do the best job they can to provide an ancestral diet, a species appropriate diet for these lab animals. And in every one of these circumstances, these animals actually have a shortening of life span with calorie and protein restriction. And this shouldn't be surprising if we think again, a little bit about the ancestral environment, animals typically are hard pressed to obtain enough nutrition in their natural environment to just survive.
Robb Wolf (00:22:48):
You know, it, it it's, it's, that's Razor's edge of, of nature. And so it's maybe not so surprising that I think that the total effect that we see from these calorie and protein restriction interventions is just the animals are being protected from a highly processed diet. And that's it like that's literally the, the totality of it. And in this talk, I go, go on to make the case that we definitely don't want a situation of being chronically over for fed the things that activate M Tor are amino acids, basically from protein, insulin glucose, and a few other, you know side byproducts. But those are the main things. And when we consider a modern overfed human being who is sedentary, they are a wash and signals to turn on M Tor chronically. There is no doubt that that's a problem, but that's a very different story than someone who is eating an appropriate protein diet, being physically active, getting sun on their skin and eating too, or crazy enough, maybe even three meals a day, but they're not snacking all day.
Robb Wolf (00:23:59):
You know, they have breakfast, maybe skip lunch and have dinner, or maybe have breakfast, lunch dinner, or something like that. What we have in that circumstance then is pulsatile signaling of them tour with periods in which M tour is, is downregulated. And it's worth mentioning that lifting weights upregulates inventory, but it up-regulates, it specifically in the muscles doing cognitive activity, upregulates M Tor, but it up-regulates it specifically in the brain. So just looking at M Tor as something that we want to stamp out at all costs is a terribly short-sighted piece of this story. When you really get into the, some of the details of M tour, we have mTOR complex one and mTOR complex two, and these are critical elements of, of a number of different physiological functions, not the least of which is the activation of immune response to cancer.
Robb Wolf (00:24:55):
And we have to have activation of M Tor complex one to get the recognition of certain types of cancer cells that then can lead into an activation of mTOR complex two, which is actually the realization of like an immune response to cancer. So we chronically suppressed M Tor situation. We'll actually leave an individual more prone to cancer going from a developmental stage to a fully, you know, invasive stage. So this is just kind of one of the little pieces that really gets missed in this story. And I guess another piece, even though I'm very critical of a lot of epidemiological studies, something that's interesting is when we look at aged populations, there's one consistency that we see is that as people age, they seem to do better and better with higher protein intake. And this isn't saying to go out and do protein powders and whatnot, I'm really a fan of this crazy thing of eating and chewing food.
Robb Wolf (00:25:54):
And, and so long as you got to chew it and and soup doesn't really count, people will be like, I've got to got you there. You know, it's it's soup, but even the soup you should eat like chip Pino and chowder and stuff, stuff you've got to got to chew, but I have this crazy idea that if you, if you mainly just chew food, that things work out well. And, and, and, you know, everything operates on a, on a pretty good level. And if we find a spot where our protein intake is good for maintaining muscle mass, as we age, I think that that is actually the, the orientation that we should have for effective aging, because for every single one of us, you know the, the main disease considerations that go into managing M Tor are neurodegenerative disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, definitely big, big, big problems.
Robb Wolf (00:26:43):
But for all of those diseases, all of us only have a percentage risk profile. It's not a hundred percent given for, for any one of us for any one of these conditions, but for sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass associated with aging, it is a hundred percent guaranteed that past the age of 30, without really vigorous strength training and adequate protein intake, we will begin to see a decline in both strength and muscle mass with aging. And what's interesting is that everything that comes about from maintaining a good amount of muscle mass, and again, this isn't saying that you need to become a professional bodybuilder or anything, but w w a flipping point for people dying from things like AIDS from, from just chronic wasting diseases is when they've lost about 40% of their lean body mass relative to what their youthful state was.
Robb Wolf (00:27:41):
And at that point, the system just effectively fails. So I really stacked the deck heavily on that focus on maintaining muscle mass with aging, not chronic eating pulsatile, eating, maybe a little bit of fasting here and there maybe three days a month, you do a little bit of fasting, but I see people doing some really crazy stuff with that. I see folks that are restricting protein in and fasting at rates that are, are just jaw dropping. And if the individual is, is extremely overweight and they've found fasting to be a tool to augment their weight loss, that's fine. The, the concern I have around that as a primary medium for weight loss is that you still need to learn how to eat again at some point, you know, and so I have mixed feelings around that. And I, and I know I'm kind of bouncing around here a little bit, but the, you know, the, the M tour piece is absolutely important, but I think that people have really taken a very narrow and shortsighted view and they've gotten so down in the mechanistic weeds. I really think it would be helpful again, to kind of pull back and look at this again, from that bigger ancestral health perspective.
Dr. Stephanie (00:28:54):
Yeah. And there's, there's so many things that we're, you know, so many bounce off points in terms of what you just said. I mean, when we think about some of these modern diseases that you were talking about, neurodegenerative, cerebrovascular, cardiovascular, like these are, you know, obesity and metabolic syndrome, like these are the, it's one of those four, you know, that that's going to get you right. Most likely. And, you know, when we, when we think about how long, I mean, I don't have the exact numbers in terms of how long animals have been, you know, millions of years they've been here. You know, these are modern diseases. So perhaps it is a modern problem that is driving some of these, the, the epigenetic changes or these, these changes that we're seeing in these individuals, not that we've had ruminants and even dinosaurs, you know, have been walking the earth millions years before we got here. And so this is where I, I really appreciate what you're saying. And it also kind of brings us a little bit to to why the two, why we can make a case for me, because when we think about the protein leverage hypothesis, which I know you're familiar with, you know, this for my Betty's, who are not familiar with this, this is basically a theory that suggests that humans will regulate their macronutrient and total caloric intake based on how much protein they're getting.
Speaker 3 (00:30:11):
No, not just humans, all organisms on the planet. That's really the clincher. Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Stephanie (00:30:17):
All organisms on the planet, so that you will, when you have the appropriate amount of protein, you are going to naturally regulate your carbohydrate intake, your fat intake. And when we, what we know about protein of course, is that animal based products are very protein dense, but they're also very nutrient dense. So when you, we talk about, and I say this with love, like, I don't want any hate mail, but when I say this with, you know, when we, when I've worked with vegans and vegetarians, you know, their protein sources, you know, when we think about plants as a protein source, it is a very poor source of protein. You have to be a chemist in my opinion, to really do veganism, right. You need to be able to combine and make sure you're getting the full plethora of the, of the essential amino acids. And yeah, I mean, I think this, this sort of brings us kind of two wades into the water, a little bit of around meat consumption. And I'll just say this too, because I'm a word nerd. When we think about the word protein comes from ancient Greek [inaudible], which means primary first brought to us means first primary protein. So protein is derived from this word and not that we need to listen to the ancient Greeks, right.
Speaker 3 (00:31:29):
I think there's some interesting insight there.
Dr. Stephanie (00:31:32):
Interesting insight. And I'm a re like I am a really a large proponent of how language really defines our experience, the user experience, if you will. So when we begin to change the conversation while like we don't need animal protein, we can just do beyond burgers or impossible burgers. You know, there's, there's a whole conversation that I don't think is as being had, where we see the, in the social forum, we are kind of adhering to these little soundbites, that sound they're kind of gimmicky really well marketed. But they don't tell the whole story. So let, let's talk a little bit let's talk a little bit about that actually let's move into as I said, like move deeper into the waters of, of meat consumption. So when we think about something like an impossible burger, or when we think about, you know, if, if there was a, you know, if I could think of like what a vegan paradise might look like, it would be plants only, is it a reasonable hypo? Is it a reasonable stance to take that being a vegan, not consuming animal products is going to lead to is not going to lead to a loss of life will
Robb Wolf (00:32:45):
So interesting, you know, and it, and so we, my coauthor and I, Diana Rogers, we did both a book and film called sacred cow. And I remember we were at a conference that it was clear that folks didn't unders, from my perspective, didn't understand this kind of bigger picture. Like your question is amazing. It was really right to it. It is one of the best questions I've ever been asked in all the podcasts I've done. And it's so important. And it's also really kind of, if you ask a child, oftentimes they will intuitively get the answer to this. If you ask an adult, then it's almost impossible to drag them, kicking and screaming to the spot. And I was kind of noodling on how do we tell the story of ecology and do it in a way that people don't want to hang themselves from boredom.
Robb Wolf (00:33:38):
And this idea of grasps world popped into my head, and it was this idea that humans find this identical in every way, planet to earth, except it has no life on it. Like it has weather cycles at same size, same gravity, but it just, for whatever reason, life had never developed there. And so we, we start trying to set up life there. And initially what we do is put some grass there because grass does some really amazing things, as far as like the locking up the soil and retaining water and doing stuff like that. But pretty quickly you discovered grass can't function without animals, particularly ruminants, if they are part of the symbiotic evolutionary cycle that goes back like this is probably something to your point about the dinosaurs. There were as a, a symbiotic analog to the Savanna grasslands and Buffalo in the dinosaur and pre you know, the you know, Jurassic world you know, kind of experience.
Robb Wolf (00:34:36):
This is something that is, is arguably, is old as life on earth. And if you just have grass, it can't function unto itself without the interaction of animals. And that's largely due to a nutrient cycling story. Oftentimes different plants need to pass through the gastrointestinal tract of animals to even be part of their reproductive cycle. So folks who would say, okay, well, we'll just have plants and herbivores. It's like, okay, what happens when you remove predators, either omnivores or carnivores from an ecological system? And what happens is the herbivore populations explode? And we actually saw some really interesting examples of this within Yellowstone park and when they reintroduced the scientists there and the park managers reintroduced wolves into that ecosystem, some really significant ecological problems that they'd had from broke, both deer and elk populations ended up normalizing river tracks actually changed direction because it altered the behavioral patterns of these ruminant animals, the, you know, the elk and the deer and the bison and whatnot.
Speaker 3 (00:35:44):
So, and you will have it
Robb Wolf (00:35:46):
Animals dying in that story, that life. And I think, and again, I know I'm kind of bouncing around here. This is where like a 600 page book and a two hour movie is handy because you can tell a very long story and kind of have a, a flow of consciousness with it. But one of the big problems I think that we face as a society is we are really uncomfortable with death. We farm it out to rest homes used to, we had a multi-generational families and we cared for our, our, our elderly and aged within the home. And we experienced the process of life and death. We harvested our own animals in our backyard, and all of that has been outsourced. And we're really in this spot where we are super uncomfortable with death writ large. And now that doesn't mean that we should like fully embrace all of the horrors of, of like some of the underpinnings of the modern industrial food system.
Robb Wolf (00:36:41):
People reduce this to some sort of a, a false dichotomy that there's either this way or that way, but the long and short of it is that it is impossible to have life without death. And so it's a, it's an infant tile notion to think that one is going to be vegan. And then there will be no death as a consequence of, of one's existence. And there's actually been a fascinating paper that was spun up out of the university of Oregon called the least harm principle. And it uses game theory and some other interesting methodology for looking at how many animals are killed in a system that is exclusively built around row crops and beans and legumes and whatnot. Cause there's big turbines, you know, that go through and, and, and harvest grains and processed legumes and whatnot. The insecticides herbicides, the the poisons that are used to kill rodents. When we store grains in these giant silos, there is enormous depth attached to that. And that you have to do that, whether you do organic farming or, or regular conventional farming, otherwise we would just experience a massive explosion in rodent populations. And, and, you know, 50% of the food that we produce would be, would be eaten by these, these, you know, animals that have co evolved again with grasslands. But when we concentrate all that food in one spot, their populations explode. So there is no
Speaker 4 (00:38:09):
Way to avoid death. But what was really
Robb Wolf (00:38:11):
Interesting is this paper made the case that if we wanted to embrace the least harm, the least amount of death and least suffering, you would have a food system that was built primarily around grassland,
Speaker 3 (00:38:25):
Grazing animals, fruits, trees,
Robb Wolf (00:38:28):
The nuts and different types of roots and tubers. And they, and it, again, it's kind of a complex thing. What's fascinating to me about that is that describes both the most nutrient dense diet diet that folks can eat. And it looks a heck of a lot, like kind of a paleo wish, you know you know, kind of ancestral type approach to eating. So again, I don't know if I did a great job of really staying on point, you know, answering that. The question was so good that it's, it's hard to, if you give just a one word answer to it, you sound like an idiot because it's like, Oh, come on. It's gotta be more complex than that. Where are your sources for that? Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And then you'd babble on like an idiot for so long that people are like, I don't know if that guy knows what he's talking about at all. And I mean, great job at this point. I'm not even sure if I am. So
Dr. Stephanie (00:39:19):
It's a complex question, right? And I think that one of the things that is often overlooked when we think about, well, if we just had plant world, right. If we just were eating lettuce, if you go to the store, I think that as we have had these urban centers where you can just go to the grocery store and you have absolutely no idea how the beef got there, where the lettuce came from, the avocados have come from Mexico and it's the middle of winter. Like we have no clue of where things come from. And so I think it's easier as we become more divorced from the land to really not view ourselves as up from the land. Right. We sort of were like, well, we're just on here. And it will be a really great idea not to you know, to kill all of these animals.
Dr. Stephanie (00:40:03):
And, but in the, in the consumption of only plants, you are also destroying, as you said, the mice and the there was this film, it was called the, have you seen the film it's called the biggest little farm? Yes. It's such a, so this was a, an assignment that my, one of my son's teachers gave him, they were learning about soil and she said, okay, you have to go wash it. So I watched it with him. And just for those of you that haven't watched it very briefly, Santa Monica, couple living in this little tiny apartment, and they want to have this regenerative old-school farm, right. Where the, you know, the cows are out and the pigs are out and the chickens are out. And when they first bought the land, there's this shot of the woman. She picks up like a big chunk of soil and it looks like it's pale. It doesn't, it looks like that's a great, it looks like a moon rock and she smashes it and it doesn't break. Right. And then they go through the whole, like, it takes seven years for them to kind of restore the ecosystem and like to balance out the pests and all of this. But by the end, they sort of do a before and after. And of course when they pick up the soil, it's like dark and soft and there's bugs.
Robb Wolf (00:41:16):
You see things living in it. Yeah. Yeah. Right.
Dr. Stephanie (00:41:19):
And I think that this is an important you know, they were talking about, well, when we have these apricot trees, for example, they didn't know what to do with the snails. Like there was, and they're like, okay, well, we've got to get the ducks to go and eat the snails. And then, and, and the, the
Robb Wolf (00:41:34):
Ducks were an accident. Like they were starting to, they really wanted to do everything organic and, and, and whatnot. Like, gosh, we're going to have to start using some sort of like a
Dr. Stephanie (00:41:45):
Pesticide right type thing. And
Robb Wolf (00:41:46):
They were having a hell of a time managing the ducks because ducks are much less domesticated than chickens are. They really have a mind of their own. And then some of the ducks got out and made their way into this, this basically food forest of apricot trees covered in snails and the ducks crushed the snails. And so what they, what they ended up doing was a, a, an, a global ecosystem on this, you know, 200 acre farm. And, and it wasn't that long ago that you, we once left a hedge rows in between our, our our, our row crops. Like there would be things like ornamental herbs and whatnot, but it was a place that one bees and pollinators could hang out. But the predatory insects like mantises and ladybugs and whatnot could retreat into these areas when a field was harvested.
Robb Wolf (00:42:42):
And then they would come back out and, and do it, you know, anti predation activity on the pests that were in the plants. And then folks started noticing Wolf. We just plow those things under, and then we'll use some pesticides and herbicides. We can get a little bit more yield because we're, we're actually getting food out of that. It looked like a wind short term, but this is, I'm a big, big fan of, of economics. And I think that economics, thermodynamics and evolution are kind of these three things that help us really understand the world. But the problem with economics is you always have to ask the question, is it good under what timeframe, you know, like taking huge amounts of fossil fuels to make a synthetic chemical fertilizer was amazing. And the amount of food we've been able to produce. I mean, it is just a jaw-dropping achievement of humanity, but the way that we've gone about doing it, we are rapidly destroying our top soil.
Robb Wolf (00:43:41):
And whether you want to eat impossible burger or, or, you know, a hundred percent pasture beef, if we have no top soil, we have no capacity to, to really grow food, at least not on, on the surface of, you know, landmasses and whatnot. So that was a strategy that looked really amazing short term, but may have some very negative long-term consequences. And interestingly weddings, some of the conventional practices with these more traditional practices might be a way of getting some benefit from both. And we might see a little bit of a haircut and the total productivity, like the, the amount of food per acre may go down a little bit, but we may be able to do it for 5,000 years, not run out of top soil in a hundred years,
Dr. Stephanie (00:44:23):
Right. And economists, and this is an interesting point that you bring up because economists are really enamored with this idea of the industrialized foods in general and efficiency. And I've had private conversations with people with backgrounds and microeconomics and macroeconomics. And one of the things that they are usually saying is, well, this type of regenerative agriculture, this is like a fantasy. It's not, there's like, there's this economies of scale where we can't, this is not scalable. This cannot feed the world. This is for the, you know, the top 1% or the privileged few that can enjoy this grass fed or grass finished beef as it were. So is that a valid argument to take that this is not this type of farming that you're proposing, or that you're a proponent of? Is this scalable? Is it something that is jus or is it just for the, you know, the privileged few as, as, as I've heard it referred to,
Robb Wolf (00:45:20):
It's a little bit of both, but it's actually much closer to being scalable than, than not the, what folks oftentimes don't appreciate. And this is where it's so ironic that most of the, the shade thrown on animal husbandry as part of the food system has been visited on, on cattle. They're ruminants, they eat grass, they eat things that humans really cannot eat. And it's oftentimes claimed that this huge amount of, of grains and food are shifted into, you know, cattle production, but even the, your like Walmart beef that, that you see there spend 70% of its life on grass. And it only sees some sort of grain product and kind of the last 30% when it's brought into kind of a CAFO area. But even then the bulk of what these animals are fed are byproducts of like ethanol production, that 86% of what the, of the remaining 30% of the food that these animals are fed is in edible to humans.
Robb Wolf (00:46:26):
Now, the irony here is that like Leonardo DiCaprio did the film before the flood, you know, and it's very scary. It talks about global warming and it really paints a ruminant based animal husbandry, specific cattle in this very negative light. And then it suggests we should eat more chicken, but the irony is that chickens and pork only consume grain and soy products. That's it. They consume nothing that is not edible to humans. And they really do live in these confined area, lots throughout their whole life and whatnot. And, you know, if you wanted to play the ethics card or the sustainability Carter, the reallocation of resources card, you should really be leveling that it chicken and pork, not cattle. And prior to the 1940s, like in the United States, there was this, this term that was spun up during a presidential election, a chicken in every pot.
Robb Wolf (00:47:20):
And it's because chicken used to be this like once every six months treat because it wasn't the primary staple of our system beef and lamb, and to a lesser degree, the goats, like in, in South and central America, goats play much larger role. It varies from place to place based off of, of region, but grazing animals were the primary protein source for the bulk of the world prior to the industrialization of our food system. And it was only post-World war II, where they shifted all of this nitrogen production that was being used in explosives into fertilizer, that we were able to produce enough excess in grains and legumes and whatnot, to be able to, to start mass producing things like chicken, like in an ecological setting, you don't have chicken as a climax species steri second, you know, those types of animals are secondary tertiary in the background.
Robb Wolf (00:48:17):
So the scalability piece is interesting. Nobody mentioned that there are more horses in the United States than cattle, but they're just mainly as, as pets. Nobody mentions that the cats and dogs that are in I'm focusing mainly on the United States, that the amount of food consumed by cats and dogs in the United States represents upwards of 70 to 80 million people worth of food. And, and so there's some interesting blinders that get put on in this story. And some something that we dig into in the book is that there are huge tracks of land that are really amenable only for grazing Rocky areas, you know, steep slopes and whatnot. And you, there, there's only a limited number of places that is amenable to specifically kind of row crop type agriculture. And ironically, it tends to be places where we also like to build strip malls and stuff like that.
Robb Wolf (00:49:15):
So w you know, a more dangerous competition is actually kind of where we're building housing and, and you know, like commercial real estate development and whatnot. That's a really big feature of, of potential farmland being lost, you know, maybe not forever, but man, it's a lot of energy and resources to go in and tear all that stuff back up. But we have all these marginal areas that really have been amenable only to grazing animals. And there's a significant amount of legislature around preventing the ability for people to graze animals on this land. And what happens when we don't do that is like these horrific wildfires that we've seen in California and different areas of the West. A lot of those areas used to get grazed in, in some more kind of forward-thinking places. They use goats because these goats will actually like climb up small trees and strip them down and break them down.
Robb Wolf (00:50:09):
And so it breaks down the, the undergrowth in these areas, and there were really effective fire remediation tool. They provide a ton of nutrients to the area that gets it. If you think about it, nutrients tend to kind of wash out to sea as, as part of the you know, just the hydrological cycle and whatnot, but animals on four legs or two legs, I guess, walk up Hill and walk to different places and pee and poo. And it's actually a way of biological systems moving nutrients up into higher altitude areas. And I was just reading a paper, talking about the damming of rivers being so negatively impactful in our boreal forest, because used to salmon used to take phosphorus and protein and nitrogen from the ocean and take it in huge amounts, hundreds, if not thousands of miles inland. And then that starts getting distributed through the different ecosystems. Now we're coming up on a hundred years of having damned rivers and whatnot, and we're starting to see phosphorus deficiencies in our boreal forest scenarios. And again, this is a, a animal based solution, not a plant based solution. And we, we, I think one of the biggest takeaways is that we really need to have a synergistic experience of both the plant and the animal side of this story.
Dr. Stephanie (00:51:28):
I love that. And I think, you know, just piggybacking on something you said earlier around, you know, a chicken in every pot and chickens, you know, how they graze on these grains, when you think about, if you want to fatten up an animal, like, you know, one of the things that we know is you can, you've confined the movement and then you feed them wheat and you feed them corn and maybe feed them soy as well. Dr. Mark Hyman has talked about like, they even get feces as part of their feeds sometimes. And I think that you know, we see that that's true for humans too, right? Like, you know, you can find the movement of a human, you sit in front of a desk all day long, and then, you know, you go upstairs and you have, or go wherever and you have, you know, your tofurkey or your, you know, whatever your soy based or your corn based products.
Dr. Stephanie (00:52:12):
This is how we are contributing to these modern diseases. And not to mention all the, all the, you know, the brilliance that you've been just talking about with, when we, when we're, monocropping, when you're only growing the soy, or you're only growing the corn and you're spraying. And as you said, with these pesticides, like the, the soil is dying. Like we have no diversity, we have no, you know, top soil. And that, from that the biggest little farm, there was a piece that I thought was really interesting where they had farmers in and around them, where they had these torrential rains and they had no problem with it because the soil was able to absorb the water. Whereas these other farms there was just, and they were talking about the damning where they just had their entire topsoil just washed away, because they didn't have the, I don't know if it was the carbon sink or just the infrastructure, the microbiome of the soil to be able to handle some of these elemental changes.
Robb Wolf (00:53:08):
Yeah. And, you know, Joel Salitan has talked about this stuff in such a fascinating way and it, and this is where it gets hard for people, you know, short attention span, social media swipe, left swipe. Right. You know, I mean, it, it's hard to get some depth on some of these things. Yeah. but he has this fascinating talk that, that just looks at the number of Beaver that lived in North America. And there were hundreds of millions of them and like virtually every Creek river stream had these Beaver dams on them. And it created these, these basically small lakes and ponds everywhere. The, the, the West of most of North America is not really that wet. It gets intermittent precipitation. And, but it looked very, very wet to the European you know is such a controversial topic, even talking about that.
Robb Wolf (00:54:02):
But people from Europe dealt with extreme levels of moisture, like people in Scotland and Ireland, they constantly had to drain bogs and they had to figure out drainage operations to be able to do agriculture effectively in that environment. And in the, the American West, it's a very different problem. And so we went in not only nearly exterminated the Beaver, but, but removed this, this process where the, the the natural process of replenishing aquifers was really stymied and limited because of the, how rapidly the water would leave an area. And a lot of you talk to people, particularly in the regenerative agriculture scene. It's not how much water you get. It's how much water you keep. And when you look at these side-by-side comparisons of the roots of native grasses on a regenerative Lilly, you know, managed patch of dirt. And there's some interesting things out of the Chihuahuan desert in Mexico and in, in Australia, some very, very arid areas, the root systems of these native plants, when they're allowed to interface with holistically managed animals, the animals go through, eat the grass, and then are moved and the grass is allowed to recover.
Robb Wolf (00:55:18):
The root systems are two meters tall. They're there, they're taller than I am. And then in these more conventionally raised areas, the root systems are four, six inches deep, and it, it barely holds any carbon. It barely holds any water. In our film, we highlight a guy down in the Chihuahuan desert that has recovered over a million acres of grassland there and, and reverted it from desert into grassland. And this is one of these answers to that scalability piece. Desertification is, is a major problem globally on, on virtually every continent. And it, you could make all kinds of arguments around greenhouse gas, emissions of ruminants, which I think is super short-sighted. And, and doesn't really give a full accounting, but it is literally the only tool that we have that can legitimately reverse desert defied areas and that alone you know, kind of circling back to the previous question about like sustained, not sustainability, but scalability.
Robb Wolf (00:56:21):
I don't know entirely how much food we can produce, but I know that when an area becomes dessert to feed, we produce no food on that area. And we have massive erosion. We're not trapping moisture in the ground. We're not replenishing aquifers. We're not creating habitat for native species. This is as a side note. The Audubon society used to be very prickly towards say like beef production, but they've really embraced like the savory Institute and the holistically managed ranches because the bird populations explode there and, and the diversity and, and number of birds in an area is literally kind of a Canary in the coal mine as to the total ecological health of that area. When these bird species are on the rise, it means that there's lots of water. There's lots of nutrients. There's, there's diversity of, of soil microbiome.
Robb Wolf (00:57:16):
There's lots of bugs. And, and when those things come back and, and, you know, other species that are kind of on the margins start also making a recovery. So it's interesting on the scalability piece, like and we get into some details in the book about you know, that we may actually be able to produce more food in this way. It's just going to be a little bit different compositionally and, and you know, there's some debate about that, that I, it's not a Hill I would die on, but when we think about will the current, well, one thing that is not really arguable right now, either side of this story is our current industrial Robocop food system sustainable over a 5,000 year period. No. And so then that just means we need to do something different and, and that's something we will kind of hash out over time.
Robb Wolf (00:58:10):
And I think we'll see different solutions in different places like what people do in South and central America is going to be different than what people do in the Canadian step, you know, and that, that should be really a reasonable idea. And this is where I think one of the most dangerous things that we face is, is a huge problem, which is the globalization of our food system. We're getting dictates from the world health organization, the world economic forum, that we should be doing things in basically a one size fits all way. And I think that that would be disastrous. And interestingly, some of the greatest pushback for these recommendations is emerging. It's coming from the developing world because they recognized that it would destroy their indigenous food systems. They would have zero food sovereignty, and it just isn't really going to provide that for them in the way that they've been able to provide for themselves over time.
Dr. Stephanie (00:59:07):
Yeah. And, you know, I completely agree with them because of course you have, you know, monoliths like bill Gates, who has his own agenda and who really has been pushing, you know, I mean, he's sort of self-identified as a medical doctor, which is like a completely separate, you know, self, you know, separate, separate topic, but he has said that we should be eating more synthetic forms of beef, like these, you know, the S these soy and these corn based products and, you know, whether or not this is true, this is sort of something I've read that he's sort of been quietly buying up, you know, like farmland.
Robb Wolf (00:59:42):
Well, no, he he's the largest owner of, of the ability to produce those products in the United States now. Yeah.
Dr. Stephanie (00:59:51):
Which is scary because you cannot discount that he has, you know, he dictates a lot of times, you know, the world health organization, what their policy stance is on, you know, global issues. And this is, this is a problem.
Robb Wolf (01:00:05):
And, and, and it's something that's interesting. And, and it really circles back to one of the first points that you made, which is that people are very divorced from our food systems. And then I made a pointed economics there, thermodynamics and evolution are really important. And some folks may not be familiar with those terms. Thermodynamics is just basically the energy flow through our lives, through the universe. And some people may notice, I'm not sure if they do this in Canada, but in the United States, they add ethanol to the gasoline and it's supposed to be green. You know, it's supposed to be this equalizer. Well, it costs more energy in the form of fossil fuels to produce that ethanol than what you get out of it. That's why the ethanol producers don't run their tractors on ethanol. They run it on gasoline. So it's a complete boondoggle.
Robb Wolf (01:00:52):
It costs more fossil fuels to make that ethanol than what we get out of it. And folks will oftentimes say, well, what about ju just do this lab, grown meat, just do the impossible burger. And I guess it's because I worked in a lab and I cultured tissue and bacteria and whatnot. You have to feed that stuff. Something like, even if you're doing the lab grown meat, where they take some tissue out of a you know, a fetal Callan and they grow it in a culture, you have to raise grains, legumes, and other things processed them, highly, introduce it into a VAT, keep it warm at some points. Cool. At other points apply antibiotics to it because it's a growth medium. That would be fantastic for like molder bacteria to grow in. And this is insanely inefficient relative to grass, light, sunlight, grasslands, and herbivores.
Robb Wolf (01:01:47):
But people, when I've had discussions with people, I was actually on a reasonably large TV show where the interviewer was just kind of dumbstruck. They're like, well, I thought this stuff just grew. And I said, what do you feed it? What, what inputs do you put into this fat as it, if you seal a can and your in your pantry, does it just start growing stuff? And he was like, Oh, that's a pretty good point. You know, but this is how divorced people are from our food systems. And it's on a first principles basis, it's really compelling. It's like, well, great. We'll just grow food in a VAT. And that'll be fantastic that, you know, there was a fascinating analysis that was performed and it made the case that even if you wanted to shift to a hundred percent, say like a synthetic meat model, you would still need holistically managed animals to keep the farm lands alive, to be able to produce the food, to, to then grow in this indirect synthetic way.
Robb Wolf (01:02:49):
And it still begs the question, what do you do with those animals as they grow old and get ready to die? Do you euthanize them? Do you let predators eat them too? Some ostracized casts of people eat them? You know, it's this, this whole kind of, kind of crazy complex deal. But even in that, like a completely synthetic grown in a lab story, which it just the energy costs are so enormous, it's kind of, it's hard to imagine how that would ever work, but even then you would need some sort of a holistic management system to raise enough raw materials in the form of row crops and soybeans and whatnot to feed into that. So we kind of need a holistically managed system with, with that is sustainable, regardless of which direction, direction you want to go.
Dr. Stephanie (01:03:37):
Let's talk a little bit about ethics because that comes up quite a bit as well. And I think that there are, there are some merits to the argument where we talk about how some of these cattle, how some of these animals live their lives and of course how they're killed. And I know there's a lot to unpack here, but is it can we, is there a way that we can ameliorate or improve the system as it currently is? What are the problems that we currently have? And you know, what is your vision in terms of, or your response to the ethics around the killing the current way that most conventional animals are raised and killed?
Robb Wolf (01:04:17):
Yeah. You know, I think that there's a huge amount of upside here. Naturally. There's been a lot of improvement already, relatively, particularly on the, the cattle production side. We touched on a little bit of this shifts with regards to you can't have life without death. Like that's of it. We kind of have to have that as an acceptable, you know, baseline of our discussion. And when Diana and I were writing the book and putting the film together, we were actually going to start with the ethical argument first. And then as we started motoring along, we, we noticed some interesting things, which one was you, it's very, very difficult to get adequate human nutrition, particularly for children and, and pregnant and breastfeeding women. It is nice and possible to do that absent animal products. And we have mountains of citations in there. So folks will just kind of have to, you know, take it at it one level of, of, you know, trust.
Robb Wolf (01:05:22):
And then they can kind of investigate that later. But when we looked at that, we were like, well, how ethical is it to make it socially unacceptable or economically unacceptable for people to access animal products? You know, if it's, if it's difficult, bordering on impossible to avoid nutrient deficiencies and whatnot. And, and in, in Europe, it's considered child abuse to feed infants and children, a vegan diet. And not that everything that Europe does is, is better than whatever, but he also does, but it's very interesting. And the, in the United States, the American council of dietetics, they say that Biegun diets are appropriate for humans across the totality of the lifespan. And there is absolutely no research to support that at all. And again, I would make the point that early stages of the life cycle, particularly in utero development and in late stages of the life cycle, we see significant problems with these very protein deficient, nutrient deficient diets, if you were raised well, and you're pretty healthy, it seems like you can motor along on a vegan and or vegetarian diet during your twenties and thirties, and maybe not suffer super deleterious effects.
Robb Wolf (01:06:31):
And if you have the good fortune to be able to go grab some you know super critically distilled DHA from algae to get your elongated fats, and you get B vitamins and whatnot, then you're good. But this is another part of this ethic story, which is in the developing world, which is being leaned on heavily to abandon its traditional methods of animal husbandry. Re-Do these people get there, their supplemental B vitamins and DHA and whatnot. What are the patterns,
Speaker 5 (01:07:03):
Where does the pea protein do we distribute
Robb Wolf (01:07:05):
The pea protein powder to these, these folks in the, you know, developing countries, something Diana dug up, which was really interesting. And this starts bridging into some kind of social justice you know, imperialistic type type stuff. But there are tens of millions of women around the world that because of the, the laws within their societies, they are not allowed to own land, but they are allowed to own animals and their total economic existence and, and social status is tied to, to say nothing of the nutrition of themselves and their family and their communities are tried to analyze
Speaker 5 (01:07:47):
Well husbandry. And these are in areas that you cannot
Robb Wolf (01:07:50):
Crops. It is not amenable to that. They, this is what these people have been doing for thousands of years and mainly white, mainly wealthy vegan centric. People in, in Europe, in the United States are telling these folks that they are destroying the planet, continuing their, their traditional ways of producing food and people will push back and say, well, yeah, but that's not what we're talking about, you know, with the, the industrial, you know, meat production, okay, that's fine. But what they cleanly and nuanced approach to this story, then we're, we're actually creating problems for these folks. So in the ethics consideration, is it ethical for a, again, amazingly, mainly Euro centric, white group of people to make global dictates that are, are off-putting two traditional Lifeways that have been around far longer than our, our civilization has been here. You know, I see some really significant problems with that.
Robb Wolf (01:08:45):
So the ethics thing starts getting a little bit sticky. You know, we've got this human nutrition piece, particularly at the early stages of the life cycle. We have this other part around kind of an imperialist social push to get this Eurocentric model. There are six companies that control 95% of the food consumed on the planet. And what's being suggested is that everybody largely abandoned their traditional Lifeways by genetically modified and patentable organisms that are then grown and you have to rebuy the seed. And, and, and it just you know, does away with animal husbandry. What big tech has really loved this emerging love of you know, well burger and whatnot. They've basically stated that they want to run food like software, or that it would be ownable, patentable, intellectual property that can be, can be scaled and sold off. And I think that there's some huge ethical considerations around that that people should have sovereignty around their food production and around the dietary practices that they want to undertake.
Robb Wolf (01:09:54):
So that's another, like the ethics start getting really interesting and it's not so, you know, black and white in that thing. It's like, okay, here's another interest piece. And then if what we're putting forward, the notion, if, if we're half correct about the need for, or grazing animals to maintain pasture land and grazing land and to play the role that they do within two thirds of the landmass that we live on, that is only amenable to grazing animals that is true at all than it is horrifically unethical to not be exploiting that to the best that we can, like our grasslands will die. Our pasture lands will die. Like, and some people will say, well, we'll just, rewild it. And we end up in this circular argument again. Okay. So we have huge populations of elk and deer. Do we allow Wolf yeah. And mountain lion populations to expand to the degree that they can maintain them, or you come, w we live in rural Montana and we walk our dogs and kids with bear sprayed because of mountain lions and bears, you know, and that's what I've accepted as living here.
Robb Wolf (01:11:02):
I am a visitor to this place. This is their place, but I'm also going to defend myself is everybody are people in the outskirts of Los Angeles, comfortable with a, a mountain lion population. That's going to be shockingly larger to be able to maintain the deer population. Like, and these are the things that folks don't really consider. And, and again, this is where it gets really complex, but the ethics thing, I think we can bring it down to like that end of life story. Like what does the animal experience both in its raising and in its end of life experience, and the vast majority of the really nasty suffering, dirty, horrible, you know, existence involves poultry and pork because they are in confined area, you know raising throughout the totality of their life. And it is only in these kind of holistically managed scenarios where they're, they're legitimately more outside, but they will not play a central role in the food system, not the way that it does today.
Robb Wolf (01:12:02):
And chicken has been kind of greenwashed to make it appear as if it's it's, you know, somehow more ecologically benign, but it's really not. And it's, it's ironic because when we start comparing the life for life, like, I don't know if somebody would compare the life of a cow versus a chicken as being the same, you know, an avian, well, okay, let's compare the life of a cow and a mouse. Cause they're both mammals. They have the same number of chromosomes. Like even though one is larger than the other, like it's very difficult to you. You can train them to similar degrees, they have similar intelligence, so they should be fairly analogous. And again, huge numbers of mice and rodents, birds are killed in the industrial road, crop food system, and fewer would be killed as a consequence of more of this kind of grass centric, large herbivore based food system.
Robb Wolf (01:12:58):
So every kind of turn what's interesting is that the industrial row crop food system doesn't shine well planet of the vegans doesn't shine. Well, some middle ground that is really messy. That is probably very regionally driven as to the way that people are going to best provide the, for themselves as something that, that emerges out of this story. And it, it it doesn't play well for the globalists. It doesn't play well for the superstar yard vegans. It makes almost everybody unhappy because it's very complex and it's very messy. It's, it's not an easy black or white kind of a story to tell it definitely doesn't lend itself to like an elevator pitch, 15, second soundbite.
Dr. Stephanie (01:13:41):
Yeah. And that, but I'd argue that that's life, you know, like life is very nuanced it's, you cannot, it's not, you know, shades of, you know, it's just black or white. And, you know, I have just in my own clinical experience with, with working with vegans, you know, not to mention, you know, the vitamin deficiencies that we, that we work with, the B12 and the B6 is just almost all but absent, but it does seem that the, and you see this in the ketogenic world as well. So this is not just pooh-poohing on vegans, but it does seem to permeate further than their food choices. It does seem to become a part of their identity. You know, I've, I've spoken to, you know, keep people in the keto world and I'm like, well, you should just be in ketosis forever. Like, this is, this is just how it is. And the more, the better
Robb Wolf (01:14:29):
Protein and you're eating sticks of butter and you're gaining weight on a diet, that's supposed to be impossible to gain weight on.
Dr. Stephanie (01:14:35):
Right. And in both cases, you're like, well, I just might, I must not be vegan enough. I must adhere to the principle and do it more. Or with Kita, like, I just must not be eating enough fat bombs. Yeah. I just gotta do keto harder. Right. and I, you know, I, I love what you're talking about because it's, it's in a way it's unpopular because it forces people to critically think, which I think is something that is, you know, and it has been my observation. It can be just a bias, but largely absent. You know, we love the Instagram arguments. We love the white carousel posts that have, you know, six, six lines on them. And then you, that's the meat of the argument, you know, pun intended. And I think that you, you really do have to, in order to fully understand something like the the economic, the environmental, the nutritional, the ethical impacts of animal husbandry and raising a roof, raising cattle and ruminant animals, you do have to understand all the whole picture. It's not the starry-eyed, you know, Rose colored colored glass. The story is, as you've been saying
Robb Wolf (01:15:40):
One quick thought along that line, I don't mean to interrupt, but Joel Salitan, I've watched it. He's such an amazing public speaker. And he, he wa he was doing a gig at his place. And there was actually a vegan family there, and they raised their hands and I'm like, well, you have a very meat centric, food production thing, like we're vegan. How, what about us? And Joel said, we have a holistic system. So they raise grains. They live raised legumes. They raised fruits and vegetables, all, all kinds of different stuff. He said, I tell you what, if you let me raise the food in the way I want to raise it to feed my family. I promise you, I will raise enough food for you to feed your family. And that was so amazing to me. And it is so contrary to the sentiment that seems to define our world today.
Robb Wolf (01:16:28):
It's kind of like my way or the highway there. You know, it can't be that we may disagree on a topic, but yet I will still do something that benefits you ultimately, because it's still benefiting me. We've you, you mentioned a little bit around the cancel culture stuff. You know, it it's like we've created these these lines that are so deep and so difficult to bridge that, and it makes it impossible to unpack these really complex discussions. And just as a really quick aside, a good friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Michael Eades, he has this great newsletter. And he was mentioning some of this story, any, he recounted one of these points out of medical history. It wasn't that long ago that the standard of care for a cardiac event for a heart attack was six weeks of bed rest flat on your back, no movement, no activity.
Robb Wolf (01:17:25):
And then there were two doctors, both of them, Jewish, who we survived, the Auschwitz and the, you know, the horrors of world war II. They just asked a question. They said, I wonder if laying these people flat on their backs as bad for them. Maybe we should just sit them up. And they started doing that with their patients. And there was absolute uproar in the hospitals. And there were letters to the editor written and whatnot. They actually had their staff give them the Nazi salute when they came in, because the people were claiming that these two Jewish doctors were doing the equivalent of a German experimentation on humans. Now, what do we do? We fast forward 35, 40 years later, what is standard of care? When somebody comes out of the cath lab, you stick them on a treadmill and you start beating their because it promotes angiogenesis.
Robb Wolf (01:18:19):
It drops inflammation. It moves fluid out of the lungs. So the standard of care that people will be willing to do the most horrific injustice to these two doctors ended up being God wrong. Like you couldn't, you couldn't get it more wrong. And the, these, this was within your, in my lifetime, that it was standard of care. And so there are all of these topics that people are absolutely certain that they are right about. And this is where, like, I have some fairly strong beliefs, but they they're, they're usually, like, I kinda think this direction, but really at the, at the end of the day, there aren't that many Hills I'd be willing to die on. And medicine is just fraught with these stories where we thought we knew what we were doing. And we absolutely did not ignorance. Semmelweiss like he, he observed that women who had babies on the streets of London ended up having a lower infant mortality rate than the wealthy women who were delivering babies within the hospitals.
Robb Wolf (01:19:17):
But this was within the Victorian era. And doctors were just learning about anatomy. They would go from dissecting cadavers to delivering babies without washing their hands, because we hadn't developed the germ theory of, of infection yet. And he suggested, and he actually did an experiment where people wash their hands in a dilute bleach solution and the infant mortality rates plummeted. And he was ridiculed until he went crazy in it and was institutionalized. Then 30 years after his death Koch's postulate the development of the germ theory of infection. And th just a little understanding of that stuff, you know, I think should help people to kind of pump the brakes. We, we know a lot of things, but we don't know every day in some of these really deeply held beliefs, you know, and particularly when we start getting the complexities of health, the complexities of a global system, and how that feeds back, both on ecological health and human health, we can't do soundbites. We just can't like, that is going to be the doom of us. All. We really have to kind of pump the brakes. And even if 80% of what I'm suggesting is inaccurate, if 20% of it is accurate and it's not being implemented, then we by God needed to have a discussion to ferret out that 20% and implement it. And I'll be the happiest person to figure out which of that 80% I was wrong about. So I can update my thinking and move that forward.
Dr. Stephanie (01:20:41):
That's fine. But that's scientific inquiry though. That's the method, right. We used to you know, give laparotomies to people with headaches. It's like, Oh, something must be wrong. Let's just stick something up your nose and jiggle it around a little bit, but take out your frontal lobe. That's right though. There's a lot of darkness in, you know, many, many verticals of of medicine that I think, you know, we tend to just like shew under the rug. I'm like, what? But that's, that was then like, now we know now we're sure, you know, now it's this, now it's make a mistake like that. Yeah. Right, exactly. I want to talk a little bit just with our our time coming to a close. I want to make sure that I'm respectful of your time your company element. I know we're taking a bit of a hard left here, but it is such a great product.
Dr. Stephanie (01:21:24):
I think it's worth talking about, particularly for those, you know, who are interested in eating in a more in, in a way that's more aligned with our, you know, ancestors, whether that's paleolithic, ketogenic in and out of it including needs. So you're, it's an, it's an electrolyte product. I will just say the chocolate salt is to die for. I asked I'm having the orange one as we're talking today, but I just want to talk a little bit about the importance of electrolytes. This is something that I, I speak about the ketogenic diet. I tend to speak more to females and female physiology and the implications of keto for what, for women. But one of the things that we start them on early is electrolytes. Because we know that as you begin to restrict carbohydrates, you tend to also, as you're getting rid of them, the water goes out with them and out with the water goes in a, the cl the K all the things. So can we talk a little bit about why we need to be, if we are doing a low carb ish or a carbohydrate appropriate ketogenic paleolithic type of diet, why electrolytes are important and why you developed this this particular price,
Robb Wolf (01:22:34):
Or you, you actually nailed the why it's important, you know, the for a long time, we've understood this, this concept called the nature recess of fascinating. It's the loss of sodium in particular and a bunch of other, other products at the same time when insulin levels fall, we tend to see a downregulation of a hormone called aldosterone and aldosterone helps us to regulate fluid balance and also our electrolytes. And this is an interesting case, you know, people will say, well, you should go to a dietician, or, you know, there shouldn't be people just writing diet, you know, like, like myself. If someone is put on a medically supervised ketogenic diet, that dietician makes certain that they get at least five grams of sodium per day, like it's just baked in the cake and you don't really see these terrible problems of kind of like a renal fatigue, hypothyroidism, the brain fog and lethargy and whatnot.
Robb Wolf (01:23:26):
And I know that biochemistry really well, but I motored long for 20 years kind of suboptimally in this low carb space, because I really didn't appreciate the need for as much sodium as, as what I needed. I really vigorously salted my food, but it really wasn't enough. Not, not on my, I'm a really heavy sweater, pretty physically active and feel really the best on, on low carb. And so the physiological part we've known about that, it totally got lost in the shuffle of the popular culture diet story. You know, it was like reduced carbohydrates. Carrots will kill you, which I is just one of these funny things within keto land. It's like, you've got to eat a bushel of carrots to get any appreciable carbohydrate, but but nobody really talked about sodium. And my two coaches, Tyler Cartwright and Louise Phyllis, and your they're the founders of this group called keto gains.
Robb Wolf (01:24:22):
And I, I, they have a couple of hundred thousand people in their group. They, they put tens of thousands of people through these bootcamps. I can't think of anybody that's done more like clinical implementation of well formulated, low carb diets. I wouldn't even call it ketogenic because the emphasis is on adequate protein levels, which sometimes could be double what is usually recommended for like a ketogenic diet. But I had them look at what I was doing. And I said, Hey, why would, you know, what can I do to improve my performance in jujitsu and whatnot? Like, you need more sodium. I'm like, no, no, no. I salt my food and I'm a biochemist. So I know this stuff, you know? And so I ignored what my, my coaches told me to do. And about a year went on and I continued to struggle and they're like, no, really weigh and measure your food, put it in like chronometer so that you see how much protein potassium, magnesium chloride that you get.
Robb Wolf (01:25:12):
And then you tell us what you're getting. And I was like, not even half of what I needed. So I started supplementing with the sodium and it was just like a light switch was flipped. It was absolutely amazing. And I went back to them. I'm like, guys, sodium is really important. They're like, yeah, you're an idiot. And we've known that a long time. So we actually spun up this home brew mix Quito Wade, you know, take this much table salt, this much potassium, chloride this much magnesium Malai, but some lemon juice in it. Some Stevia, you know, make a gallon of it. And we had like a half million downloads of this thing. And people were just like, this is amazing. It helps so much. But you know, when I was going through TSA, they didn't like my three bags of white powder that I was traveling with, you know, and dye shocker.
Robb Wolf (01:26:01):
And that was really the Genesis for wondering if like kind of a convenient stick pack around this stuff would be good. And we started with a citrus salt and honest to God. We knew that it would be great for addressing the electrolyte needs of people. We weren't really sure if there was a legitimate market there. So we formulated it in a way such that if it tanked as an electrolyte company, we were going to pivot and sell it as a margarita base. And so that's the story of how it came to be. And, you know, what's really interesting is we've found all these other communities to pots, community to postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome community. They know they need more sodium, but it's really hard to figure out how to get it into them, particularly kids. The breastfeeding moms, particularly like the exclusive pumper community, they just went crazy with this stuff.
Robb Wolf (01:26:56):
Like they would show a picture. This was yesterday where they had like one bottle and like just a bare amount of breast milk. And this is the day later when I used element and they had four full bottles of breast milk that they produce. My wife was just like, Oh my God, I wish I had known about this because she had some, some latching problems with our first daughter. And so she pumped for 14 months, you know? And so, yeah, but it's been interesting. We really, the center of the bullseye of who we were kind of targeting initially was definitely this kind of lower carb paleo keto scene. But it's just expanded into all these different directions. We have a bunch of sports teams using it. We do work with Naval special warfare. We have some seal teams using it, but it which again, I think all that elite athletic stuff is really cool, but my heart is really in that, that like a Navy seal that I can help perform better.
Robb Wolf (01:27:52):
That's great. I, I feel good about that, but I think back to my situation and all of the people that have ulcerative colitis, autoimmune diseases and the standard of care has failed them. And they haven't been told that there might be a different way through the forest. Like if, if somebody's health is great and they're just crushing stuff, they probably don't need to talk to me. I probably don't have a lot to offer, but for folks that are struggling, that like mainstream medicine and the main narrative around nutrition and lifestyle has failed them, those are the people that I'm really passionate about, because if we can, if we can heal somebody's gut, if we can put throttle immune condition into remission, it literally might've saved their life. So that's kind of the cool thing is that we've really seen an explosion of people with a wide range of health concerns seeming to benefit from not just the electrolyte part of this story, but adopting the diet and lifestyle stuff that really supports all that.
Dr. Stephanie (01:28:47):
That's amazing. Yeah. I love the product. I was like I said, chocolate salt is my absolute favorite. I love that one orange and raspberry salt are probably like number one and two for me right after that. And we'll have just for my Betty's we'll have the for the element in the show notes for you to check out the product as well. Rob, just, I have to say this has just been such an incredible conversation. I hope that people will listen to this without bias, you know, if there's some counter information that's potentially threatening to their identity or what they previously held as a schema, I hope that they'll just try to take it in with as little bias as possible and see if it applies in their own life, right? Like that's the other thing it may or may not you know, work for you. And I love that example that you gave where, you know, the guy said, well, let me do it my way. And I'll also make sure that I have enough for you. That's the coming together that we were talking about at the top of the hour. So tell people where they can find you, your podcast, your book, your product, all the places they can find you on the interwebs.
Robb Wolf (01:29:53):
Sure. And I've largely abandoned social media because it's a little too heavy for me right now. I throw some stuff on there, but I really don't curate comments anymore. I may get back on there at some point pool. We'll see. But Robb wolf.com. You can find our podcasts. The name of the podcast is the healthy rebellion. We do have a community called the healthy rebellion where we're trying to get 1 million people out of the sick care system and just have a fantastic time with the folks there. And yeah, those are probably the main places. And I do produce a lot of material for element, and that is a drink element.com. So we have a blog over there and I, I throw a lot of material on there too. Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you. This was a ton of fun.
Robb Wolf (01:30:37):
Thank you. And I gotta say, like, I, I wrote a note each year I try to curate like my, my coolest experiences that I've had, but your, your opening question was the most expansive and insightful question. I think I've ever been asked in a podcast like it just showed the breadth and depth of your understanding for this, like the ability to ask a question like that, both succinct succinctly, but also having like 30 layers of, of potential places you can dock in at it. It really speaks to how well you understand all this stuff and your passion for it. So I, I, the amazing time being spent with you. Thank you.
Dr. Stephanie (01:31:15):
Thank you. Thank you. I fully received that with love and grace. Thank you very much. All right. I hope that you enjoyed this conversation as much as I had having it. Rob so far has been at easily. One of my top five favorite interviews that we've done on the pod. He was so articulate so well thought out and really did give very, very nuanced thinking process and discussion in terms of how we can be using regenerative, agriculture and sustainable meat farming practices for the longevity of humans. So what I wanted to do as I let you go for your wonderful week is to read you a podcast review that came in. This comes from slick Chrome Ben, and the review rights stellar podcast. Dr. Stephanie is absolutely brilliant. Not only is she super intelligent, she also has a funny sense of humor. The guests on her show have been so valuable to me, love this podcast.
Dr. Stephanie (01:32:17):
Well, thank you so much for taking the time to write a review. I know how busy you all are and for you to take the time to let me know how the podcast has impacted you. I can't tell you how wonderful that is. So thank you. Thank you for that slick Chrome Ben. And if you are finding value from this podcast, let me know, leave a rating, leave a review on the pod on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to things. And I will be sure to shout you out on a future episode. So with that, I leave you, I bid you adieu and we will see you here next time.
Speaker 6 (01:32:55):
I hope you enjoyed today's episode for those of you who want to continue on this week's geeky magic carpet ride with me, visit better show.com forward slash show notes. You'll find research links, summary notes, using that. I prepared in preparation for the podcast, and I often throw in some of my best practices, bonuses, and links. All the juicy bits are in there for you.