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Convenient and Inconvenient Truth

November 17, 2014

600px-Swiss_cheese_cubesRecently a dairy myth came up on an online forum along with the predictable cut and paste (and wrong) arguments of why Americans shouldn’t use dairy. You see, America is so unhealthy because we eat dairy products, and if we just do without dairy we’d be healthier. Go vegan. Go vegetarian. Go grass fed.

Yes we all have choices. Let’s take a brief look at statistics and some basic information, however. First step – let’s look at the healthiest countries in the world. Of course this is subjective! Japan, Sweden, Iceland, Switzerland and Germany are top 5 according to HealthFiend, with France, Italy, Denmark, Austria and Australia rounding out the top ten.

The New York Daily News lists the Netherlands, France and Switzerland as countries to emulate.

And the NPR announced many of the same countries in the healthiest eating, specifically:

The Netherlands ranked as the easiest country in the world in which to find a balanced, nutritious diet, the advocacy group Oxfam reported Tuesday.

France and Switzerland shared the second slot. And Western Europe nearly swept the top 20 positions, with Australia just edging into a tie for 8th.

Where did the U.S. land?

We tied with Japan for 21st place, despite the fact that we have the most cheap food available. Our friendly neighbors to the north, Canada, took the 25th position out of 125 countries.

Best:

1. Netherlands

2. France, Switzerland

4. Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Belgium

8. Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg, Australia

So let’s look at statistics as to how much less meat and dairy Americans need to eat in order to be like the healthy countries, per capita. Pork and poultry from 1999 data, most recent here. Cheese, Butter, Dairy sources linked.

USA – Pork 31.7 pounds  Poultry 67.2  Beef 45.3 (note 37.8 in 2009) Cheese 31 butter 2.5  Dairy (kg/Milk) 253.8

Netherlands – pork 43.7  Poultry 22.8 Beef 19.6  cheese 31 butter 3.3 milk 320.15

France  – pork 38.4  poultry 24.1  beef 26.8  cheese 53 butter  7.4 milk 260.48

Switzerland – pork 31.6 Poultry, cheese not listed   beef 21.3  butter 5.2 milk 315.78

Germany – pork 58.8 poultry 15.1  beef 15.2 cheese not listed butter 6.2 milk 247.24

Sweden – pork 38.5 poultry not listed  beef 20.2  cheese 31 butter 1.8 milk 355.86

Top three pork countries – Denmark (73.7) Czech Republic (67.7), Spain (64)

Top 3 poultry – Hong Kong (67.2), USA, Israel (43.8)

Beef top 3 – Argentina 70.2, Uraguay 50.4, USA

Greece leads cheese consumption at 68 pounds per capita.

A vegetarian site had some other figures for meat consumption (general)  – USA 279.1 pounds per capita was third (behind Lexumbourg and Hong Kong). Netherlands 171.5, Switzerland 159.4, Germany 183.6, France 195.3 and Sweden 179.

SugarsLots of statistics for the agnerds and foodnerds! So here we find that while we could cut back a little on beef the healthiest countries drink far more milk and much more butter and cheese than we do. Fascinating discovery! Of course, when I mentioned the dairy part of that it came back that we don’t need dairy because we don’t digest it well. Hmmm…seems like the healthiest countries in the world are digesting it just fine! Obviously, there are many more factors to consider. How about another food ingredient many love to hate. It’s been said, according to a Facebook meme, to be more addictive than cocaine and heroin. Sugar.

Americans per capita consume 28.1 kg per capita. The other countries consume less so that’s the secret, right. Hold on to your Hershey bar dear reader – Sweden checks in at 33.7, Switzerland tops at 49.2, Netherlands 40.6, Germany 34 and France 31.9 – all are much higher than the USA no matter how many bus loads Jamie Oliver wants to say we eat.

Those following along here conclude the healthiest countries eat more sugar, more dairy, more butter and sometimes near the meat consumption of Americans yet are far healthier. It’s more than food!

753px-Rabbit_meatOh but wait – it’s the source of our food, right? Sorry – looking up pork imports Germany and France are 4th and 5th, with Sweden and Netherlands 13th and 14th for pork imports – they can’t grow as much as they need. Germany leads, with Switzerland, Netherlands and France ahead of the USA in rabbit meat imports – perhaps we should eat more rabbit!

Of course there is another major factor – the ability to feed yourselves. Many of the healthiest countries are reliant on importing. Population and volume matters. Sweden has 9,728,498. Switzerland 8,183,800 and Netherlands 16,876,800. Germany and France weigh in at 80,767,000 and 66,050,000 respectively The USA is feeding 319,094,000 and unlike others importing basics, our leading ag import is coffee. We can’t farm like Sweden unless roughly 3,190,000 million people starve or grow everything themselves, and that isn’t going to happen folks.

We also export much to China, with the leading world population of 1,367,900,000. India is 100million behind China, still far more than the USA. With volume the US and China lead world imports but Germany is 3rd and France and the Netherlands are in the top 10.Added to the quandary among the leading exports for both Sweden and Switzerland is…chemicals. The horror of American activist psyche is the bread and butter, literally (pun not intended) for the healthiest countries in the world.

Under it all – be happy, strive for healthy, don’t believe all of the don’t eat <whatever> you see. We’re blessed with an abundance of food and food choices in the USA. Among our ag imports…coffee. Luxury items! Wake up and smell it folks – dairy, meat, sugar alone is not the determination of ill health. Increased consumption by healthier countries is an inconvenient truth indeed.

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