Many of our community members seek guidance about what food to shop for and how to prepare it. Even within our organization however, there are differing opinions expressed. My intention in writing this article is to encourage you to do your own research so that you can make informed decisions that fit with your values, preferences, budget, and comfort. I also want to address a concerns raised about a particular brand recommendation for cod liver oil that came up this week.
The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Shopping Guide
Every year the Weston A. Price Foundation publishes a shopping guide recommending products that fit into their dietary recommendations. It comes as a hard copy sent to all members, and is available as an App for Apple devices called Find Real Food. It is also available as a web based shopping guide. The Shopping Guide is organized into best, good and avoid categories. The criteria by which products are categorized, is published on the Foundation’s website. An example is:
Fresh or frozen beef, veal, lamb, poultry, goat and pork, including fat and organ meats, from (preferably soy-free) animals allowed to graze; venison and other game meat. For a list of farmers providing grass-fed animal products, see Eat Wild or Local Harvest, or contact a local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Note: It is important to consume organ meats and meat with the fat. Consumption of lean meats can lead to deficiencies.
Organic or naturally raised poultry, pork, veal and rabbit; beef, bison, lamb and goat.
Most commercial chicken, turkey and pork, which is raised in confinement on industrial farms.
Other categories include milk, fresh cheese, aged cheese. cream, eggs, etc. From my perspective, the cod liver oil category in particuarly has received a fair amount of scrutiny and attention, and continues to. This is a statement provided to me by Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, about concerns raised this week:
Concerns about the NutraPro brand of cod liver oil:
A controversy has arisen over the NutraPro brand of cod liver oil, one of three brands of cod liver oil in our “Best” category in the shopping guide.
Nutra-Pro is described as “Virgin Cod Liver Oil,” which as best as we can determine, is steam extracted. This is an extraction at a lower temperature than most brands of cod liver oil, which are extracted through a process called molecular distillation. The other two brands in the Best category are not heated. The Blue Ice cod liver oil is extracted from the livers through fermentation and the Rosita brand (described as “Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil”) is released from the cod livers after a rapid change in temperature. All three brands contain natural vitamins A and D, with nothing added.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has conducted rancidity tests on all three brands. We found no signs of rancidity in the [Green Pasture] Blue Ice cod liver oil and very low signs of rancidity in the other two brands. The results of these tests were presented at Wise Traditions 2015 and also published in the Spring 2016 issue of Wise Traditions. Oil #4 is the Nutra-Pro brand. [Here is a more readable version of the article.]
It was recently brought to our attention that the president of the Nutra-Pro distribution company has a criminal record as a sex offender in 2007. We need to make it clear that the Weston A. Price Foundation does not do background checks on the owners of the companies recommended in our Shopping Guide. We have over three thousand products listed there, and to research the backgrounds of the owners is beyond our budget and not part of our mission statement. We do our best to produce a guide containing products that conform to our guidelines, but cannot vouch for the overall accuracy of the guide or the background of the owners. Whether individuals wish to purchase the NutraPro cod liver oil given this knowledge is their individual decision.
It turns out that the owner of NutraPro is Tilak Dhiman, once a distinguished professor of dairy science at the University of Utah and an expert in lipid science. He is listed as an author of twenty-two papers on CLA, and the importance of grass-based feeding of dairy cows. In fact, he was an eloquent voice for a return to pasture-based feeding and was a speaker at Wise Traditions in 2006. So he is very qualified to assess the qualities of the cod liver oil that he distributes, and we have never had any complaints about the product.
The Weston A. Price Foundation does not have any financial interest in any of the companies listed in the Shopping Guide.
To thine own self be true.
I think it is incumbent upon each of us to research the products we consume independently, and not to solely rely on guidelines offered by the Weston A. Price Foundation or any other entity. We may each have different criteria. Perhaps some of us prioritize locally produced goods. For some it may be important that none of the producers they purchase from have a criminal record, while others may actually want to support those who have had a prior criminal record as they rehabilitate. Our decision may depend on the type of criminal record it is. Perhaps some want to buy goods from those who share their political sensibilities, or the same faith. We may want to buy goods from those who oppose mandatory vaccines, or fracking, or corporal punishment. Or we may not care about whether or not the producer shares these kind of values, and just want to know the products are certified organic.
I don’t agree with all of the Weston A. Price Foundation’s recommendations, even though I serve in a position of leadership as a chapter leader, honorary board member, and while directing this educational initiative. I don’t expect to agree with all of the recommendations of any organization or individual I am associated with. For example, I differ on the recommendations made regarding milk. The Foundation lists full-fat pasteurized, non-homogenized milk from grass-fed animals, without added vitamins in the good category. For me, personally, pasteurized milk of any kind is an avoid, and I don’t recommend it, as I shared in this article I wrote: Are there any substitutes you recommend for raw milk?. If it isn’t raw milk, I don’t drink it and don’t recommend others do either. This difference in opinion I have with the Foundation’s Shopping Guide is not one that would prompt me to leave the fold of this organization. We will each decide for ourselves the point at which we can agree to disagree and the point at which we decide to part ways.
What about the cod liver oil recommendations?
Back to the topic of cod liver oil. For some, the testing and scientific analysis on the various brands, including Fermented Cod Liver Oil, have quieted any concerns about their safety. Others don’t trust the reports. Some have decided to part with the Weston A. Price Foundation because it continues to recommend Green Pasture in the best category. I feel very comfortable with the continued recommendation of Fermented Cod Liver Oil, don’t doubt its safety, and at the same time understand and respect that it may not be suitable for everyone. I am clearly not alone in my assessment, as recent customer testimonials reveal in the comments of this Green Pasture giveaway. Green Pasture will soon be publishing more independent scientific analysis about how it is that their cod liver oil is so stable, and about the naturally protective elements in their product. For some, the fact that NutraPro’s president has a criminal record as a sex offender is a deal breaker. They won’t buy the product, and won’t support an organization that continues to list the product in the best category. I agree with Sally on this one: it is up to you.
We all have our own criteria by which we discern for ourselves what our comfort level is, and who we want to support. I encourage you to decide for yourself at every turn. We don’t recommend chocolate, and some eat it nontheless while continuing to be associated with our cause. We don’t recommend juicing, and some passionately defend its merits, and have left the fold of our organization. If there are too many recommendations made that don’t resonate with you, we may simply not be a match.
How do we handle differences of opinion?
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius
We can certainly come to different conclusions when presented with the same information. From my vantage point, as someone who embraces the principles of Nonviolent Communication, it doesn’t mean either party is wrong or bad. We just don’t see the situation in the same way. In this current political climate of what I experience as extreme vitriol, I see folks spending a fair amount of time pointing the finger of blame and hoping to make others wrong. I also experience what I would refer to as character assassination, and have even been the recipient of it. We don’t recommend vaccinations, for example. I’ve been called uneducated, irresponsible, idiotic, stupid … and worse. I understand that it can be hard for us to understand why others choose a different course than we would. Again, if the recommendations made by this organization don’t line up with your values, or your conclusions, then this organization may simply not be a good match for you.
Know the hands that feed you.
In conclusion, to answer the question posed in the title of this article: How do we decide what to nourish ourselves and our children with? To the extent that it serves me, I know the hands that feed me and decide for myself if what they produce meets the standards I am comfortable with. I encourage our community members to do the same. The Weston A. Price Foundation’s Shopping Guide can certainly serve as a starting point, however we are empowered to decide for ourselves.