By Charles Walters
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Acres U.S.A. original book, Grass, the Forgiveness of Nature, written by Acres U.S.A. founder Charles Walters. Copyright 2006, softcover, 320 pages. Regular price: $25.00. SALE PRICE: $17.50.
What Is a Protective Food?
It is well known that grazing animals can live on grass alone, and pretty poor grass at that. It has been assumed that herbivorous animals could live on any of the common leafy green crops, but this is not the case. A guinea pig is herbivorous, and yet it will die in 8 to 12 weeks on a diet of head lettuce, cabbage or carrots, and will grow at only half its normal rate on a sole diet of spinach. But a guinea pig thrives on a solid diet of grass. A super race of guinea pigs was developed in five generations on a sole diet of 20 percent protein dehydrated grass.
When the first vitamins were discovered, leafy green vegetables were placed at the top of the list of so-called protective foods, and there is no doubt that all green leaves are rich in the vitamins associated with photosynthesis, the same as green grass. Then why won’t any of the common leafy green foods support normal growth and reproduction in the guinea pig? Is it because they lack something, or is it because they contain some harmful substances?
Neither man nor animal dares eat the leaves of more than 15 flowering plant families, out of a total of 332. Most of the greens used for human consumption are supplied by only three families. The mustard family supplies Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radishes, rape and turnips. The composite family supplies dandelions, endive and lettuce. The goosefoot family supplies beets, chard and spinach. Every one of these leafy green vegetables contains more of one poison or another than the government would allow a food manufacturer to put in processed foods.
It is well known that many of the wild species of the mustard family are poisonous to livestock. The poisonous principal is mustard oil, which in large doses causes chronic enteritis, hemorrhagic diarrhea, colic, abortion, nephritis, harmaturia, apathy, and paralysis of the heart and respiration. In small doses over a period of time it damages the thyroid in some way yet unknown. When fed to laying hens, any species of the mustard family will cause green-yolked eggs — wrongly called “grass eggs” (grass never causes green-yolked eggs).
Lettuce contains an amaroid, lactucin; an alkaloid, hyocyamine; an opiate; and rubber. The harmful substance in spinach is oxalic acid. Too much spinach in a poultry ration causes soft-shelled eggs.
In order to get the optimum supply of vitamin A and vitamin C, the average person must eat 9 ounces of leafy green foods per day. Certainly, no food should be called protective which will not pass the guinea pig sole diet test.
It is well known that alfalfa cannot serve as a sole diet for any of our domestic animals. J. Sotala found the protein of alfalfa to have a value of 51, as compared to 94 for corn-silage protein. Morrison and Maynard Turk found alfalfa protein to have a value of 50 when used as a sole source of protein for lambs. The value apparently rose to 72 when sugar or starch was added to the alfalfa diet. This looks like the dilution of something rather than a lack of something in alfalfa; 20 percent alfalfa in a poultry ration causes serious kidney damage.
Numerous experiments show that grass pasture alone can support a milk flow of 40 pounds per cow per day, but 40 percent protein grass as a sole diet will support a milk flow of 80 pounds. Furthermore, a pound of (dry) 40 percent protein grass will make 4 pounds of milk, while a pound of alfalfa makes only 1 pound of milk.
The most surprising thing is that a cow could thrive indefinitely on a sole diet of 40 percent protein grass, yet any farmer knows what would happen to a cow on a sole diet of any concentrate containing 40 percent protein.
Grass protein seems to be unique in that it can serve as a source of energy without injuring the liver or kidneys, although this is a wasteful use to make of it. Some new definitions of protein quality are long overdue.
In a USDA bulletin, Graves, Dawson and Kepand report that every time alfalfa was substituted for grass pasture there was a sharp drop in milk production. Others report very low milk production on alfalfa alone. Whenever alfalfa pasture contains considerable grass, milk production is usually satisfactory in the spring because cows always graze grass before the jointing stage when given the opportunity.
The most notable effect of good grass is the beneficial change it causes in the liver. Not one of 20 leafy green vegetables would cause those dark mahogany colored livers which are so conspicuous in grass-fed hens. Furthermore, grass-fed hens will not approach 100 percent production until these liver changes take place, but when liver injury has gone far, even good grass won’t change or correct the damage.
Unfortunately, none of the tests for liver function show any sign of liver failure until 90 percent of the liver has been destroyed, and by that time the victim, whether animal or man, has died of some other degenerative disease, or the liver damage is beyond repair.
The world has everything but good grass. The ancient shepherd apparently knew that “all flesh is grass,” but modern man has had to relearn this homely truth the hard way. The liver changes caused by good grass are too obvious not to have some connection with the prevention of degenerative diseases.
Dr. F.M. Chichester makes the best summary of the situation from a medical point of view: “In the early stages of vitamin deficiency, the thyroid gland and other endocrine glands are overactive. This overactivity causes the body to lose enormous amounts of calcium, iodine and iron, which leads to goiter, anemia, nerve degeneration, diabetes, paralysis of the limbs and gastric ulcers. Finally, in the later stages of vitamin deficiency, when the glands have become exhausted, sterols accumulate in the body and form gall stones, cataracts, hardening of the arteries and the most malignant form of cancers. The vitamins of natural foods are best because they have no chemical imbalances.”
Dr. Chichester’s theory explains the universal prevalence of tooth decay, even among people getting twice the supposed minimum requirement of calcium. A small amount of good grass in the human diet prevents tooth decay, which is the result of other degenerative changes in the body. Don’t ever forget that degenerative diseases start their “spiral of destruction” before a child is born. Stillbirths are certainly not a normal function of motherhood.
It is folly to dose ourselves with one or two vitamins when we know nothing about their relationship to 50 other food factors. For example, it takes 20 percent of 20 percent protein grass to serve as the sole source of vitamins for a guinea pig, but 5 percent of grass will fully replace any one vitamin which is purposely left out of a guinea pig’s diet. This can only mean that some of the vitamins must be interchangeable.
Grass does many things in animal nutrition which cannot be accounted for by its known vitamin content. For example, 40 percent protein grass is only four to five times as high in known vitamins as 20 percent protein alfalfa, yet 2 percent of 40 percent protein grass will perform miracles in a poultry ration as compared to 10 percent of 20 percent alfalfa.
Either God or man is still mixed up on the subject of vitamins. For example, only man, monkey and the guinea pig are supposed to need vitamin C. Good grass is the richest natural source of both vitamin A and vitamin C, yet grass has been considered fit only for cow feed, and grazing animals are less than 1 percent efficient in transferring these vitamins to meat, milk and eggs.
Vitamin C and good-quality protein are the most expensive food factors in the human diet. How could it be otherwise when the world’s richest source of these factors is a total loss as far as human nutrition is concerned?
Charles Walters is the founder and executive editor of Acres U.S.A. He penned thousands of articles on the technologies of organic and sustainable agriculture and is author or co-author of many books on the subject, including Eco-Farm, Weeds- Control Without Poisons, Unforgiven, Hands-On Agronomy, A Farmer’s Guide to the Bottom Line, The Secret Life of Compost, Mainline Farming for Century 21, and more. Charles Walters passed away in 2009.