Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chicken Carcasses Contain More Than Antibiotics, Feces

We already know that chickens are given antibiotics and that chicken flesh contains dangerous bacteria and feces.

But today I discovered that dead chickens are also pumped full of saltwater.

An unlikely source, chicken killer Foster Farms, is launching an ad campaign to alert consumers of this practice -- and, of course, to publicize itself as a producer of "natural" chickens. Natural, dead chickens. Its press release doesn't say why companies engage in "plumping," but my guess is that it increases the weight and size of the carcass.

It does say that "[t]he average serving of plumped chicken contains more sodium than a large order of French fries or more than 25% of the daily recommended allowance."

Of course, after the antibiotics, salmonella and feces, what's a little salt?

So if you want to eat healthy, avoid animal flesh. Eat a whole-food, plant-based diet.

Chicks on Film

Speaking of chickens, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in Woodstock, NY, has live, streaming video of five newly hatched chicks. A teacher was looking for a home for them -- the result of a class project. (Because what's better than teaching kids that living beings can be discarded?)

Check out the chicks and see how your chicken sandwich began. Then go veg!

(Image courtesy of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.)



Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Nightline" Goes Inside a Puppy Mill

Now for another follow-up.

"Nightline" last night aired a story about puppy mills in Lancaster County, a heavily Amish area in Pennsylvania. It's a seven-minute piece that you can watch here.

In the piece we learn that puppy millers sometimes "debark" their dogs by shoving a sharp instrument down their throats to scar their vocal cords. This way they don't have 500 dogs barking all the time.

The "Nightline" reporter interviews one Mennonite puppy miller who says he doesn't "believe in animal rights, but I highly believe in animal welfare." When asked the difference, he says, "In animal welfare is you treat the dog like you want to be treated and animal rights activist, they just have a very different mind-set."

It's true that there is a difference between animal welfare and animal rights. To put it simply, animal welfarists believe animals should be treated humanely, but they support the killing of them. Animal-rights advocates believe that animals exist for their own reasons, should be respected and are not people's to use food, entertainment or testing.

Bill Smith with Main Line Animal Rescue tells the reporter that "dogs in this community are viewed as livestock. Nothing more. Like chickens or pigs or goats. They laugh at us. They think that we're fools ... for the way we treat our animals. ... They just can't imagine that we love them as members of our family."

While I support those in animal rescue, I wish more of these volunteers would think about the similarities between dogs in puppy mills and pigs (and chickens and cows) in factory farms. Their situations are similar -- only most of the puppies will go to homes, while most of the farmed animals will be slaughtered.

As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised this week to see that Tails magazine -- which supports adoption for dogs and cats -- featured a story about going vegetarian in its latest issue.

(Billboard image courtesy of Main Line Animal Rescue.)



CCF Follows in Big Tobacco's Footsteps

On Tuesday I briefly mentioned a study that compares the deception of the tobacco industry to that of the food industry. After reading the study, I wanted to write a follow-up post.

The study, "The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar Is Big Food?", highlights strategies that are used by the food industry to sway public and government opinion.

In my previous post I told you that if you went to the Center for Consumer Freedom's Web site, you'd find evidence to support each strategy. Here is just a sample of that evidence:
  • Focus on personal responsibility as the cause of the nation's unhealthy diet.

    On its "About Us" page it says this: "The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility..."

  • Raise fears that government action usurps personal freedom.

    In an op-ed published in the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 6, CCF's David Martosko writes, "[T]he boundary between personal food choices and government policymaking is gradually disappearing."

  • Vilify critics with totalitarian language, characterizing them as the food police, leaders of a nanny state, and even "food fascists," and accuse them of desiring to strip people of their civil liberties.

    Martosko writes in a Nov. 17 op-ed in The Rocky Mountain News: "We all know we need to lose weight. But nobody wants to be scolded by the food police."

  • Criticize studies that hurt industry as "junk science."

    A Sept. 24 piece on the CCF site is titled "Junk Science: The Food Cop Pick-Me-Up." Hey, that qualifies for two categories!

  • Emphasize physical activity over diet.

    In a Jan. 31 op-ed in the Northwest Times of Indiana, J. Justin Wilson of the CCF writes, "While there is no clear relationship between soft drinks or fast-food restaurants and obesity, there is an unambiguous relationship between physical inactivity and obesity in the United States."

  • State there are no good or bad foods; hence no food or food type (soft drinks, fast foods, etc.) should be targeted for change.

    In an op-ed published Dec. 25 in the DC Examiner, Wilson writes, "[W]e can expect that this fascination with 'bad' foods will continue to shape our public health policies ..."

  • Plant doubt when concerns are raised about the industry.

    In a March 24 piece on its site about the recent red-meat study, the CCF plants doubt this way: "[T]he National Cancer Institute performed some impressive statistical gymnastics to come to its conclusion – its modest conclusion – that cutting red and processed meats out of your diet could be a life-saver." [italics theirs]
One of the worst things about this evidence is that these newspapers published this garbage, sometimes without fully disclosing what the CCF is and likely without knowing the full extent of their lies.

Surprisingly the tobacco vs. food study only once mentioned the CCF by name. But it did recommend that the food industry "cease funding front groups with consumer-oriented names."

That suggestion is one of many that the study's authors -- a Yale and a University of Michigan researcher -- laid out for how to put the public's health above profits. They seem more hopeful than I that the food industry will comply.

This quotation from a 2007 article about the tobacco industry aptly fits "Big Food": "If the past 50 years have taught us anything, is is that the tobacco industry cannot be trusted to put the public's interest above their profits no matter what they say."

Ironically the CCCF -- which fights for the meat, dairy, pesticide and fish industries, among others -- was created in 1995 as a front group for Philip Morris. Three years later it had accrued more clients, namely the restaurant, meat and alcohol industries.

(Image courtesy of SourceWatch.org.)



Anti-Organic Group Criticizes Obamas' Garden

A pro-chemical group has sent a letter to the Obamas, critical of their plans for an organic garden.

After being urged by organic enthusiasts, including Alice Waters, the first family has broken ground on an 1,100-square-foot garden at the White House.

But the Mid America CropLife Association doesn't like that it will be an organic garden.

Jill Richardson of the blog La Vida Locavore got ahold of the letter, which you can read in its entirety on her site.

The association, based in St. Louis, credits chemicals for the ability of a Midwesterner to buy California strawberries in March. Ironically, strawberries are one of the top 10 fruits and vegetables you should buy organic.

The group also says that "[f]armers and ranchers are the first environmentalists." We know that isn't true. Pesticide use contaminates water and depletes the soil of nutrients, not to mention causes adverse health effects in the poor people who pick the fruits and vegetables. Ranchers, of course, have pushed for legislation that allows the hunting of animals, such as coyotes, that threaten their herds.

Growing fruits and vegetables can be eco-friendly -- just not the way this group advocates we do it.

(Photo of Michelle Obama and schoolchildren breaking ground on the White House garden courtesy of Your Obama Update.)



Friday, March 27, 2009

"Nightline" Investigates Puppy Mills Tonight

Tonight "Nightline" picks up where Oprah Winfrey left off last year.

To the delight of those in animal rescue, last year Oprah aired a show exposing the truth of puppy mills. Main Line Animal Rescue in Pennsylvania got her attention with a billboard that asked the talk-show host to do a story about these horrendous breeding facilities.

Tonight viewers will watch as ABC's "Nightline" investigators accompany volunteers from MLAR as they rescue dogs and puppies from puppy mills in Lancaster County's Amish country.

"Nightline" airs at 10:35 p.m. Central time on ABC. After you watch the program, please thank "Nightline" for airing this show.

(Photo courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States.)



Thursday, March 26, 2009

Growing up with False Assumptions

Sometimes we don't need to be told certain things are true; we just know they are and don't feel the need to question them. But eventually some of those assumptions turn out to be wrong.

When my parents would recite "This Little Piggy Went to Market" as they grabbed each one of my toes, I assumed the first little piggy was going grocery shopping. I'm almost 32, and it wasn't until a week ago that I realized the doomed piggy was actually being sent to his death. Mother Jones ran a story about a slaughterhouse, with that line as the headline.

I asked my mom and stepfather what they thought that first line meant, and they were adamant that the animal was going to the grocery store. Without me even bringing it up, my mom said, "I don't think it means he's going to get slaughtered." Her reasoning was that the third piggy was eating roast beef, not a meat made from a pig. Why a pig is eating cow flesh, I don't know. Nor do I know how that relates to the first line.

I doubt that any parent or grandparent who tickles a child using that rhyme has ever analyzed it. It's unquestioningly passed down from generation to generation -- much like the consumption of animals is.

Another false assumption I had until recently concerns the ubiquitous corn fields of the Midwest. I assumed they grew corn for people to eat. But in January a friend told me about a woman who moved from Chicago to a rural Northern Illinois town years ago. She was excited to see corn growing everywhere and figured the farmer wouldn't mind if she took a husk or two. She boiled it for hours without it ever getting soft enough for her to eat. Later she discovered that the corn was a variety used as feed, not food.

So now when I hear people or companies talk about how farmers feed the world, I think about all the land that is wasted growing "feed" for farmed animals, which are then inefficiently turned into food for people.

What assumptions about animals, the environment or one's health have you had that turned out to be false?

(Photo courtesy of electech.)



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Study: Red Meat, Processed Meat Increases Heart, Cancer Risks

A study published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that people who eat red meat and processed meats have an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

I wasn't even going to comment on this study since most people know that eating red meat is bad -- and because I didn't want to increase the consumption of chickens.

However, because the meat industry is criticizing the study, I wanted to respond.

The study followed a 545,000 people -- the largest study of its kind -- over 10 years.
Over 10 years, eating the equivalent of a quarter-pound hamburger daily gave men in the study a 22 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 27 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease. That's compared to those who ate the least red meat, just 5 ounces per week.

Women who ate large amounts of red meat had a 20 percent higher risk of dying of cancer and a 50 percent higher risk of dying of heart disease than women who ate less.
The increased risks for eating a lot of processed meats -- hot dogs, bacon, cold cuts -- were slightly lower than those for red meat.

It's interesting that the risks are associated with dying. I'd imagine the risks of simply developing cardiovascular problems or cancer would be even higher.

The AMI, National Pork Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association have criticized the study, saying it relies too heavily on people's memories.

A dietitian for the pork board said the study "attempts to indict all red meat consumption by looking at extremes in meat consumption, as opposed to what most Americans eat."

However, I believe a 5-ounce piece of red meat is the size of one's fist. The study views eating this amount once a week as low-risk. But most meat-eaters eat more than that in one sitting.

If you're thinking about jumping from red meat to chicken flesh, think again. "The China Study" showed us that researchers have found that animal protein can trigger cancer. And, of course, all animal products contain cholesterol.



New Children's Book Explains Veg*anism

A soon-to-be released children's book tackles the sometimes-difficult job of explaining to kids why veg*ans don't eat animals.

As a blogger for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals noted in her review, it's sometimes "hard to explain to little kids why I'm vegan without painting the kind of nightmarish word picture that will land them in therapy." But, she says, "That's Why We Don't Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things" by Ruby Roth "successfully tackles this tough subject with grace and clarity."
Roth fills the book to the brim with fascinating facts about our furry and feathered friends, such as, "Pigs need the sight, sound, and touch of one another. Sometimes they snuggle so close that it's hard to get them apart. Love is part of their nature." And about turkeys: "They're so sensitive that they even blush. Their snoods change color depending on their mood."

[...]

The book covers the basics of factory farming in a way that is real but not overly frightening for young readers. In a discussion of factory farmed birds, Roth says, "Crowded together, they can't follow their instincts, so they grow sick and scared." The accompanying illustrations are appropriately sad--but not graphic, and not traumatizing.
Judging from the response on the book's Facebook page, a lot of people will be gobbling up this book.

It will be released May 26, but you can pre-order it at Amazon.com.

(Image courtesy of PETA.)



Study Compares Big Tobacco's, Food Industry's Strategies

A recent study looks at the similarities between Big Tobacco's and the food industry's deception of the American people.

"The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar Is Big Food?" is the work of a researcher at Yale University and one at the University of Michigan. While it looks like a great read, I haven't had a chance to sift through it yet. Here, though, is an overview of the study's findings:
The food industry appears to have a strategy as well, repeatedly carried to the public by spokespersons from food companies, trade associations, and their political allies. ... [I]ts main features are the following:

  • Focus on personal responsibility as the cause of the nation's unhealthy diet.
  • Raise fears that government action usurps personal freedom.
  • Vilify critics with totalitarian language, characterizing them as the food police, leaders of a nanny state, and even "food fascists," and accuse them of desiring to strip people of their civil liberties.
  • Criticize studies that hurt industry as "junk science."
  • Emphasize physical activity over diet.
  • State there are no good or bad foods; hence no food or food type (soft drinks, fast foods, etc.) should be targeted for change.
  • Plant doubt when concerns are raised about the industry.
Does this strategy remind you of any group? I guarantee you that if you go to the Center for Consumer Freedom's Web site, you will find them employing all of these tactics in an effort to protect the industries that fund them -- meat, dairy, fish, pesticide companies, restaurants, etc.

Not coincidentally the CCF was created with money from Philip Morris. Its original mission was to get the public to view smoking in a favorable light. When that failed, the CCF moved to other industries, including alcohol and payday loans, as well as the aforementioned ones.

(Thanks to The Weekly Spin for alerting me to this study. If you haven't subscribed to this newsletter, I encourage you to do so.)

(The image above is just one of many lies the CCF spews in order to protect its industry funders.)



Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Death on a Factory Farm" a Must-See

Because I don't have cable or satellite, I wasn't able to watch HBO's "Death on a Factory Farm" until last night. (A friend DVR'd it for me.)

Of course, the cruelty in the documentary wasn't pleasant to watch, but I'm glad I saw the film and highly recommend it. If you're a meat-eater, you owe it to yourself and to the animals to know how the "food" gets to your plate.

Since going veg in 2006, I read whatever I can get my hands on about animal rights, particularly with regard to factory farming, as that is the industry that kills the most animals. I've also seen several videos that document cruelty in the animal "agriculture" business. But "Death on a Factory Farm" showed me even more instances of cruelty that I hadn't known existed: throwing pigs into metal bins and onto school buses -- yes, school buses -- for transport and dumping dead pigs in giant mass graves.

The second part of the film reveals the court case in which the owner of the factory farm in question and his son and another employee are on trial for animal cruelty. Most of the case centers on whether hanging pigs by a chain from a forklift is a proper form of euthanasia or whether it's animal cruelty. In the end it comes down to legalities, of course.

I contend, though, that "euthanasia" isn't the proper word to use when murdering an animal. If my dog becomes so sick that he's suffering, I'll bring him to the veterinarian and have him euthanized by a quick, virtually painless injection. I won't have someone shoot him in the head -- or hang him. Those last options certainly are murder, even if not legally defined as such.

As an aside, Paul Shapiro, senior director for The Humane Society of the United States' factory farming campaign, has shown how two-faced the "pork" industry is. During the court case in 2007 "producers rallied around the defendants in the case, showing up to court in solidarity with them and even raising thousands of dollars for legal defense bills." In fact, at the end of the documentary we learn that a pork board -- I can't remember if it was national or statewide -- raised $10,000 for the defendants' legal bills.

Now, though, after the documentary has aired and millions of people have the ability to see it, "[t]he National Pork Producers Council issued a statement saying it 'condemns' the images seen in the film, and that such practices are 'abhorred by responsible pork producers.'"

That's the M.O. of these industries. They continue their cruel practices until undercover videotapes garner national attention, and then they contend that these are rare instances, "needles in a huge agricultural haystack." And, of course, a few months later another "rare" case of animal cruelty will be documented.

"Death on a Factory Farm" will be replayed on HBO throughout this month and next. Please watch it so you're aware of the torture that occurs across this country every day. And then visit ChooseVeg.com for more information on how you can say no to contributing to the suffering.

(Image courtesy of "Death on a Factory Farm.")



Saturday, March 21, 2009

Two Sites Shine Light on Veganism

Two vegans recently launched Web sites that help people meander through veganism.

Through her video blog at VeganBreak.com, Michelle Taylor shows people how easy veganism can be. Though her primary audience may be those who aren't yet vegan, her upbeat, intelligent videos -- each about 2 minutes long -- provide great tips for vegans, too.

After watching her post about sneakers she recently purchased, I ordered the same pair. They arrived yesterday and are great. And at only $14.90 -- with free shipping -- you can't go wrong.

The second new site belongs to Jack Norris, co-founder of Vegan Outreach. As a registered dietitian, he writes about nutrition at JackNorrisRD.com. While many vegans know more about nutrition than average meat-eaters do, we can always use more information. He comments about recent studies and answers questions that people send him related to medical conditions and food.

I find it so inspiring that people in the vegan community use their unique talents and interests to help others -- and to help the animals.

(Photo of Michelle Taylor and her dog Chance courtesy of VeganBreak.com.)



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

'Nightline' to Air Abuse at Primate Lab

When I was a kid, I walked into the living room while my parents were watching "Project X." As soon as I saw a monkey in a cage, I turned right back around and went to my room. Even if the 1987 movie (starring Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt) was a work of fiction, I still couldn't stand to see the chimps tortured and powerless.

Unfortunately, what happens inside actual laboratories is not fiction. Tonight ABC's "Nightline" will air an exclusive hidden-camera investigation into the country's largest primate testing lab. (The program will air at 11:35 p.m. Eastern time.)

An investigator with The Humane Society of the United States spent nine months inside the New Iberia Research Center, part of the University of Louisiana. It's the home for "more than 6,000 primates and one of the largest captive populations of chimpanzees in the world."

The video shows chimps perched above the floor being shot with sedation guns.
"The sedated chimp would be sort of rocking slowly on the perch, then, out of nowhere, they just smack to the floor," the investigator said. "It was horrific to watch and to hear."
Another incident shows a baby chimp being force-fed.
"This is a baby who is completely alert, completely awake, completely aware of his surroundings, and he's getting a substance forced down his throat. He is screaming, and he was very terrified throughout this and you can hear the screams of the other babies and mothers in the background because the mothers were in there too."
Primates are people's closest ancestor. Just for a second, imagine that these are human babies and mothers. It's not that unrealistic.

Even as recent as 40 years ago poor black men were used as unwitting research subjects. The Tuskegee syphilis study ran from 1932 to 1972 in Alabama. The doctors didn't tell the men, mostly illiterate sharecroppers, what disease they had or that they were simply waiting for them to die so autopsies could be conducted.

I am in no way suggesting that African-Americans are chimpanzees or monkeys. I realize that for too long they had been portrayed as such in editorial cartoons and other media. My point -- and I could have used a group of white people to illustrate it but don't know of such a study -- is that what may seem outrageous now was accepted in the past because the subjects were thought of as "less than." In fact, "[e]ven the Surgeon General of the United States participated in enticing the men to remain in the experiment, sending them certificates of appreciation after 25 years in the study."

A Washington Star reporter finally broke the Tuskegee story in 1972, with the help of a whistle-blower. Similarly a whistle-blower appears in the "Nightline" piece.
"Nightline" conducted the interview with Narriman Fakier without telling her that the Humane Society investigation had taken place or that the undercover video existed. When she saw the footage for the first time, she said much of what was on the tape was what was happening at the facility when she was there five years earlier. "They're still at it; nothing has changed," Fakier said. "It's about the money. There's big bucks in this research, especially chimp research. We're talking millions. Millions of dollars."
Someday -- hopefully soon -- Americans will look at all animal research the same way we now look at the Tuskegee research: with revulsion.
[In the meantime] The U.S. Humane Society is working with four U.S. congressmen to introduce a bill to ban the use of chimpanzees in invasive research and retire at least half of the 1,200 in use to sanctuaries. Some have been in labs more than 40 years.
(Photo courtesy of ABCNews.com.)



Monday, March 2, 2009

HBO Documentary Exposes Cruelty on Factory Farms

HBO will air a documentary later this month that takes viewers inside the abusive workings of factory farms.
Following the success of "Dealing Dogs" for HBO's America Undercover, undercover animal rights activist 'Pete' takes to the road again, but this time to reveal the behind-the-scenes workings of factory farms, including a pig farm in Ohio, a horse slaughterhouse, a turkey slaughterhouse and over 400 puppy mills.
It appears that the Ohio factory farm will be the main focus of the film.
Wearing a hidden camera ["Pete"] documented numerous disturbing scenes including piglets being tossed into crates from across a room, an unhealthy piglet being slammed against a wall to euthanize it, and finally, sick sows being hung by a chain from a forklift until they choked to death.

Based on the evidence Pete gathered, prosecutors filed ten charges of animal cruelty against the farm's owners and one employee. Our cameras then take viewers inside the courtroom, where the prosecution and defense wage a tense battle over the legality and morality of practices rarely seen by the public. The judge presiding over the case described them as "distasteful and offensive," but farm owner Ken Wiles and other members of the tight-knit Ohio farming community defend as the commonplace reality of producing livestock for consumption.
The documentary has animal exploiters in agribusiness scrambling to figure out how to defend their industry to the public. One such person is Amanda Nolz of the "Beef Daily" blog.
For anyone that works in animal production, this documentary should be of a great concern. I encourage all of you to tune in to this documentary, and follow up with letters of response to the producers and to HBO. [...] [M]aybe we should start looking for the perfect candidate to start making our own documentary for each respective livestock group.
Good luck. The undercover investigators that release horrendous videos year after year aren't incredibly lucky people who just happen upon rare instances of abuse. Animal cruelty in agribusiness -- and in other industries -- is the norm.

"Death on a Factory Farm" first airs March 16 on HBO. Please watch this film and then contact HBO to thank them for airing it.

(Image courtesy of Teale-Edwards Productions LLC.)



Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sea Lions Likely To Be Shot Tomorrow

Sea lions at the base of a dam in Portland, Ore., are expected to be killed Monday.

Some will be trapped and sent to live in captivity if a facility is available, according to Robin Brown of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Others may be chemically euthanized. Some could even be shot to death.

State officials contend that the sea lions at the Bonneville Dam eat too much threatened and endangered salmon. The sea lions themselves are protected under the 1972 Marine Mammals Protection Act -- except if the federal government gives a state permission to kill them. Oregon received permission last year, and an appeals court has rejected a stay of execution.

Supposedly only certain sea lions -- the "worst offenders" -- will be targeted. The ones who eat the most salmon have been identified by markings on their skin. Chicago's Shedd Aquarium has offered to take two sea lions. If facilities can't be found for others who are caught in the traps, they will die via lethal injection. The ones who avoid the traps will be shot.

Supporters of the murder claim the sea lions eat 4% of the salmon. According to The Humane Society of the United States, though, Oregon in March 2008 proposed increasing its fishing quotas from 9% to 12% "in light of record salmon returns for 2008."

Check out this video to see how government officials want to prevent the public from viewing the proposed murder. Also, watch the officials' faces as they're confronted with commonsense questions.



(Photo courtesy of The HSUS.)



First Attempt at Mac 'n' Cheeze a Success

Before going veg I hated to cook. In fact, I rarely did it. My meals usually consisted of packaged foods that I could pop into the microwave. Those rare meals that I did cook were comprised of processed white pasta and canned marinara or Alfredo sauce, with an occasional bag of frozen vegetables.

Since going veg, though, I've found that I actually enjoy cooking. The act of slicing fresh veggies is relaxing. The process of combining dissimilar ingredients to create a tasty dish amazes me.

Not everything, of course, turns out edible. I'm still learning -- especially when it comes to tofu. My tofu "meatloaf" and my marinated tofu were disasters. So I tend to stick to tofu scrambles or tofu crumbled into a pasta dish.

Cooking, though, (when done right) can be a lot less expensive than ordering out every night and a lot more healthy than eating processed foods. And since I don't share my creations with my housemates (my two dogs), I have leftovers that last for days.

Today's masterpiece was mac 'n' cheeze. I've always loved comfort foods, and macaroni and cheese (as well as mashed potatoes) are high on my list. Fortunately, being vegan doesn't mean saying goodbye to an old favorite. It actually meant saying hello to an awesome new flavor that previous macaroni and cheese never showed me.

My first taste of vegan mac 'n' cheeze was in November at a Vegan Chicago Meetup at Soul Veg. Their mac 'n' cheeze had attitude. It wasn't the plain (but still yummy) macaroni and cheese of my pre-veg days. This dish threw my taste buds for a loop.

After tasting another mac 'n' cheeze recipe at last month's bowling potluck with Vegan Chicago Meetup, I now think I know the reason for each dish's attitude: nutritional yeast.

Nutritional yeast is a powder that many vegans use in place of cheese. Colleen from Compassionate Cooks likes to sprinkle it on popcorn. I tried it once (not on popcorn) and wasn't a fan. But in my mac 'n' cheeze, I'm digging it.

One side note before I post the mac 'n' cheeze recipe: I bought Earth Balance, a vegan butter substitute, for the first time because of this dish. Like all new vegan products I consume or use, I'm amazed by it and realize yet again that we can live our lives much the same way we are now and not torture and murder animals. The Earth Balance I bought is in a tub, so it's a soft, spreadable butter -- but without the cruelty and cholesterol.

This mac 'n' cheeze recipe is from a woman named Lorna who brought the dish to the bowling potluck.

(Vegan) Mac 'n' Cheeze

Ingredients:

Full package of macaroni [or other noodle. I recommend Tinkyada pasta, which you can find at Whole Foods and Amazon.com.]
1/2 cup margarine or vegan butter equivalent [I used Earth Balance.]
1/2 cup flour
3 1/2 cups boiling water or vegan stock [I used vegetable broth.]
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic
pinch of turmeric
1/4 cup oil (vegetable oils -- olive oil works best, but you can decide per your nutritional needs. NOT coconut oil) [I didn't use any oil.]
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
Cajun seasoning to garnish

Directions:

Begin process of cooking the noodles.

While you're doing that, make the sauce:

Mix the vegan butter and flour and melt on a very low heat until they are thoroughly mixed.

Add the boiling water or vegan stock, salt, soy sauce, garlic, turmeric.

Bring to a very low boil.

Then add vegetable oil and nutritional yeast and mix.

Combine the noodles and the sauce in a large baking pan and sprinkle Cajun seasoning on top. (Lorna's note: I like a spice mix with cumin and red pepper or a New Orleans stlye. You can also add a green seasoning mix like a pepper, thyme, cilantro mix.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

(Photo of vegan mac 'n' cheeze from Soul Veg, courtesy of Vegan Chicago Meetup.)