Balanced Bites Podcast: Episode #21 With Karen Pendergrass of Paleo Approved

Admin Paleo and Primal, Podcast Episodes Leave a Comment

Balanced Bites Podcast

Remember! If you’re enjoying these podcasts, please leave us a review in iTunes, thanks!

This show is dedicated to all things food quality from sourcing and animal welfare to understanding proper animal feed, food labeling and what to prioritize when shopping on a budget.


Food Quality Guide- free PDF – click here to download.

The episodes are currently available in iTunesStitcher & Blog Talk Radio.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Hey guys, it’s Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites, and welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. Just a reminder, the materials and content contained in this podcast are for general health information only, and they are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Today, I am here with Karen Pendergrass, a special guest, to talk to her a bit about her business and what she’s got going on, and I’ll let her introduce herself. Liz is not here today, but she’ll be back with us next week. She’s just away for a little bit, on a little vacation, and yes, she’ll be back. Have no fear. But Karen, welcome. Welcome to the show.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Thanks, Diane. How are you?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Awesome. So what we’re going to talk about today is Paleo Approved, which is Karen’s whole gig, and what that’s all about, where it came from, and talk a bunch about sustainability, as well as food choices, and making optimal food choices. We know that a lot of times that people kind of move to a more Paleo-oriented diet that, you know, the first steps are to get rid of food that we don’t want to be eating, you know: grains, legumes, pasteurized dairy products, sugar, refined foods, etc. But you know, sometimes as we get farther into things, we start really looking at making the best choices possible and where to focus our attention, especially when it comes to animal products, so that’s what I wanted to talk to Karen about today. So why don’t you give us a little bit of your background and tell us how your whole thing came to be?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: The way that this whole came-whole thing started was essentially back in 2008, I got really sick and I didn’t have an answer to what was wrong with me. And my mom’s gym trainer told her about the Paleo diet, and I started the Paleo diet to kind of ameliorate symptoms that I was having from Celiac’s disease. And kind of the long story short…it worked, and then I went to France, and then I got really sick. And when I came back, I noticed that I was more sensitive than I had ever been in my entire life. And so I was shopping at a Whole Foods and I was buying grass-fed beef, and it said that it was grass-fed beef on the label, but it was making me sick along with the chicken and the turkey and the pork and the bacon, and everything was just making me sick. And it was so interesting to me because before I wasn’t having that issue, before I went to France. So when I came back noticing all these issues, I was asking a butcher about the grass-fed beef that they have at Whole Foods, and I asked him was he sure that it was 100% grass-fed, and he said, it’s grass-fed for 7 months, and then the last 3 months it was grain-finished. And I was like, you know that completely negates the whole purpose of it being grass-fed in the first place. And so I was just kind of miffed about the fact that I didn’t have a label that I could really trust when it came to having grass-fed beef, and I was realizing that there were a lot of issues with other labels as well, so I decided I was going to take things into my own hands and start my own label. So that’s where that started.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: What are the issues that people maybe aren’t sure of that are kind of happening or just things that people are unclear about besides the grass-fed because I think, that is a really common one. Grass-fed, unless it says, and this is what I tend to teach people. Unless it says 100% or that you can ask the farmer, the person who’s sourcing it, is this 100% grass-fed, and they know it’s been grass-fed and grass-finished, that they, you know, you don’t really know what’s happening there. But what are some other types of animals or feeds that are really confusing for people that maybe you could help clarify a little bit?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Okay, one of the things that’s probably gets under my skin the most is with chickens. For instance, I don’t know how many people have gone to the grocery store and have noticed that you’ll seed vegetarian chicken feed. Well, one of the things that we recently learned about cows is that they don’t eat corn, that they don’t do well with corn. It makes them sick and diseased, and they have a lot of issues with their immune systems once they eat a grain diet. So the same thing happens with chickens. What’s really interesting about chickens in particular is that we don’t pay any attention to what their natural diets are. They, in the wild, 90% of their intake is from protein and fat, and so they get little vegetation. They think that birds are well adapted to seeds, but it’s just simply not true. So one of the things that frustrates me is when I go and see this vegetarian feed, a lot of people get this cue. It’s like a cultural cue that vegetarian feed means for some reason that it’s optimal, that that’s what they should be eating. But it’s not. They’re the closest living relatives to the T. Rex, so we can imagine they’re little carnivores. And when you see vegetarian fed chickens or vegetarian fed eggs, you kind of want to run in the other direction, and a lot of people don’t know that. There’s a lot of mislabeling, not necessarily mislabeling, but misleading labeling practices that go on with chickens and chicken eggs. That’s one thing that I see that kind of distresses me.

The exact same thing happens with pigs, although they’re more omnivorous and they do eat a lot of…a lot of plants and vegetation and roots and acorns and thing like that. But they’re not as carnivorous as chickens, but they do have a particular diet that they’re supposed to be having, but it’s not grain. But you also see vegetarian-fed pigs, which essentially means that they’re eating corn or soy. And those aren’t natural to their diet either. I’m sorry-there’s beeping upstairs.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: No, I don’t hear it at all.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: So do you have a resource, or is this something that maybe we can kind of get together for people on what it is that these animals should be eating because even if we get to buy locally from a farmer, what is it that, you know, because I think for the most part that we do get to that level, that’s sort of a huge step when people kind of get out of the grocery store and are buying local grass-fed beef, local pastured-raised eggs, all of, you know, making those choices, but then I think that next step beyond that is even to say, can you tell me what each of these animals has been fed, right? Everything…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: that’s included in their feed, and you know, I think it might make people a little bit uncomfortable to feel like they’re pressing the farmer. But I think most farmers who know that they’re doing the right thing are pretty quick to tell you what their animals are eating.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: So what is it that people should look for? For example, obviously we know, for beef, for cows, it should be 100% grass. I know we had a question-somebody wrote in Facebook, like what if they’re given hay, is that okay? And as far as we know…

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Oh, yeah. Hay is grass.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Hay is fine. Like that’s just dried grass. Sometimes it’s not available all the time, but what-do you have a way of kind of walking us through what each sort of large group of animals should be eating? Maybe between cows, pigs, chickens, I guess other ruminants would probably be the same as cows, just 100% grass.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: If you’ve got other side notes on that. Walk me through that?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: What the chickens should be eating is bugs and insects and worms and seeds. And not having 95% of their diet be from corn. Pigs are a little different. Pigs-they root a lot. They eat acorns, they eat squash, they eat fruit. They eat a lot of carbs, actually. And the only way that I knew this was because I was looking at stabilized off ratios of wild animals, of wild pigs and wild chickens, which most people don’t even realize exist anymore. So that’s how you know. The reason why it’s difficult to talk to a farmer, in particular, about what their animals are eating is because a lot of the conventional wisdom for what an animal is good to eat, it’s-we’re telling everybody that they should be eating corn, and they should be eating soy, but the reason for that being is that it gets them to weight quicker, and so they’re worth more at the market, rather than nutritionally. So it’s kind of a hard thing to tell a farmer, you know, that they should be implementing different strategies for feeding their animals. So I’m kind of swimming up creeks this way because if you tell a farmer. Let’s say a chicken farmer, and they’ve been feeding their chickens outdoors. They’ve been feeding them with an automatic corn feeder. If you tell them, well, are they eating bugs? How many bugs are they getting? They can say, yes, they’re out on pasture. And sure, they have access to bugs. But here’s the interesting thing about corn, and it’ll make sense if you think about it. It’s that corn is essentially-it’s carbs and its sugar. So if you take that into account, you could realize that corn essentially to chickens is candy. So-and chickens are-they’re not brilliant, you know. If you have a chicken that has an automatic feeder, and it pecks at that feeder, and it gets its little package of sugar, essentially. You don’t have to do anything for it. Then they’re going to eat a lot of corn. And if you have the choice between pecking at an automatic feeder as opposed to going out and scratching, and getting worms or whatever, then they’re going to obviously go for the automatic feeder.

So the best thing to do, really, is talk to the farmer. That would be the best thing to do. If you really wanted to move this step, this direction, and get healthier chickens that don’t exhibit the skewed off omega-3/omega-6 ratios, then you really want to get in this conversation, and you really want to move this way. You have to make sure that the farmer understands that chickens don’t eat corn and soy. I mean, there’s more to their diet than that. Can you see why this would be an issue?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Absolutely. What about…so chicken’s probably the biggest thing. I think if people have seen the movie, Food, Inc. for example, they see not only how the chickens are raised. You know, that’s not r4eally the only issue. If we’re getting away from the CAFO or the, you know, feedlot chicken, that’s an amazing first step right there. To just get out of, even at the grocery store, just to get to something local, that’s like a huge first step, right? We’re not perpetuating the system that we don’t believe in.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: But we’re right now talking kind of more about the people who are looking to even optimize things further. And the reality is, for some people, you know, in the beginning, I think, the budget reasons are…become very prohibitive. To spend 4 or 5, 6, 7, 8 dollars a dozen on eggs, that can be really daunting for somebody’s who’s got a family with four children, or, you know, somebody who’s…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: spending a lot of money on food. But I think the reality is, and this is something that I know that you’re sort of proposing is that the cost of your food, not only will decrease because you’re maybe not spending as much on potentially medical issues that you’ve had in the past. Not spending as much on doctor visits at all. Just understanding that when you’re not buying refined foods, the amount that you spend on your whole food may not be that much more. It may, but then we also kind of have a skewed perception of how much we should spend on food…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: because of the things that are made from corn and soy in this country are so highly, highly subsidized.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: I think that even compared to European countries, our percentage of income that we spend on food is exponentially lower than what they spend on food. And I just-I mean, I think most of us in the Paleo community have either figured out how to work our own budget so that it just works for us. And we also just don’t prioritize things that don’t matter as much anymore. I think that’s part of the whole movement and the sustainability, even just kind of within each household is sort of what kind of car do you drive? Does it need to be this fancy car? or does it, you know? Do you want to buy eggs that are raised properly so that you’re a healthier person, you know, which is more important to you. So it does become a lot about priorities, and I know that it’s very off-putting at first when you know, I know that I have blog posts about priorities for eating Paleo on a budget. And I’ve definitely had some people who’ve said, well, you don’t clearly understand what a budget is. I’m feeding this many kids on this level of salary. And I get that, you know. The reality is most of us who are looking to really optimize, we’re not the majority. We’re maybe the majority in the Paleo community right now, but we’re not the majority at large, and so, you know, getting education out there so that those of us who have the income to do it continue to support it.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: So that it maybe becomes less expensive and less cost-prohibitive to others in the future. That’s kind of the way I see it. But I think learning how important it is and wavered, sorry.


KAREN PENDERGRASS: I was going to say that the other thing that is really crazy is that even though you could have really really cheap food, these costs are externalized completely. So it’s not something that the consumer would pay up front, but these are costs that people pay later. And I’m sure if people knew more, like just about the diet of chickens. Or if they knew about the inflammatory properties of CAFO chickens or CAFO chickens, if they knew about that, and they really understood the implications of eating a diet heavy in chickens with these skewed off ratios. If they understood the health implications of that, and they made more of a stink about it, then it would drive the prices down. And I know price is huge, and people want to budget, that’s really important. And you can’t knock somebody that’s trying, you know, just to make it with their kids. And it’s not like this stuff is widely available. Like I, personally, have never run into a single farmer that has chickens, not a single one, that does complete vermiculture and feeds them on vermiculture and not corn, and doesn’t supplement with grain.


KAREN PENDERGRASS: Never seen that. Yeah. So I know that it’s important that people feed their families. Oh my God. But I’d like to see at some juncture, I’d like to see the education about this get out there. It’s the same thing with cows. Do you remember there was a period of time where basically every cow in existence ate corn? Because that was conventional wisdom about it. You know what I mean?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, I think those are probably some issues to do with just sustainability from the perspective of the farmers themselves and what they need to do to keep a roof over their head or it’s just to keep their farm going, that they may or may not know how to dig their way out of it.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: That they’re, you know, if they’re stuck in the system that they’ve just been in for the last 20, 30 plus years. But I think, you know, that’s kind of the whole other side of it that we as consumers, I think the best thing that we can do is just continue to focus on making sure that, and this is where it does get sort of political in a sense. It’s like…I always say, I’m not a super political person, but I am political in that I vote with my dollar. You know, I don’t buy things that I don’t want to promote that people continue to buy and that are cheap. And yeah, I’m just one person and that’s not really where probably the biggest change will come from. You know, when you look at, for example, how much meat fast food companies are buying. That’s a much bigger impact than, you know, one family somewhere. But I think just looking at just our bottom line, okay, what’s our educational process? What can we understand what these animals should eat? And then how do we discover that to make the best choices?

So what other-excuse me-what other advice do you have for people who are just kind of navigating through the supermarket? Like, if they are looking, and I know chickens and eggs are kind of like one of your biggest sticking points just on just what they’re being fed. You know, what is a person to do who is shopping at some place like a regular grocery store, even a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s. You know, what sort of the maybe the best of the not ideal? How do people kind of look through that and pick from that, at the very least? Even if they’re just getting started?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: If you’re getting started, this isn’t really stuff that I would worry about that much, unless you’re trying to deal with like a disease or an inflammatory issue that you might be having. I mean, if you’re starting out, you know, the one thing that I would say is if it specifically says that it’s a vegetarian fed, look for something else. That would be my one biggest piece of advice. But if you are going to delve a little bit deeper into it, look for something that says that it’s pastured or bug-fed. I mean, that’s kind of the pinnacle of all this, is that pastured, bug-fed chickens, seriously. And like I said, there’s a lot of marketing points out there and there are a lot of like flashy words; it’s a lot of fluff to get people to buy specific products.

Whatever picture you see on the packaging, you know what I mean?


KAREN PENDERGRASS: You’ll see these like cute farms with idyllic pastures and a red barn. That’s seldom the case of what’s really going on. So you really have to look deeper than just the picture that’s on there. What can I say? If there is a Certified Humane label that’s on there, that’s a good thing.


KAREN PENDERGRASS: That’s a good thing .

DIANE SANFILIPPO: That’s a good one.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: That’s a good thing. Animal Welfare Approved also good. And the reason for that being is cause that indicates that they’re probably living outside, I think pastured is a huge deal. And, oh, this is another thing about organic eggs, right? I’ll need to point them out. Organic eggs, the whole thing is a farce right now. Because you’ll see a lot of organic eggs that are still in CAFO conditions. You’ll still have 8500 hens in one house that don’t see sunlight. They’ll have one little window to get outside. But they’re fed organic corn and so they can be certified organic by organic standards. So that’s one of the things you have to look out for. It’s not the same with beef, though. So if you see organic, grass-fed beef, that’s actually organic grass-fed beef. There’s no question about that. Like I don’t have a question about the standards of organic, grass-fed beef. The standard for organic chicken, though, very questionable. It’s A. it’s not sustainable. And B. it’s very similar to the same stuff that you would find like, the same chicken and eggs that you would find at a Wal-Mart. It’s comparable to that, and it’s really pathetic.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: So this is kind of where too where people, you know, they get really into doing their organic dairy. Even organic full0fat dairy, and it’s pasteurized…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: And, you know, from what I know, and maybe you know some more on this, but from what I know, from what I’ve been told, in terms of feed that the animals are eating, there’s no disclosure required of what’s in their feed, even for organic, other than I guess that potentially that the feed is, you know, organic feed. But I’ve heard and maybe this isn’t accurate, or maybe you know or don’t, but I’ve heard that they actually could be feeding animals antibiotics and other types of pharmaceuticals through their feed.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: That as long as they’re not getting the injections, they can still be considered organic, and because…

KAREN PENDERGRASS: And you said this…

DIANE SANFILIPPO: the ingredients in their feed don’t need to be disclosed, like supposedly their ingredients are proprietary information. I can’t remember where I heard that last. It might have been actually at…it might have been at a talk I went to with a bunch of chicken farmers in San Francisco a couple of years ago. They said that the feed ingredients are not, you know, it doesn’t need to legally be disclosed somewhere. Any thoughts on that?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Okay, just to clarify…you’re saying that for the dairy? That they’re giving them feed?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Really like, I’m thinking organic, you know, organic milk. And really for anything, in terms of the feed. But then people are going on with like they want to buy organic milk, and it’s like, well, how do you even know what’s happening with the feed of those animals? If it could still be feed-based, like hormones.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: You know, if the feed does not…

KAREN PENDERGRASS: If it’s..I don’t think. Okay, the organic label does not allow hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics. I know this, but this is the only thing that I know. That’s for 100% grass-fed organic. USDA Grass-fed. Then have you seen the differences between the label where there will be a green organic label and a black organic label?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Oh, I’m completely familiar with how those labels work.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: I was just curious if you knew anything about the feed possibly containing things that have not been disclosed because they don’t need to be disclosed. Do you know anything about that? You might not. I don’t know.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: I don’t know that I do. I’m going to have to check that out.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: It was an interesting thing that I heard at this discussion of farmers where they said that the ingredients of the feed is actually proprietary, that they don’t have to tell the government what they’re feeding the animals. So even though they…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: may be labeled organic and they might not be getting injections or pills specifically, it could be in their feed. Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: I would…yeah, I wouldn’t put it over them. The NOP is slightly sketchy, if you ask me. But from what I understand, you can’t-they don’t allow that in their certification program. And I’m sure, you notice I don’t work for organic. I have mixed feelings about them, but I would venture to guess that if there was a farm that was under inspection, they would be looking into their feed and that would be information that they would have to give in order to get organic status. And if they didn’t, wow.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, I don’t know.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: It could have been a little insider information too that like one of these pastured, you know, chicken farms that was kind of speaking on a panel. I believe, yeah, I don’t want to call out…it was a panel that included several people from some high profile types of farms and the one woman was actually from the movie, Food, Inc. where it was her chicken farm that they had exposed in the movie, and then a local farmer…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: as well and then some other, yeah, and some other experts on the whole thing. But that was just about chickens specifically. But yeah, about dairy, do you have any kind of strong feelings about what’s happening with just organic dairy getting labeled? One of the things that I teach in my seminars is that I just don’t promote the use of pasteurized dairy ever.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: I guess that maybe grass-fed heavy cream, if they’re putting it in coffee and they don’t, you know, it’s going to get heated anyway, it’s kind of like, what’s the point of buying raw? But…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: do you have any take on priorities of what people are looking for? I just don’t ever recommend that people buy pasteurized and especially not anything from grain-fed cows. But what’s your take on that?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Yeah, that’s the only thing that I’m really strong about is that it comes from grass-fed animals. And everything else, I’m kind of on the fence about. Raw, unpasteurized, pasteurized; it, you know, I don’t know enough information about that to have a really solid opinion on it.


KAREN PENDERGRASS: But that seems to me, it breaks down into personal choice.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, I guess it’s also a matter too from your perspective, you know, that baseline is just that cows should be eating grass, and from there, I suppose that if somebody is not lactose intolerant, because that’s one of the biggest issues with raw dairy, you know, if you’re lactose intolerant, well, you can usually handle raw dairy because the lactase enzyme is still present, but the reality from your perspective is, is that milk even going to be healthy for the cows, you know, raised on grass or not?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Yeah, and that’s the perspective that I take on these things. That, you know, I just want the animal to be healthy that you’re getting whatever your milk you’re getting from or whatever source. Just that source is healthy. Eh, yeah.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: So what about the difference between, you know, just shopping in the grocery store, which we’ve kind of addressed a little bit of that, and I do have a food quality guide available on my website under the Useful Guides section that I’m pretty sure just goes right in line with everything we’re talking about today, so people can download that. I’ll link it from the podcast notes, so that people can just have a one-pager of Okay, what’s a good choice, what’s better, and what’s the best choice that you can make.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: But what about farmers markets, what do you-what’s your take on what we can get at the farmers market?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Okay, here’s my take on farmers markets. I love farmers markets. For one, I’m a big fan of stuff that’s local, and the more local, the more sustainable it is, so obviously that’s going to get my vote. But the other thing that I’ve seen, especially in this community is we’ve said, we’ve made a general statement about farmers markets and farmers, saying that if you’re at a farmers market, then they’re going to be having the right process, that they’re not going to be grain-feeding their cows. It’ll be 100% grass-fed meat. And I’ll tell you a little story about what happened to me when I was on my way in Southeast Missouri, and I was going to Paleo Approve a farm. They had-I was scheduled to get there on a Sunday to do my inspection, but the Saturday before was their open house, so I figured, you know, hey, I’ll just kind of stop by, go a little incognito and see, you know, what I can see. And I find these cows and these are on the grass-fed website, they’re at the farmers market, you’ll see them touted everywhere as grass-fed cows, but I was looking around and the farmer walked me over kind of towards these cows, and they’re like up to their ankles in grass, er, in corn. I was just like, what’s going on here? And then the farmer told me, and this is funny because this-he’s kind of repeating theme here, but he told me that the cows needed it so they could improve their digestion or so their digestion to mature, and then I told him who I was. And I was like, yeah, you can stop with that now. [laughs] But I-what I…


KAREN PENDERGRASS: Yeah, I was not happy.


KAREN PENDERGRASS: What I took home from that was that people really need to get to know their farmers. Even though the farmers market, you know, if it’s local, if it’s an hour away or whatever, I really strongly feel that people need to go and do their own investigative work. And get to know the animals that they’re eating. Not, you know, not really well, but go see them, you know. And get to know your farmer, and get to know your food sources that you have. I think the quality of our food has just gone down the drain since we’ve stopped doing that because as you can remember, there-it used to be that everybody would get their milk from the local farmer and that would be brought to their doorstep and people were on a first name basis with the places that they got their food from. Either in their backyard or their neighbor down the road. So our disconnect has kind of-that’s the reason I think that we’re having such an issue with our food quality sourcing and that’s the reason why we’ve got the proliferation of CAFO meat anyway in the United States is because we’re so disconnected from our farmers.

So farmers markets…I really love them. I love the idea of farmers markets because they’re local, because you can get all sorts of seasonal produce. And the other thing is that if it’s not coming from far, and it’s organic, and I mean truly organic, then this is going to be the best that you can get your hands on, honestly. And on the flipside, if you were to go to, like let’s say, Whole Foods, you have this illusion that you’ve got all these great products. You’ve got produce everywhere. You’ve got every different color. And it seems as though you’ve got this really great variety. But if you look at the sourcing; you know, there are tomatoes in Whole Foods, every single day, 365 days a year. You’ll see these tomatoes and they’ll come from different countries. You’ll see them from Chile, you’ll see them from Mexico. And they’ll be grown organically, but they’ll also be destructive where they’re coming from and it’s not sustainable that we’re driving them in from different countries anyway. So if you’re moving towards sustainability, then you definitely want to be shopping at your local farmers market. And besides, that also supports the local economy, and I’m also a big fan of that, too.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, I think the illusion of the year round availability of produce is definitely a tricky one for people. Somebody even just recently said something about wanting a strawberry, like I’m running a, you know, a 21 Day Sugar Detox, and they were like, oh, I really want a strawberry, and I was thinking, strawberry? It’s the middle of winter. Like where are you going to go right now? You know?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Unless you froze it?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Like that was the first thing I thought of. I know, and people are used to having, you know, mass quantities of things, but also having, you know, their produce at their fingertips kind of year round, and it’s just not the reality. And I think some people may or may not know that really all food, all produce will be labeled with its country of origin, so if people are confused, especially, I think it’s confusing with organics because people start to associate organics with local, and that’s not true.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Oh no. Not at all.




KAREN PENDERGRASS: when…the really, really sad story about organic, and this is a personal story. I have something that’s called Parkinsonism, which is that…it’s a neuro ataxia that’s induced by acute organophosphate poisoning, so basically, it’s from pesticides. And I’ve always bought organic. I’ve always subscribed to that. My mom was big into it. And a few years ago in Kansas City, I would buy these apples. I love apples. They don’t love me as much because I got these apples in Kansas City. Honeycrisp apples, and they were from Washington. And I would eat them and then 30 minutes to an hour later, I would be falling over drunk. I’d come out with like a bloody nose, bruised ribs, I had broken a whole bunch of stuff. And I would have just completely, like seriously, like it looks like I was drunk. But it was a neuro ataxia from these…from the organophosphates. But they were organic apples. So I went to a doctor, and I was talking to him about this business. Another reason why Paleo Approved started. But I was talking to my doctor about these apples, and I was saying, here’s what’s happened. I ate this apples, and all this kind of stuff happens to me. And I said they’re organic. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. And he goes, it’s the apples. What happens is they can be grown organically, and they…and because they’re grown organically, they can bear the organic label. But you’re having them shipped from Washington to Kansas City, so they spray pesticides on it during shipment. I mean, they’re still organic apples for organic NOP standards, for all intents and purposes, but you’re getting sick from the pesticides that were sprayed on them during shipment. So that was another reason why I was like, wow, local is really important. Local and seasonal, really important.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: That’s really interesting that your doctor even like had that feedback. This is like shocking and not the norm.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Well, it’s like this is a really progressive doctor. I wish I wouldn’t have lost touch with him.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, absolutely. So do you think-this is one of the things that I tend to tell people too because you know, people have a lot of questions, even within okay, I’m not eating these foods. I’m only eating these. And then they get really confused about the nuances of things, and you know, you were eating what you thought were organic apples, and you know, at the end of the day, the part where I do subscribe to somebody saying where there’s something different for everyone is this thing of okay, listen to your body. You know, if your body’s telling you that every time you eat this apple, you suffer from, you know, ataxia, and you can’t move, then, you know, you have to figure out what’s going on, why you’re not tolerating that food, what could be about it, and kind of get to the bottom of it. So, you know, what’s your advice really for how to navigate this stuff, especially, you know, in the grocery store? And that’s 99% of where people are shopping…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: You know? Myself included in the winter right now when I’m kind of waiting for winter to maybe break a little bit, and still I do have to shop down at Whole Foods, and I try to not buy too much that’s from far away, but…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: it’s really rough. I’m in New Jersey now, and it’s so sad to see all this produce that has come from California where I just lived for 7 years.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: It’s really really sad, but you know, it’s…that’s what’s there, and so, you know, what kind of advice do you like to give people because as much as we’re in the market for getting people what’s optimal, what do you tell people about, you know, what to do in just doing the best they can?

KAREN PENDERGRASS: That is my advice is do the best that you can. And the other piece of advice would be, do your thing by trial and error, you know? if you’re eating something that makes you sick, don’t eat it. Try something else. And if you’re…if you’re in New Jersey, and you’re trying to find fruit, I don’t know. Maybe you could start implementing…well, actually…

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Oh, I’m not trying to find it. I’m just saying what’s available, but yeah. It’s like…actually, my parents-they belong to a CSA, and you know, interestingly, when you’re in a state like California, you get things that are all from California, right? And that seems local, but California’s a huge state. And then when you get to New Jersey, they’re more local, they’re coming from a lot of different states, but my parents do get a CSA that has a lot of, at least more local than not produce, organic produce.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: Which is kind of nice. Yeah, I think that’s kind of one of the best…

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, that’s another really good piece of advice is to have people look for local CSAs. I don’t know why I didn’t think about that. But yeah, that’s another really good piece of advice. Definitely.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: I think that that’s a money saver, too. I mean, I haven’t seen exactly the cost, but I know that we get tons of produce, to the point where the first couple of days we have to kind of cook our way through a lot of it, and then it’s really every two weeks, but yeah, I think that’s probably a good way for people to kind of be on the lookout. Well, what else you want to tell people just about what’s going on with, you know, sustainability, farming, Paleo, any of that? We have just a couple more minutes. We can chat about whatever else you want to share with people.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Yeah. Let’s see. Well, all right. One thing I could say about the word “sustainable.” The way that I look at sustainability is kind of like complete destruction of any structure, period. If you look at what happened to Cuba. This is really interesting. I really care about sustainability. But what happened to Cuba after the embargo, they kind of…they were in a really bad state because they weren’t getting petroleum-based fertilizers. They didn’t have the gasoline to run their big power tractors. And they really had to, it took them ten years to do this, but they really had to figure out a way where they could feed everybody, you know. Because there’re people starving after the U.S. embargo. So they ended up doing some really interesting things like making community pieces of land where people could farm, and they kind of decentralized. And it was really interesting to see how much more productivity they had after they did that. And I think that was the model that I want to see in the United States. So I could talk about that? [laughs] [xxx]

DIANE SANFILIPPO: I’m sorry, go ahead. The floor is yours, so that’s it. Whatever you…

KAREN PENDERGRASS: How much time do we have?

DIANE SANFILIPPO: A few more minutes. 5 minutes.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Okay, well, what I wanted to say was that when we look at sustainable agriculture, it’s interesting if you can kind of see other models of places where it did work, and why it worked, and the events that led to the forcing them of having to even have sustainable agriculture. Like the U.S. embargo, if something like that were to happen in the United States, like some huge crisis. I don’t know. It could be a natural disaster. It could be an economic disaster. We would be in a lot of trouble if we didn’t have a good network of local suppliers. If we didn’t have a good network of people to rely on to give us food. And that’s something that I really want people to kind of think about, is what do you do if there is that type of destruction. Are you going to be able to go to your Whole Foods Market and expect to see tomatoes from Mexico City? If there was a crisis like that. No, you wouldn’t. And I’m not saying this is something that would happen, but it kind of gets people in the mindset of really thinking about sustainable agriculture. And what’s nice about thinking about sustainable agriculture is on the same hand, you’re also thinking about ways to improve the foods that are in your diet already and the way to look at that food that you want to purchase at a grocery store or at a farmers market. To think local, I mean that’s probably the best advice that I could give, honestly.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: Well, I think that’s a good place to wrap up because I, you know, I don’t know. I often talk to people about how, you know, food and diet and nutrition, like people have gotten so far removed from the whole process, and the whole fact that food comes from a farm, and the types of jobs that we have today are, you know, we’re on a computer. We’re in an office. And people don’t at all that revolve around the growing and the producing and the selling or exchanging of food. And the reality is, you know, before things became more modernized in technology, like that’s all humans would do.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: And we’re so so far away from the idea that food is something that should be connected with nature, and that it should be, you know, exchanged in nature from people who grow it. That, you know, I love how it feels to be at the farmers market, and I almost like thank those people for still doing that job, even though, you know, I don’t have a farm. It’s like, thank you so much for growing these awesome Brussels sprouts.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: And, you know, I think it’s hard because people even, you know, want to fuss over, you know, the cost of things when most of the time you can get them less expensively at a farmers market, but even if you can’t, I’m like, well, if this is what this farmer needs for these Brussels sprouts, then so be it. You know? And I think it is a lot about learning the background of, you know, how our animals should be eating, how our plants should be grown, and then…


DIANE SANFILIPPO: kind of committing to shifting our priorities around, so that we’re no longer balking at what the prices are. For those of us, especially, who may have the disposable income to support those types, you know, sustainable or more sustainable farms, so that it does become more and more affordable in a broad, sweeping way.


DIANE SANFILIPPO: Well, thanks for coming and what’s the website that people can check out to find more about you and what you’re doing?


DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay, cool, so we’ll link to that from the notes,, and that’s pretty much it for today. I guess. I’ll check you all next week. Liz will be back. All right, bye Karen, thanks.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

DIANE SANFILIPPO: All right, we’ll talk to you soon. Bye.

KAREN PENDERGRASS: All right, bye.

Click here to submit questions.