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Plant Based Diets Won’t Help | Peter Ballerstedt PhD

Episode 66, duration 1 hr 25 mins
Episode 66

Plant Based Diets Won’t Help | Peter Ballerstedt PhD

Peter Ballerstedt earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Georgia and his doctorate at the University of Kentucky. He was the forage extension specialist at Oregon State University from 1986 to 1992. He worked in the forage seed industry from 2011 until 2023. He is a member of several national and international scientific societies, participates in related global initiatives, and is the current President of the American Forage and Grassland Council. Peter is an advocate for ruminant animal agriculture and the essential role of animal source foods in the human diet.

Plant Based Diets Won't Help - Peter Ballerstedt PhD

In this episode we discuss:
– What are ruminants and why are they important?
– The misleading way protein is calculated in plant products.
– How to make sense of current dietary guidelines.
– Should you eat more plants?

00:00:00 The importance of meat, eggs, dairy, seafood

00:02:54 The Sodfather of the Ruminant

00:04:33 Healthy Diets

00:06:32 Peter’s Journey

00:08:41 Ruminants

00:19:11 Plant Based Food

00:21:10 Food Labels Are Wrong

00:25:49 Dietary Guidelines: Non-Protein Protein

00:36:21 Greenhouse Gas Emissions

00:39:45 Carbohydrate Restriction

00:46:05 Optimal Protein

00:51:08 Protein and Diabetes

00:54:51 Vegetarian vs Animal Sources

01:00:38 The Importance of Lysine

01:10:00 Ruminant Animal and Livestock

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Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:00:01]

Welcome to the Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Showwhere I believe a healthy world is based on transparent conversations.

In today’s episode of The Dr. Gabrielle Lyon Show I sit down with Dr. Peter Ballerstedt. Wediscuss the importance of ruminants on people and the planet.Ruminants are those animals included like cows, sheep,goats. We discuss how protein is calculated in plant products, and what does the impact of these calculations on you as the consumer?We also discuss how Peter makes sense of the dietary guidelines, and what he actually believes you should be doing for your own health and wellness.

Dr. PeterBallerstedtearned his bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Georgia and his doctorate at the University of Kentucky. He was the Forage Extension Specialist at Oregon State University. Peter is the current president of the American Forage and Grassland Council. What makes his perspective so unique is that he has re-examined the human diet and its impact on health. What he has learned doesn’t agree with the advice given for the past several decades.Peter is an advocate for ruminant animal agricultureand the essential role of animal source foods in the human diet. He strives to build bridges between producers, consumers, and researchers across a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

As always, if you guys liked this episode, please like, share, subscribe, send it out to your family and friends. Your support means the world.Let’s jump right in.


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Dr. PeterBallerstedt, thank you so much for joining me.I am really excited for this conversation.You have been coined, I don’t know if this is a term that you called yourself, but the Sodfather of the Ruminant? Is that true?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:05:27]

Well, I’m not clever enough to come up with these things on my own. So yes, I’ve been given the title, Don Pedro, the Sodfather of the Ruminati. Basically, I think the Ruminati came first, and maybe that was my suggestion. Basically, that seems like we know a whole lot about this wondrous creature, or family of creatures called ruminants, and all that they do for us. Then I got involved in the metabolic health space, and it seemed like there was a lot of information that we knew that others didn’t, so Ruminati. Somebody gave me the moniker of Don Pedro at some point,so we’ll just lean into it real hard.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:06:11]

I love that.What people, I think, don’t know about you, and I’m sure you may be new to my audiencein many ways, is that you really tie agricultural health with modern health. You also have a very interesting perspective that I value greatly. Your scientific contribution as it relates to speaking and really putting the information together in a way that we can understand is critical.I’ve actually heard you speak; you do a phenomenal job. You’re very entertaining, by the way, which is difficult for a scientist, but you really are outstanding in that way.There are a few points that I really do want to talk about. But in one of your lectures that I saw you give, you mentioned about calories, that something can be isocaloric, but not isometabolic. Again, we have so much to cover in this episode. But what does that mean?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:07:17]

It’s my attempt to say that we could have 100 calories coming from sugar, and in another diet, we could have 100 calories coming from animal fats. Those two dietsaren’t going to have the same metabolic effect on a human being. That’s partly the weakness of calories as a meaningful thing to talk about diets and define them. But it is to say that sugar and starch will have an effect on insulin that fats won’t, yet we could get equivalent amounts of energy from both. We live in a day where 70% of the calories in Americans’ diets are coming from ultra-processed foods, and 60plus percent, you could trace back to cereals, to sugar, and to industrial oils. Just those three are providingalmost two-thirds, whatever, of our count. Maybe that’s the problem. Those aren’t necessarily foods that humanity evolvedbeing exposed to.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:08:44]

Yes, I would agree with you that majority of our diet is a plant-based,ultra-processed diet that can be very detrimental. Tell me a little bit about your journey. What’s interesting is that we don’t often go into the journey of the scientist behind the information, but I am so curious as to how you came to be where you are now.

Peter Ballerstedt  [0:09:07]

We’ll try to cut this long story short; I just retired, so it could run for quite a while. I did not grow up in agriculture. I didn’t grow up in an agricultural area. I grew up in suburban Lower Bucks County, which is just outside of Philadelphia. A lot of that farmland had been or was being converted into housing tracts. But I quickly realized I’d rather live in the country than the city. So then that began the process that ultimately ended up with me studying forageagronomy and ruminant nutrition. I became very interested in that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:09:51]

What’s that? Wait, what is forage agronomy?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:09:53]

No, you don’t know.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:09:57]

You don’t get to– keep going. Yes,forage agronomy; I have never heard of that.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:10:02]

Agronomy is that branch of sciences dealing with agriculture, so soils and plant sciences, field management, broadly.Forages are those crops or those plants that we grow to be eaten by livestock. Aside from the threshable grain or seeds, so things like pasture hay silage, those are things that we talk about as forage crops. Being that I was involved in pasture management or growing hay or growing silage and those things, probably it’ d be worthwhile knowing something about ruminant nutrition because that’s the primary consumer of those products.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:11:02]

How do we define a ruminant? What is a ruminant?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:11:06]

There wouldn’t be modern humans without ruminants. Modern society is dependent on ruminants, and we won’t be able to meet the goals of 2050 unless we improve the productivity and efficiency of global ruminant animal agriculture. All that being said, ruminants are those animals with we say four stomachs that have pre-gastric fermentation. In other words, imagine you put three chambers in front of our stomach where we would have the microbial populations that actually break down the fiber. They also do a really important thing of taking nonprotein nitrogen, or low-quality proteins, and upcycling them to microbial protein that the host animal then harvests and provides us with meat and milk of highest nutritional quality. Their upcycling is a key link in our terrestrial ecosystems. We know vertebrate animalproduces cellulase, which is the enzyme necessary to break down the bonds between the glucose units that make up cellulose, which is the most abundant carbohydrate in the biosphere. That’s entirely dependent on–

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:12:51]

That would be grass, right? That would be a lot of grass.

Peter Ballerstedt  [0:12:53]

The fiber in grass, the fiber in trees, plant fiber, if you will, the fiber that we’re often told we must consume, that substance is not directly utilizable by humans, but ruminants can and do utilize that resource.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:13:19]

That’s fascinating. What I’m hearing you say is that ruminant animals are animals with four– was it that they have four stomachs? Whereas we are a mono-gastric animal that we have one stomach, and we also have a vertebrae? What you’re saying is that these animals are necessary for our survival, and they would include things like cows. Is bison even in as well?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:13:43]

Cows, sheep, goats, bison, buffalo; I forget the exact number of ruminants in total. But again, the evolution of ruminants predates the emergence of primates. It makes sense when you think about a transition of the ecosystem from dense forest to mixed forest grasslandsavanna to full grassland, and these were the animals that were utilizing the grasses. Then the carnivores were utilizing the ruminants. One theory would have us be first of all, the scavenger, that then over time evolved into an apex predator. Again, a grassland doesn’t have high quality protein being produced by the plants. Grasslands don’t have rich sources of fat from the plants. We have to have the animals in place to do that production and conversion.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:15:03]

Absolutely. That is why or one of the reasons why ruminants are so essential for human health is that as an upcycler, what you’re saying is they eat marginal land or they eat off the land that is full of cellulose, of things that are not able to be consumed by a human. They take this, the gut microbiome within one of their many stomachs (I can’t imagine being a ruminant; I’d be very bloated), they upcycle this through the gut microbiome.The gut microbiome then provides amino acids and other nutrients to allow for them to be able to grow and become animal meat for human consumption. Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:15:47]

I just pulled out the slide from BarryGroves’s presentation from years ago, where you look at the difference between ingest and digest. You are not what you eat; you are what your body does with what you eat. In Groves’s original slide, he had two groups of mammals.He had a sheep, a cow, and a mountain gorilla in one group. Then he had a human being, a lion, and a polar bear in the second group. The question is, which is designed to digest a low-fat diet? The point is that there’s a difference between ingest and digest.Neither one of them digests a low-fat diet. The ruminant will eat a high-fiber, low-fat, and poor-protein quality diet from the forage. Then through, as you said, the rumen and the first two stomachs, the microbes will do the degradation of the fiber.They will produce volatile fatty acids. The fat content of the diet is something like no more than 6%. But at the end, well over 60% of her energy is going to come from the fatty acids that she absorbs from her gut as a result of microbial fermentation. Then the protein, any nitrogenous material that can be degraded in the rumen, hopefully, the vast majority of that will be captured by microbes and form microbial protein, which then when it reaches the acidic stomach and then through the intestines, just like we do with protein, that break downand absorption takes place.

But even so, the vast majority of agricultural land, I put quotes around that because people confuse agricultural land and arable land. They think that agricultural land could all support the production of crops. The fact is that the arable land is the land which can be tilled, and it’s by far a small portion of the overall agricultural land. There’s a lot of agricultural land that is perhaps only but certainly best suited for grazinglong-term, covered with communities of plants that then ruminants can graze and produce meat, milk, fiber, other benefits. In fact, the health of those biomes requires grazing or burning; I’d rather graze it. But at the same time, even when we produce a crop like corn or wheat, over half of the biomass that that crop represents is inedible by humans. So even on cropland, we have an integration of livestock into our cropping systems. That happens in a lot of ways. They’re an absolutely essential part of our cropping systems today, globally, and clearly, they’re going to look different in different parts of the world.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:19:20]

Let me ask you this.You’re talking a lot about and very interested in animal well-being as it relates to agriculture,agronomy, and ruminanthealth.But how and why should the listener care about all this? Because the listener is like, well, number one, I’m not a ruminant, and number two, maybe I’m not so interested in farming. Where is the intersection between ruminants and human health? What are you hoping to deliver to the world?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:19:55]

I got my final degree in 1986, so I’ve been in this space for a while. But in 2007, I realized I was a 51-year-old baldingobese pre-diabetic. I found a lifestyle intervention that emphasized protein and animal source protein, and taught me that I need not fear the fat that comes along with those foodstuffs that provide the animal source protein.I now call that metabolic health. I call that therapeuticcarbohydrate reduction. So yeah, today, I’m just balding.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:20:45]

No, actually, and I really encourage people to listen to some of your lectures because you really bring up this point about that again, not all proteins are created equal, but also crude protein is different than other sources of protein and perhaps what we’re getting wrong and how things are becoming very confusing as it relates to this integrationand maintenance of animal products into our diet.I think you really do an exceptional job at speaking to things of that nature.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:21:19]

Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon [0:21:23]

No charge.

Peter Ballerstedt[0:21:25]

Good. So I had that personal experience–

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:21:31]

What are some of the shortcomings of the research as it relates to a more plant-based approach?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:21:42]

Humanity’s diet is already plant-based. That clearly is causing harm to human beings. We have such high quality and abundant evidence of human beings being harmed by too little animal source food in their diet. Anything that speaks to this narrative of being harmed by too much,yet it’s very prevalent, but it’s all based on the weakest quality evidence that we have of nutritional epidemiology of chronic disease. But people don’t think about that because they hear the story that says, studies show–well, no, it didn’t show.It established some kind of relationship, so of course, that makes the news.I just got another one to respond to in messaging. It’s like this is really getting tiresome, but apparently, it’s necessary.I’m saying that humanity’s existential crisis is insufficient animal source food. We can see this.We can see this in children who are stunted due to a lack of the essential nutrients that are best provided, perhaps solely provided, by animal source food in their diet. Stunting is not merely stature; although it is that, it’s brain development. These human beings aren’t going to be able to achieve their potential because that’s going to last their whole lifetime. If you miss those critical stages of development, you can’t make it up. So this is just really, really important and little appreciate it.

One of the key things that I remember, the moment when one particular person– oh, I’ll name him, Dave Feldman. We were having a meal. That moment when he realized that when you see protein on a food label or in a food table, that’s actually a value that we, in animal nutrition call crude protein. But we, in human nutrition just call it protein. People spend a lot of time counting and tracking and whatever.There’s so many problems with that, but crude protein is an estimate of the protein that’s in a food or feed. It dates back tothe 1880s or something.When did proximate analysis start?Way back then. Basically, it is we determine the nitrogen content in a food or feed sample. We multiply that percent nitrogen by 6.25 as a value to convert it into crude protein. We’re doing that assuming that all the nitrogen that was there was in protein, and all that protein was 16% nitrogen.

Well, that sort of works with ruminants.Again, because ruminants can utilize nonprotein nitrogen. But monogastricslike us and like swine– I’m not comparing us to swine, butthey are an acceptable model for human digestion.But though monogastricscannot utilize nonproteinnitrogen, plant source foods are going to have more nonprotein nitrogen than animal source foods. That’s before we ever get to think about things like the digestibility of the true protein that is provided by both, or the amino acid profiles of the protein that we can absorb from animal source and plant source foods. By the time you get done with all that, then you can find a paper that says these ounce equivalents that the dietary guidelines are based on have never been demonstrated to be equivalent in any way. Oh.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:26:05]

Can you give me an example of that?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:26:07]

An ounce of meat is equivalent to a cooked egg is equivalent to a quarter cup of red kidney beans, a tablespoon of peanut butter, 2 ounces of tofu, half an ounce of mixed nuts.Those are their ounce equivalents that they say that you can use to construct a diet.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:26:47]

Just hang with us because this is really important information. Basically, the ounce equivalent of peanut butter to a kidney bean to an ounce of red meat, the dietary guidelines determined that these were equivalent based on, you’re saying protein. They were saying that these proteins are interchangeable, and you can use this interchangeable chart to build a diet.You’re saying that is completely missing the mark because the nonprotein nitrogen–so basically, to really simplify this for the listener or the viewer is that if they were to take a look at the back of a protein bar that’s made fromred bean or whatever it is, I don’t know, take your pick, some kind of plant-based source that it will say protein, but what you’re saying is there is potential nonprotein nitrogen in that label. Is that true?

Peter Ballerstedt[0:27:54]


Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:27:55]

Okay, so explain that, because this is really important. Basically, what Peter is saying is that from a dietary guidelinefrom an understanding to the consumer, that forward facing, we have equated all of these things as interchangeable and equal, even to the point of it being on the back of a label, saying this protein bar has 10 grams of dietary protein when some of this protein is actually nonprotein nitrogen.

Peter Ballerstedt [0:28:26]

Correct. Absolutely. There’s more here that we could suss out. But first of all,a quarter of the nitrogen that’s in potatoes, for example–and this is just one that I know; we could find others–is nonprotein nitrogen. Any protein that would be listed for a potato, a quarter of that isn’t in fact protein. If you look at green leafy vegetables that are going to have a high nitrate content,nitrate is going to be converted via this nitrogen percentageand then convert that into crude protein, that’s going to be expressed as part of the–don’tmention it– crude protein that’s listed in the tables for the labels. Then on top of that—

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:29:24]

This is a problem.

Peter Ballerstedt [0:29:26]

Yes, it’s a major problem. Then you can see the variability because if you look in a good food table, you should somewhere see the number of values that went into producing the mean value that’s stated for that food item, whatever the nutrient value is.This is a problem when we get to low- and middle-income countries where you have a very limited number of samples that went in to make the value that’s now being used to do food supply calculations. Plant source foods very far more than animal source foods in terms of their composition.I went and dug out values from a database, I think it was 6,000 Soybean samples. The protein value in soybeans varied something like 10% plus or minus. They’re not doing a recalculation for every batch, plus, they have a plus or minusbecause they need to be given some grace in terms of the value, so there’s bounds around what they say the value is on the label. Then there’s the variability that comes in just from the products coming in.

I started in ‘86. We were doing a lot of work, and we still are, trying to teach dairy men especially but beef producers as well, to sample the hay that they are feeding their animals, so that they can know what its nutritive value is.Feed is a very large expense, and want to make sure that we’re getting best value. Well, a lot of hay as an amount, a unit of hay, is that hay that comes from the same field that was planted to the same variety harvestedthe same time,one harvest, one field planted with the same thing, that’s a lot. We can sample that because we see the variability even from cutting to cutting.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:32:02]

That’s for ruminants. The variability in the quality and the protein, nonprotein containing nitrogen in the hay,why does the human care about that? Because ultimately, the ruminant eats, the ruminant produces a very standard amino acid profile meat, whichmight vary in some of its–phytonutrient composition is the wrong word.I don’t know, maybe some variability in low molecular weight molecules, but the amino acid composition of cow, beef, or bison is extraordinarily consistent, which makes it amazing. Butlet’s say, individuals begin to go more plant-based. You had mentioned that really, who suffer is not necessarily the older individuals. I argue, they totally suffer from a muscle mass perspective, from all kinds of perspective. But really, the unintended consequences of this concept of moving away from high quality protein really affects our youth. It affects the youth, not just in the United States, but globally. That is, in my opinion, a crisis. How does it affect our youth specifically? Are we talking about a leucine deficiency? Are we talking about lysine? Are we talking about methionine? Are we talking about these different three amino acids? Or are we talking about bioavailable iron and other vitamins and minerals? In the hierarchy of thinking about it, what are we talking about?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:33:55]

It’s not just the youth, although clearly, they’re one of the vulnerable populations. The industry has been for too long referring to itself as protein industry. Various people, myself included, have been encouraging them to move away from that and just own the fact that you’re a meat company or industry. I understand why we’re there, but we need to move on. Protein is clearly a critical issue but so are all the other nutrients that are best or solely sourced. One of the statistics, I believe it was from UNICEF, and I believe it goes something like, the WHO says that the best source of the high quality nutrients that children 6 to 24 months of age require are meat, eggs, dairy, seafood. UNICEF says that 60% of children 6 to 24 months of age globally don’t get meat, eggs, dairy, seafood.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:35:09]

Repeat that. That is really important. Say that again for me.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:35:13]

The WHO tells us that for children 6 to 24 months of age, meat, eggs, dairy, seafood are the best source of the nutrients that they require for proper development. UNICEF says that only 60% of children globally 6 to 24 months of age get meat, eggs, dairy, seafood in their diet.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:35:39]


Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:35:42]

That 60% do not get meat, eggs, dairy, seafood. Again, people tell us we’re supposed to be plant-based. Well, I’m not sure how much more they’re– well, I have a suspicion.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:35:59]

I want to hear the suspicion because–

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:36:03]

I think it’s an advocacy for a plant-only diet. There is no foundation for the belief that a plant-only diet will be good for human health and flourishing on a global scale. There is really no justification for saying that that’s going to make a meaningful difference in terms of emissions from agriculture. In fact, if we look at the burden of the health care industry in terms of its impacts economically, societally, or environmentally, one could make the case that improving metabolic health, lowering the requirement or the burden of these chronic diseases and therefore lowering the need for the health care could in facthave a more significant impact on these common metrics of sustainability.

There’s one paper that looks at the emissions from the US healthcare industry. The conclusion was something along the lines of the US healthcare industry is a significant source of pollution, including 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, in the United States. Now US EPA says that all of agriculture is somewhere around 9%, and animal agriculture is somewhere around 4%. Now, that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, and you should always be concerned about how they did that. For the former healthcare estimate, they said, how much energy does health care consume? Whereas EPA says energy is one bucket, and they look at that, the health care estimate said how much food is served? Whatever that number is, it’s significant, and we don’t talk about it.

There was another assessment of the impact of the pharmaceutical industry globally. It came to the conclusion that it was a significant emitter and greater variability than in other industries. From those data,a colleague made the estimate that if the average adult American with type 2 diabetes could eliminate their medication use, they would reduce their carbon footprint 29% more than if they shifted from a high meat to a vegan diet. There was an estimate looking at–

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:39:07]

So basically–


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–pardon the interruption, basically, you’re saying that there’s a lot of smokescreen happening, that this idea that we should reduce our high-quality consumption of animal-based products is a smokescreen for a much bigger issue, which is metabolic health and perhaps, environmental waste, whether its use of transportation, electricity, or etc. may be even more impactful. Is that what I’m hearing you say?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:42:39]

Absolutely. One study looked at what would happen if we eliminated animal agriculture from the United States?What impact would that have? What they came to as a conclusion was that it would be somewhere less than 2.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, from the United States, and it would be less than 0.5% globally if the US did that.But they said–

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:43:07]

So it makes us think that Meatless Monday is a bit of a joke.Not only that, the idea of a Meatless Monday, but also what about the impact that has from a cognitive standpoint for our children?As it relates to being able to grow up and have food flexibility, I think that these are really critical things that we have to pay attention to. So let me ask you this from the historical perspective, where are the origins of carbohydrate restriction?What I really want to take away, and I think you do this very elegantly, is what should people be eating? How can we think about it? Whatare some of the historical perspectives of carbohydrate restriction? I think that you’ve done a really good job at looking at where the ruminants are, where that  plays a role as it relates to upcycling nutrition for humans, but what about the historical origins of  carbohydrate restriction? I’ve heard you talk about the current food system and how it’s going to impact people. I’d love to talk about some of the real action items that people can begin to place.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:44:31]

Well, I guess I would certainly refer to what you recommend in terms of how much protein do we need? Now I would come and say,we need to make sure we’re talking about protein, not protein in air quotes.We need not fear the fat that comes with that.I would suggest that people eat that first at their meals, and then if they want to add some non-starchy vegetables as part of that meal, certainly that’s fine. I’m absolutely going to suggest that we look for added sugar that we put on and then additional sugar that’s added to the foods that we’re consuming, the various different names for sugar.Because you could look at the label and say, oh sugar is the fifth.Yeah, but the three before it were another form of sugar. They just -ose at the end of it, so that now they can list them separately.

In addition, I would suggest that people look to the degree that they can at eating together. Mealtime used to be a time of social interaction. Now we’ve broken it, and we’re going to eat on the run and those things. But the first published diet that I’m aware of was Banting back in the 1880s or something like that.He was somebody who had his own personal experience. When you look at how heavy he was and compare it to today, he probably wouldn’t have been all that remarkable today in terms of obesity, but he was for the time. He discovered from Europeans that he could eat foods that he had been told he was supposed to avoid. He was exercising to the best of his ability at that time.He discovered that he lost weight effortlessly, and this was published.That’s Banting. In some countries and languages, to bant is a verb meaning to diet. So he’s one of those few people whose names has become a verb.

Then you can look throughout the history in Europeup till World War I and then the interwar period. Germany and Austria were the seat of science in the world, and work was being done there. Just listen to Gary Taubes give a presentation on the history of obesity and talking about the science, and then World War II destroys that community of research. Some of it gets to come to the United States, but much of their findings were disregarded. Somehow, it became this psychological issue rather than a physiological issue, and then we have what comes after. In the ‘50s, we had an influential individual who promoted the idea that it was fat in the diet that caused heart disease. There was a scientific controversy; he was ascendant because of politics, not because of evidence.That then became the basis along with a certain environmental ethos that was developing at the time; counterculture, all that came in. Diet for a Small Planetwas a very popular book along withThe Population Bomb.These were influential, and so they had an effect on the culture and that then showed up in the policy. With Diet for a Small Planet,Frances Moore Lappéwas cited in the Senate subcommittee report.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:48:45]

Peter, I have to say that the point that you’re bringing up is this idea that eating has never been about eating.Health and wellness has never been about simply food; it is deeply ingrained in political agenda. It is deeply ingrained in morality, things other than actually simply nutrition and wellness.I actually write a little bit about the history of Diet for a Small Planet, Sylvester Grahamand how that became the Grahamcracker, and one of the things that he really highlighted was that we should be eating to be better humans.We should be moral. We should abstain from sex and not eat meat and don’t drink alcohol and be a very certain way.That’s ultimately where the Graham cracker because Kellogg became a fan and made the Graham cracker.But I’mdigressing into this history. If you were to say, this is the amount of dietary protein I think is acceptable, and adequate, where would you put adequate versus optimal, and what kind of protein? Do you even think about plant sources of protein? Would you even consider that protein? Or how do you think about it? Because I do know that people likely ask you these questions. What do you consider adequate protein for an individual versus optimal, and what does that look like?

Then the other thing is, you also mentioned a statement where you said, you stopped really fearing fat.I’m curious as to what you mean by that and where you think fat consumption is. Is it added in the form of polyunsaturated? Are we going to beadding in monounsaturated? Although those listeners that are very savvy know that almost 50% of the fat in beef is monounsaturated, maybe almost 50%. But anyway, tell me about what you would consider adequate dietary protein. What does that look like?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:50:57]

Well, again, people such as yourself, people like the man that you got to study under,others who are doing that work, a big part of what I do is I’m just trying to be a pipe; convey information from one source to another. But the idea that 0.8 grams per kilogram would be the target, because too many people treat the RDA as if it’s a target rather than a minimum. You can see this in the literature when they talk about food supplies. Then they’ll say we’re over consuming. That’s the minimal amount we need to avoid disease. Others would say it needs to be somewhere north of 1.2 grams per kilogram.Then others point to the fact that there’s a real high ceiling for safety, so we don’t need to worry.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:52:05]

I don’t think we found it. Yeah, we haven’t found it.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:52:08]

Yeah, it’s there. I’m sure. I’m sure it’s there, but–

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:52:13]

I’m sure it exists, but we have not seen it.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:52:29]

We’ve got in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, they were showingNHANES data, and they looked at protein.What the data itself said was that 40% of adult Americans aren’t getting enough, and most females over the age of eight aren’t getting enough protein in their diet. That’s with them considering 0.8 grams per kilogram, the target, as well as considering plant and animal protein, as if it’s equivalent. Both of those are not valid assumptions, yet that’s how bad it is even with those assumptions, and then they’re able to say, protein is not a nutrient of concern.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:53:30]

It’s shocking.Listen, Peter, to tell you the truth, I would love to not be talking about protein anymore. People ask why I’m still doing it. This is exactly why.Until we see some change in the guidelines, whether the evidence is coming out that double the RDA, which by the way,RDA, 0.8 grams per kg equals 0.37 grams per pound. That is so low if you were to do the math of whatever that looks like. I mean, we could do the math here, my phone is off. But if you were to calculate what that looks like, it is disgustingly low. At point 0.37 grams per kg, when the data supports double that as more of an optimal range, we’re stillarguing this case of, should you have protein, or should you not?Then, quote, people are saying we’re eating too much. Clearly, that is not true. When we are thinking about what is it going to take to really move the needle? I’m not sure. I actually thinkit’s going to becomemore difficult versus less difficult. When it relates to carbohydrates, do you think that there is a carbohydrate threshold? Have youthought much about that?Again, obviously, you can say no, and I’m going to calculate this number here.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:54:58]

I think that’s part of this tremendous individuality. My mother was 43 years old when she had me in 1956. So 43 would be an advanced age, I’m sorry, for someone today, let alone then. Part of that was she was driven by the desire to not have an only child since she had been one. My brother was born six years earlier, and there were a few miscarriages between the two. My memory of my mother is always of a heavy Pennsylvania Germanwoman. My wheelchair physician diagnosis here is that she was probably dealing with gestational diabetes for most of the– so I have no problem believing that I got, in beef, we talk about fetal imprinting. In humans, we talk aboutepigenetics.There’s something happened to me in utero that then makes me more sensitive to carbohydrate in my diet than others. I have no problem believing that. So we probably have to find those things individually. We have wonderful tools now that we can use in this country; continuous glucose monitors. Heck, you can even get a home read A1c test now that you can do.Sothose sorts of things can help us as well as more sophisticated diagnostic tests. But what’s clear is we are still consuming way– I think sugar is the third leading source of calories in humanity’s diet after wheat and rice.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:57:03]

Is that globally?

Peter Ballerstedt [0:57:04]

Yes, inhumanity’s foods.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [0:57:08]

I’m curious, Peter.Again,you drop the bombs on some of this stuff. What are your top one or two misconceptions that the general public has about the current food system?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [0:57:28]

Well, that just what we’ve been covering thatplant sources of nutrition are equivalent to animal sources of nutrition, so that you can just swap them in and out. Whether you do that on a mass basisor whetheryou try to findequivalent amounts from both, they’re not. That’s number one. Number two is that you could have this either-or kind of approach wherethere’s actually, in some universe, the possibility of animal-free agriculture. That’s not possible. There are things that we could go into a greater depth there. For those of us in the US, I want to encourage people, and this is a frequent topic, to not feel like you have to spend more for the animal source foods that you can get at your grocery store by going to some upscale market or other source to getthem. Label claims are something that I have been known to rail against from time to time, especially as we start thinking about a population. 95% of the world’s vegetarians are economic vegetarians. They are not philosophical vegetarians.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[0:59:07]

What is that?

Peter Ballerstedt [0:59:09]

They can’t afford it. It’s not available to them. They would, if they could. One of the things that I hear and I’m wondering about, and I have no expertise to delve into it, but people say that as humanity combats poverty and as populations become more prosperous, they want more animal source food.They can afford it. I wonder at times, and I’m not an economist and I don’t know, but what if it’s not an effect but has some causal relationship? In other words, if the availability of the animal source food becomes greater, does that lead to moreprosperous societies? One of the things I can look at and I’m still wondering about is in colonial North America when people visited colonial North America, they were amazed at the amount of game and animal source foods from farming that were being consumed daily, multiple times a day. One of the things that happened is the height of people in colonial America increased. That’s seen as an indicator of nutritional status for the population.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:00:42]

If that’s the case, then I’ve definitely been under-nutritioned.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:00:47]

Notice I said population, not individual.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:00:53]

Mom and dad, what have you done to me?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:00:56]

Yeah, I’ve heard it said thatpeople get into genealogy so they can figure out who to blame. Inthe Netherlandsafter World War II because they went through a fair amount of deprivation as a result of the occupation and the war, but afterwards, they really emphasized dairy consumption in their population. Again, association doesn’t prove causation. But perhaps it’s interesting that they’re one of the tallest populations in the world. Now you start replacing real dairy with plant juice beverages, and who knows what’s going to happen? You take wheat, which is a poor source of protein for humanity, and it’s the single largest source of protein in humanity’s diet. Cereals as a group is larger than all our animal source foods combined.You take wheatper DIASS,the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score,it’s somewhere around 50 for an adult. We get better at digesting it as we age; it’s lower for children. But then nobody eats wheat berries. We process that into some other substance. If we make whole wheat bread out of it, the DIASS score for that is now in the 20s. If we make a brown crispy breakfast cereal out of it, it’s essentially zero. Okay, I’m not advocating for the consumption of breakfast cereal, but if you put real dairy on that, there’s sufficient lysine provided by the dairy to compensate for the lack of lysine in the breakfast cereal. But what happens again, if we put nut juice on it? Well, we don’t know.We have some of the data andmore is coming, but we have reason to suspect that it’s not going to overcome the lysine deficiency from the cereal.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:03:01]

Just to mention,lysine, what Peter is talking about, is one of the essential amino acids. Ultimately, what we think about is one of the limiting amino acids as it relates to diet quality.Whether it’s lysine, leucine, or methionine,they’re all thought to be limiting as it relates to the quality of protein in the diet. Lysine is one of those essential amino acids that is limiting. We don’t really talk about lysine. Or at least I don’t, but youdo. Do we know what the recommended amount of lysine per day is as a minimum to prevent deficiency?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:03:44]

Someone does. It’s not a number I have in my mind.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:03:49]

Okay. I don’t actually know that number either. I have a question for you. There are very fine scientists that I really respect. Some of them have begun to publish work that will show a group of those individuals getting plant-based proteins, albeit they’re shakes, so they can bemanipulated, but plant-based proteins, and they’re relating it to say, a whey protein. What they’re finding is that when protein is high enough, that there’s no difference in muscle mass. So again, these areyounger individuals, and maybe eventhis one study that I’m thinking of is younger individuals that when protein is above the RDA, closer to 1.6 grams per kilogram that it doesn’t really matter where you’re going to get your protein source because when they looked at the data, they said, okay, well, the strength gains or the muscle mass stability and growth was the same.What would your response to that be?

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:04:59]

Again, I’m concerned about global population. Protein shakes, just like cultured meat, is not going to be a solution to low- and middle-income countries where the majority of humanity lives. Number two, the consumption of these ultra-processed foods, which, it’s hard to think of something more processed than consuming an isolateI’m not a fan of. I understand why someathletes or maybe if somebody is convalescing, but then I’m concerned about what isn’t there. Again, we’re talking about protein, but we have data that says, if you’re consuming less than 50% of your protein from animal source foods, you’re likely to see other nutrient deficiencies showing up. If you’re consuming less than 30% of your calories from animal source foods, you’re likely to see other nutrient deficiencies showing up.We’re at 30% in the United States now.A fifth of women of childbearing age in the US are anemic.

So again, I understand the argument, and I’m glad to hear that. Basically, I’m saying that animal source foods is going to be part of most people’s diet to varying amounts.It actsas a way to balance the imbalanced amino acid profiles of other substances in the diet. That’s one of the great things that we can now do. Human beings have eaten anything that didn’t eat them first.We’re obviously very adaptable. Some people though find that some items in the diet caused them problems, and they should be encouraged to try eliminating things. Maybe a way to do that is to eat meat only for a period of time and see if their symptoms improve. You’re not going to harm your health by doing that. Then if you find afterwards that, okay, my symptoms have improved, do I want to addback in some of those foods and do so in a controlled, monitored way and watch to see if any of that comes back? If you can eat it without a problem, fine.I’m really grateful that I don’t have to struggle with some of the things that I know people who do. It makes it much easier for me. I can eat away from home. I know people who virtuallybasically can only eat what they can prepare at home because they have sensitivities that they can’t be sure that the establishments or the grocery store food processors are paying as close attention to.

So to your point, yes, but getting to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight leads us to a very different conversation about the food system necessary to supply it. Right now, we still have people who are believing that we’re consuming too much when we’re below that level, or they’re making models about what we need to produce enough to feed to a lower level. It’s really important for people to understand, again, that RDA is a minimum, not a target. There was a paper that came out, I believe, in 2018, where they basically looked at 100 and some odd low-income countries and territories, and they looked at the protein supply. When you looked at that and you used thatminimum level, they say, oh, look, only two or three here are at the low end.Only the very poorest are below that. But when they went to the level of saying, what’s the utilizable lysine supply?They found that none of them met the target. So you went from three to 100 plus.One person I spoke to said, well, let’s think about the famine relief that we send to places. What are we sending? Oh, we’re sending soy protein.Is that the best? Why don’t we send them culturally appropriate dried meat that they could add into whatever cerealthing that they’re doing? We have people who have shown that an egg a day can make a meaningful difference in the development of a child in terms of their scholastic ability, social interaction scores. I mean, this is not a heavy lift.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:10:54]

It’s not a heavy lift. I agree with you. Really, the concept of adding in more high quality protein despite what people are hearing, really, the goal is to clear it up with evidence-based information.Peter and I didn’t chat about this like, oh, hey, this is our agenda. It really is looking at some of these compelling arguments with high quality, scientific evidence available and understanding some of the realities of this, thata significant portion of humanity, which Peter, you say this, suffers from inadequate consumption of animal foods in our diet. Animal foods are a luxury to most people. Number two, there is insufficient evidence to support this recommendation of reducing animal source foods.That is true. This is even important in high-income countries. There is insufficient evidence to support the recommendation of reducing animal foods. Three, dietary interventions focused on reducing processed carbohydrates and ensuring sufficient animal products show the great promise in eliminating some of this chronic disease burden.Again, these are yourworking realities and objectives. Finally, that grassland and ruminant animal agriculture are critical components of a sustainable food system and global development, which is really important to understand more so now than ever because it’s really as if ruminant animal and livestock has become the scapegoat for all things.I don’t know exactly why that is. It’s so bizarre becauseagain, I have nothing vested in ruminant animals or agriculture in that way. But the amount of misinformation is almost shocking. What’s even more shocking is that theway in which the media drives decision-making for families. We have to do better. We have to do better, think more if we want to change anything.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:13:27]

I thinkgrowing awareness of who’s involved in the conversation,that there are all these different players that have been around for a very long time. But the other day, it occurred to me to look it up, I think it’s like three quarters of advertising revenue for media comes from pharmaceuticals. Whose side of the story are they going to promote?Animal agriculture is producing what in many ways is a commodity.There really isn’t the space for somebody to come in and do value add to that to create the margin that then allows them to profit handsomely or whatever, and then you’ve got shelf life and all those other issues that are involved, versus somebody who can take the commodity of corn and process it into some other thing that then they canmark it. I remember someone saying that you take broccoli, and there’s not a lot of margin in broccoli. But you take broccoli and you concoct a low-fat cheese sauce to put on top of it and freeze it. Now you’ve got something that you can mark it, especially when you have people saying you need to eat low fat and low cholesterol and low sodium and whatever else that they configure.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:15:05]

By the way, let’s just define what a commodity is for the listener.Commodity is a whole food. It’s a whole food that is unprocessed. A commodity would be, just as Peter said, soy, corn, egg, milk, beef versus a processed food would be, I don’t know, pick your almond juice or pick your Beyond Burger or thisbroccoli with fake cheese sauce, these are all processed foods, and commodities collectively have a marketing budget of $750 million. All of these food products collectively versus Pepsi Cola, which is just one monster in the processed food industry space and has a marketing budget alone of $1.9 billion or higher. That is just onecompany. Not to mention Peter, you and I are about to play a game. It’s going to be like a talk show game. I’m going to say a food, and you’re going to tell me what the advertising behind that food is. Okay, ready? Or I’ll answer it for you, but let’s see if you can do it for me. You ready? So I’m going to say milk, and you’re going to say, does the body good.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:16:45]

Oh, got it, I see what you’re saying.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:16:47]

Now this is marketingunder USDA, meaning, you guys have to understand that there are restrictions as to how these whole foods can market themselves and what they can say.For example, we’ve all heard of milk, does the body good. That is all that it can say, versus it cannot say that milk is a better source of calcium than X, Y, and Z. It can’t say anything disparaging against another processed food. So now I’m going to say beef, and you’re going to say–

Peter Ballerstedt [1:17:30]

It’s what’s for dinner.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[1:17:31]

What’s for dinner? What’s for dinner? But beef cannot say beef this, this, and this. By the way, it’s beef collectively. You don’t even know about all the independent farmers that go into quote, beef. Beef cannot say, you know what, we are a better source of protein. We have more bioavailable zinc, iron, selenium than impossible meat. But Impossible meat can say, we are so much better than a beef burger. People, you have to understand what we’re up against.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:18:03]

One of my aha moments was, so the beef industry has a checkoff so that when a producer sells an animal, $1 goes into this fund. The USDA is the administrator of that. I believe half is supposed to come back to the state and a half goes to the national organization.If the national organization is going to use any of that money for dietary messaging, the USDA has to review it and approve it. The NCBA has to pay for that review. Okay, so there’s a conflict there. Number two, I believe it was the Texas Beef Council put together some pamphlets saying in essence that lean beef belongs in the diets of your high cholesterol patients. There’s a whole lot there I could talk about, but that’s what they’re trying to do right there. I mean,there’s a whole lot to talk about. I would like to go much further, but that little bit right there got them a deceptive advertising complaint from the PCRM, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is a vegan advocacy group.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:19:32]

Oh, God. But that’s a great name. I mean, come on.These are problems, and listen–

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:19:37]

Most of their membership are not physicians, but they’re going to cast a—

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon[1:19:46]

Peter’s laughing. This is all true.This is comical, but it’s not. So again, I typically don’t talk about the politics of food, but Peter has really done a great job in advocating for ruminants in their place ingrass-basedhealth.I commend you for doing this work. This podcast hastwo kinds of people on it. It has number one, innovators and experts in their fields, MD, PhDs, really just high-level individuals. Then the other individuals that come on the show are individuals that have had extraordinarily challenging or just monumental life experiences.Peter, you really fall into this category of being an exceptional expert in your field and being a wonderful science communicator as it relates to what are we even talking about, as it relates to health and wellness. Again, you bring a lot of sense, and you also bring in the animal agricultural aspect of it, which is critical to understand as we begin to bridge the gap. Also, the other thing that I’m so grateful that you highlighted is really this policy, this agendawhere it makes things very difficult for a consumer, a family member, just as someone in the lay public to understand, and thank you. I know that I feel very grateful that you were willing to spend some time with me.I know that the listener is going to get a lot out of this work and this discussion. So thank you so much.You have had such an amazing impact on so many, and I’m really, really grateful.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:21:59]

Well, thank you. I really appreciate that. Thank you for what you’re doing to help individuals. I know that it’s not always easy. You know, what’s that thing?You know you’re over the target when you start getting flack. But if we know, then we have a responsibility to communicate that information. People say that we can’t feed the world high animal source food diet.I turn that around, I say we must.We have to find a way to do this, and we can.In the ‘60s and ‘70s, we had a green revolution. That wassaid to save a billion people from starvationwhen that was a quarter of humanity. Today, we’ve got well over 40% of humanity that’s malnourishedin various forms. It’snow 8 some billion, heading up toward 10 ultimately.

So I’ve been advocating for what I call a ruminant revolution.We have to find a way to globally and appropriately improveruminantanimal agriculturewherever that takes place. There are some wonderful things happening, I’m getting introduced to people around the world. So I think we have really good news.We need to feel better about what we find we need to do to improve our own health because when you improve your health, you are improving the world. That may be the most meaningful thing any of us can do, is ourselves, our families, our communities. Then maybe that spreads from there. A tipping point may only be 25%, not 50%. So if we get 26% of people understanding, I’m pretty sure the market’s going to respond. There’s going to be somebody that says, oh, yeah, okay, here’s a place for us to go.As I say, I know the vast majority of humanity would very much like to have the situation that we currently live in.

I thank you for the opportunity. I welcome contact from anyone who wants to talk about specific issues or has comments or questions or observations. As I said earlier, I’m just trying to be a good pipe here. I know people who know a lot more about ruminant animal agriculture and forage agronomy than I do, and I know an awful lot of people that know a great deal more about human health and nutrition than I do. I’m just trying tobuild bridges between those disciplines. If there’s a way I can do that more effectively, please let me know.

Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:25:11]

I think you’re doing amazing. I know that you’re doing amazing.I’m really grateful for the time. I’m going to link where people can find you. You’re a wonderful resource and so well read. I appreciate you willing to hang out and get interviewed and also interrupted, and I will say it’s because of the delay. But again, I am so grateful.You’re on the right path. It’s wonderful to hear from other individuals in the scientific community that again, it’s not an agenda to talk about this or bring to the forefront. What you’re saying is that if an individual has the capacity, they have a responsibility to highlight that, and you do that. So thank you so much, Peter. I am really looking forward to this episode and airing it, and we will be in touch. Thank you again.

Dr. Peter Ballerstedt  [1:26:08]

Thank you.


Dr. Gabrielle Lyon  [1:26:10]

The Dr. Gabrielle Lyon podcast and YouTube are for general information purposes only and do not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing, or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice.No patient-doctorrelationship is formed.Theuseof information on this podcast, YouTube, or materials linked from the podcast or YouTube is at the user’s own risk. The content of this podcast is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard or delay in obtaining medical advice for any medical condition they may have and should seek the assistance of their health care professional for any such conditions. This is purely for entertainment and educational purposes only.