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America Needs More "Brothals"

In 1908, the Japanese invented monosodium glutamate to enhance food flavors, particularly meat-like flavors. Did you know we actually have glutamate receptors on our tongues? It’s the protein in food that the human body recognizes as meat. With the ability to hydrolize just about any protein to create free glutamic acid, we now had a way to create intense, meat-like flavors without any meat present.

To get those flavors before the invention of MSG, people the world over used bone broths. Now industry had created a way to short cut the lengthy and nourishing process of creating stocks from the bones of beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and fish. They could make food that tasted “just as good” at a fraction of the cost.

But at what cost to our health?

The dangers of MSG have been well documented, and not without cause. MSG really is dangerous for us.

But perhaps even more dangerous than what’s in our food is the shocking realization of what’s missing. Without bone broths, our diets are sadly out of balance. From an article by Sally Fallon:

Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons—stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

Fish stock, according to traditional lore, helps boys grow up into strong men, makes childbirth easy and cures fatigue. “Fish broth will cure anything,” is another South American proverb. Broth and soup made with fishheads and carcasses provide iodine and thyroid-strengthening substances.

When broth is cooled, it congeals due to the presence of gelatin. The use of gelatin as a therapeutic agent goes back to the ancient Chinese…. Although gelatin is not a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, helping the poor stretch a few morsels of meat into a complete meal. During the siege of Paris, when vegetables and meat were scarce, a doctor named Guerard put his patients on gelatin bouillon with some added fat and they survived in good health.

Aren’t we brilliant? We eliminated one of our primary sources of calcium, as well as many vital nutrients for joint health. Then when we suffer from osteoporosis and arthritis, we assume it’s just because we’re “getting old.” We spend a fortune on medicines and artificial supplements trying to undo the damage.

To top it all off, we replace a nutrient-dense food with a poison.

Back when we used to butcher animals locally and make use of it all in our cooking, hooves, bones, knuckles, carcasses, feet, heads, and tough meat went into the stock pot to create a savory nutrient-dense food that flavored just about everything: gravies, soups, stews, sauces. Now we’ve abandoned the tradition of broth making, opting instead for bullion cubes, dehydrated soup mixes, sauce mixes, and the convenience of fast food.

Today, broth is uncommon in American cuisine. But it’s a vibrant part of most traditional cultures. That’s because the gelatin in broth also helps the body assimilate protein, so you can stretch meat further when you serve it in a meal with a properly made, nutrient-dense bone broth. In the Asian cultures of Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand, mom-and-pop businesses steam up back rooms making broth and sell it on street corners.

This prompted Sally Fallon to write:

What America needs is healthy fast food and the only way to provide this is to put brothals in every town, independently owned brothals that provide the basic ingredient for soups and sauces and stews. And brothals will come when Americans recognize that the food industry has prostituted itself to short cuts and huge profits, shortcuts that cheat consumers of the nutrients they should get in their food and profits that skew the economy towards industrialization in farming and food processing.

So, you see? What America needs is more brothals!

(photo by jasleen_kaur)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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44 Responses to America Needs More "Brothals"
  1. Victor
    February 23, 2010 | 4:00 pm

    I’ve always been concerned with MSG in food, especially in Chinese restaurants and cafes. And I’ve wanted to get away from MSG. I just don’t know what the best way to go about it. One obvious thing is to eat in more and cook myself. This way, I can control the ingredients that go into each dish. But I still need to eat out once in awhile and there isn’t a way to axe MSG from my diet altogether.
    .-= Victor´s last blog post …Shaking Beef Recipe =-.

    • Sarah
      July 17, 2012 | 2:43 pm

      Pick one thing to watch out for, and move on from there. You could start by cooking more and eating out less, or at healthier restaurants. When that becomes a habit, start reading labels and cut out obvious sources of MSG. If you’re still concerned from there, you can learn some of the “code names” for MSG and label shop for those.

      In my personal experience over the past 10 years, the key is to pick one thing, focus on it until it becomes a habit, then pick something new. If I try to do it all, I get overwhelmed and do nothing. Just remember – whatever you are doing is better than doing nothing!

      • Ruth
        March 6, 2014 | 2:10 am

        Thank you for this wisdom and confirming what I have concluded. I will soon be 72 and am trying to learn a new way of eating healthy. My mind had become overwhelmed and I almost gave up, so I decided to go at it slowly. Pick one thing and learn it. It is not easy after 72 years of eating wrong. I have also started a small square foot garden of which I know nothing about. I will learn it though one square at a time:) I did learn about MSG a long time ago and gave it up.

  2. Maggie
    February 23, 2010 | 6:52 pm

    I have both beef and chicken broth bubbling away in the kitchen right now. :) I had heard whispers about MSG being bad for you, but never learned the details. Thanks for the info on that.
    .-= Maggie´s last blog post …My Recipe Is A Finalist! =-.

    • KristenM
      February 23, 2010 | 11:25 pm

      Oh, did you watch the videos? So scary, isn’t it?

  3. Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life
    February 23, 2010 | 7:21 pm

    Yes, MSG is icky. The only way to completely avoid it is to shun processed food, but that’s not realistic for everyone. Bone broth is a staple in our home, and how I wish more restaurants followed suit!
    .-= Elizabeth @ The Nourished Life´s last blog post …Multimedia Monday: Podcast – Raw Milk Diet Cure, Day 11, More on Fructose, and Health Cartoons =-.

    • KristenM
      February 23, 2010 | 11:24 pm

      Tonight we went to a Mexican food restaurant. The rice they served was clearly cooked in caldo, so I sent my husband to ask if it was real or not. He asked the cook who said, yes it’s real. They make it themselves. And I said, “Real, real? Like they use bones and feet and make it themselves? Or it comes in a mix?” The answer? “Oh, it definitely comes in a mix. We make it, but it comes powdered.”

      The definition of what passes for “real” is soooo weird. People think they “made” food just because they emptied a box and added water!

      • Neyners
        February 28, 2012 | 6:41 pm

        I absolutely agree with you on the box or baggie + water = food comment. It made me laugh but the reality is so saddening. Wanting to shake people and say “Do you have any idea what your eating?! Do you even know what real food is?!”

  4. Esther
    February 23, 2010 | 8:18 pm

    I have ventured into the broth making realm this year and LOVE the flavor that is adds to everthing but have yet to have a broth that gels when cooled. Any tips, I’m using pastured animal bones simmered at least 24 hours. Should I add powdered gelatin to the broth to enhance the healing properties?

    Love the blog! Esther

    • KristenM
      February 23, 2010 | 11:20 pm

      Esther — No need to add powdered gelatin. Sometimes you’ll get a broth that gels, and other times you won’t. You’re using pastured animal bones, right? So that’s not the problem. Have you used feet yet? Feet and heads produce the most gelatinous broths. You can usually find chicken feet and cow/pig hooves at Mexican or Asian markets. They probably won’t be pastured, but they’ll make a broth that gels. If you don’t need the extra gelatin (no joint issues, etc), then what you’re doing is probably just fine and WAY better than nothing! If you want the gelatin, then get the feet wherever you can. That may mean you ask your farmer to save them for you (they may give them to you for free!), or it may mean going to an ethnic market.

      • Michelle (Health Food Lover)
        February 24, 2010 | 1:18 am

        When you make a broth/stock do you eat it when its hot or do you really have to wait till it cools then wait till it gels? How long does a broth have to cook? I’ve made one that i cooked for about 8 hours and the put it in an ice bath then in the fridge, but some recipes seem to say they should cook for even longer that that. Do you have any idea?

        • KristenM
          February 24, 2010 | 12:29 pm

          I’ll posting on this in the near future. Basically, the bigger the animal is (and hence, the thicker the bones), the longer the broth needs to cook to get all the minerals/nutrients out of them. I do chicken for about 12-18 hours, and beef for at least 24. And no, you don’t need to wait until it cools. Recipes tell you to wait until it cools so that you can remove the fat that solidifies at the top and have a nice, clear beautiful broth. But, if you don’t mind globules of oil in your broth, then you can eat it right away while hot.

          • Michelle (Health Food Lover)
            February 24, 2010 | 11:09 pm

            Coolness. I saved two chicken carcasses (organic) and now ive started a chicken broth: two chicken carcasses, a strip of kombu broken up, avc & water and I’ll add some herbs later on. Do you know do I need to keep it submerged under the water?
            Looking forward to future broth posts!

            Do you leave the fat globules on?

          • Michelle (Health Food Lover)
            February 24, 2010 | 11:11 pm

            By the way not sure if you’ve seen this: http://editor.nourishedmagazine.com.au/articles/beautiful-broth (not sure if you alow links) but this is a link to something Sally Fallon wrote on Nourished Magazine (an online Aussie mag) about broths.

          • KristenM
            February 24, 2010 | 11:26 pm

            Try to keep it submerged, yes. Break the bones if you have to get it to fit into the pot. Also, add something acidic like lemon or vinegar (just a couple of tablespoons worth) as this will help draw the nutrients out of the bones. As to whether or not I keep the fat in or out of the broth, I do both. If I’m saving the broth, I cool it and skim it. I save the schmaltz to cook with later. If I’m using the broth in a soup that day or the next day, then I just keep the fat in there.

  5. Yasmine
    February 23, 2010 | 11:29 pm

    Instead of accusing the food industry for all the evil, we as consumers must continually act responsibly in order to change things. The food industry is only responding to the demand…
    .-= Yasmine´s last blog post …Playing in the Dirt =-.

  6. Alex
    February 24, 2010 | 12:10 am

    Cant wait to start cooking some broth!!! I finally was able to get sally’s nourishing traditions book and am devouring it along with the real food revival book…had some farm eggs, uncured bacon and raw cheese along with pastured butter for dinner–and it FELT sooooo goood to know that saturdated fat was going to suppport my cell walls! ;)

    gonna make broth this weekend–i am lucky to have a latino grocery near me with a great butcher–so will ask for some feet…just hope the kids dont freak out when looking in the pot!!!

  7. tina
    February 24, 2010 | 1:00 am

    We are on the GAPS diet and broth is essential. I’ve made chicken broth with the feet twice. The first time my husband scared our kids and the neighbor girl with the chicken feet. Today, when I made broth, no one cared about the chicken feet. I have yet to make broth from heads. That should be fun for the kids!

  8. Laura
    February 24, 2010 | 1:24 am

    An MSG sensitivity is what started us on the path to traditional foods. My youngest daughter was intensely reactive to MSG. When she was a toddler, she ate a meal with some Ranch dressing as a dip. Like many toddlers, she dipped everything she ate and she ate everything. We were so pleased because she is small for age, and we always want her to eat well. Before we had left the table, she was screaming in pain, and she threw up. Within an hour, she had thrown up again and was having diarrhea and hives on her bottom, screaming and crying all the time. We were shocked. We started analyzing her dinner, trying to figure if she was sick or what was happening. The hives told us that she probably wasn’t ill. Eventually we narrowed it down to the ranch dressing as the new food item for her, and the only new ingredient in the ranch was MSG. My husband decided to repeat the experiment a week later (!) with the same results. We started reading labels and paying attention to where MSG appears in food. Uh, it is EVERYWHERE. Who knew? We quickly eliminated all canned soups from our diet and all funky colored orange chips or crackers because they are the worst offenders. Unfortunately for my daughter, we had to learn by trial and error which fast food joints were acceptable. (The answer? Chick-fil, McDonald’s, and What-a-burger. Everything else? Not so much). I bought a copy of Nourishing Traditions because it kept cropping up in my MSG research. The rest is history. Bone broth was the first thing that I learned to make because I had to replace all the soups and stocks from cans that I was using.

    I’m actually not sure that she is quite as sensitive to MSG as she was when she was a toddler. She’s 4 now. We never have MSG or hydrolyzed or autolyzed anything in our house, but we eat out and she eats at other people’s houses. She doesn’t react anymore. However, the removal of MSG and the reduction of processed foods have helped us with various other “minor” health issues that we didn’t see as being related to food. And I’m grateful for all of the other food changes that we have made. All because my daughter doesn’t do well with Ranch.

  9. Zeke
    February 24, 2010 | 4:24 am

    Alot of people realize that anything on a ingredients list that is hydrolized is a source of MSG. MSG can also masquerade as “spices” or articifical/natural flavors. So even if a product doesn’t have MSG on the label, it could still be loaded with it.
    .-= Zeke´s last blog post …Eat Natto Now! =-.

  10. thesuperalice
    February 24, 2010 | 7:30 am

    Bone broths: amazingly delicious and amazingly good for you. http://bit.ly/cdNACv

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  11. Marc
    February 24, 2010 | 7:41 am

    I agree with Zeke…
    Watch out folks…MSG is in a lot more products then you would expect.

    Great post!

    Marc

  12. Christy
    February 24, 2010 | 10:16 am

    Does anyone know, when you go to a butcher and in the freezer case there are bags of bones etc for people to buy for their dogs – couldn’t I use them to make broth? I rarely see bones for sale for people consumption – I plan on asking when I stop next time but it will be awhile.

    • KristenM
      February 24, 2010 | 12:35 pm

      Christy — Yes, you can use those bones. The stock won’t gel up like it would if made from feet or hooves, and it may not be as flavorful (less marrow, cartilage, meat, etc.). But it will still serve the purpose of getting you a mineral-rich broth.

  13. Meredith
    February 24, 2010 | 10:20 am

    i’ve always wondered exactly what msg was. i’ve always had an adverse reaction to msg and when I was a child I could not go ten feet with in a chinese restaurant. I’m glad to see more restaurants not using msg these days but amazed about how often it is used in our store bought food! I always have to check labels before I eat any processed food and just the other day “treated myself to lays baked potato chips that my husband brought home. (i try hard these days not to eat processed food and do very well but sometimes succumb to temptation) When my tongue swelled up and my stomach started to ache and I knew immediately, msg. what is the point of that? it makes me so infuriated! what did i learn? screw the calories! if i really want a potato chip watch what i eat during the rest of the day and allow enough reserved calories for the real thing.

    Thanks for the post and letting me vent! will be making my own chicken stock for dinner tonight.

  14. Local Nourishment
    February 24, 2010 | 11:50 am

    Huh. I run a brothal and didn’t even know it. I’m sure my husband will be thrilled with this new knowledge!

    I branched out this week and made my first fish stock, and am collecting pork bones in the freezer. We try to fit stock into at least one meal every single day!
    .-= Local Nourishment´s last blog post …Our Liver Experiment =-.

    • KristenM
      February 24, 2010 | 12:37 pm

      Good for you! I thought Sally’s use of the word “brothal” was hilarious. At first I wondered why she didn’t just say “brothel,” and make a REAL pun. Then I realized that might have been too offensive to some. Better to invent a whole new word.

  15. FoodRenegade
    February 24, 2010 | 12:51 pm

    @wwwebbs I’m lovin’ the comments at that post. Yours made me laugh so hard I nearly had coffee coming out of my nose. http://bit.ly/cdNACv

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  16. DawnFryPhoto
    February 24, 2010 | 1:36 pm

    I want to start a brothel! I am going 2 buy a whole chicken today so I can make my own broth. :) RT @FoodRenegade http://bit.ly/cdNACv

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  17. Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up
    February 24, 2010 | 1:39 pm

    I found out a few years ago that MSG was a huge migraine trigger for me! I get one within 10 minutes of eating something with MSG. It’s what started my whole “real foods” journey!

  18. BurnishedDragon
    February 24, 2010 | 3:18 pm

    Reading @foodrenegade America Needs More %E2%80%9CBrothals%E2%80%9D http://tinyurl.com/yjbhh3h

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  19. BrooklyneChaos
    February 25, 2010 | 12:15 am

    Reading @foodrenegade America Needs More %E2%80%9CBrothals%E2%80%9D http://tinyurl.com/yjbhh3h

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  20. Pook
    February 25, 2010 | 8:58 am

    Definately! Theres nothing more delicious or warming than a steaming much of good ole bone-broth!
    .-= Pook´s last blog post …A Tale of Cinnamon Buns and Spooge =-.

  21. Anna
    February 27, 2010 | 2:40 am

    Beware restaurants that claim “homemade” soups, especially chain restaurants. The veggies and other ingredients might be fresh, but the soup base more than likely isn’t.

    Last year my son and I were quite a distance away from home at dinner time and needed to find a place for a relatively quick meal. I wanted to avoid fast-food, though, so we settled on a nearby Souplantation as a good compromise (buffet-style one-price chain that offers a lot of “fresh” salad and soup varieties, as well as other self-serve foods).

    I noted the “homemade” and “fresh” decor signs all over the restaurant that promoted “healthy” eating while we ate our “build your own” salads with grilled chicken strips. I saw the manager and asked about the “homemade” soup – was it really completely made from fresh ingredients, including the broth? He assured me the soup was indeed prepared fresh every day with fresh veggie ingredients, but he really wasn’t sure about the broth and would check. A few minutes later he came out with the 3-ring binder of the stores food “recipes” that listed ingredients, preparation instructions, and other information that the kitchen personnel would need. Sure enough, the soup sections read much like regular recipes and did use fresh produce, but relied on a prepared soup base concentrate for the broth. In fact, the manager had no idea that soup broth should or could be made from bones!

    So don’t assume that “homemade” restaurant soup is truly 100% “homemade” without asking. These days it’s rare for restaurants at any level to avoid all use of cheaper and less laborious broth concentrates.

  22. Walter Jeffries
    February 28, 2010 | 6:28 pm

    I was raised on bone broths – as you say, “cheap meat” which is especially important with a big family where full use of the resources was important. We sell our family farm’s pastured pork to a lot of local stores and restaurants. Many of the cooks use the hocks, feet, bones and heads for soup and stew stocks.

    Unfortunately we don’t sell all the bones every week, there isn’t the demand, yet. I continue to work on educating people about the value of these low on the pig cuts. Just the other day I posted about eating “High on the Hog“. So some adventurous restaurants are doing it truly from scratch, a.k.a. “Homemade”.

    If you are looking for a source of bones, ask your store meat department manager. They can then special order from the farmers. The order cycle may take a few weeks from when you ask to when you get something special so advanced planning and patience is important.

    Cheers,

    Walter Jeffries
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in Vermont

  23. theYakRanch
    March 1, 2010 | 7:27 pm

    What a great post. Spending a few years in Reno, I whole heartily support more brothals, as long as proper taxes are collected. More topically, we raise grassfed yaks. When we process them, we keep a good deal of soup bones and such but we cannot use all of the available product ourselves. We haven’t found any places that wan to inventory such products as most folks have no idea what to do with it. Does anyone have any ideas about how to make soup bones, hooves, and the like available to folks who are interested? Even charities that may find use. I am sorry to ask for marketing advice but we hate to see these products go to waste.

    thanks,

    Grunniens Yak Ranch

  24. Ariane
    December 27, 2010 | 6:53 pm

    my grandmother always made the best soup from a few cowbones when I was younger, in the netherlands you used to just be able to get those at any butcher.
    Unfortunately we then had the mad cow disease scare, and a disease that went after porks, then one for chickens and the last two were mouth and hooves sore disease and a disease that humans could get from goats.

    after all of these livestock diseases bones are no longer sold at butchers. of course, we had all these livestock diseases because we fed dead and ground up animals to our livestock (now forbidden), the animals were so close together they could barely move.

    on the bright side grassfed and organic meat and milk and butter are available nowadays at most of our supermarkets, even the regular ones. Hopefully someday soon they will reintroduce the bones again.

  25. Theodore Davey
    February 11, 2012 | 12:23 am

    So… What about the Cook’s Illustrated method for creating beef stock using ground beef — no bones. Should they be taken to task for substituting convenience for nutrition?

    • Cheri
      September 5, 2012 | 2:18 pm

      Well, I guess someone had to leave a complaint/negative comment and Theodore was it.

      Anyway, I am currently researching bone broths (as I would like to start making them) and this blog entry has been quite helpful. Thanks!

  26. Nella Orr
    August 21, 2013 | 12:14 am

    So if I get bones from meat at the store, even if it is not organic meat, will that be okay? Is it better than nothing? Or what is better to do? I live abroad and can’t read in the local language — but I want to make broth even though I’m in Japan. They put MSG in tons of stuff here :(

  27. Billie
    October 23, 2013 | 1:09 pm

    Can you make broth in a pressure cooker?

  28. Karen
    March 7, 2014 | 10:55 pm

    My mother always made broth… beef, pork, chicken. Delicious! I know about using bones, hokes and feet. She also made head cheese. I don’t think it was always the gelatine from the head though. My parents have been gone for some time and unfortunately I wasn’t old enough to glean their knowledge. My question is, how do you prepare the head for cooking? Am I correct that it is just the skull?

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My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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