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Dear Mark: Preservatives in Lard, Ace-K, Raspberry Gorging, and Veal

What would you do if someone gifted you with a 5-pound tub of lard? Jump for joy? Grab a spoon? All reasonable responses, but what if that tub of lard had a label that said “contains BHA and BHT”, two antioxidants commonly used to preserve processed food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals – how would you react? That’s the first question I tackle in today’s edition of Dear Mark [7]. After, I discuss whether or not acesulfame potassium, an artificial sweetener, is safe to consume, whether Joe should venture into the creepy raspberry forest threatening to overtake his house, and how organic dairies handle their male calves.

Ready? Let’s get to it:


I was recently given a huge tub of lard that says it contains BHA and BHT. I read on your site that they are antioxidants but their safety isn’t very proven.

I would throw it away but it’s like 5 pounds and I HATE wasting stuff! Is this lard hydrogenated? Is it safe to use up, or would I really be better off throwing it away and finding better quality lard?


– adam

The good news is that this lard [8] probably isn’t hydrogenated. If it were, it would say so. Does the label indicate the presence of trans-fats [9]? If not, you’re in the clear.

As for the BHA and BHT, there is some controversy:

Natural News says they’re linked [10] to allergies, hyperactivity, rashes, and other health issues. This compendium of BHA and BHT-related studies [11], which the Natural News article used as a reference, also paints an alarming picture. And a quick stroll through Pubmed finds that as recently as 2011, researchers were using BHT as a proven “tumor promoter.” [12]

But both BHA and BHT, which are also known as synthetic phenolics [13], have also shown chemopreventive effects [14] against certain cancers. Just like radiation exposure can promote hormesis [15] – the right dose can upregulate protective mechanisms, thus having a net positive health effect – it seems likely that the right dose of BHA and BHT could be beneficial, at least in certain disease states (like aflatoxin exposure [11], for example). Of course, we don’t know what that dose looks like, and all the other phenolics (natural food-based ones, not synthetics) we’re getting are probably good enough. I’m not suggesting we seek out BHT and BHA; I’m just trying to give them a fair shake.

In my opinion, however, the carcinogenicity controversy doesn’t really matter. The mere presence of BHA and BHT indicates that this lard was made to have a longer than usual shelf-life. That worries me. I mean, I imagine it’s technically safe, and it probably won’t be rancid/oxidized because of the BHT and BHA, but it’s almost certainly not quality lard from quality pastured pigs. This is industrial lard, from pigs fed vegetable oil and junk [16], and the omega-6  [17]content is likely sky high. Whenever I buy lard from a local farmer, it’s in a glass jar or some kind of makeshift tub. There are no labels and I can rest assured that it contains some level of favorable nutrition, like vitamin D [18] (from the pigs getting sunlight [19]) and a higher saturated [20]:polyunsaturated fat ratio (from the pigs eating forage and leftover vegetables from the farm, rather than corn and soy-based junk). And there is definitely no BHA or BHT.

My husband & I drink an energy drink sweetened with Ace-K. Is this ok to drink? Thanks.


Ace-K, or acesulfame potassium, is one of the only non-caloric sweeteners to show evidence of provoking an insulin [21] response:

One study [22] using live rats found that direct transfusions of acesulfame potassium increased insulin secretion. Later, the same researchers performed an in vitro study [23], this time subjecting isolated rat pancreatic islets to acesulfame K solutions. After eliminating other variables, they found that the artificial sweetener had an independent effect on insulin secretion. Note, however, that the first study used direct transfusions, rather than oral dosing, and the second study was in vitro using isolated clusters of pancreatic cells. These aren’t necessarily real world conditions, but the results are somewhat worrying. Slightly more disturbing were the results of a recent study [24], which found that mother rats who consumed acesulfame potassium during pregnancy gave birth to offspring with altered sweet receptors. Just a single oral infusion of Ace-K showed up in the mom’s amniotic fluid and breast milk.

I’d avoid it, if I were you. Doesn’t delicious, delicious coffee [25] work for you?

Hey Mark,

There’s a raspberry wood near my home with literally millions of delicious raspberries coming into season soon.

I’m wondering whether I should show any restraint; Obviously a great source of vitamin C and anti-oxidants but are there any detrimental things if consumed in huge quantities?

Many Thanks,


Joe, I’m jealous. You have millions of wild, free, delicious raspberries [26] growing in a “raspberry wood.” Heck, I didn’t even know a “raspberry wood” was even a real thing before your email. I’m imagining a forest full of raspberry bushes that tower over you, festooned with berries the size of apples. Man. Is that what’s going on in your neighborhood?

Joe, you lucky dog, you.

But seriously, go for it. Raspberries are the perfect blend of sweet and tangy, and actually quite low in sugar. They’re loaded with soluble fiber [27], excellent food for your gut flora [28] to ferment into short chain fatty acids. They have vitamin C, as you mention, but also manganese [29] and an antioxidant called ellagic acid. Enjoy them. Eat what you can, and freeze or dry what you can’t. If you don’t, most of them will go to waste and become shriveled up things that put George Costanza after a cold swim to shame.

Dear Mark,

I’ve googled your blog, but have not seen this issue addressed:

What happens to male calves born to an organic grass-fed dairy cow? Or a regular dairy-cow? Do they get killed right after birth as in this story from England? What do you think of this alternative: British veal poised for an “ethical” comeback [30]?

I haven’t eaten veal in ages, but I think this “rose-veal” could be a great Primal food.

Thanks for your time and effort. I’m fairly new to Paleo/Primal (2 months) and I read your blog for hours every day to catch up.

No need to answer directly; but I’d love to know more about your views on this matter if it made it into one of your posts.

Thanks again for everything you do!


What happens to male calves in an organic, grass-fed dairy [31]? It depends on the dairy. Organic Pastures, a California-based raw milk dairy that sells at my local farmer’s market, castrates its male calves, puts them out to pasture, and lets them grow up to become beef steers. Their beef is fairly good, especially for being from a dairy, rather than a dedicated meat cow farm. According to this post [32], male calves borne to major organic dairy brands Organic Valley and Horizon follow similar paths, eventually becoming organic beef cows. I’d imagine not all organic dairies do this, but probably most. Of course, you could contact the dairy in question and ask them yourself. That’s the surest way.

Rose veal looks great to me. I’m not a huge veal fan, partly for the taste and partly for the fact that most veal is raised intensively, but I’d try some rose veal.

Even if you have no ethical qualms about eating it, intensively-raised veal lacks certain nutritional qualities. For one, CAFO-calves are kept indoors, typically in stalls that allow very little (if any) movement. While this lets you cut the resultant meat with a fork, it also takes away the rich flavor that comes with muscles that actually, you know, move the animal around. Conventional veal calves are also fed an unnatural diet of milk-replacement formula. If it’s anything like human baby formula, the nutritional profile (plus all the intangibles we have yet to even identify) of calf formula pales in comparison to actual cow milk. Natural diets (like grass for cows and pasture for chickens) tend to result in better tasting, more nutritious food. I doubt veal is somehow unique in this respect.

Thanks for the questions, and let me know what you think in the comment board!