Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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Tag: marketing

What You Should Know About Beef Production Claims

I’m grateful to have our friend David Maren of Tendergrass Farms back to pen today’s guest post. This is the last post in a three part series on the assertions that retailers make about the way their poultry, pork, and beef is raised. And don’t miss the free grass fed steak coupon code that he’s generously provided at the end of the post!

This is the third and final post in my series about animal production claims. In the previous two posts I’ve endeavored to expose some of the confusing and deceptive claims that marketers make about the way that their chickens, turkeys, and pigs are raised. Today my goal is to help you better understand the options you’re presented with when you want to purchase beef. In a previous post, Mark gave an overview of the differences between grass fed and grain fed beef where he touched on everything from taste to nutritional profiles and even pricing and availability.  This post has a much narrower goal of helping you figure out what exactly you’re being offered, whether it claims to be grass fed, grain fed, pasture raised, free range, all natural, or organic. Mark’s verdict in his post was that while you need to be eating lots of good beef, grass fed beef isn’t always going to be available or affordable for everyone. This post will help you understand the whole spectrum of beef options that you have to choose from whether or not grass fed is what you’re going for.

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What You Should Know About Pork Production Claims

I’m grateful once again to have our friend David Maren of Tendergrass Farms pen today’s guest post. This is the second post in a three part series on the assertions that retailers make about the way their poultry, pork, and beef is raised.

In last week’s post I shared some information about a few common and often misleading claims that poultry companies make about the way their chickens and turkeys are raised. We looked at the fact that while most companies don’t actually lie to their customers directly, they do rely on meticulously calculated marketing terminology that leads their customers to believe that their birds were raised in ways that they, in actual fact, were not. I labored to expose the unfortunate reality that many poultry companies respond to the public’s demand for alternatively raised birds with dishonest advertising rather than real changes in the lucrative CAFO poultry production system that their customers increasingly don’t want to support. In the pork industry today, we face many of the same realities of deceptive marketing, empty claims, and regulation loopholes – a few of which I will attempt to uncover in this post. I won’t bore you with an explanation of every pork claim used in this day and age but the examples below can serve as illustrations of the type of analytical discernment needed in the marketplace today.

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What You Should Know About Poultry Production Claims

I’m grateful to have our friend David Maren of Tendergrass Farms pen today’s guest post. This is the first post in a three part series on the assertions that retailers make about the way their poultry, pork, and beef is raised.

Every year in the United States the average person eats about 66 pounds of poultry, comprised of about 53 pounds of chicken and 13 pounds of turkey.1 Nearly every pound of poultry sold in the US is raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) but the poultry industry is very aware of the growing demand for naturally raised alternatives. Americans spend more than $50 Billion on chicken and turkey annually2 so the financial incentive for them to cater to this shifting demand is gigantic. A few independent farms have opted to actually change the way they raise their birds but improving poultry production practices, especially raising poultry outdoors on pasture, raises the labor costs of production dramatically. For this reason many companies have decided to turn to clever marketing techniques to meet the demand for alternatives instead of actually changing the highly profitable CAFO-style system in which their birds are raised. Today, poultry production claims that boast about the superiority of certain brands’ “organic,” “cage free,” “hormone free,” or “free range” poultry can be seen almost everywhere from poultry labels in grocery stores to restaurant menus and even online meat shops’ product descriptions. Tragically, these poultry production claims are often relatively meaningless. They’re designed to paint a picture of what the customer wants to buy without requiring significant changes in the old CAFO poultry production model.

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Is Your Doctor Getting Cash Payouts from Big Pharma? (plus More Findings from the Drug Biz)

There’s been a lot of news from the Pharma realm these last few weeks. As you all know, I make a point of passing this kind of thing along…. Given the massive role pharmaceutical drugs play in our society’s conventional health care, I like to keep on top of the developments. Speaking of “massive,” first there’s news from the National Center for Health Statistics, which released a report measuring trends in prescription drug use and cost in the last decade. Between 1999 and 2008, prescription drug use rose in all age categories, as did the number of people taking multiple prescriptions. Approximately 88% of people over the age of 60 take one or more prescription medications on a regular basis. A whopping 66% use five or more prescriptions. Not surprisingly, cholesterol-lowering medications topped the list for this age group. In those 20-59, the most popular prescription was antidepressants. In children, 22% take a prescription drug, most commonly asthma medication. In the teenage category, the number jumps to 30%, with ADD/ADHD related meds first on the list. Not surprisingly, what we shelled out for Pharma products soared as well. Already taking inflation into account, Americans in 2008 spent more than twice ($234 billion) what they did in 1999 ($106.4 billion). Against this backdrop, we also learned that two popular prescription drugs were shown to actually cause the very problems they prescribed to prevent. Telling stories and statistics, I’d say. What’s more sobering, however, are a number of recent publications that illuminate the cultural and financial underbelly of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole. I think you’ll find it thought-provoking.

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Yogurt Mania

How did we survive all these years without functional yogurt products? If it weren’t for Yoplait and Dannon enhancing our digestive facilities, I bet we’d never get anything done in the bathroom. I, for one, can’t recall the last time I had a satisfying bowel movement without concurrently sucking on an extra large Purple Gogurt as I sat astride the toilet.

Yoplait and Dannon are responsible for injecting more culture into our lives than Warhol, The Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and ancient Athens combined. I love the way those two superpowers ultra-pasteurize their yogurt so as to rid it of any naturally-occurring, unpredictable, rogue probiotic cultures (unfettered bacterial growth? – no thanks) before supplanting them with nice, orderly probiotic cultures (and not too much of them, thanks). Mother nature? Natural selection? Ha! As if natural foods could improve my immunity and digestive health better than multi-national corporations. You think sauerkraut has your best interests in mind?

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Trusting Authorities (or Not) Based on Appearance

Regina Benjamin, the United States’ 18th Surgeon General, is markedly overweight. She’s a highly trained physician who famously set up a medical clinic for Alabama’s poor hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, and she’s unquestionably knowledgeable and experienced, but she’s also overweight. Does this negatively impact her role as the public face of health? Does her weight detract from the message?

Or take countless nutrition experts that fit the mold of the dietitian featured in this video? She’s educated, has dozens of books on nutrition and healthy cooking under her belt and, at least on paper, looks like an authority of sorts. But her physique (saying nothing of her healthy eating tips) doesn’t exactly instill confidence in her recommendations (as readers noted in the forum).

On the other hand what about someone like Jillian Michaels? Strong shoulders. Check. Trim waistline and ripped abs. Check and check. She must be doing things right? Right?

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GMOs: Safe for Consumption?

We’ve examined the arguments for and against GMOs in the past. Indeed, there are reasonable and valid points to be made on both sides of the issue. Nonetheless, we concluded that there are just too many red flags to support the industry’s direction in GM technology. Not only do GMOs drive the use of naturally occurring and regionally suited seed varieties into the ground, they lock farmers (including those in developing countries) into a legal deal with the devil – one that often comes back to haunt them. Their rampant subsidization further encourages farmers to raise the same garbage grains and other “staple” crops that undermine our public health. And then there are the nagging, unsettling questions about our physiological response to these organisms. What happens exactly when you eat plants grown from seeds that are synthesized with everything from bacteria to fish to herbicides? What happens when you eat the animals that ate these crops? How much do we really know about these GM crops? With that in mind, a good reader sent this recently published study my way. See what you think.

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Assessing Sanitizers: Cleaning Up the Confusion

If you believe the ads, we live in a squalid hotbed of menacing microbes. Evil germs are everywhere and out to get us – especially the innocent, well-dressed children playing nearby. The smart ones among us, the marketers tell us, navigate this ominous world armed with the right sanitizing defense. Even the grimiest restroom, the ad images show, can become as innocuous as a sparkling, surgery-ready space if we only have the security of hand sanitizer. Yes, the power of the imagination…

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Demystifying Detox

It’s a nebulous term used by snake oil-salesmen to sell products cloaked in pseudoscientific terminology on late night television. Detox. If what they say is true, we apparently have millions of toxins constantly circulating throughout our body, permeating our cells, coating our digestive systems in a poisonous film, bogging down our organs. These toxins cannot be dealt with, nor reasoned with via the standard avenues of diet and exercise; no, they require the aid of special supplements and detox paraphernalia: magic herbs, weird colon-scouring clay mixtures, foot pads that supposedly suck the toxins directly out of the body, lemonade or juice fasting kits, liver flushes. They’ll often bring out a spokesperson who plays doctor well enough to convince your average Cheeto powder-encrusted insomniac that he or she needs this book or that colon cleanse to avoid obesity, cancer, disease, and depression. If you could just flush out all those toxins, you’d be doing great.

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Dear Mark: Canola Oil

I get a lot of questions about differentiating fact from fiction when it comes to all the “healthy” labels out there. Spanning everything from “heart healthy” to “boost your child’s immunity,” these classic marketing ploys are just part and parcel for the food industry. And yet these companies wouldn’t get away with the games if their claims didn’t reflect conventional wisdom on some level. The industry’s marketing tactics simply manipulate already strained, twisted messages about health and nutrition. The consumer is left to wonder what’s truth, half truth and bold-face scheme. Unfortunately, it’s never safe to judge a product by its label. In fact, if it needs a label at all, it’s already subject to questioning. The safest assumption is this: there’s always more to the story.

Dear Mark,

I’ve been adapting my diet to the Primal Blueprint over the last few months. I like olive oil for salads but wonder about the bottle of canola oil sitting in my cupboard. I tend to use it more for cooking, but I don’t see canola oil mentioned on MDA like I do olive oil. The label says something like “good source of omega-3.” Is this true? I’m wondering what your take on canola is. Thanks!

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