It happens to World Food Day today (16th October) and I’ve just finished reading a book called Cows Save the Planet (And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth) by Judith D Schwartz, which is a fascinating book with many practical examples of how some farmers are working to bring back health to the soil (and thus create healthy plants, and interestingly helping the soil itself absorb atmospheric carbon – which improves the microbial health of the soil, assists it in retaining water and of course works to reduce the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide emitted as a result of burning fossil fuels).

Another area explored in the book is nutrient levels in food and it seems that even though modern agriculture has produced vastly increased quantities of food, much of that food (vegetables and so forth) contains much less in the way of nutrients (70% in some cases) than food grown using older and more traditional methods.

One possibility put forward for the rising obesity rates is that people seek out the nutrients they need when eating, and as these nutrients are not present, they keep on eating and thus become obese. It’s as if the body has it’s own wisdom and knows it needs certain things and yet as those things (nutrients) are not there it is dissatisfied and keeps seeking (eating) – its/our natural appetite thwarted.

It’s known that cats can detect by smell whether a certain food contains what they need and if it doesn’t the cat will not eat it (as many a frustrated cat owner knows – cats can be picky). Perhaps we have a similar ability – hidden, unconscious, forgotten even – but still there and working?

Anyway Cows Save the Planet is a book I’d recommend for anyone interested in the environment, farming, horticulture, or food and health. And as to the title – well it seems that the activities of herds of browsing animals on the land can assist in improving the health of the soil (so it can absorb/take up more carbon dioxide) – and interestingly if the method as developed by Allan Savory (at is used, then more animals can be supported on a given acreage of land, and it continues to improve. Thus Cows (or other browsing animals) helping to save the planet!

For more tips and links on food and farming see our section on Sustainable Living.