The Facts About Alfalfa
Anatomy of a Non-Controversy
©1999 Melissa Kaplan
What Kevin and many of his adherents do not seem to understand is that his diet article and statements on the Internet reflect Kevin's lack of research. They also clearly illustrate his intentional misrepresentation of published information for the sole purpose of trying to persuade people that his diet is better. The multi-authored Iguana Diets--Setting The Record Straight article analyzes and documents the inaccuracies and fallacies in Kevin's Diet Comparison article. If you haven't read it yet, you may wish to do so to get a clearer picture of Kevin's errors and methods.
The diet I recommend in my web articles, in person, and in the various Internet forums, online services and email lists I have participated in throughout the years, has, in conjunction with the proper environment, consistently produced healthy, robust, strong-boned, reproductive iguanas. My diet (and other care information) is recommended to clients and other vets by many reptile/exotics vets such as Stephen L. Barten, Ph.D., a clinical vet who also lectures to other vets, writes extensively about reptiles, including green iguanas, in the veterinary literature, and edits reptile care and health articles for various reptile and exotics veterinary journals. I have long provided a list of references in a separate iguana bibliography, as well as frequently citing sources within my Iguana Care, Feeding & Socialization (ICFS) and other iguana-related articles. If anyone is so inclined, they can retrace where I have been in my reading and research and come to their own conclusions. Kevin provides no such information, essentially stating that you should believe him just because he says so.
As for myself, I long ago decided to let Kevin say what he wanted, with the assumption that people serious about iguana care would read more than just his article and, through their reading, see the holes in his documents and statements. Since his diet is acceptable and won't outright harm iguanas fed it, I didn't feel the need to issue any warnings or corrections as I do about many of the harmful diets promoted in books and by some individuals.
When Kevin intensified his attack on the MK diet in early 1999, I did relent a bit and wrote a section in my Iguana Care, Feeding & Socialization article on the history of the MK Diet, and added a new page to my website, The Iguana Diet "Wars": What if they started a war and nobody came? For those who were having difficulty distinguishing the difference between alfalfa sprouts and the mature plant, I put up a brief mature alfalfa page.
As part of his renewed efforts to attack me, Kevin Egan is now telling people that I am knowingly killing iguanas by recommending a diet I know (or should know) is harmful. I am now getting letters from people asking me why don't I swallow my pride and do a little research and admit my diet is killing iguanas. I am also getting letters from 17-year-old boys who, for some reason, have decided that everything Kevin says is correct, and castigate me, proclaiming how they and their 17-year-old friends know more about iguana care than I ever will.
So, enough is enough. In this article, I will focus on one subject that Kevin discusses in trying to show how bad my diet information is: alfalfa. If you would like further information and documentation on all of the other problems with his Diet Comparison article, I urge you to read Iguana Diets--Setting The Record Straight, written by Julie Allison, Alta Brewer, Adam Britton, Ph.D., Katherine Kearns, Anne Marsden, Bill Myers, Kim Scott, and Desiree Wong, and, if you have not yet done so, my Iguana Care, Feeding & Socialization article and the ones linked to it. Additional information on alfalfa sprouts and Salmonella-contaminated sprouts can be found in my Iguana site as well as in the page of Zoonoses articles and resources.
Taking a look at
alfalfa nutrition data
Melissa claims that Alfalfa has 15% Protein by value and a 6:1 ratio. The actual values found for Alfalfa are:
The above values are for alfalfa sprouts, not pellets. Why would he ignore this important fact? It isn't that he didn't realize that he was giving the wrong information, as it has been pointed out to him many times, by many different people. Alfalfa sprouts are significantly lower in nutrition than mature alfalfa, a fact that has been documented in my site for years. Kevin chooses to mislead his readers by saying that I "claim" that alfalfa is 15% protein with a 6:1 Ca:P ratio, and then "proves" me wrong by giving the nutrition data for alfalfa sprouts.
In his Diet Comparison, updated on his website on 4/10/99 (without, however, his changing the date on the document), Kevin has changed the nutrition table to read "pellets" instead of "sprouts." This section now reads:
Melissa claims that Alfalfa Pellets have 15% Protein by value and a 6:1 ratio. The actual values found for Alfalfa Pellets are:
By putting "unknown" in these fields, he is again leading his readers to believe that there are no data, and the information at my site is wrong.
Several agricultural websites contain information which confirms the data I have provided for several years. One that nicely lays it out is the Canadian Dehydrated Alfalfa Products site, which states:
Nutrition values for animal feeds are typically expressed in percentages, not in mg/gm per unit of measure. However, the mg/gm can be calculated. The data above states that alfalfa pellets contain 17-18.9% protein, 1.5% calcium and 0.22% phosphorus. How much that would be in grams, or pounds, or any other volume measurement is then just a matter of doing some math.
Protein, Calcium and Phosphorus, in grams (g)
Protein, Calcium and Phosphorus, in milligrams (mg)
* When making the salad at home, those of us in the U.S. use measuring cups that measure avoirdupois (av) ounces. Four (4) av. ounces equals 83.5 grams by weight (mass). This column reflects what would be in the iguana salad itself.
Kevin tells his readers that he researches his material. Given the fact that the above information has been around for years, needing only someone to look for it, one is left to wonder if the rest of Kevin's diet information is researched as well as he has researched the data on alfalfa. Or, given his manipulation of the facts in the area of alfalfa nutrition, one must ask what other "facts" he asserts are manipulated or otherwise intentionally misrepresented.
or puzzling statements about alfalfa
It should further be noted that Melissa further discusses a risk of Salmonella related to the use of Alfalfa.
Kevin has brought this up frequently, generally in a way to make me look like I don't know what I am talking about or that I am trying to come up with something - anything - to talk people out of using sprouts. In the above statement, however, he makes it sound like I have been making contradictory claims: telling people to use sprouts, but then saying that they are contaminated with Salmonella. It is sometimes difficult to tell what exactly Kevin is trying to say, as his grammar and syntax is often convoluted enough to leave the reader pondering his intended meaning.
In fact, there is a risk of getting Salmonella (and, now, E. coli) from eating alfalfa sprouts. This appears to be another example where, were Kevin to do the research, he would find that it proves he has been wrong in what he has been saying to justify or promote his diet. A simple keyword search of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration websites brings up numerous bulletins, public health and consumer advisories warning people of the increasing health risks associated with Salmonella and E. coli in alfalfa sprouts.
In this same February 1999 version of his Diet Comparison document, Kevin then goes on to state:
Furthermore I have found that far more often than not the supply of Alfalfa (pellet or hay) found within pet shops is often contaminated with BUGS.
In all the years I have purchased alfalfa pellets from pet and feed stores, never have I found any bugs in them, nor has anyone I have talked to who has used pellets. I and others have purchased alfalfa pellets made for small mammal food, for sheep, and for horses. I and others have purchased cubes of crushed and compacted hay. No bugs have been found in any of them. Personally, I feel if anyone buys animal feed from a store that is found to contain, upon opening what appears to be a fresh bag, bug-infested feed, they should return that bag to the store for a refund and do their shopping elsewhere unless and until that original store cleans up its act. That Kevin would even make a statement like this shows a sort of desperation on his part. If my diet is really as bad as he says it is, why must he grasp at straws such as this? Why must he work so hard to make my diet appear to be unhealthy or unsafe for iguanas?
In his article updated on 4/10/99 (which, again, still shows the February 2, 1999 date), Kevin now says, under the table showing "unknown" in the fields for alfalfa pellets:
It should be noted that:
1. That to date, no actual Milligram values have been found for Calcium or Phosphorus in Alfalfa Pellets.
2. No actual Gram values have been found to show the high protein content.
3. Melissa discusses a risk of Salmonella related to the use of Alfalfa Sprouts which is not the same as the Alfalfa Pellets which she does recommend.
4. Furthermore, I have found that far more often than not the supply of Alfalfa (pellet or hay) found within pet shops is often contaminated with BUGS, Bacteria, and Mold. This is not to say that all Alfalfa supplies are contaminated but just to make the owner aware to be on the look out for these possible problems.
Taking his statements one by one:
Points 1 and 2:
Where's the research?
In his website revision in March 2000, Kevin has added a bibliography page in which he dismisses the use of bibliographies as wholly unnecessary, and discussions about them as "infantile." You may read his comments at http://www.iguanaden.com site.
The purpose of this article has not been to attack Kevin, but to point out continuing inaccuracies in his information and to illustrate ways in which he misleads and misinforms his readers. I hope to interest people who might otherwise take what he says at face value to do some critical thinking for themselves. I am not particularly comfortable taking this head-on approach, but even I get fed up eventually, and, at this point in time, I am now officially fed up.
"A great many
people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their
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