William Albrecht: Mineral Balance Starts in the Soil

Part 5 of the series,
Mineral Balancing Giants

by Jon Sasmor RCPC (Mineral Guide, MinBalance LLC)
Updated October 20, 2021

Good Food Grows Only on Good Soil

William Albrecht, Ph.D. (1888 - 1974) was a forward-thinking soil scientist and chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture. He found that soil nutrient levels affect nutrient levels in plants, in farm animals, and all the way up the food chain to people.

Dr. Albrecht was concerned about modern industrialized agriculture, designed for maximum yield rather than nutrition. He believed nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) fertilizers would cause imbalances with other minerals that were being depleted from soils.

The mineral levels are interrelated and affect each other, Dr. Albrecht found. Many trace minerals already were depleted from the soils he studied in the mid-1900s, and are even more depleted now.

Good food grows only on good soil. In his poignant film, "The Other Side of the Fence," Dr. Albrecht shows a cow, a horse, and a goat, despite each being on a beautiful field of grass, sticking their heads through a fence to eat the more nutritious grass on the neighbor's field.

Dr. Albrecht's imagery shows why grass-fed, pasture-raised animals produce more nutritious food than caged, grain-fed animals do. The quality of the plants and the soil affect the animals too.

The free-ranging animals choose from the most nutritious food available, and themselves are better nourished, and more nourishing to those who eat their meat, eggs, or milk. In contrast, the grain-fed animals may be eating food that they wouldn't naturally eat, and likely which has been raised for maximum yield instead of maximum nutrition. We benefit from the intelligence of the animals when they wander and graze freely.

In another scene in "The Other Side of the Fence," Dr. Albrecht shows two bunches of beautiful celery that look identical — but one is nutritionally dense and the other containing little more nutrition than a glass of water. He shows similar pairs of carrots and lettuces. Appearance doesn't tell us what nutrition is in the food.

Good quality food does matter. Organic is usually better. Better yet, look for locally grown, chemical free food, grown on soil rich in minerals and microbes.

There is excellent food available today if we seek it out — like what Dr. Albrecht advocated. The quality of the food we choose can make us feel much better or worse! Try eating real food — chemical free, organic, mineral rich, grass fed, pastured, free range, whole foods, fresh, local, etc. After switching to these real foods, then industrialized foods may not taste much like food anymore.

Annotated References:

Albrecht, William, Ph.D. (Director) & The Calvin Co. (Producer). (1950s, reissued 1996). The Other Side of the Fence. [Film]. USA: Acres USA. Available to view at: https://archive.org/details/42594theothersideofthefencevwr. Dr. Albrecht presents his life work on soils in this short video with vivid imagery. Largely narrated by Dr. Albrecht himself. Dr. Albrecht's research on soils led him up the food chain to connect soil nutrition with plant, animal, and human well-being.

  • "Today there is no real way of being sure we are getting the necessary elements in our diet, even if we eat what seem to be the proper foods." (6:55).
  • See 7:05 for pairs of vegetables that look identical but have vastly different nutrient content.
  • "Our loss of health today can be traced directly to the soil. Our farming methods have robbed the soil of vital food elements." (8:00).
  • "External appearances are just as often deceiving. Sometimes the best-looking plant, the biggest and healthiest in appearance, can be the poorest in food value. . . . Appearance alone is a poor index to food value." (11:20).
  • 5% of what plants need to grow is minerals from the soil, which came from rocks that broke down to make the soil. (15:05). When plants return to the soil and decay, the decay process replenishes minerals from the plant matter and by breaking down more rock. (16:25). Modern farming takes away minerals without putting them back, mining the minerals from the soil. (16:40).
  • Offering a hopeful message: correction of mineral depletion is possible by fertilization with minerals to replenish the topsoil. (18:55).
  • "In a pasture whose soil has been drained of minerals, there is no good food. But on the other side of the fence, the soil is still rich. We may forget it, but animals don't. Good food grows only on good soil." (21:15).
  • See 0:50 and 20:25 for animals choosing to graze on grass with more nutritious soil.
  • quoting Albrecht: "Study nature more than you study books."

Ikerd, John E., Ph.D. (2011). Healthy soils, healthy people: The legacy of William Albrecht. Retrieved from http://web.missouri.edu/ikerdj/papers/Albrecht Lecture - Healthy Soils Healthy People.htm. Tribute to Dr. Albrecht, advocating what Professor Ikerd calls the Albrecht hypothesis: "human health is inseparable from soil health."

  • Suggests that Albrecht's discoveries about soil health help explain the modern obesity abundance: today people (and the animals that live with them) are eating larger amounts of food to make up for nutrient shortages in the food, which in turn are due to nutrient shortages in the soil.
  • Albrecht is quoted: "N P K formulas, as legislated and enforced by State Departments of Agriculture mean malnutrition, attack by insects, bacteria and fungi, weed takeover, crop loss in dry weather, and general loss of mental acuity in the population, leading to degenerative metabolic disease and early death."