Meat has its problems.
But, in terms of our health, it may not always have been the case.
In today's world, we have ditched hunting.
We go to the shops, grab food, head home, and eat.
For the sake of convenience, this is great.
But, this is a disaster for our bodies and billions of animals.
In the past, grabbing food would look like this:
- We would have caught one or two animals on a hunt and often failed.
- Hunting made us raise our activity and move long distances for a long time.
- The animals would have lived free, eaten many grains and plants, had ample sunlight, and moved often.
Compare that with how we eat now:
- We can eat as many animals as we can afford to as quickly as we choose and never fail to find meat in the shop.
- We can get this delivered without moving at all.
- The animals mostly live inside, eat one or two crops for their whole life, and are supplemented with growth hormones and antibiotics.
The reason meat contains nutrients, including protein, is simple.
No matter what animal, it has spent its life eating plants, breaking them down and storing nutrients and minerals into its tissues.
Meat is thus high in calories, fat, iron, calcium and protein.
The dense, rich nature of meat as a food product is part of why it was so helpful to us in the past.
We can gain the stored nutrients from a lifetime of grazing in one meal.
But what kind of activity, if any, is needed for meat not to cause issues in our body?
Hunting Vs Mass Farming: We Overeat Meat
We are relatively slow runners.
What's more, we lack claws and the ability to pull animals down to the ground with our bare hands.
Instead, we adapt.
We humans use tools and invent.
Even the early days of hunting relied on spears, rudimentary bows and arrows and long-range weapons.
Even so, a catch was rare and took many hours, if not days, each time.
We often came back empty-handed.
You can witness this low hunt yield among meat-eating tribes today, such as the San people of Africa.
We no longer work for our food or run from predators.
We mostly sit, eat and sleep.
Yet the amount of meat we eat far exceeds what would have been possible in a society where we would hunt.
We eat more meat despite doing less.
Our ancestors ate meat for its high calories in low volume, which came in handy in times of survival and movement, where access to food was sparse.
However, the rest of the time, meat was much less helpful.
Compare the days of hunting to what we do now.
We took our use of tools and went too far.
We have removed all of the personal effort involved in getting food.
Farming is now cold and industrial and sees ten-to-twenty whole birds and land mammals available to you at a tap of a button or swipe of a card.
We now breed and kill animals in their masses by entrapping them at birth on land we claim to own.
We rely on walls and charged fences to offset our lack of hunting skills.
Long gone is the argument that the way we eat meat is natural.
Regardless of whether or not we should ditch meat, we should not eat this much of it this often.
If a hunter could have caught many types of meat in one day, they would have worked very hard for it.
Even if you owned a family farm that fed just your family, you would not eat an animal every day.
You'd spend time raising those animals.
With western lifestyle diseases on the rise, is it any doubt when we eat so much more processed meats, red meats and poultry every day without having to do much to get it?
The inflammatory issues are not only linked with the volume of meat we eat as a society but also the lack of effort needed to get it.
Movement: Avoiding Metabolic Disease
We all know exercise is good for us.
Could it be the reason our meat-eating ancestors did so well?
According to The Effects of Meat Consumption on Global Health, published in the national library of medicine, "limiting [meat] intake can reduce the development of a range of chronic diseases."
Whether we talk about fat, toxic haem iron, its effect on gut bacteria, or its potential influence over our hormones, the stance on meat for health is clear.
Could the difference be movement?
First, we know we overeat meat in the modern world.
One big difference is that our ancestors ate small amounts here and there as and when a good hunt would allow for it.
The rest of the time, they relied on plants.
Plants are a reliable source of fibre, natural sugar, protein, calcium, iron, good fats, selenium, manganese, zinc, omegas, and vitamins.
Both foraging for plants and hunting relied on lots of movement.
Movement and plants are two things that can both offset inflammation.
Is this the simple difference that explains the rise in western disease?
Are we sitting still too often and eating too few fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts and seeds every day?
Animal Health, Welfare & Meat Quality
It's not just us.
The meat we eat nowadays is also much poorer in quality.
Those animals, too, lack movement and a broad range of plants in their diet.
Animal health comes into play when discussing the effects of meat on the body.
Poor meat can lead to poor health.
Animals should roam and graze multiple organic plants each day.
Instead, they eat GMO soy or, if they're lucky enough to get out into the sun, they eat fields of single crops of grass.
Yes, meat can be a great source of vitamin D, but not if the meat you are eating is from a bird that has lived in a dark shed its whole life.
Antibiotics harm gut microbiota.
That's the good bacteria that live in our bowels.
Plants that grow out in nature would not provide animals with antibiotics, but this is not the case on farms.
They reduce outbreaks, allowing for worse living conditions, and they also increase fat storage and fatten the animals.
As with us humans, movement also improves the well-being of animals.
So how can we expect health from the meat of an animal trapped in a dark cage incapable of moving?
Differences: Humans and Carnivores
Carnivorous animals eat every part of the animal, not just the breast.
So if you're serious about gaining nutrition from animal sources, you'll need fur, bones, organs, eyeballs, genitals, and muscle.
That is to name a few.
But here is something I hope you will at least consider about yourself compared to the average meat-eating animal.
Your teeth are short, round and primarily grinders.
Yes, you have canines, but you can measure the difference in length between your canine teeth and that of a lion in inches.
Next is our stomach acid.
Our stomach acid is not quite as strong, albeit a minimal difference.
Our eyes have the correct colour range to forage and locate fruits and berries in addition to greens and leafy veg.
Bacteria ferment flesh in the large bowel, which can increase bowel cancer risk - which is not an issue for carnivores as they have much shorter bowels.
Finally, the results from several studies link improved gut health with greater plant intake.