Why We Should Be Eating More Meat, Not Less
As a species, humans have been eating meat, cheese, butter and eggs for all of human history so how is it we came to believe that these foods are bad for us? One thing is for certain. We wouldn't have eaten these foods if they were bad for us.
Is it possible we've got everything backwards with food and nutrition and we're headed in the wrong direction? Most likely with our increasing rates of illness and obesity along with declining health.
Here at Sapien, we believe that for optimal health we should be including more animal foods in the diet, not less. Animal rights' activists in the last 50 years have taken over the conversation and skewed the data and have convinced our culture into assuming meat is bad for us and the planet without ever investigating whether this is scientific fact.
Meat is not bad for us or the environment.
3.5 million years of meat eating made us human an continue to make us healthy today. Let's begin by going through a six step journey on how we evolved.
There were plenty of megafauna roaming the Earth on all major continents. We could easily hunt these animals and they provided us with a bounty of fatty meat.
We know this from radio isotope nitrogen levels from early human remains. There are over 27 lines of evidence showing that humans were high level trophic carnivores. We used tools and our superior intellect to become the apex predator.
This changed our digestive system. We evolved away from subsisting on low quality plant foods and instead required highly nutrient dense animal foods. We can't ferment large amounts of plant foods like our ancestors.
Our small intestine got longer (this is where we extract nutrition from meat) and our hindgut got shorter (this is where plant fermentation takes place). We're a completely different species now requiring different nutrition.
Scientists believe early humans began scavenging carcasses. This slowly changed our stomach pH from our primate ancestors to a very acidic environment to be able to handle this. Our stomach acid pH is lower than many carnivores and, similar to another scavenger, the hyena.
There's much more science, but the point is we became human because of meat and animal fat. This is how our brains grew and we evolved from plant eaters.
Our bodies evolved to thrive on the nutrition from meat and animal fat and substitutes aren't as good.
When we look at data from modern hunter-gatherers this allows us to have a little glimpse at our past. However, many giant animal species have died out, making us more reliant on plant foods.
Plants are something we would eat when we couldn't get any animal. We studied these societies and found that plants acted as "fall-back" foods within the diet.
2) Bad Science
So what happened?
All throughout history we knew animal foods were the pillar of health yet we lost our way. We had some bad theories and did some bad science.
We have foods we've been eating for all of human history like cows, pigs and chicken. Then we have foods we've been eating for 0.1% of human history. These are the highly processed foods.
In the past 70 years we've been blaming many of our health on red meat. This is deception.
Processed foods, sugar and refined grains are the problem. Not meat.
These foods have the most damaging health effects. It's insane for us to blame our health problems on meat when we've been eating meat for all of human history. Eating meat made us human.
So how did we get this wrong?
In the 1950s we had a heart disease and jumped to some conclusions.
A man named Ancel Keys made some spurious correlations.
There was another scientist named John Yudkin that had the correct theory
but Ancel Keys won out.
To simplify, we made mistakes wrongly demonizing cholesterol and saturated fat.
This opened the door to the processed food industry, low fat products,
and the “fat is bad” paradigm.
This led to the food pyramid with a base of processed carbohydrates and a call to limit eggs, butter and meat.
Guess what happened after that?
Our health rapidly deteriorated.
Obesity and chronic disease took off. Yet people will say "no way people actually followed those guidelines".
Well we did. We followed them well.
Butter, egg and red meat availability decreased whilst grain and sugar consumption skyrocketed.
If meat is so bad for us, why did all the health problems start as meat and animal fat declined?
Nobody is talking about this side of things.
Then we have a ton more highly questionable “science”.
This is just one example - when the WHO panel decided meat was a carcinogen whilst ignoring counter-evidence.
Even the studies they did look at - it was a toss up - 15 to 14 for meat being good or bad.
And note these were CORRELATIONAL STUDIES.
And guess what, meat consumption had 0.18% risk factor.
Smoking had a 10-30% risk factor.
Very different situations wouldn't you say?
There are over 800 studies looking at meat and cancer yet over 744 of these are deemed unconvincing.
Ridiculous? I think so.
"Bad science" studies:
Then we come onto nutrition.
Plants have a lower bioavailability of nutrients compared to animal foods. Even what’s listed on food packaging or the USDA food data isn’t accurate. Our body is not able to absorb all the nutrients, but animal foods DO allow us to get far more of them.
One such example is iron.
Red meat, eggs and similar foods actually provide some of the MOST complete nutrition on Earth.
This quote comes from a peer-reviewed scientific study.
When you look deeper into it, plant-based foods, or perhaps it's more accurate to say, plant-based diets, are the major cause of deficiencies because of their lack of bioavailable nutrition.
Development of the human brain is also extremely important, especially in developing children. However, many of these nutrients critical for brain development are found in animal foods, not plant foods.
Plant sources of omega 3 have very low bioavailability and are converted to usable DHA at only 0 - 4% which is extremely low.
However, you can get fully formed DHA, iodine, and iron from seafood and other animal foods.
You also get arguments that it's possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. But plant and animal proteins aren't equal. Hint: animal proteins are superior.
Protein in beef is almost 3 times as bioavailable than in beans. If you’re eating navy beans instead of beef for protein, you'd have to eat around 3x the calories to get the same protein.
This is the opposite of what we need in a word where obesity and diabetes is increasing within the population at an alarming rate.
But for some reason, it's taboo to talk about the benefits of beef. This is just science.
If you compare the micronutrient content of an animal food such as sardines with other plant foods, you find that sardines are far superior (liver would be even better).
Sadly, through a lot of cultivation, most fruit is really just a bunch of sugar because that's what our taste buds prefer.
4) New Science
Recently, we've been finding out a lot more since the days when we thought fat and meat were bad for you.
Here's some data looking at coronary heart disease (CHD) and saturated fat intake.
Interestingly, we see the European population death rate actually goes DOWN
with HIGHER saturated fat intake.
We also got cholesterol wrong. In fact, around 70% of your cholesterol is synthesised by the body. Limits on cholesterol have been quietly taken off the dietary guidelines.
And when you look at blood markers on those following a low carb, high fat, animal-based diet, you find that triglycerides, HDL and glucose improve along with a reduction in weight.
This is very rarely reported in the media and is little heard by the public.
There are people like Dr. Eric Westman who works with very low-income people in North Carolina, helping to reverse diabetes and obesity with cheap grocery store ground beef, eggs and even McDonalds patties.
We should be lowering glucose and insulin, not meat - for longevity and health. The real dangerous diet is one of constant glucose and insulin spikes from processed carbs and sugar.
There's a lot of science out there. Plenty of studies showing the superior effects of low carb diets which are often high animal foods and fat.
The problem is they aren't reported in the media often, if at all.
One study showed a high-fat diet REVERSING type 2 diabetes in 60% of patients in 1 year.
This is incredible yet it got zero media coverage. Very strange.
There are also people who have cured a whole range of health conditions just by eating meat. The two pictured below have been eating just meat for 19 years and feel and look fantastic.
This actually shouldn't be surprising given that our ancestors ate this way and our body is designed to do best on an animal-based diet.
Since eating mostly animal foods, Brian has never felt better, has endless energy and just feels great altogether His health has improved, even from a low carb diet.
It's not just him either. There are thousands of stories like his.
New Science studies:
Now we come onto perhaps an even bigger issue. The environment.
Before we dig in deeper, I need to make it clear that the meat we have today, even those conventionally grown in feedlots is PERFECTLY healthy and nutritious.
Now, one of the biggest arguments against animal consumption are the greenhouse gases emitted by animal agriculture. But do people really think that animals cause more pollution than those emitted by fossil fuels from transportation?
It's deception used by animal rights activists.
The real problem is fossil fuels.
You can find lots more great resources on Sacred Cow talking about the power of the regenerative agriculture system to heal ourselves and the soil.
Back to the story.
If people really cared about emissions and food they’d be promoting eating less rice which produces tons of methane. They’d also tell people not to eat potato chips which are the #1 producer of greenhouse gasses.
Yes, that's right. Chips have the biggest carbon footprint of any food.
People talk a lot about the methane from cows. But the methane from cows is part of a cycle.
Methane is a short lived gas. It only stays around for 10 years and is a flow gas. This means
it’s recycled. It goes from the grass, into the cow, into the air, and back into the grass.
We don’t have more cows than 45 years ago. The herd size has stayed the same - so cattle is not an issue. However, CO2 stays around for 1000 years - it’s a stock gas.
It's a one way street. It goes from the ground and pretty much stays in the atmosphere. For a long time.
This is the REAL problem.
The graph below compares the difference between CO2 production from fossil fuels to food production and other land use.
It makes it pretty clear what the real problem is.
Calculations about land use are misleading. 85% of land for grazing cattle can't be farmed
What should we do with this valuable land? The obvious answer is to use it for grazing cattle.
This is more of the stuff you don’t hear about. And then there's the soil.
Plants and crops mainly take from the soil, while animals give back to the soil. Plants take nutrients and need fossil fuel inputs. Animals give back to the soil with their urine and manure.
The health of a nation is dependent on its soil - this is where carbon is sequestered. Tilling the soil and growing monocrops ruin it.
Many farms are using animals on pasture and are actually putting more carbon into the soil than they’re producing.
In fact, all cattle spend the first ⅔ of their life on pasture but nobody in the mainstream media wants to talk about this.
Most cattle do go to feed yards, but they have plenty of space. Admittedly, they aren't optimal.
Grass finished sustainable operations are much better, but the reality is this is our current system - we have to live with it, and try to improve it.
Only about 11.6% of a cows diet over their life is edible to humans. The other 84.4% of a feedlot cattle's diet is inedible to humans. They ARE NOT competing with us for food.
Modern cows are actually adapted to eat grains and they only eat them for a few months
They are fed leftover products from the creation of biofuels.
It’s an efficient system - they are recyclers, also eating leftovers from distilling alcohol.
These are things that would just go to waste otherwise and certainly aren't edible to humans.
There are no hormones or antibiotics in the meat you eat either. Cows get a little in a feedyard but all of it is taken out 60 - 120 days before animals are processed. The meat is thoroughly tested to ensure there is nothing left in the meat.
There’s so many safeguards and rules no rancher would ever risk having a trace of it in their animals. It would be a financial disaster!
Cows are great in the sense that they take poor quality protein and turn it into high quality, bioavailable protein.
The calculations you may have heard tend to be inaccurate because they're not considering the bioavailability of the protein cows produce.
Yes they have to eat a lot, and produce some methane
but they upcycle the nutrients.
This is nature’s miracle - we should be embracing this.
6) The Alternative?
Most people are probably wondering if there is an alternative. Spoiler alert. There isn't one. Calculations about feeding the world with only plants are incorrect in many ways so we're going to dive into this.
The alternative is we would just have to grow millions more acres of pesticide soaked corn, wheat, and soy.
People talk about meat like if we don’t eat it there’s some free source of food with no impact.
Monocropping is the real problem with plant production.
We don’t have another way to grow enough food to replace meat. And this food wouldn’t be a good nutritional replacement either.
What about the ethical argument?
25 times more sentient animals die producing crops.
“55 sentient animal lives lost to produce 100 kilograms of useable plant protein. That’s 25 times more killings than to produce the same amount of rangelands beef.”
And this doesn't even include how many habitats and ENTIRE ecosystems are devastated clearing the land for monocropping.
Animals are going to die for any food you produce so you might as well get the good nutrition by eating them.
And another matter of fact is that animals either starve in nature or get eaten alive.
That's the harsh reality for animals in the wild.
Animal agriculture actually gives animals an extremely safe, comfortable life with
temperature controlled habitats and vets on site giving them perfect nutrition.
In the US and EU they go through many rigorous standards for a quick, painless death.
You also find that whilst animals are killed for meat, they provide us with many useful byproducts which are used in manufacturing all sorts of products.
There are over 400 products produced from cattle. This is something very few people think about in this discussion.
It would take MASSIVE amounts of energy and synthetic products to replace these.
Worldwide, livestock farming helps the poorest billion people the most. It gives them year-round food, goods, work, and other products.
According to the FAO: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/40117/icode/
It's more stable than crops which are more prone to weather and infestation.
But when it comes to the main environmental footprint of food, it's food waste.
Globally we waste 40% of all food - most of this is plant food. Animals actually can utilize this waste food.
So maybe we should cut down on plant foods to help this problem?
This is definitely an interesting point to think about.
The Alternative studies:
And that brings us just about to an end of our six step journey.
So, let's recap.
Humans evolved to REQUIRE nutrient dense animal foods and meat made us human.
We’ve lost our way only in the last 60 years - all other times in history we prized animal foods.
Animal foods have all the bioavailable nutrition whilst plant foods have anti-nutrients and many of the nutrients can’t be absorbed.
We have countless studies proving meat is healthy in a diet without sugar or processed carbs, they're just hidden away.
The real problem is fossil fuels yet animal rights activists shift the blame to meat and we should be embracing animal agriculture which is nature’s miracle.
The alternatives are actually worse.
Animals are the SOLUTION to our health and environmental problems.
Cows are NATURE’S MIRACLE - they’re part of a natural & beautiful cycle.
So how do we feed the growing world?
We have enough land - we actually already produce enough food to feed 10 billion people.
Surprisingly, 87% of America and 75% of the world is fed by small family farms.
We have a decent system currently - but yes, it’s not perfect, and we can improve it.
A sure way to NOT feed the growing population is with more monocrops continuing to degrade the soil.
This could actually be our downfall.
This piece of work is more or less a transcript of Brian's 15 minute presentation at a food conference which you can watch down below.