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Amateur Musings on Carnivorous Diets and Rare Meat Consumption

(obligatory 'I don't have a biochemistry degree' here, but I did include sources, so I'm basically a scientist)


To provide a brief bit of background, I should note that throughout my life I've had fairly extreme and downright dysfunctional relationships with food, which is likely heavily correlated with my autism. The scope of foods I can eat without having intense physical revulsions is very limited. I don't believe the foods I am averse to are necessarily inherently bad somehow, and often they're very nutritious options, but nonetheless, aversions exist. Humans aren't as simple or straightforward as we may feel we would like them to be.

Vegetables are something I have always had difficulty with. Legumes, pasta, rice, tomatoes, (most) sauces, and many other plant sources have been a point of difficulty for me since early childhood. The only kinds of food I have not found much difficulty with at all have been derived from animal sources. Meat, fish, eggs, and small amounts of dairy. (Although, a few seasonal and local fruits are also a staple in my diet, as is raw honeycomb. Lactose intolerance by region1 is a fascinating topic that deserves an article of its own, and explains why I avoid most dairy, but I am not qualified to write much on the issue.) The taste of raw and rare (red) meat has always been preferable in flavour and texture to me, and the same goes for oily fish. This is just a matter of personal preference, but has led me to discover some interesting things about the value behind raw and rare meat consumption anyway.

Having a natural aversion to plant sources like this is not something I think is necessarily indicative of anything larger than some rather arbitrary combination of genetics, environment, and bad experiences with specific foods. The foods I have been raised to eat frequently occasionally break the limits of my dietary restrictions due to their familiarity. Thus, there doesn't seem to be much that is consistent about these aversions, and I don't draw any general conclusions from them, other than it's largely a matter of familiarity. These experiences did, however, push me to decide to study nutrition and biochemistry for a few years, and to search through scientific findings (and carry out some personal experimentation, because I'm basically a scientist) to try to discover the viability of diets that lack a large variety of plant foods. I did this so I could learn how to better accommodate my own unique diet and still maintain my health, and how this may be possible for others with restrictive eating patterns such as myself.

The Example of Inuit People and Arctic Explorers

An example that I find fascinating and like to discuss whenever this topic is raised is that of the Inuit people and Arctic explorers who have found methods of warding off scurvy consuming only animal food sources. This highlights the nutritional completeness and flexibility of thoughtful carnivorous diets that many people do not seem to believe to be possible, likely because they've been taught that certain vitamins or nutrients are only present in plant sources. This is simply not true, but it is taught because we generally all live in societies where plant sources are cheaper and more abundant or accessible sources of these nutrients, even if they may come in a less bioavailable form. It (usually) makes sense for us to find these nutrients in plant sources considering our current situation, but that doesn't mean they don't exist elsewhere.

How these Inuit people and Arctic explorers2 manage this feat of preventing or overcoming scurvy is by consuming the raw or rare organ meat (specifically liver) of animals such as seals. This is because humans cannot biosynthesise their own vitamin C3 like some other species can, so they need to consume sufficient amounts in their diet4. In these climates, it can be incredibly difficult to do so over extended periods of time if this vitamin C is being sourced from plant foods, due to their scarcity. Basically, although scurvy is generally associated with a lack of fruit and vegetables, fresh meat actually contains abundant amounts of it, and the belief it doesn't is merely a misconception.

Notably, polar bear liver is an exception that contains so much vitamin A5 that it's actually toxic for human consumption in almost any dosage, considering the polar bear's unique diet which involves high levels of seal liver consumption. (Liver is a wonderful food to include in your diet, but can be overeaten because of just how abundant the vitamins actually are, so that's an important point to consider when incorporating it.)

Vitamin C is an incredibly unstable water-soluble vitamin, 'rapidly degrading or disappearing when exposed to water, air, light, heat, and pH levels above about 4.0'.6 This highlights why it is important for these particular groups of people to eat these animal sources of vitamin C as rare as possible, if not raw, to prevent the loss of the nutrients they actually require to ward off illness. The same effect can be observed in vegetable sources of vitamin C when they are exposed to heat.7

All of that is to say: people who claim raw meat is never more nutritious than cooked meat are objectively wrong, and organ meat can serve a very valuable place in the human diet as an often more reliable local source of certain nutrients than plant sources in off-seasons or periods of scarcity.

Why It Matters

The relevance this has to a modern day group of people with easy access to plant sources they are happy to eat instead of meat is, obviously, minimal. However, it's an interesting point to make in defence of carnivorous diets, especially when used as an argument against vegan diets, which ultimately lack essential nutrients by definition. Additionally, a diet that requires supplementation created in a laboratory (veganism) is not sustainable without external support that relies on large-scale systems which ultimately limit human freedom. (I'll stop there at the risk of sounding too schizophrenic if I continue. That line of thought can be reserved for a Kaczynski article. I shall keep the schizophrenia contained. For now.)

It's important to remember that food companies, governments, and even healthcare professionals often have hidden agendas whenever it comes to the kinds of food they popularise and purport to be healthy, I imagine largely due to economic concerns. Some governments and healthcare systems may be better at managing this, but nonetheless, it's always best to educate yourself and look at the data yourself where possible. This helps to ensure false advice isn't being presented to you based on connections between 'professional' nutritional guidance and the actual science that supposedly supports it, but is very often cherry-picked.

In a time period where it's so easy to be confused by the bombardment of nutritional advice we are so often met with, I think organ meat and rare meats serve a very valuable purpose and do bear relevance in modern diets due to their nature as a locally-available, minimally processed, natural food source that has been tried and tested with time, scientific experiments, and many accounts of individual experience.

For people like me who have had trouble with lots of plant foods growing up, that's a triumph in and of itself, and it bears testimony to the healing nature of animal products in our diet and combats the unfounded claim that they are somehow harmful for us.


My ultimate view is that a diet balancing a variety of responsibly-sourced offal (organ meat, blood, bone marrow), grass-fed muscle meat, wild fish, seasonal fruit and (some) vegetables, raw honeycomb or syrup, starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes or homemade breads without nonsense added, and free-range eggs is best. Animal welfare is human welfare, and sustainable small-scale local produce is ideal. Organ meat and raw or rare meats are foods that have fallen out of many diets, especially in western countries, but they most definitely have an important place within an ideal natural dietary framework as a reliable and bioavailable source of human nutrition. Offal is often disregarded and wasted, despite being so nutritious and ultimately abundant, considering the amount of animals we already slaughter. This waste of meat seems to me like a disregard for both our own health and the sacrifice of the animals we kill.

One benefit of organ meat being unpopular, at least, is that it's usually incredibly cheap.

I don't believe the correct response to animal cruelty in the food industry is to stop eating meat or animal products altogether, and to adopt some plant-based approach. For one, raw vegan diets can't sustain human health, and secondly, as discussed earlier, this would cause an unsavoury and inadvisable reliance on external sources for dietary supplementation that shouldn't be necessary within a proper, healthy, unrestrictive diet. I think the right approach that still allows us to incorporate meat into our diets is to consume locally, reponsibly sourced nose-to-tail produce, with a focus on small-scale ethical farming and making the best use possible of seasonal and local resources. The example of Inuit people and the aforementioned Arctic explorers displays this resourcefulness excellently, and their diet could never have sustained them if not for animal produce. This suggested form of nose-to-tail eating involves finding different ways to use as much as possible of an animal's carcass (such as trotters, bones, and organs), ideally maximising the nutritional density where possible (such as through eating parts rare if possible to do safely and if people can stomach it according to their preferences). It would prevent waste and offer more nutritional variety in the diet, so I think it's a shame these things are so often shunned or demonised.

The way this organ meat is cooked doesn't matter much if you consume adequate plant sources, but even in a modern context, rare organs and muscle meat serve a wonderful purpose in natural human diets and are a good option if you want to find more natural, minimally processed food sources for human health and longevity.

Finally, if you're unsure about the safety of eating rare meat, you can find a variety of articles online explaining the reasoning behind it for the foods it applies to. It's always best to check for each individual food, but applies to sushi, steak, liver, and so on. Basically, it depends on the kind of meat, how it was slaughtered and subsequently handled, and how it has been processed. These all affect either muscle density or potential contamination. I opt for blue meat because it removes the possibility of any food poisoning but keeps the interior as rare as possible. (I sear lamb and steak on a frying pan for eight to ten seconds on each side on a very high heat setting to achieve this, and sometimes I'll use tongs to seal any sides if necessary.)

Side Notes (t. My Tapeworms)

As a side note, I remember reading publications once on raw and rare meat being digested more readily than cooked meat in humans and various species, but I don't know where those are anymore. (Source: it was revealed to me as I ate my blue fillet steak dinner.)

Parasites are a separate issue, and ultimately seem to lack many accessible publications and studies to refer to. I once spoke with an old teacher who had a PhD in biology and wrote his thesis on parasites, and he told me it was a fascinating area of study, but there weren't all that many absolute statements he could make in regards to practical advice. I have eaten blue steak almost daily for several years now and have never had food poisoning or exhibited any symptoms I can recognise as reminiscent of parasitic infestation (that weren't later diagnosed as resulting from some other issue), but maybe the worms in my intestine have seeped into my brain and are commanding my fingers to type this to defend them right now. (I have met some vegans who think so.)

1. Lactose intolerance by region. (Reference in this article.)

2. An Arctic explorer who warded off scurvy in his expedition group using this method. (Reference in this article.)

3. The biosynthesis of vitamin C amongst different species. (Reference in this article.)

4. Necessity of vitamin C in the diet from animal sources in areas of plant scarcity. (Reference in this article.)

5. Polar bear liver toxicity in human diets. (Reference in this article.)

6. The denaturing of vitamin C when exposed to high temperatures. (Reference in this article.)

7. Loss of vitamin C in vegetables when heated. (Reference in this article.)