1. Should we continue to eat meat?
Definitely not the amounts we eat today. It’s not optimal for our health, it’s not optimal for our wallets and it’s not optimal for the environment.
2. Do you want us all to become vegetarians?
No, we should focus on eating plants, not on categorizing humans (like we do too much already). Lately people seem obsessed with eating like we did ages ago, you know, like our ancestors. Well, those ancestors didn’t have the massive meat production capabilities we have now. They ate mostly plants. I think eating plant-focused would be good for our health, for the environment, and for the animals as well. The cost of healthcare would go down as well.
3. Are you then saying that eating meat is bad for our health?
Like most things in life: Yes it is. Look, if you want to eat meat I am not stopping you. However, the meat of today is not as high quality as it was 30 or 40 years ago. It contains antibiotics, pollutants, and growth hormones. Several studies have linked meat consumption to some cancers like colon, stomach, breast, and prostate and the list goes on and on. According to the USDA we eat 28 kg (60 lbs) more meat than in 1951. Obesity too is partly the result of too much meat consumption. Of course, meat is high in cholesterol and saturated fat. A lot of diseases can be prevented and reversed by changing diet and lifestyle.
4. Which meat increases the risk of cancer?
It’s mainly red and processed meat. Imagine just two rashers of bacon can raise your risk of developing bowel cancer by 18%. So just try to skip the bacon when eating scrambled eggs in the morning. Anyway, no dietician or doctor has ever prescribed bacon for people suffering from hearth or bowel problems.
You can check out the following article from the WHO for more info: http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/
5. What about fish or chicken?
There is no convincing evidence yet that shows that eating fish is nearly as bad for you as eating red or processed meats. In fact, eating fish may even be beneficial for your health. So if you have to have meat every day, choose chicken or fish over processed or red meat. You have to be careful though about contaminants in fish, especially if you’re pregnant.
6. What kind of fish is safest to eat if you want to avoid those contaminants?
The FDA issued a handy chart of which fish to avoid and best choices of fish to eat. If you want to eat fish you can choose herring, sardines or Atlantic mackerel. You should avoid bigeye tuna and swordfish.
7. What about our long history of eating meat. There is the believe that meat consumption aided our evolution and helped our brains to get bigger. Because of meat we have become who we are now. What is your take on that?
When we think about our ancestors, we think about a caveman holding a piece of meat in his hand, while the woman is sitting in the cave looking after her young ones. It is a well-known image but it is an erroneous one. Women were always able to provide food for their offspring. They picked fruits, nuts or veggies. Our hands are made for forging.
We only started eating meat, some 10,000 years ago, when we started cultivating animals. A lot of the diseases you know today, such as flue and chicken pox, came to us from animals. Also, our physiology doesn’t seem optimized to digest meat (or live among meat for that matter). To comment on the brain development. Recent studies point out that starch helped our ancestors to aid the brain develop, not meat. Our brains prefer carbohydrates as their primary fuel. This is why only plant-eaters have enzymes in their saliva that help in the digestion of carbohydrates.
8. Our physiology is not meant to digest meat. How is that?
When you look at carnivores their colon is much shorter than ours. This allows them to get rid of the rotten flesh much quicker. At the same time their stomach can hold relatively far more food than our stomach. They are designed for intermittent feeding, common when hunting for food. Our colon is 10 – 12 times our body length. We have to eat often during the day. We are designed for batch-eating (small amounts + readily available + multiple times a day = not hunting). Omnivores don’t get sick by eating raw meat. We might. Carnivores don’t mind cholesterol. They don’t die from heart attacks. We do.
9. What about our teeth. We have canines after all, don’t we? Doesn’t it mean that perhaps we were meant to eat both plant matter and meat? Everyone after all likes the view of a nice crispy chicken or a juicy stake.
Of course they do. When they don’t have to catch it and kill it themselves. And the meat is nicely seasoned. There is a reason that slaughterhouses are closed of to the public. Nobody wants to know how their chicken nuggets are made. Let’s, for argument’s sake, say you run like crazy and you catch a deer and you survived. You were not kicked in your exposed stomach or head. Still, your physiology does not allow you to tear the flesh with your teeth or with your bear hands. Look at the carnivore’s teeth. They are dagger-like and shaped. Ours are short and blunt. You could easily break your teeth or dislocate your jaw by doing that. Our mouth only opens that wide. We have no claws. Our hands are made for picking fruits and veggies. A predator’s jaw moves up and down. Our jaw has a sideways motion.
Say you finally get to taste the raw meat. You could easily get sick. Your stomach is not acidic enough to kill of all the bacteria and bone matter. And by the way, carnivores don’t have to chew the flesh they eat, they just swallow it. You would have to chew through each of the veins present in the flesh.
I’m not saying that we should not eat meat at all. Our guts did adapt to meat consumption to some point. But does it meant that we should continue eating meat in the amounts that we do? Today we have vegetables and fruit available every single month of the year.
10. The impact on our environment: Can we handle the growing demand for meat?
Livestock production uses a lot of land that could be used more productively. It is the main and the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions, in the form of methane. It therefor contributes to global warming. When it comes to water usage, almost half the water used in the US annually, is used in raising the livestock. A big part of the grains we grow are used as feed for livestock. To produce one pound of beef you need 1,799 gallons of water. Does this sound sustainable? With China’s growing demand for meat, we will either have to pay a lot more for meat or switch to cheaper and healthier alternatives. So why not try some meatless or meat-less dishes on a more regular basis.