Eat What You Kill, Kill What You Eat?
“We’re all aware in a semi-abstract sense that a cheeseburger used to be a part of a living creature, but we conveniently ignore the potentially disturbing aspects of that process and the tasty package of meat, cheese, and bread just becomes ‘lunch,’” says Joe Rogan in an interview posted last year.
When he started to understand the cruel and horrifying treatment of animals in the industrial agriculture system, Joe Rogan (a well-known comedian, podcast host and announcer for UFC fights) has reportedly given up supermarket and restaurant meat. He has settled on a diet composed only of meat from animals that he personally hunted, killed, skinned, cut up, de-boned and froze. He thaws it regularly to for himself and his family. One moose led to 211 pounds of meat. He chows down on hearts, livers and rumps that he personally killed because this is his understanding of the best diet for human beings. He has been heavily influenced by prominent advocates of “paleo-style” low-carbohydrate eating such as Mark Sisson and Dave Asprey.
Yet of course this can’t be the way that our ancestors ate meat. This style of eating requires many modern conveniences simply couldn’t have been available in the Paleolithic era. When pre-technological people kill an animal, the countdown to putrefaction begins the second the animal finishes its final death throes.
According to the USDA, any meat or poultry should be considered unsafe if it has been at a temperature between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for longer than two hours. I am almost sure that most of Joe Rogan’s wild-caught game has been exposed to those temperatures for longer than two hours, but kudos to him for speed and scrupulousness if that is not the case. Imagine yourself staring at a moose carcass and trying to make sure that all the meat was refrigerated or frozen within two hours …
Rogan’s concern about the meat in supermarkets and restaurants is that they are adulterated with hormones and antibiotics. It also troubles him that they eat grain instead of grass. He feels secure that the meat he is catching in the wild is safe. But even if we ignore the very obvious food safety concerns (all butchering should be done wearing gloves, something Rogan is clearly not doing in the photos accompanying the article), we can still call into question the very idea that this is good for health.
King Henry VIII lived in the 16th century before any significant innovation in farming methods, and lived almost entirely off of game caught in the wild. According to the Ordinances of Eltham, his court ate huge amounts of game. A single day’s consumption would include venison, red deer, mutton, veal, swan, capon (a castrated rooster), rabbits, carp, sparrows, pheasant, plovers, goat kids, larks and partridges. Now this food was being ordered for the whole king’s court. So Henry probably didn’t consume every single dish, but still, this was almost all wild game, and certainly the domesticated animals were raised without any hormones or antibiotics and were grass fed.
However, this failed to make Henry healthy or happy. He suffered tremendously from severe chronic pain, gout, swollen legs and festering sores on his body. Modern physicians examining his case think that it is very likely that Henry VIII also had type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and severe lower leg venous insufficiency. It’s almost as if he lived in modern-day Alabama!
But, you ask, maybe it was the sugar? Nope. Sugar was a rare luxury prior to the 17th century. A pound of sugar could cost twice as much as a day’s pay for a laborer, the equivalent of about 100 dollars today. It seems unlikely that even the royal court would use large amounts of such a delicacy.
Kublai Khan lived in the 13th century but ate a very similar diet to Henry VIII. In the 1240s, John Plano of Carpini is quoted as describing their diet as consisting of, “neither bread nor herbs nor vegetables nor anything else, nothing but meat … They drink mare’s milk in very great quantities if they have it; they also drink the milk of ewes, cows, goats and even camels.”
Again, this was all grass-fed, organic meat and dairy with no hormones and no antibiotics, yet the results were disastrous for Kublai Khan, and most of the other Mongol rulers. According to Professor John Masson Smith from UC Berkeley:
Regular and plentiful consumption of high-calorie foods — especially horse-meat — had predictable consequences. Gout, according to Ibn Battuta, was a common affliction among the Mongols of the Golden Horde. In the Far East, Qubilai suffered from it for the last 27 years of his life; he also grew to be “grotesquely fat.” Nevertheless, he lived a very long life — 1215-1294 — for a Mongol ruler. Mongol men were not alone in overeating: in Rubruck’s view, the Mongol women were “wondrous fat.” Cardio-vascular problems, although not then subject to diagnosis, may be suspected as well.
So Joe Rogan is listening to people who are misleading him. People like Mark Sisson and Dave Asprey make ridiculous claims about diet, suggesting that a diet composed of mostly fatty meat and game can be a very healthy diet. Sisson states in Primal Blueprint, “If you’ve forgotten everything you ever learned in biology, just remember this and own it: carbohydrate controls insulin; insulin controls fat storage.”
Recent studies have shown this is completely wrong. Insulin can go up while fat loss occurs.
Asprey claims that adding coconut oil or ghee to coffee can make you bulletproof and improve mental clarity. Yet studies have shown that a single high-fat meal can decrease blood flow by 20%, and this continues for up to 12 hours after the high fat meal. Bulletproof? Hardly.
We can only hope that Rogan will come to his senses before he gets gout or becomes grotesquely obese, but even this all misses the point. The earth simply could not support its current population of human beings if all of them had to subsist on wild game. There are over 85 million beef cattle in the US at any given time. This is due to our voracious demand for meat.
The entire US has only 30 million deer. If hunters culled enough to feed the US, the deer would be gone in a year. There are only 300,000 moose, a snack at best for the American appetite. If people adhered to Rogan’s recommendations, all the wild game: rabbits, pheasant, ducks, geese, swans, deer, elk, moose, sheep and goats would be extinct in a short time.
The reason that agriculture exists in the developed world in the current fashion is that this is the only way to meet the current demand. That demand is what makes these inhumane, cruel, antibiotic and hormone intensive methods that Rogan decries, rightfully.
If Rogan really analyzes his beliefs, the appropriate response to factory farming isn’t to risk e. coli infections and trichinosis by eating wild-killed game, but to abandon the idea that you need animal protein. Dr. Garth Davis has written an outstanding book, Proteinaholic: How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It. He explodes the myths surrounding protein and shows clearly that you simply don’t need to worry about getting enough. According to Davis, “it’s virtually impossible to be protein deficient on a non-starvation diet.”
Healthy diets have frequently relied on starchy vegetables as a staple food. The Irish and Eastern European diet leaned heavily on the white potato. In 1835, the Irish ate 85% of their calories from potatoes yet had extremely low rates of diabetes by modern standards. Yet this is ignored by modern diet writers like Sisson and Asprey as they shill for increased fat in the diet.
Rogan’s solution can never solve the nutrition and health issues of the billions of people on our planet, which now has more obese people than underweight people. The correct response to the horrors of modern animal agriculture is to abandon the practice of purchasing its products and give up the idea that you need to eat anything that’s been killed at all. At least you will spare yourself a life of gout, unhealing leg sores and grotesque fatness.