Husband Rock is in the kitchen cooking three pounds of pork for a stew to deliver to a co-worker who lost her husband unexpectedly. Sigh. I suggest that he turn on the stove fan, though, because the delicious smell is overwhelming my meat-craving receptors. I’m hoping we can keep a little for ourselves, selfish animal that I am.
So what it is about meat?
Well, it’s probably ‘in our genes’. I know there are many humans who, via necessity or choice, do not eat meat, or red meat, or pork, or fish, or anything with eyes, or anything produced by anything with eyes, etc…that’s the beauty of human consciousness – sometimes we really do have a choice. But for most of us, who can & do eat meat, the anticipation of it’s taste can be seductive, cooked-over-the-fire ‘cuts’ are especially delicious, & the more fat the better. Our hominin ancestors seriously started eating meat about 2.5 million years ago. Before then, there’s strong evidence that their main diet consisted of fruits, leaves and tubers, maybe small animals as they could catch them, & maybe shellfish if they lived near the sea.
Anthropologists have developed many narratives about the relationship between early humans’ increased meat consumption and a generally concurrent increase in average brain size – some of these theories are in disrepute due to their emphasis on the role of meat, &/or the assumed exclusive role of males in obtaining & controlling the supply of meat, &/or the exclusive role that meat & males played in the development of tools, increasing hominin brain size, & the enhancement of social group behaviors. For now, let’s just try to separate meat from males (putting aside the allure of barbecue for the guys) & try to picture what access to edible meat offered to our ancestors.
As I understand it, the generally-accepted meat theory goes like this: our primate ancestors of 2.5 million years ago probably first scavenged meat which had been killed & already mostly eaten up by other animals, or meat from animals which had died of natural causes. This jolt of protein helped increase their daily caloric intake vis a vis the energy it took for them to find & eat it, which helped them live on to keep digging roots & foraging fruit for a few more months.
Over time (many generations), they sought out these opportunities. They found things lying around (sharp rocks) which could help them scrape raw meat off bones. They figured out that the stuff lodged in the bones was pretty tasty too. Females shared this rich protein source with their children (& also kept digging those roots & gathering plants for the daily meal, maybe with the help of discarded animal horns or sticks). Males may have shared meat with females with whom they wanted to have sex. The higher protein-to-energy-output ratio helped feed their slowly (over tens of thousands of years) growing brains (the human brain now consumes about 25% of the calories we eat). They got better at finding & eventually making stone tools to get more meat off & out of those bones. In time, they figured out ways to kill larger animals, rather than just scavenge them, for the delectable bursts of protein that meat provided. Life went on with more & more food options for these various kinds of early humans, which helped with their survival & eventually turned them into full-blown omnivores.
Ergo, I accept that I’m an omnivore. I’m even happy to be an omnivore! Modern culture & processed food aside (more on that later), our human bodies seem to do best with a variety of foods, cooked & raw. Do some of us eat too much meat? – no doubt about it. We eat too much, period. But imho, meat isn’t the culprit. Honor those fellow creatures who provide us with meat.
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