Have you ever stopped and thought about what you actually eat, such as the amount and variety of foods that you eat? Most of us eat the same handful of products day by day, just in different variations. Nowhere is this more obvious than when we look at our meat consumption.
Our dietary protein intake is dominated by four animals – cow, pig, sheep and chicken – all of which produce totally domesticated meat.
I have often wondered what the impact of homogenizing our diets like this has had on us, not just from a physical health perspective but also from a psychological perspective. What would happen if we decided to eat just wild meat? And can it even be achieved in our society?
Paleo is a continuum of experimentation, not an end state or goal. It’s also not a ‘one size fits all’ diet. For newcomers to the lifestyle it’s fantastic to have a template or set of guidelines – something to work towards and aim for. However most people who have been following a paleo lifestyle for more than a few months would know that the key to finding what works for you is self experimentation. I view paleo as an ongoing experiment, a continuum, where I am constantly trialing novel ways (or very, very old ways) to improve my health.
Why I quit domesticated meat
You are what you eat
We as humans are the way we are because of the environment we have evolved in. The survival pressures, climate, terrain and – to a very large extent – our food shaped us into the species we are today, as is the case with every species on the planet. However we have now changed our food source dramatically from what we evolved with. Historically speaking even the most civilized or domesticated periods of our existence had us consuming at least some wild meats.
Today we have a very different story, with the vast majority of people’s meat consumption coming mostly or totally from farmed animals.
The reluctant controller
We now control our food source – totally. If we were created from our environment (including what we ate) and we now control that environment to a very high degree, it can be argued that we have accidentally taken control of our evolution. It appears though that if we are taking control of our destiny, we’re doing it fairly reluctantly, or at least ignorantly.
The great disconnect
Many of us are very disconnected to our food sources nowadays. The meat we consume is packaged as a product with names that take care not to remind us of what animal this came from. This meat comes from animals that are often disconnected from their natural habitat (to say nothing of how they are treated). This may sound odd to some but as someone who has hunted, I am deeply concerned with the welfare and treatment of animals. We shouldn’t hide away and disconnect from the source of our food, we should embrace it, with eyes open. And if we can’t stomach it, then perhaps we shouldn’t be eating meat so blindly.
Some of the lessons learnt
Obtaining Wild Meat
Wild meat is harder to obtain and therefore often more expensive than ‘regular’ meat. This would be the first hurdle for most people to overcome. Sometimes it is possible to obtain large quantities cheaper, and some people may have the opportunity to hunt for their food.
There has been an increase in wild meat availability recently, and many butchers and supermarkets now stock a variety of meats including kangaroo, crocodile, boar, goat, rabbit and bison. Personally I’ve been able to track down possum and emu in a local organic market as well, including an emu egg.
As someone who eats a fair amount of organ meats (liver, kidney, brain, heart) I have been surprised by the lack of wild varieties available. I have found emu liver (which made a powerful but tasty pâté) and the odd kangaroo offal here and there but on the whole there isn’t much available. Bones and joints are also difficult to find (for bone broth) unless you’re willing to buy wild bones that are designated as ‘dog food’ (note: I’m not above that).
One the biggest things I’ve had to account for is eating out and with friends. For the most part I just try and pre plan by either bringing my own or by eating before I go out.
Where you take your own personal eating habits is totally up to you. It is a good idea to continue to push for more information, to continue to try new things and to open your eyes to the reality our food system; to keep thinking and to keep eating new and interesting things.