watsui cattle

This incredible photo was taken by renowned animal photographer Marina Cano.

All meat is considered to be fair game (pun intended!) on a Zero Carb diet. But many Zero Carb practitioners have stated that they feel much more satiated after eating beef than other meats such as chicken and fish. This is interesting given that one study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that test subjects experienced greater satiety after eating a fish meal, compared to beef or chicken.

The scientists ascribed these results to the fact that fish has 6 times the amount of the amino acid taurine, as either beef or chicken. However, I was not able to determine the amount of fat present in the study test meals, and I strongly suspect that they were all lean cuts. Nevertheless, adding extra fat – such as butter – to fish or chicken meals, still seems to be less satisfying for most Zero Carb-ers than eating naturally fatty beef. The results of this study really don’t make sense in light of all the anecdotal reports of Zero Carb-ers feeling more satisfied for longer periods after eating beef, but one study – involving only 6 test subjects – is hardly definitive anyway.

Chicken as meat is a fairly recent addition to the American diet. Prior to the mid-1900s, chickens were raised almost exclusively for egg production. The only time a chicken was cooked was when she had out-lived her usefulness as a layer. Then, she was liable to be put into a stock pot and transformed into bone broth or soup. This all changed as the anti-fat propaganda took hold thanks to the erroneous, unscientific work and personal agenda of Ancel Keys. (Please see The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz for the full story.)

It is also highly unlikely that birds comprised any significant part of the early human diet. When scientists recently examined the skeletal remains of a 19,000 year old woman known as the “Red Lady,” who was found in a cave in northern Spain, they were able to determine that she derived 80% of her calories from hooved animals (i.e. red meat) and the other 20% from fish. Aside from a few mushrooms, her consumption of plant foods appeared to be almost non-existent. (Please see Red Lady Cave Burial Reveals Stone Age Secrets in the New Scientist for the full story.)

There is a whole school of thought within the anthropological and archaeological communities that subscribes to the idea that the consumption of seafood was instrumental in the development of our huge, energy hungry brains. This theory is based on the fact that we have about 3 times as much DHA in our brains as our closest relative, the Chimpanzee. DHA is an omega 3 fatty acid which is most abundant in seafood. (Please see Nutrition and Evolution: Food in Evolution and the Future by Michael Crawford for the full story.)

However, DHA is also present in the brains of other animals, and it may well be that our unprecedented brain growth came as a result of tools and techniques that we developed which allowed us to break open the skulls of large animals and eat their brains. This would have provided us with both more calories and more omega 3. (Please see Man, The Fat Hunter by Miki Ben-Dor for the full story.)

Either way, the case can certainly be made for the inclusion of some fish in our diet today, though it was probably not the main meat of choice for any human society until the availability of large game animals began to dwindle. Fish is also quite a bit higher than beef in the amino acid methionine, and too much methionine has been shown to cause oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA in rats. Humans are obviously not the same as rats, but the study results certainly warrant further investigation. Even the sea-based diets of Native Arctic cultures have traditionally eaten the meat of seals and whales, rather than fish.

This brings me to another point worth considering. Humans are mammals. Chickens and fish are not mammals. I am going to go out on a limb here and speculate that the meat of mammals simply provides more of the nutrients that we humans – who also happen to be mammals – need for optimal health and longevity. After beef, the second most satisfying meats for those eating a Zero Carb diet are lamb and pork. This is not too surprising since sheep and pigs are also mammals and may – therefore – have a more complete nutrient profile than fish or birds. Similarly, whales and seals are also mammals and are the sea-version of “hooved” animals.

Finally, I have noticed that my dog has a definite preference for red meat. I have raised him on a raw meaty bone diet since I brought him home to live with me at the age of 10 weeks. But, I have fed him a diet comprised almost exclusively of chicken and turkey because those were the most most affordable option. However, about 2 years ago, the chicken started making him ill, which I attribute to widespread contamination of antibiotic resistant bacteria present in commercial poultry operations. This is a fairly recent phenomenon, as I fed my dog lots of chicken without incident for the first 6 years of his life. Then everything changed and he started to experience vomiting and diarrhea after eating it. When I switched him to pork, lamb, and beef, he did not get sick.


Sasha with his favorite ball!

Interestingly, even when I fed him good quality chicken that was not contaminated, he was never particularly thrilled to eat it. And he actually refused to eat anymore turkey even though it was not making him sick. He just did not seem to like it the taste of it very much. He is not super motivated by food anyways and much prefers to play with his ball. Nevertheless, he gets appreciably more excited about eating pork, lamb, and beef than he ever did about chicken or turkey. If I was to layout a selection of each kind of meat for him to choose from, I am certain he would preferentially select beef first, then pork or lamb, and then chicken as a last resort. This, along with the reports of so many Zero Carb-ers claiming to feel more satisfied from beef than any other meat, has got me thinking that maybe my dog also needs something in red meat that is just not present in birds or fish.

New research has shown that dogs and humans evolved together and literally domesticated each other. By working together, humans and wolves became more successful hunters, and this process changed us – both physically and socially – and made us who we are today. Dogs are the only other creatures on the planet that are capable of accurately reading human emotion, and they learned to do this because it gave them a survival advantage. (Please see The Animal Connection:A New Perspective on What Makes Us Human by Pat Shipman for the full story.) If this is true, it would make perfect sense that our canine companions – who are also mammals – would have likewise evolved on a predominantly red meat (i.e. hooved animals) diet.

Beef – with sufficient fat – has proven itself to be a complete food, as the experience of The Andersen’s so clearly demonstrates. For 17 years, they have eaten almost nothing but Rib Eye steaks, and not only did they experience recovery from serious illness, but they have conceived, birthed, and raised two healthy boys on this amazing food. Joe recently commented in the Facebook group Principia Carnivora,

“The Auroch is the precursor to today’s cattle. The Auroch was found in Northern Africa during the Pliocene period onwards until the last known Auroch died in 1627. Eventually man domesticated the Auroch giving us what we now know as our cattle. The Aroch was huge, nearly twice as big as our present cattle. In my humble opinion, judging by the fact that an overwhelming number of ZCers thrive on beef (not chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, lamb etc…) we must have consumed a major portion of our early diet in the form of Auroch. I can only dream of how HUGE the ribeyes must’ve been!”

(To read the details of their experience, please see Zero Carb Interview: The Andersen Family.)

If you are concerned about the environmental impact of raising beef cattle for human food consumption, I highly recommend the thoughtful and balanced exploration of this issue by the long-time vegetarian and environmental lawyer, Nicolette Hahn Niman, who became a cattle rancher: Defending Beef:The Case for Sustainable Meat Production.

5 thoughts on “Beef

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