Of Meat and Reverence
Posted on December 13th, 2011
You really should think about eating more protein…Or less. Well, I suppose it all just depends.
Haven’t you heard? Meat is murder. Meat is life. Are you are carnivore? An omnivore with a dilemma? Maybe you’re thinking about turning vegetarian or militant vegan. For crissakes, anything but veganism!
So what will it be? Who should you believe?
As with all matters nutrition, fitness, or spirituality, my opinion is that you start by looking within. In this case, you start with inspecting your very own flesh and bone.
How about a little science? Ok, here we go.
In 2004, Hansell Stedman and his colleagues published a very interesting study. Those results have a little something to do with the question at hand.
I want you to take a moment and think about your head. Yes, your head. Just move your mouth around a little. Open and close your jaw. Maybe chew on a little something. Do you feel those muscles working? Do you notice how they attach to your jaw? How they fan up and anchor into your skull?
Maybe you’ve never thought about it. Maybe these sorts of details escape your routine consideration. They shouldn’t. As it turns out, these particular details have a lot to do with why you can even call yourself human.
What Hansell noticed is that, oddly enough, we humans have a very peculiar little adaptation. Specifically, it’s a mutation that affects the function of a myosin protein in our jaw muscle. This suppresses the growth and force production capability of these muscles.
Yes, it’s curious. But you may ask, “Compared to what?” Well, compared to every other primate species we can think of.
Take a look at the following figure from the study authors. The first two columns are skulls from our distant relatives. You’ll notice a large fin structure running down the back of the head. This is the anchor point for a set of large and very powerful jaw muscles. The structure gives the muscles something to pull against.
But there’s a big downside for the common monkey or ape. It’s possible that all that jaw muscle also limits the space for your brain. In nature, it seems you just can’t have your cake and eat it too. Something has to give (unless we’re talking about Planet of the Apes movies).
The exact cause is of this novel little mutation is unknown. It could have been from environmental radiation. It could have been from something we were all eating. We’ll likely never know. But thanks to Hansell’s work, we do know that it likely happened about 2 million years ago, right around the time when big ass human brains start popping up in the fossil record.
Pretty cool stuff.
Look, I can sympathize with the vegetarian/vegan cause. I really can. But we must face a very simple fact. We are human because of meat. It’s a fact that is woven into our DNA, our physical structure…our everything.
In a bygone ancient world, some primate spent the better part of his day parked underneath a large tree. He likely passed hour after hour reaching out with his mighty arms and grabbing giant patches of vegetation. He then would start to chew…and chew….and chew. Hours and hours spent grinding down fibrous roughage.
It reminds me of the panda’s at our local zoo. I’ve never seen them do anything other than eat bamboo.
But in our history, something changed. Somewhere along the line, we lost that chewing power. But it didn’t matter. By that time we had begun to move away from fibrous plants, on to a new diet. One that was filled with meat – freshly caught, grass-fed, roasted, tender meat.
We now had an easy to process, efficient, plentiful food source (there just happened to be lots of wooly, meaty animals running around). A diet rich in protein and fat (pretty handy stuff when you’re looking to grow yourself a big, fancy brain).
Instead of chewing, we could all sit around a fire with full belly’s. Content, we had the time to talk and socialize, to carve flutes from the bones of the day’s kill. We could pull a piece of charcoal from the fire and turn our gaze towards an empty cave wall.
This is the very source of our art, music, language, science, spirituality…our humanity. It’s made possible by meat. And there lies our answer today.
The next time you walk into a grocery store, think about your food before you buy it. Take a look at the products laid out by your local butcher. Where did it come from? Did it roam freely? Was it feed a natural diet? Was it dispatched ethically?
Yeah, there are very important nutritional reasons for asking those questions. Just click here for your reference.
But there’s also the very important issue of reverence. Meat shouldn’t be about eating canned Vienne sausages while you enter your 12th hour of Modern Warfare 3 gameplay. It’s not about the 5 pounds for $5 deal you got on your ground beef at the local Wal-Mart. This is just a deeply disrespectful and unsustainable practice. It’s the exact opposite of the idealistic Native American image, where every single scrap of an animal is utilized. A time when we gave a shit about where the food came from, and the true cost of it.
We should do better. We can do better.
Before you put the fork in your mouth, remind yourself of what that meat affords you. Remember what makes you human.
- Forks over Knives? (organaholic.com)
- Blisstree Writers Debate: Is It Possible To Eat Meat Humanely? (blisstree.com)
- Cruelty in the Vegetarian Community! (heroblues.wordpress.com)