Meat’S Ancient and Immediate Nutritional Advantages . . .

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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The meat of wild animals was by far the most concentrated natural source of protein and iron in the diet of our earliest human ancestors, and along with oily nuts, the most concentrated source of energy. (It’s also unsurpassed for several B vitamins.) Thanks to the combination of meat, calcium-rich leaf foods, and a vigorous life, the early hunter-gatherers were robust, with strong skeletons, jaws, and teeth. When agriculture and settled life developed in the Middle East beginning 10,000 years ago, human diet and activity narrowed considerably. Meats and vegetables were displaced from the diet of early farmers by easily grown starchy grains that are relatively poor in calcium, iron, and protein. With this and the higher prevalence of infectious disease caused by population growth and crowding, the rise of agriculture brought about a general decline in human stature, bone strength, and dental health.