I am thinking here of the "meat industrial complex" that powers a lot of large commercial meat production, not the friendly sustainable organic farm where I am sure we all shop.
Our brains are big enough now after generations of evolution. Time to put those big brains to use so we can figure out how to continue the existence of the human species. I really doubt it'll be by continuing to eat lots of cows.
1. Is is healthy to eat meat?
2. Is it right to eat meat?
3. Is it healthy to eat sustainable organic meat?
4. Is it right to eat sustainable organic meat?
In particular, I'm thinking of Joel Salatan's brand of sustainable agriculture and permaculture.
From a naive min-max approaching to building your diet, it generally pops up that -some- meat is super useful. Simply by doing that you ease all sorts of constraints on your diet, and allows you to optimize your veggies/grains for other stuff, instead of desperately trying to get all your iron and B12 in. Even from an overall energy budget point of view, -some- meat is super useful. There are large amounts of marginal land that is not really useful for large scale cultivation, but perfectly usable as feedland for free ranging animals.
farm raised alantic salmon have a feed to gain ratio of about 1.2, which is amazing (cattle are about 5x worse)
Also, there are some serious doubts about whether veganic farming could support current global population levels (manure is a great fertilizer!)
Of course things get more complicated in terms of efficiency when you start thinking about dairy and fertilizer and hide production.. the thinking around permaculture ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture ) takes this "whole system" approach to agriculture and would be necessary if you wanted to e.g. create a self-sustaining colony on mars.
I think we can safely assume the optimal balance is neither all plant nor all animal, but I am in no position to hazard a guess as to what the optimal balance is.
We're so far off from sustainable production of either plants or animals that the question isn't on most people's radar.
I would readily accept that almost everything about my life is drastically different from the environment in which my ancestors evolved. Those differences seem to have both positive and negative ethical and health consequences.
I also find it hard to resolve the ethical dilemma of eating meat when my body responds so favourably to consuming animal fats. I think the least one can do is to make an effort to try to source locally produced free-range products, but sadly this is difficult for many as it's expensive or simply not available.
With various negative aspects such as that, combined with negative ecological effects there exists a huge market ripe for disruption.
Err... bigger isn't always better, but I won't say no to a bigger noggin.
> Time to put those big brains to use so we can figure out how to continue the existence of the human species.
I wasn't aware we were heading toward extinction? There are billions of us, you know?
> I really doubt it'll be by continuing to eat lots of cows.
I like chickens, turkeys, goats, sheep, and all the other domesticated animals too. There's fish as well. Oh, and there's pigs too. I don't think we've ever relied on a single animal for sustenance?
There is evidence that our heads would have kept growing if it wasn't for the fact that it makes it pretty likely that women will die in childbirth. So instead evolution got around this by having us born earlier, which is why we're basically born as fetuses compared to most animals. But there's a limit to that too of course.
In my state of NJ, roughly 50% of babies are "born" by c-section. So that limit seems to be a little fuzzy at the moment.
Also, a lot of studies indicate that the kind of meat the humans ate when their brains grew was much more on the frog/bird/misc small animals side than on domesticated cattle.
 The edible story of food / Guns, germs & steel
This supports the theory that meat fueled human brain
evolution because meat — from arachnids to zebras — was
plentiful on the African savanna, where humans evolved, and
is the best package of calories, proteins, fats and Vitamin
B12 needed for brain growth and maintenance.
Um... answer's right there. Indeed this was the case on the African savannah, pre-agriculture.
We're no longer living in that environment. In the 21st century it's trivial to get sufficient calories, vitamins, and a balanced diet without eating meat.
Other points about our environment: (1) Relative to the African savannah, most of us burn many fewer calories per day. Fat asses in front of a computer instead of chasing down antelope, yanno. (2) We live 3x as long now, so our health concerns are different. That high-calorie blob of fat is tasty because it meant not freezing to death at age 16 and hence those taste buds were strongly selected for. Today we don't have that concern, and all those fat blobs may mean living to 60 instead of 80.
The survival needs of proto-humans on the savannah 100kya are not a very good guide to nutrition and health in the 21st century.
Science has a long ways to go before proving anything conclusively, but I can say from my experience working with thousands of folks on their diets, I have seen numerous vegans and vegetarians who have added meat back into their diets have excellent results with their physical performance and body composition.
Since isolating direct causation and long term effects are very difficult, I really appreciate these archaeological studies. I think from an intuitive perspective, it makes sense that humans would function well consuming the things we evolved to consume. Not saying that's the end-all, but it's a good place to start.
This is irresponsible journalism.
Also, archaeologists who don't know about nutrition should probably not talk about nutrition as if they did. There are plenty of non-animal sources of B12, including soil (you know, where vegetables grow?).
Lots of psuedoscience in there.
Any B12(-like) substances that are in plants (e.g., spirulina) are unlikely to be in a form that's bioavailable to human beings.
Vegans have to take B12 supplements of some sort or eat foods that have been fortified with B12. That's just a fact.
I'm not sure what your point is.
>Any B12(-like) substances that are in plants (e.g., spirulina) are unlikely to be in a form that's bioavailable to human beings.
Yes, this is true.
>Vegans have to take B12 supplements of some sort or eat foods that have been fortified with B12. That's just a fact.
Modern vegans do need to take supplements, yes. The question is whether vegans in the ancestral environment would have gotten sufficient B12 from eating unwashed vegetables and roots. As far as I know, research is lacking on that point, but it is plausible.
As for eating enough soil to get enough B12, that's also absurd.
Observing the present and inferring about the past without a testable hypothesis is not proof of anything. It is storytelling. Gorillas didn't evolve into humans, we probably have a common ancestor and if we had more evidence on that common ancestor we could probably come up with what actually happened. The article and the research connected to it is nothing short of speculative fiction aimed at getting funding with a catchy headline.
Elephants evolved in the same environment, are vegetarians, don't cook their food, and have the largest brains of any land animal.
Perhaps the caloric requirements of a brain are driven by the number of moving parts. The article suggested a "calories per neuron" metric.
The tradeoff between digestion and cognition suggests that adaptations are rarely cost neutral, and explains why random traits don't just improve forever. (ie, why we don't all have eyes like hawks).
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it can't be found in plants, but it can be found in animals and it can be produced industrially.
But first you have to get to brewing/fermenting, which isn't a year round process until you have leveled up on a bunch of other skills