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Ignoring the Importance of Fermented Foods (Inuit Paradox)

http://www.blog.sethrober…id-eskimos-eat/

Seth Roberts dug up some 1935 research that discusses the prevalence of fermented fish and oils in the Eskimo/Inuit diet. That research in combination with the observed “Inuit Paradox” (The Inuit diet consisting almost entirely of meat and Omega-3 rich fish fat) incited further research into the cardiovascular benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. Roberts point, which he’s made before regarding Weston Price’s findings, is that little attention has been paid to the fermented aspect of these ancient human diets.

As someone who regularly reads numerous blogs that discuss evolutionary fitness, diet, paleo-diets, etc., I can attest that Roberts is right: the fermented food angle is overwhelmingly ignored by people who should know better, with the notable exception of Stephen at Whole Health Source (Maybe one or two others have mentioned fermented foods in passing, but it is overwhelmingly given short shrift).

When I say the Paleo/evohealth pundits should know better, I mean that it just makes intuitive sense (whether the back-fitting story is ultimately true or not) that, prior to refrigeration and other modern food preservation technologies, human beings would have been forced to eat fermented foods. This would be for no other reason than the fact that (for example) a band of humans probably couldn’t polish off a wooly mammoth in one sitting. There would be leftovers; and no way were these hunter-gatherers going to let that hard-earned food go to waste!

Apply the same concept to fruits and vegetables ripening at a certain times of the year as well as other food-timing problems and you reach the unavoidable conclusion that human beings must have regularly eaten rotten or semi-rotten foods.

I suspect Seth Roberts is on to something.

[At first, Stefansson didn’t want to eat decayed fish.] While it is good form [in America] to eat decayed milk products and decayed game [well, well], it is very bad form to eat decayed fish. . . . If it is almost a mark of social distinction to be able to eat strong cheeses with a straight face and smelly birds with relish, why is it necessarily a low taste to be fond of decaying fish? On that basis of philosophy, though with several qualms, I tried the rotten fish one day, and if memory serves, liked it better than my first taste of Camembert. During the next weeks I became fond of rotten fish.

So Eskimos ate fermented whale oil and a lot of rotten fish. (”A lot” because if they didn’t eat a lot of it, Steffanson wouldn’t have felt pressure to eat it.) I had no idea that Americans used to eat decayed game.

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A better way to die?

http://www.proteinpower.c…ter-way-to-die/

Michael Eades talks about the implications of humans eating animals with regards to:

  • The symbiotic relationship created therein (i.e. there are more cows because humans like eating them – similar to trees and paper)
  • Relativistic comparisons between the humane harvesting of animals via slaughterhouses and the normal way millions of animals die every day in the wild — i.e. natural causes like a hawk tearing the lung of a crow and the crow dying of asphyxiation or lions causing an elephant to suffocate, etc.
  • Cortisol’s (stress hormone) meat-ruining impact incentivizing slaughterhouses to be humane, not stressing out the animals.

It’s a thought-provoking, well-written piece. The book referenced is one I should probably add to my wish list.

Here’s a snippet:

When animals (ourselves included) are stressed, they release cortisol, a hormone that looms large in the fight or flight response. This cortisol can be measured and used as an indicator of stress. Cattle are minimally tamed animals. They are by nature skittish. They don’t take well to being handled and, in fact, don’t really like to have people around. Dr. Grandin has taken cortisol samples from animals just standing around the farm with people within view and discovered that they have a slightly elevated cortisol levels. When she tests animals in properly designed slaughterhouses right as they reach the final station, she finds that they have similar cortisol levels as animals standing in the barnyard with humans present. In other words, a little stress, but not a lot.

I can pretty much assure anyone that these animals meet their deaths in today’s slaughterhouses with orders of magnitude less stress than they would were they living in the wild and being preyed upon by large carnivores. In fact, had they been living in the wild, they wouldn’t exist today. They would have been relegated to the long list of animals that have become extinct.

Let’s consider cattle. Cows are large, fairly placid, relatively slow, and exceptionally stupid. They are also uncommonly good to eat. All these facts taken together make it clear why cattle are still with us. (It also reminds me of a great and very true statement I heard once but can’t remember where: ‘If you want to preserve the American bald eagle, all you’ve got to do is make ‘em good to eat, and before long, you’ll be overrun with them.’) And not just a few specimens in zoos, but by the millions roaming pastures the world over. Cattle, unlike other wild animals, allowed themselves to be domesticated. Humans complied and domesticated them. A covenant arose between humans and cattle in which we provided for them and they for us. We kept them safe and allowed them to breed and survive as a species; they provided us with meat in return. It’s been a great bargain for all sides. Although any individual steer trudging off to slaughter may not see it this way, the covenant has been a godsend for the breed, which has grown and prospered. There is a wonderful book titled The Covenant of the Wild detailing this animal-man symbiotic relationship that should be on everyone’s bookshelf, especially anyone’s who doesn’t feel right about eating meat or who is being relentlessly hounded by vegetarian friends or family. Although it’s never pleasant to think of animals being put to death so that we can eat them, it is reassuring to know that it is done as stresslessly as possible. If done right, with almost no stress at all. If, however, the PETA folks had their way, these animals would be turned away from the slaughterhouse doors and sent to live out their days peacefully on lush pastures somewhere.

If this vegan fantasy came to pass, what would happen to these cattle? Would their deaths be more or less stressful than at the hands of their human handlers? You probably know the answer, but let’s take a look. And, remember, not for the squeamish.