The health benefits of eating raw meat?

(This post has been a while in coming, since I first mentioned our introduction to eating raw meat- it’s taken a while to research and write, and it’s quite long, so I’ll post it in a few segments. Enjoy!)

Steak tartare
This is completely new territory for me. Though I have been promoting raw dairy products for quite some time now, and I am a mighty big fan of sushi, I never imagined that I would actually be convinced that eating raw meat could possibly a good thing!

Nourishing Traditions has (so far) been my primary source of learning in this area, though I am aware that there are many others out there with similar opinions. The reasons listed for the inclusion of raw meat in the diet, and what it specifically offers nutritionally are many, and I will get into a few of them. First, though, I thought it was very interesting to note this:

“When Dr. Weston Price made his pioneering studies of primitive peoples around the world, he was struck by the fact that almost every group he visited age a certain amount of their animal protein raw.” Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

Almost every group! Now, my husband and I have had discussions regarding all of this “eating traditional foods” stuff, and one of his arguments (because he likes to play devil’s advocate with me to force me to think through my arguments more clearly), and so let’s state up front that just because almost every cultural group did it does not necessarily make it right or nourishing (though it does make it worth looking into).

Instead, let’s examine some of the arguments for (and against) and the studies or anecdotal evidence for it’s benefits (and quickly state that when I refer to raw animal products, I am referring to raw meat, of course, but also raw dairy and fish):

Raw animal products contains B vitamins that are difficult to obtain elsewhere

“Pyridoxine or B6 deficiencies are widespread in America, partly because our traditional source of this heat-sensitive vitamin- raw milk- is no longer sold commercially. It requires some courage to consume the best source of B6- raw liver. This leaves raw cheese, meat and fish as the only sure sources of B6, available to most Americans. When B6 is lacking, the pathways for use of vitamins B1 and B2 may be less effective, leading to widespread symptoms of B vitamin deficiencies. Deficiencies of B6 have been linked with diabetes, heart disease, nervous disorders, carpel tunnel syndrome, PMS, morning sickness, toxemia of pregnancy, kidney failure, alcoholism, asthma, sickle cell anemia and cancer… Americans would be wise to include raw meat or fish on a frequent basis to avoid these debilitating conditions.” Nourishing Traditions (bold mine)

“As with men, insufficient intake of certain nutrients can often make women less prone to become pregnant. Much research reveals that subnormal intake of vitamin B6 can diminish the chances of conception… Sometimes birth control pills diminish the amount of available vitamin B6 so that women who discontinue this oral contraceptive often cannot conceive until a year after cessation. Then, in one study, 98 percent of them taking vitamin B6 regularly resumed normal menstruation and became pregnant within four months. ” James F. Scheer, Health Freedom News

It was also noted that many Eskimos (who ate primarily raw fish and meat) become ill when switching
to a more modern diet, but experienced complete cure when switching back
to their native diet

The B vitamin complex in general is crucial to our health, and affects every system to some degree. B vitamins are crucial for things such as our nervous system, adrenal glands (which affect how we cope with stressors), our skin/eyes/hair/muscles, and especially enzyme and hormone production.

While
trying to become pregnant with my last child, I did much study into
infertility and hormonal imbalance (as I have PCOS, a hormonal disorder
that often causes infertility). One of the things that I came across
during that time was the use of B vitamins, specifically B6, to help
regulate one’s cycle, improve the length of the luteal phase (which is
necessary for a fertilized egg to successfully implant), and increase
chances of conception for various other reasons. B12 is also thought to
be related to maintaining fertility health.

I found it most interesting to note all of the material referenced in regards to infertility and problems within the female reproductive system, in a discussion of raw animal products and B vitamins, which brings me to my next point.

Raw animal products appear to improve hormonal and reproductive health

Here are a few other very intriguing things that I read while researching:

  • Among the Eskimo people, Weston Price was told of a physician’s observation that prior to eating a modern diet, the women had extremely healthy pregnancies and fast, uncomplicated deliveries. Once they began to move away from their native diet, the girls of that first new generation often had to be carried to the hospital after they  had been in labor for several days.
  • Raw milk and meat were used to bring about marked improvement in patients with hormonal or thyroid diseases, as well as disease of the prostrate gland.
  • In a truly fascinating study by Francis Pottenger, 900 cats were studied over a 10 year period, so that multiple generations were observed. One group was fed raw meat and meat, the other only cooked food. Of the raw group, they maintained good health, bone structure, normal behavior and the ability to reproduce normally. Among the cooked food group, there was much infertility, miscarriage and mothers or kittens dying in childbirth, as well as an inability to nurse. They had inconsistent bone structures, poor teeth, gum diseases, weak skulls, were irritable and dangerous to handle and lacked sex interest, among many other conditions. They did not live past the third generation, and that strain of cats was eliminated.

Please hear me when I say that clearly, humans are not the same as cats. It bothers me when this study is used (as I have seen it used several times before) to suggest that humans ought not to eat any cooked food, because look what happened to the cooked food cats in the study. Cats and humans have different dietary needs, however, I think that we can safely glean the fact that raw animal products, as compared to those that are cooked, provided something different that was essential to the health of those cats. We may be wise to consider whether those differences would have an effect on us as well.

Raw animal products contain crucial enzymes

“Enzymes are complex proteins that act as catalysts in almost every biochemical process that takes place in the body… the enzymes we need to consider when planning our diets are the third category, the food enzymes. These are present in ample amounts in many raw foods, and they initiate the process of digestion in the mouth and stomach.” Nourishing Traditions, pg 46

In addition to the food enzymes, the other enzymes that she refers to are those that our body makes, the majority of which are made in the pancreas. By eating solely cooked foods, we actually use up our bodies own stores of enzymes.

The thing about enzymes is that as we age, they decrease. Through much study done in the past 50-100 years, it appears evident that this decrease in enzymes is highly correlated to much of the degeneration (ie. sickness, effects of aging) that takes place in our bodies. Many studies have also shown that enzymes tend to be lower in those who are suffering from serious diseases.

The brilliant thing about traditional diets is that they included a vast amount of enzyme rich food- raw animal proteins and fats (in the form of raw dairy, raw fish, raw meat, and even raw organ meats), in addition to a certain amount of cultured and fermented foods (which I just talked about recently), as foods prepared with these methods are extremely rich in enzymes as well. Enzymes are also found in raw vegetables and fruit, as well as sprouted (or soaked or sourdough) grains, soaked or sprouted raw seeds, etc. although the enzyme content in these foods is not nearly as great as in raw animal foods, or cultured and fermented foods.

In addition to preserving the enzymes made by our bodies, eating foods rich in enzymes also encourages healthy digestion. Having good digestion cannot be praised enough, as this affects toxins in our body, nutrient absorption and assimilation, elimination, and many, many other areas of our health (a good reading resource on this topic is Eating Alive: Prevention Thru Good Digestion).

In the next post, I’ll talk more about the safety and whether this is ultimately a wise thing to include in our diets or not. What do you think so far? 

(Image credit)

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About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. claire milner says:

    I appreciate your article on this subject. I intuitively was drawn to eating raw meat since I was a child, and read about the benefits of eating raw meat in “Nourishing Traditions”. I have wondered about parasites, because apparently no matter how well the beef was raised, it seems as though they could still be a problem. My concerns were put to rest by their suggestion of freezing the meat for 2 weeks prior to eating it. However, I’ve recently heard that not all parasites die when the meat is frozen. Do you have any information about this?

  2. I’ve been eating raw meat, on and off, since childhood. I’ve yet to experience anything other than positive effects from it. And, in point of fact, the few times I’ve gotten sick on food has been from vegetables (handled badly) and chicken (which I – for the last 6 years – avoid as much as possible). The most immediate benefit I can say is: you feel energized. It’s the strangest thing. I’m not much for the new-agey hocus pocus of food; but, raw meat is – if I may be so bold – almost magic. I can eat an equivalent portion of cooked meat, and I get sweaty and hot, and feel just plain terrible. Equal portion of raw? I could kick my way through a brick wall. It’s almost…satisfying? Gratifying? Enjoyable – nonetheless. I’ve turned quite a few friends onto it, and they report the same thing. At least I’m not totally nuts, right? Anyway. My best piece of advice? When it comes to sourcing your meat the number one thing to look for isn’t ‘organic’, or ‘grass fed’ or what have you, the trick is to find a butcher who turns meat FAST. This may even turn out to be your local WalMart (oh my.). But, in all seriousness, if the place moves 1000 lbs of meat a day, your odds are better to get fresher meat, than say the local organic big box (you know who you are) who only turns 100lbs, and holds it for two days. Beyond that, if it doesn’t smell good, don’t eat it. Ask at the counter, if they don’t let you have a smell, find another place. Good meat smells delicious. Bad meat smells like the memory of meat. Skip it. You’ll get to know it. Add some cracked pepper, red onion, and a slice of marble rye. Good eatin’.

  3. I love raw meat, I’d love to own a slaughter house. God told man to have dominion of the creatures of the earth, with that command I enjoy every little bite of the moms cows tenderloin going in mouth, thank you Lord for the food you provide us, especially cows!

  4. MonaLisa says:

    This upsets me dearly, as a vegetarian and animal lover I can only think about these poor creatures that give their lives so that you could spread these lies :( It angers me since you proclaim yourself as Jesus lover which is ludicrous, Jesus would never condone suffering of animals, he spread love and compassion and you cannot be that since you looove raw meat so much. Humans can prosper on veggie based diet. We used to hunt and eat raw meat and we were healthier and stronger?? LOL give me a break! If first humans lived past 30 years of age that was a huge accomplishment! Same thing with Eskimo people, they eat mostly fish and meat and they their average life span is 50! Murdering innocent creatures is just wrong whichever way you look at it, there is no justification for that. We mass murder animals, we enslaved them, I don’t believe that Jesus is happy about all the abuse and that the lives that he created are being destroyed by humans.

    • I don’t think it’s fair to accuse the author like that… Did not God say to Noah after the flood that he may have animals for food? And Jesus *has* eaten meat during his time on earth – e.g. When he was on the beach cooking fish over fire after his resurrection.

      I agree that Jesus does not condone suffering and there are farming practices that are unruly… but that *doesn’t* mean that every single piece of meat is off-limits. What about free-range farming and people who actually kill their animals humanely?? People are of more value to Jesus than animals, so I don’t think it is right to put-down fellow Christians that way… as Jesus said in Matthew 15:11, what you eat *does not* defile you, or make you any more or less Christian. Rather, it is what comes out of a person’s heart. I believe he is more concerned about a person’s acceptance of salvation than whether or not they eat meat.

  5. miguel (15) says:

    You know? I since i heard about this stuff especially from my favorite book, the jungle book, it is a fact that humans are able, and in-need of eating these raw meat. Before fire was discovered all humans eat raw and they are taller, stronger and even healthier than modern people who are thin, fat and worst.. lazy. so do not believe most scientists in saying its bad cause it IS bad if you eat SICK meat. That is all…. for now… thank you.

  6. Hello there, I’ve recently begun eating raw meat…. lamb, beef liver, raw egg yolks, oysters, beef fat… all in the name of health. I don’t crave it… but suffer from so many health problems, PCOS being one of them, candida, lyme disease, chronic infections… etc. and the most devostating of all of these is I’ve lost about 75% of the hair on my head. Anyway, along with coconut oil, olive oil and raw veggies, nothing else for my diet… hoping for better health, and possibly that my hair will grow back… no more blood sugar crashes though, and no more leaky gut symptoms really… so that’s a relief. Health to all of you thank you for your comments too!

  7. Carolanne says:

    I am Inupiaq or what is sometimes referred to as Eskimo. In my generation the diet has changed as I have never eaten raw meat. My parents moved to the southern part of Alaska and our diets changed to the average American diet but with wild moose and salmon trickled in. I have a large family with sisters who have difficult pregnancies. I also am experiencing nervous system problems and have begun taking vitamins that support healthy adrenal gland functions and nervous systems. I also have difficulty with my digestion and heartburn and after reading this article I can start to make some sense of my families issues.

  8. i can go for some steak tartar right now!

  9. Jed Schulz says:

    Thank you for your insight :)

  10. I’ve a deep love of raw organ meats. Usually will chop them up into bite sized bits and freeze them to eat on occasion. Will go to the local organic food store or farmer’s market and either buy be a slab of ribeye or ground beef and eat it out off of the styrofoam bag. I am particular of where my meat comes from. : )

    And I’ve found a love as well for fermented meats, more done in the same way as fermented veggies. Fermented organ meats are delish!!

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