For the entirety of our existence, humans have eaten meat. We didn’t evolve to eat meat; we evolved because our prehuman ancestors ate meat. Our Australopithecus ancestors started eating meat 2.6 million years ago. Eating meat led to the development of tools, like knives and fire, to more efficiently process that meat. And as our ancestors developed tools, their teeth got smaller, their jaws more muscular, their skulls and brains larger. Eventually, we started domesticating animals, settling in stationary locations, and building cities, developing societies and cultures. Without meat, we wouldn’t be who we are.
But there’s a narrative right now that says the opposite. You’ve probably heard it. You’ve probably heard it just about everywhere: on social media, on television, from your politicians. This recently devised narrative says that meat is bad for humans, that we aren’t meant to eat meat, and that eating meat is detrimental to the health of our planet. If this narrative is to be believed, the legacy of meat will be a bad one. The legacy of meat will mean planetary destruction. It’ll mean increased greenhouse gas emissions and colon cancer and global devastation.
In a way, this narrative is accurate. Conventionally raised meat—from animals stuffed into feedlots and fed processed and genetically modified “foods” they were never meant to eat—is hurting the planet, and it’s hurting the people eating it, too. These industrialized and commoditized animal operations should be illegal and abolished. But getting rid of meat would be just as bad—if not worse—for all involved. Getting rid of meat would result in growing more plant based agriculture which is dependent on tilling, spraying chemicals, and fighting nature. More plant based monoculture agriculture will only further degrade our already depleted soil. It means upsetting the balance of our planet’s precious ecosystems even more than we already have. It means taking away one of the most nutrient-dense foods available to humans and replacing it with fake food filled with glyphosate, oils and anti-nutrients.
The current narrative would have you believe there are only two options for the legacy of meat: total planetary devastation, or the elimination of meat altogether.
At Force of Nature, we’re determined to push back against this narrative. Because, until a hundred-or-so years ago, the legacy of meat was quite different. Ruminant animals—like bison and elk—roamed the world’s grasslands freely, eating the grasses, nourishing the soil with their waste, stimulating the environment to create thriving homes for other living creatures—from birds to insects to fungi to the microscopic organisms that make up our gut microbiomes. And these animals had a crucial, balanced relationship with us humans as well. We ate them, sure, but we took only as much as we needed in order to thrive as a species. In some cultures, this relationship wasn’t just a biologically necessary one, but a deeply spiritual one. In North America, for example, bison were considered sacred creatures by indigenous cultures—majestic beings that provided food, clothing, and tools—and were respected as such. This—respect, cooperation, mutually assured enrichment—was the legacy of meat.
It’s only because of careless, selfish human intervention that this legacy has changed to one of devastation and threatens to become one of a meatless world entirely. Which is why we have a responsibility to reclaim the legacy.
To reclaim the legacy of meat is to reverse the narrative. To do this, we must first acknowledge the truth that humans and other animals are part of a symbiotic system in which each creature serves the others. Then we must change our practices and reintegrate our animal agriculture with the environment. To reclaim the legacy of meat is to take back our health and our planet by sticking to the long-serving, tried-and-true methods via which we and our planet evolved. It means replenishing our soil by raising our animals humanely and regeneratively. It means taking back our health by acknowledging that we evolved into humans only because we began eating meat in the first place. In a way, it even means taking back our spirituality—by remembering that all relationships on this planet are symbiotic, that we’re all part of a cycle of life, a food chain, a natural system in which respect, appreciation, and gratitude for all living things is crucial and sacred.
Reclaiming the legacy of meat means working together, as a team, every one of us: ranchers, farmers, land stewards, educators, politicians, consumers, you, me, “us,” “them.” Only then can we ensure the well-being of our species, all species, and our planet.