Meat and Sausages
Non Recipes, Nutrition

In defense of meat

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Eating meat is deeply entrenched across most cultures across the world. Humans have based their diets on animal flesh since prehistoric times. It’s assumed by many scientists, that the willingness to eat meat has been a big factor as to why we evolved to who we are.

However, the amount of meat we eat has changed significantly over time. According to the USDA, meat consumption in the US has increased in the last 100 years from around 100 pounds a year per person to between 160-180 pounds a year today.

Graph of the meat consumption in the US
The rise of meat consumption in the US over the last 100 years. Source: Earth Policy Institute

For Germany, the data doesn’t look too different. There’s a decline in meat consumption during the post-war period 1950, but overall, the meat consumption in the year 2010 was more than 4 times higher than meat consumption in 1850.

Graph of the meat consumption in Germany
Per capita meat consumption in Germany, 1850-2010 (in kg). Source: WWF

The sharp increase in meat consumption is mostly due to an increase in wealth, intensified urbanization, and better meat production technology. Meat can be packaged under protective atmospheres to keep it fresh longer and most Western households nowadays own a fridge or freezer for longer storage.

During the rapid growth period, a meat-based diet was seen as a symbol of wealth. But not just that, meat was also seen as nourishing. As strange as that might sound today regarding the rise of veganism.

I think the thought of seeing meat as something nourishing is much more prevalent in African and Asian cultures nowadays. And in my opinion, it’s a shame that we sometimes tend to see meat as evil in the Western hemisphere.

The health benefits of meat consumption

Like your grandma always said, chicken soup can really cure a cold! According to science, chicken soup:

  • is anti-inflammatory and
  • increases the movement of nasal fluids.

But not it’s not just chicken soup that is nourishing. Here are my top three reasons why you shouldn’t go vegan.

1. Vitamin B12

Some essential vitamins like Vitamin B12 can primarily be found in meat. It is not uncommon for vegetarians to be Vitamin B12 deficient. Foods that are especially rich in Vitamin B12 include:

  • Liver
  • Clams
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Milk
  • Ham
  • Eggs

2. High-Quality Protein

Meat is also an exceptional source for high-quality protein. Proteins are basically long strands of amino acids. You might know that there are nine essential amino acids that our body can’t produce by itself. And guess what, these essential amino acids are present in high amounts in animal protein. That’s the reason why protein from animal sources has such a high biological value.

The biological value of proteins (table)
Biological value and digestibility of different proteins. Source: Protein – Which is Best?

3. Iron

Red Meat is a good source for iron as well. And before you start shouting at me that lentils and nuts are as well, let me tell you this: Iron is present in meat in its haem form. The haem form of iron has an absorption rate of 20-30 %, while the non-haem form, which is mostly found in plants, only has an absorption rate between 5-15 %. It’s much more efficient to eat meat to ensure optimum iron supply.

A word of warning

I don’t want to encourage you to eat tons of meat with this post but rather show that it is a valuable and nourishing ingredient in one’s diet and that eliminating it completely might not be the best decision for your health.

If you’re overdoing it, the health benefits of meat will quickly turn into health risks. High meat consumption is linked to the development of:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes and
  • an increased mortality

I like to limit my meat consumption to about 3-4 days a week. And so should you. That way you get to enjoy the health benefits of meat without setting your health at risk.

Aside from nutrition, I also think that without meat, German cuisine would be so much more limited. Meat has a depth of flavor that, in my opinion, cannot be found in any plant product. I will never choose a light vegetable broth over a rich bone broth.

Beef bones
Broths and sauces without bones lack strength.

Sauces without meat lack strength and character. Gelatin from bones is one of those miraculous ingredients that gives sauces their characteristic stickiness and textures. I honestly don’t know how to replicate that from plant sources.

Dumplings filled with meat will always satisfy me more than dumplings filled with some kind of grain. The meat dumplings have a much better texture and taste so much more savory.

So, I will probably never get a true vegetarian. But as you might’ve learned today, that isn’t necessary at all. In fact, I get to enjoy many health benefits from the meat I consume.

References:

An Inside Scoop on the Science Behind Chicken Soup and the Common Cold

Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation

Protein – Which is Best?

The role of red meat in the diet: nutrition and health benefits

Health Risks Associated with Meat Consumption: A Review of Epidemiological Studies.

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