13

votes

What's wrong with saying that paleo is about lean meat?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created October 26, 2010 at 6:43 PM

I noticed some paleos took issue with meat in the paleo diet being described in the media as "lean".

Isn't it true that wild and pastured meat tends to be quite lean? Farm animals in factory farms are fattened up, fed lots, kept in a sedentary lifestyle.

It seems odd for some people who describe themselves as paleo who eat dairy fat (butter) to mock lean meat as not paleo. Butter does not come from the Paleolithic.

Please don't confuse this as trolling, I really don't get why it would be a problem for people to think paleo diet was based around lean meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. sounds like an authentic hunter-gatherer diet to me.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 09, 2012
at 05:18 AM

Because Jimmy Moore says a healthy low carb lifestyle is low carb (naturally), moderate protein (watch that 'lean meat'), and HIGH FAT! So obviously that last component is most important. Yeah, I suppose lean meat is fine - just make sure you ADD FAT. Slather butter on that ribeye; drench that lean cut of beef in coconut oil; etc., etc.!

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on January 26, 2011
at 12:18 AM

Well, I think atl-atl's were probably used by then as well as dogs, but hey, I don't think I would even face down a cave bear with a gun!

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on January 20, 2011
at 04:21 AM

The organs have more carbohydrate than the muscle meat.

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on January 20, 2011
at 04:19 AM

If you are obese or need to lose weight and/or have a broken metabolism, eat fat ala panu et al. If you are already lean and your metabolism is ok, you can substitute carbohydrates for fat. I think a lot of paleo controversy is due to these two approaches.

Medium avatar

(2169)

on January 20, 2011
at 02:06 AM

man, what BAMFs early humans were, killing cave bears with "little more than pointed sticks"

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on November 02, 2010
at 04:02 PM

My point is that wild animals, including megafauna, tend to be very lean relative to a feedlot cow, which is morbidly obese by anyone's definition. Modern farm animals in general tend to be fatty relative to their wild cousins, with unhealthy altered fatty acid profiles to boot.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on November 02, 2010
at 03:18 PM

I don't think deer is a good example of what paleolithic people primarily ate. Obviously we haven't hunted them to extinction like we did mammoth, cave bear, buffalo (near extinction) and the other megafauna that have higher fat content. Why? Because they are preferred to deer, which are quite lean.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 27, 2010
at 02:35 PM

No no, it was artful! But larger animals might not necessarily mean significantly more fat (percentage wise).

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on October 27, 2010
at 01:23 PM

@melissa: good point. I love and eat the fat that is on most of the grassfed meat i eat but yes relative to factory crap it prolly is lean.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on October 27, 2010
at 03:59 AM

Lean is relative. The meat I eat IS lean compared to the factory farmed bloated animals most Americans eat.

D738a5b2a67f3c36518a2ac9f32d27af

(821)

on October 27, 2010
at 02:45 AM

Ditto above--what does "lean meat" mean exactly? It's just a buzzphrase unless we can define it. *Then* we can decide if it's good for us or not.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 27, 2010
at 12:15 AM

And there is still a larger issue of total fat intake among paleos, which this question raised. Some paleos eat lots of fat, ala Panu, while others follow Cordain/Wolf's recommendations.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 27, 2010
at 12:13 AM

Kilton: Maybe there is a semantic issue here. I agree that we should be concerned with the fatty acid profiles of the meat we eat--to a point. But since wild game exhibits a beneficial fatty acid profile, as does grass-fed beef, there is no reason to overthink this. Just eat wild game, or grassfed beef, or the equivalent, and you'll get healthy meat and fats. Maybe "lean" isn't specific enough and we need a new word like "paleomeat," or something, to indicate paleo-suitability of meats and to differentiate paleo-meat from unhealthy industrial meat.

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on October 26, 2010
at 11:51 PM

Mark: What does "lean" mean? Let's try and be specific. "Leaner than domestic livestock" is much more useful than just "lean". "Lean" to the average person reading about Paleo in the NYTimes probably means 90% fat-free ground beef. A far cry from Cordain's wild game data: http://www.thepaleodiet.com/articles/Final%20Fatty%20Acid%20PDF.pdf

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 11:39 PM

Yes, saturated. But it's saturated fat intake which seems to be controversial in paleo circles. No one argues that we don't get enough seed oils, e.g.

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on October 26, 2010
at 11:36 PM

The 10-15% figure is *saturated* fat, not total fat.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 10:49 PM

or d) paleolithic humans ate wild game, which is lean. If the point of the paleodiet is to try to recreate that ancient diet, then you'd want to eat wild game, or "lean meat."

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 10:39 PM

Kamal-yes, you're right about N. American flora/fauna, but Eurasia also experienced an extinction event at about the same time, and numerous prey species were lost. Aurochs survived this but were rendered extinct by modern humans. My point was that this extinction event hit LARGER animals (over 40 kg) disproportionately. Therefore, humans once had access to larger prey than they do today. I was inartfully trying to amplify Ambimorph's point.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 09:49 PM

Unfortunately, it's 2 legit. Why doesn't fat composition come up more often?

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 09:46 PM

Mark- Isn't North American flora/fauna a relatively recent exposure to humans?

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3

(3641)

on October 26, 2010
at 09:01 PM

it's a legit question!

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:55 PM

@Kamal: North America boasted 3 species of elephant (wooly and columbian mammoths, plus mastodons). Around 20 or so other large herbivores also disappeared about 10k years ago...

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:34 PM

MikeD- I always wondered if organs really contain that much fat, and it doesn't appear to be so at first glance. Here is a question I just asked about that, in case you have some input...http://paleohacks.com/questions/12971/eating-organs-provides-lots-of-healthy-fats-or-does-it#axzz13V00UHy4

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:33 PM

not saying high fat diets aren't common elsewhere. Nuts and seeds provide a lot of fat. Coconuts have lots of saturated fat.

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:30 PM

I understand that. I think fat would be prized. However I don't imagine them "throwing away muscle meat to the dogs" like some say. It's such an assumption that paleo peoples would waste food they worked hard for, when what we know about them should tell us the opposite that they used most of the animal. if we were talking about the Arctic it would make more sense because the animals that are common there have a lot of fat naturally. very thick layer of fat under their skin. also a high fat diet is more practical in those regions.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:15 PM

or c) You think the meat from modern domestic livestock is a lot fattier than that from the wild animals our ancestors hunted.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 07:44 PM

Maybe not. Ice ages covered much less than half of human history time-wise and geography-wise, and I think many fatty animals like woolly mammoths lived in Europe (which was inhabited relatively recently).

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 07:22 PM

Great question! It seems that paleo people ate game meat/organs/fish, and didn't have unlimited jarred fat sources. With all due respect to marrow and brain, most of the animal is made up of muscle, right?

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11 Answers

17
8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on October 26, 2010
at 07:33 PM

The "lean meat" stuff just gets tiring. There's no reason why you just can't say "meat". The only reason to throw in "lean" is a) You think fat is bad, or b) You don't want to scare you audience, who thinks fat is bad.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 10:49 PM

or d) paleolithic humans ate wild game, which is lean. If the point of the paleodiet is to try to recreate that ancient diet, then you'd want to eat wild game, or "lean meat."

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:33 PM

not saying high fat diets aren't common elsewhere. Nuts and seeds provide a lot of fat. Coconuts have lots of saturated fat.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 27, 2010
at 12:13 AM

Kilton: Maybe there is a semantic issue here. I agree that we should be concerned with the fatty acid profiles of the meat we eat--to a point. But since wild game exhibits a beneficial fatty acid profile, as does grass-fed beef, there is no reason to overthink this. Just eat wild game, or grassfed beef, or the equivalent, and you'll get healthy meat and fats. Maybe "lean" isn't specific enough and we need a new word like "paleomeat," or something, to indicate paleo-suitability of meats and to differentiate paleo-meat from unhealthy industrial meat.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 27, 2010
at 12:15 AM

And there is still a larger issue of total fat intake among paleos, which this question raised. Some paleos eat lots of fat, ala Panu, while others follow Cordain/Wolf's recommendations.

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on October 26, 2010
at 11:51 PM

Mark: What does "lean" mean? Let's try and be specific. "Leaner than domestic livestock" is much more useful than just "lean". "Lean" to the average person reading about Paleo in the NYTimes probably means 90% fat-free ground beef. A far cry from Cordain's wild game data: http://www.thepaleodiet.com/articles/Final%20Fatty%20Acid%20PDF.pdf

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:15 PM

or c) You think the meat from modern domestic livestock is a lot fattier than that from the wild animals our ancestors hunted.

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:30 PM

I understand that. I think fat would be prized. However I don't imagine them "throwing away muscle meat to the dogs" like some say. It's such an assumption that paleo peoples would waste food they worked hard for, when what we know about them should tell us the opposite that they used most of the animal. if we were talking about the Arctic it would make more sense because the animals that are common there have a lot of fat naturally. very thick layer of fat under their skin. also a high fat diet is more practical in those regions.

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on January 20, 2011
at 04:19 AM

If you are obese or need to lose weight and/or have a broken metabolism, eat fat ala panu et al. If you are already lean and your metabolism is ok, you can substitute carbohydrates for fat. I think a lot of paleo controversy is due to these two approaches.

5
A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on October 28, 2010
at 07:07 PM

"What???s wrong with saying that paleo is about lean meat?"

Because it's not! "Lean meat" makes people think it's turkey, skinless chicken breasts and tuna all the time. It's much more about red meat - grass fed, sure - but ruminants, definitely (and some fish, I guess).

Dr. Mike Eades take on Paleolithic man's preference for fatty meat:

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/saturated-fat/rapid-health-improvements-with-a-paleolithic-diet/

"During Paleolithic times, man primarily subsisted by hunting. The preferred food was large game animals, and Paleolithic man, a skilled hunter, wiped most of them out. And not just the large grazing animals. Paleolithic man completely decimated the Cave bear. As you can see from the photo of my Cave bear skull below (from a slide I use in presentations), these were enormous animals that didn???t go down easily. Cave bear, like all bears, had high levels of body fat, which must have been highly desired because these ferocious animals were hunted to extinction about 15,000 years ago by people wielding little more than pointed sticks."

Medium avatar

(2169)

on January 20, 2011
at 02:06 AM

man, what BAMFs early humans were, killing cave bears with "little more than pointed sticks"

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on January 26, 2011
at 12:18 AM

Well, I think atl-atl's were probably used by then as well as dogs, but hey, I don't think I would even face down a cave bear with a gun!

5
8254c4e4d1f2aedd09cb9608b8777654

on October 27, 2010
at 12:58 PM

Good question that has bothered me for quite some time. I was in a restaurant recently and noticed a sign indicating the restaurant had buffalo meat, which it said is very lean and hence healthy. I just roll my eyes at this kind of crap. Why? Do a little reading in primary source material on Native Americans and diet. They depended on buffalo meat, but how did they prepare it? They ate the marrow and tongue and organ meats and then made pemmican out of the lean pieces, to which they added lots of fat (because the meat is lean). So, yes, lean meat was consumed, but with a large admixture of fat.

5
691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3

(3641)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:08 PM

I think its fine to eat lean meat, but we need to remember that eating like we do today is different from how our paleo ancestors did. They ate the whole beast including marrow and various organs which do contain a lot of fats. If you aren't eating lots of organ meat and marrow and such then you probably should eat fattier cuts or add fats to your diet.

I've brought this up in a previous post but Cordain on page 101 of The Paleo Diet talks about 'rabbit starvation' wherein a person consuming large quanities of lean meats taxes their liver which can't eliminate all the nitrogen.

I believe this taxes your liver only when eating super lean stuff i.e. rabbit meat but it doesn't tax your liver if you add fats or eat fatty cuts.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson from Wikipedia on fat-hunger:

The groups that depend on the blubber animals are the most fortunate in the hunting way of life, for they never suffer from fat-hunger. This trouble is worst, so far as North America is concerned, among those forest Indians who depend at times on rabbits, the leanest animal in the North, and who develop the extreme fat-hunger known as rabbit-starvation. Rabbit eaters, if they have no fat from another source???beaver, moose, fish???will develop diarrhoea in about a week, with headache, lassitude and vague discomfort. If there are enough rabbits, the people eat till their stomachs are distended; but no matter how much they eat they feel unsatisfied. Some think a man will die sooner if he eats continually of fat-free meat than if he eats nothing, but this is a belief on which sufficient evidence for a decision has not been gathered in the North. Deaths from rabbit-starvation, or from the eating of other skinny meat, are rare; for everyone understands the principle, and any possible preventive steps are naturally taken."

Related: http://paleohacks.com/questions/9765/how-much-protein-can-your-body-absorb-in-a-meal#ixzz13UsnCW2e

691f120a3e7a1a036845d105d86c99a3

(3641)

on October 26, 2010
at 09:01 PM

it's a legit question!

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:34 PM

MikeD- I always wondered if organs really contain that much fat, and it doesn't appear to be so at first glance. Here is a question I just asked about that, in case you have some input...http://paleohacks.com/questions/12971/eating-organs-provides-lots-of-healthy-fats-or-does-it#axzz13V00UHy4

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 09:49 PM

Unfortunately, it's 2 legit. Why doesn't fat composition come up more often?

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on January 20, 2011
at 04:21 AM

The organs have more carbohydrate than the muscle meat.

4
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 27, 2010
at 05:48 AM

We can only guess what amount of fat our paleo ancestors ate. I think too much fat is less dangerous than too little fat. And I think humans naturally crave fat and have always targeted the fattiest animals. What kind of fish tastes best? The fattiest kind. WHich part of the animal tastes best? The fatty parts! IMO, when things are in balance and no artificial foods are present, then we are naturally drawn to that which is healthy. YOu will eat a certain amount of fat, but then suddenly, you are full! You don't want any more. Fat causes natural satiation once you have had the right amount for you.

Lets look at macronutrients. We typically avoid a lot of sugar and carbs due to blood sugar issues as well as a tendency for most of them to be low in nutrients. WHen you get to protein, there is only so much of it that has any benefit. Beyond that, it does not help your body any and in fact can cause probs for the liver. So if you need calories, where are you going to get it? Fat of course. What else is left? Fat is what you eat to get both calories and nutrients. Your other choice is to eat a bunch of protein and risk rabbit sickness. Or eat carbs.

Personally, I do not worry about eating too much fat because I notice obviously that I eat some and then I feel totally full and do not want to eat another bite. My body knows when I have had enough. Unless I see good evidence that the amount of fat I eat is bad for me, then I will continue to trust my body to tell me how much is too much.

4
D738a5b2a67f3c36518a2ac9f32d27af

on October 27, 2010
at 02:42 AM

I think "lean meat" is a Conventional Wisdom/Standard American Diet buzzphrase like "artery clogging saturated fat" (nearly 13,000 Google hits for that one). It's just what people say nowadays, without really thinking about it, knowing the truth or, in the case of lean meat, the complexities of grass-fed vs. factory farmed, Omega-3 vs. Omega-6, etc. Since we're trying to get away from convential wisdom, I think some paleo folks just find the parroted phrase irritating, Cordain notwithstanding.

D738a5b2a67f3c36518a2ac9f32d27af

(821)

on October 27, 2010
at 02:45 AM

Ditto above--what does "lean meat" mean exactly? It's just a buzzphrase unless we can define it. *Then* we can decide if it's good for us or not.

4
6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 09:40 PM

There is a real dichotomy among paleos where fat is concerned. Cordain and Wolf recommend keeping dietary fat around ancestral limits, that is between 10 and 15 percent of total energy. This is the paper that both Cordain and Wolf point to on their respective sites.

Others here feel that healthy saturated fats can pretty much be consumed without limit. And yes, wild game is very lean. Even a fall-fattened deer is one very lean animal. So paleolithic people were not eating all the fat they wanted, or craved. That quantity of fat just was not available to them. We modern people, however, can enjoy unlimited quantities of butter, cream, ghee, coconut oil, and anything else we want, without limit. We can even tailor our dietary fatty acid profiles to suit our preferences, which would be industrial food by definition. This is what Harris calls "duplicating what I believe are the key elements of the internal hormonal metabolic milieu..." This access to unlimited fat is clearly divergent from the actual paleolithic diet, so a high-fat paleo diet is an oxymoron (but it might be healthy). You just have to decide for yourself which seems right to you.

As far as the occasional mocking goes, I've seen it myself and I don't get it. Honest discussion should not degenerate into mocking.

8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on October 26, 2010
at 11:36 PM

The 10-15% figure is *saturated* fat, not total fat.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 11:39 PM

Yes, saturated. But it's saturated fat intake which seems to be controversial in paleo circles. No one argues that we don't get enough seed oils, e.g.

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on November 02, 2010
at 03:18 PM

I don't think deer is a good example of what paleolithic people primarily ate. Obviously we haven't hunted them to extinction like we did mammoth, cave bear, buffalo (near extinction) and the other megafauna that have higher fat content. Why? Because they are preferred to deer, which are quite lean.

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on November 02, 2010
at 04:02 PM

My point is that wild animals, including megafauna, tend to be very lean relative to a feedlot cow, which is morbidly obese by anyone's definition. Modern farm animals in general tend to be fatty relative to their wild cousins, with unhealthy altered fatty acid profiles to boot.

2
100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on October 26, 2010
at 07:19 PM

That's what a modern hunter-gatherer diet may look like, but it may be that the fauna we evolved on were bigger and fatter than what is left. Think of a mammoth.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 09:46 PM

Mark- Isn't North American flora/fauna a relatively recent exposure to humans?

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 27, 2010
at 02:35 PM

No no, it was artful! But larger animals might not necessarily mean significantly more fat (percentage wise).

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 10:39 PM

Kamal-yes, you're right about N. American flora/fauna, but Eurasia also experienced an extinction event at about the same time, and numerous prey species were lost. Aurochs survived this but were rendered extinct by modern humans. My point was that this extinction event hit LARGER animals (over 40 kg) disproportionately. Therefore, humans once had access to larger prey than they do today. I was inartfully trying to amplify Ambimorph's point.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 26, 2010
at 07:44 PM

Maybe not. Ice ages covered much less than half of human history time-wise and geography-wise, and I think many fatty animals like woolly mammoths lived in Europe (which was inhabited relatively recently).

6fa48935d439390e223b9a053a62c981

(1676)

on October 26, 2010
at 08:55 PM

@Kamal: North America boasted 3 species of elephant (wooly and columbian mammoths, plus mastodons). Around 20 or so other large herbivores also disappeared about 10k years ago...

1
A8d95f3744a7a0885894ee0731c9744c

(3761)

on October 26, 2010
at 07:52 PM

And that's Dr. Cordain's original assessment.

Personally, I think that we in the paleo community assume that most people have an intricate knowledge of fat. If this was the paleolithic time period, we wouldn't fear fat; that fat had a correct O6:O3 ratio. Today's fat is just a crap-load of O6.

Paleo is about lean meat, because eating the fat of factory farmed animals is not paleo.

0
Medium avatar

on January 20, 2011
at 02:42 AM

One thing to consider is how much more food they ate even compared to us paleos. I don't really want to have to eat 5 pounds+ of food every day in order to get all the fat I need. Making the process more efficient may actually be more healthier since your organs are doing less work, and thus have less cellular turnover.

That being said, I would never eat anything but factory, veg-fed or wild and the only fat I pad my diet with is pasture butter that I use to cook everything. I figure that makes up for the fact that I rarely eat offal. I think some of the supplemental fat via coconut oil or a large amount of nuts/nut butters by itself etc. is excessive, but I'm not convinced that it's harmful. We all eat more eggs than probably available historically, although some may have gotten large eggs like those of the ostrich, emu etc. often in their region.

If you are eating all high quality grass-fed, I'd say that there's no need to split hairs on the subject. Some prime beef is nearly 50% fat, and not the type we want to consume.

0
Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

on January 20, 2011
at 01:36 AM

I agree with you that animals in the paleolithic had much leaner body than today. My personal choice, so far is a moderate-fat paleo diet. Most of all I do no think there is such thing as an "optimal ratio" of fat to carbs, I believe that if you cover your basic needs with sound food, excluding all those processed food that we reject you could have a large variation, and still be quite healthy. In fact different hunter gatherer tribes used to have quiet varied diets, and most of them had excellent health.

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