4

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From a hunter's perspective: fowl vs. ruminants?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 24, 2011 at 3:20 PM

Ok, so upon this day of official American poultry consumption I must ask: why do some within the paleo community seem to shun consumption of too much fowl?

Let me preface this discussion with: (1) I know that a lot of people believe the PUFA content too high. (2) I know that modern farmed poultry is different from its wild cousins.

Now, from an evolutionary standpoint, I would think that fowl would be a more plentiful and accessible source of game meat for a prehistoric hunter. Of course, I'm not saying that birds are necessarily easy to catch (wings?), but they can't gore you with their horns either. In the aforementioned sense, I would assume that they are the "safer" game.

Perhaps I'm incorrect, but wouldn't it stand to reason that hunters would probably catch birds (or small animals like rabbits, fish, and turtles) more often than they would bring down larger game simply because it's less risky?

If this is the case... why so much worry about poultry fat?

What scientific evidence backs up a lack of longevity and/or bodily complications with excessive poultry consumption? Fried chicken doesn't count (bad oils).

(You must excuse any ignorance on my part. I'm genuinely curious about this.)

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on November 26, 2011
at 07:21 AM

It's spelt "prey".

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 25, 2011
at 05:54 PM

There's nothing wrong with saying that bird hunting has been around a good long while, certainly a lot longer that agriculture, but it wasn't what shaped us, it doesn't go back that far. We were still australopithecines when we started hunting mammals, by comparison. No brainier than chimpanzees.

A77444ede09fa98d6e7b0e30b95df8d8

(0)

on November 25, 2011
at 05:40 PM

I guess but I don't know if I would call them all that sophisticated. If you could make clothes or a sling you could make a net. Twisted raw hide, or tanned hide would work fine for some nets. Never the less, if water fowl is flightless it would be easier to hunt with any method. I'm sure they would understand there environments well enough to know when the geese had babies they couldn't fly far. I don't really care I'm done arguing

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 25, 2011
at 05:19 PM

The tools and the intellect needed for hunting birds means that that practice came along fairly late in the game, though. I mean, compared to natural persistence hunting techniques we employed against ungulates - http://tinyurl.com/3jqbmuo - birds require a lot more sophistication.

Fb67dc30cead043d1d13ea503a3044dc

(3280)

on November 25, 2011
at 02:22 AM

+1 for use of the word "nary." :)

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 24, 2011
at 11:20 PM

Unfair! There's nary an ungulate native to new guinea.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on November 24, 2011
at 10:26 PM

Agreed. Although I have "cave-manned" a ruffed grouse with a smooth river rock, the payoff is very minimal. I can imagine such game being the target of younger hunters honing their skills or as incidental harvest while in search of a bigger prize. Not a whole lot different than modern times really, I've often struck out on deer and elk only to come home with a couple grouse.

Medium avatar

(19479)

on November 24, 2011
at 10:10 PM

I think that the relative abundance and ease of harvesting birds vs. larger game is a strong argument for the likelihood that they would have played an important role in the diets of prehistoric hunter gatherer groups. Granted, however, that the large megafauna (wooly mammoths, giant sloths, etc.) all seemed to go extinct whenever people showed up on the scene. Perhaps modern hunter gatherers are on a subsistence ration compared to that of our ancestors!

Medium avatar

(19479)

on November 24, 2011
at 07:30 PM

I recently watched the documentary Pururambo (available on Netflix "watch instantly") that explored the lifestyle of isolated tribes in New Guinea (so isolated that they were even unaware of other isolated tribes in New Guinea!) Dietary staples like the starchy extract of sago palm, fat rhinoceros beetle grubs, and green bananas (all of which were typically cooked, but sometimes eaten raw) were supplemented with small domesticated pigs, fish, and birds that were shot with special arrows (they had special "man killing" arrows too!) There was nary an ungulate in site!

Medium avatar

(19479)

on November 24, 2011
at 07:29 PM

I recently watched the documentary Pururambo (available on Netflix "watch instantly") that explored the lifestyle of isolated tribes in New Guinea (so isolated that they were even unaware of other isolated tribes in New Guinea!) Dietary staples like the starchy extract of sago palm, fat rhinoceros beetle grubs, and green bananas (all of which were typically cooked, but sometimes eaten raw) with small domesticated pigs, fish, and birds that were shot with special arrows (they had special "man killing" arrows too!) There was nary an ungulate in site!

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 24, 2011
at 04:32 PM

You're probably better off eating poultry than other industrial foods (especially grains), but yeah, longevity studies are what makes nutrition science so much more difficult than other sciences. But I still eat poultry and chicken in particular makes a really good stock/bone broth. You just want to get the healthiest birds you can. As the old programmer saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 24, 2011
at 04:28 PM

The definition of "free-range" is a pretty low bar: producers only have to show that the bird "has been allowed access to the outside." And that doesn't mean that the bird can get enough food that way to be sold for meat, so their diets are still predominantly grain/corn.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 24, 2011
at 04:22 PM

longevity studies are pretty hard to do! how expensive it is to follow someone's eating habits from youth to death!

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9 Answers

9
0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on November 24, 2011
at 05:44 PM

I have no idea whether cave people were more into eating birds over other animals. I guess it would depend of what kinds of tools they had and at what point of evolutionary history and geographical area in which they lived.

From what I have read, ruminants like cows and lambs have the ability to "detox" PUFAS from corn or soy or whatever into monounsaturated and saturated fats. Conventially farmed birds fed this same high PUFA diet do not have this ability. Poultry fats can be up to 25% linoleic acid (PUFA) while ruminant fats are usually no more than 5%.

As far as hunting birds over deer and elk go, my husband is a hunter (once my kids are a little older I will be too!) and many years go by without bagging any elk or deer - they are harder to track down (but also there are hunting regulations that ancient humans wouldn't have to follow. For instance we could have had several does and cow elk, but the regs here are bucks only - 4 points at that!)

However, we have a freezer FULL of birds. They are more plentiful, and as long as you have some kind of gun-like tool, easier to get since you have better odds of being able to take a shot in the first place. We have several geese, ducks, pheasant and grouse in the fridge. Waterfowl can maybe be distracted enough what with their floating and bobbing about to maybe pounce on one.

Melissa is very right about the variability of fat on these birds. A pheasant and grouse have virtually no fat. However my geese are some fat boys and the ducks were pretty healthy too. I was able to render a large mason jar of goose fat just from the remnant pieces of skin and cavity fat.

It's interesting to compare the quality of fats from different birds - take a look at this site and these three examples of rendered duck fat. Pretty cool.

I serve my family lots of wild game birds. I do not fear their fat one bit since they were eating a natural diet. I will say though that a conventional bird does give me a belly ache.

Happy THANKSGIVING!

Medium avatar

(19479)

on November 24, 2011
at 10:10 PM

I think that the relative abundance and ease of harvesting birds vs. larger game is a strong argument for the likelihood that they would have played an important role in the diets of prehistoric hunter gatherer groups. Granted, however, that the large megafauna (wooly mammoths, giant sloths, etc.) all seemed to go extinct whenever people showed up on the scene. Perhaps modern hunter gatherers are on a subsistence ration compared to that of our ancestors!

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on November 24, 2011
at 10:26 PM

Agreed. Although I have "cave-manned" a ruffed grouse with a smooth river rock, the payoff is very minimal. I can imagine such game being the target of younger hunters honing their skills or as incidental harvest while in search of a bigger prize. Not a whole lot different than modern times really, I've often struck out on deer and elk only to come home with a couple grouse.

4
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 24, 2011
at 03:51 PM

If you talk to hunters you'll find most wild birds don't have that much fat and the ones that do are the hardest to hunt (waterbirds). I say that if you are eating wild birds, go ahead and keep eating as much as you want. But modern chicken is not the equivalent of the birds that the ancients would have hunted. It doesn't eat the same diet and it's genetically distinct and breed to be higher in fat.

And in terms of net return for primitive hunters, big game is definitely worth more than birds. As a hunter, I get more meat from a single kill of a deer and IMHO it's less work because plucking is so much more unfun than skinning. A lot of primitive people skin the birds instead of plucking though, which means they lose a bit more fat, but it's easier to do.

Of course fat content in wild birds is also quite seasonal. Before migration, a lot of birds gorge and get much fattier. As far as I'm concerned, a good fatty turkey or goose for celebratory fall meals is kind of like that, so I will have no qualms about enjoying my turkey today.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 24, 2011
at 04:22 PM

longevity studies are pretty hard to do! how expensive it is to follow someone's eating habits from youth to death!

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 24, 2011
at 04:32 PM

You're probably better off eating poultry than other industrial foods (especially grains), but yeah, longevity studies are what makes nutrition science so much more difficult than other sciences. But I still eat poultry and chicken in particular makes a really good stock/bone broth. You just want to get the healthiest birds you can. As the old programmer saying goes, garbage in, garbage out.

3
7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 24, 2011
at 03:41 PM

It comes down to you are what you eat eats and what's easy to acquire (i.e., your point #2). It's just easier to get grass-fed beef than it is to get fowl fed their natural diet.

Ruminants (cows, sheep, etc) eat grasses and convert those to a good fats, with a proper balance of PUFAs. Unless you're out there shooting your fowl, your poultry options are typically those whose diet is largely grain, leading to a higher omega 6 profile.

All that said, I'm gonna enjoy my dark meat turkey in a few hours ;).

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 24, 2011
at 04:28 PM

The definition of "free-range" is a pretty low bar: producers only have to show that the bird "has been allowed access to the outside." And that doesn't mean that the bird can get enough food that way to be sold for meat, so their diets are still predominantly grain/corn.

2
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on November 24, 2011
at 07:25 PM

In my own experience, centuries ago as a child :-)), wild fowl are pretty wary and energy-consuming to stalk and bag--particularly without a gun.

Ruminants were also hard to find in the woods but there's a bigger payoff.

Back to why I eat little poultry now and that's easy to answer. Big-box chicken tastes like mud and grass fed chicken costs a fortune. Therefore, I eat occasional cornish game hens, which are too young to have accumulated quite so much poison, and occasional duck and an occasional turkey.

If good-tasting poultry were cheaper, I would eat more.

2
D12142c8cafb16d9af10b3362cb8fb62

(1590)

on November 24, 2011
at 03:28 PM

Well too high PUFA (especially omega 6) is toxic so it doesn't really matter what Poultry has.

Big game provides more energy per unit energy spent.

That is to say:

If we take 1 person, 1 chicken will feed one person what 1 day? A cow will feed 1 person for a year. This is extremely rounded and approximated but the principle is still there.

1
64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661

(15236)

on November 24, 2011
at 04:13 PM

I find that I can eat ground beef (70/30) for example, and not need to worry about including fat with my meal. If I eat chicken or other very lean meat, I need to add in some type of fat or I won't feel satisfied or full.

I wonder (and I haven't looked into this yet) if the problems associated with too much protein are on account of an imbalance of protein-fat. Some people can go crazy on skinless chicken breasts and egg whites, and that doesn't seem very healthy to me. If that same person is eating beef and whole eggs I think it's hard to overdo.

0
A77444ede09fa98d6e7b0e30b95df8d8

on November 25, 2011
at 04:24 PM

This may not be relevant nutritionally. But I thought I would just add it to the thread because I mostly see people saying hunting birds with primitive weapons is either inefficient or just really hard.

Actually People would use intimate knowledge of there pray and methods that are now illegal. Much like the hunting of does/cows Meredith mentioned above.

Often seabirds nest on small islands in huge numbers sitting tight to protect there eggs they're easy targets. Nets are a very popular method for hunting birds. Such as netting cliff nesting sea birds as they crest the cliff, or raising nets in flight corridors between trees or cliffs, or weighted throwing style nets for bird like quail that travel in groups on the ground. Many species of water fowl molt once a year when raising young. Making them easy to round up and net in large numbers.

Birds would have been a pray you would just happen upon regularly. When I am out hunting large game. I often take grouse with a bow for the nights meal. They are clumsy, loud, and in mating season the males are confrontational. Though illegal now, north west natives used a special type of arrow to hunt water fowl when not in molt. It has a small ball of tar behind the point. When shot at water at a low angle the arrow skips like a rock along the waters surface. Making aiming much easier simply aim for the group of birds on the water and aim a little low. Here is a picture of the arrows if there are any archery hunters reading that are interested. http://www.freebirdarchery.com/images/skipper.jpeg

I have heard in some parts Turkeys spook easy. But not in my part of the woods. They're easy hunting and if you could bait them and consistently take females and young males it would be even easier.

Also poultry like other meats can be smoked, frozen or fermented for later consumption making them a possible staple year round. Like melissa mentioned lots of times birds are just skinned rather the plucked removing a lot of the fat from the bird. In some cases though the skin is turned inside out and cooked, smoked or not and the fat is sucked out in either preparation for making clothes or simply for the calories.

I guess my point is that depending on location birds could have played a large role quit easily and as far as I can tell did. For example in years with poor large game numbers for whatever reason, birds could be very important. Seasonally they could definitely play a large role as in the case of the netting of water fowl mentioned above. My knowledge of these techniques are from a small part of the world (Alaska to California, coastal to desert ranges)for the most part. But I could imagine similar techniques being used anywhere.

C2502365891cbcc8af2d1cf1d7b0e9fc

(2437)

on November 26, 2011
at 07:21 AM

It's spelt "prey".

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 25, 2011
at 05:19 PM

The tools and the intellect needed for hunting birds means that that practice came along fairly late in the game, though. I mean, compared to natural persistence hunting techniques we employed against ungulates - http://tinyurl.com/3jqbmuo - birds require a lot more sophistication.

A77444ede09fa98d6e7b0e30b95df8d8

(0)

on November 25, 2011
at 05:40 PM

I guess but I don't know if I would call them all that sophisticated. If you could make clothes or a sling you could make a net. Twisted raw hide, or tanned hide would work fine for some nets. Never the less, if water fowl is flightless it would be easier to hunt with any method. I'm sure they would understand there environments well enough to know when the geese had babies they couldn't fly far. I don't really care I'm done arguing

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 25, 2011
at 05:54 PM

There's nothing wrong with saying that bird hunting has been around a good long while, certainly a lot longer that agriculture, but it wasn't what shaped us, it doesn't go back that far. We were still australopithecines when we started hunting mammals, by comparison. No brainier than chimpanzees.

0
93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 24, 2011
at 10:58 PM

This settles the matter to my satisfaction:

http://tinyurl.com/3jqbmuo

Like most carnivores, we specialized in certain game. In our case, it was meat on the hoof. Maybe lots of seashore/lakeshore/riverbank creepy-crawlies also, courtesy of the ladies, but this scenario doesn't go into that. Birds? Hard to catch. The eggs were good.

0
559a1bf85bfe38a0fbbf56377c7278b4

on November 24, 2011
at 07:05 PM

One theory is that women used to hunt small game, perhaps using arrows and slingshots, while the chaps were off getting mammoths and bison. Their catch would tide them over while waiting for the big game.

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