cattle, steer, bull, cow, ox    chicken, hen, poultry  eggs   sheep, lamb, hogget, mutton, ewe, wether, ram,   pig, porker, baconer,   turkey   rabbitduck,   quail   goose, geese   beefalo   goat   deer, wapiti, elk    horse
Natural Food Guide-What is Meat?-Part One
The Natural Food Hub -

Animals Western People Commonly or Occasionally Eat

 [What is meat?-introductory essay]     [Annotated contents of the entire site]    [site tree]
Cattle beast  Bos primigenius  cow, bull, steer (de-sexed bull), cattle (plural), ox
The ancestor of cattle is the wild aurochs. The aurochs was spread throughout Eurasia (including North Africa), and independentaly domesticated in India (giving rise to the humped cattle), Southwest Asia, and possibly North Africa. We first domesticated this wild animal about 8,000 years ago. (320 human generations ago, if you count a new 'generation' as occuring every 25 years).
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
The prehistoric cave paintings of France show our (relatively) recent ancestors hunting this animal. Our evolutionary histories have long been intertwined. Forest dwelling Guar, Bos frontalis, and Banteng, Bos javanicus, would have likely been our prey as we radiated through India, and down into South East Asia; first as Homo erectus, then as Homo sapiens re-radiating out of Africa and displacing H. erectus.
Most natural modern production methods:
Organic beef: Grass fed animals that are not dipped, sprayed, or dermally dosed with insecticides are the closest to the animals our ancestors hunted. There is no one phrase that encompasses such a production method. The closest to it  is certified 'organic' meat. This goes beyond simply not applying insecticides, or giving medicines, it includes a philosophical regime prohibiting the use of 'artificial' fertilisers on the pasture. (In the UK, only longstanding certified organic herds can be said to be free of 'mad cow disease' with a very high degree of confidence.)
Natural beef: The next best class would be soley grass fed animals that are not given insecticide dips. Very often these animals will also be refused medicines such as worm medicine, and will be removed from the herd if they need to be treated with antibiotics, altho' there is no good human health reason for this to be done. These animals are usually also not administered bovine growth promoting hormones, altho' again, there is no human health issue that would prudently require this. Again, there is no one name for this class of animal, altho' it is sometimes called 'natural beef'.
Natural beef, grain finished: The next best is 'natural beef', as above, but taken off grass in the last two weeks of their life and fed either 'organic' or 'spray free' grains or compounded feed. The idea is to 'lay in' some intermuscular fat ('marbling'), which supposedly makes for a far more succulent and tender steak (it actually has only a small effect). An untrimmed steak contains about 24% fat, a steak whose outer fat has trimmed to a quarter inch has about 19% fat content. Selected lean flank meat, trimmed of all fat, comes out at about 7% fat content.
Insecticide free: This would be an  important class of natural beef if it existed, and it would mean the animals weren't treated with an insecticide. Whether or not growth hormone or antibiotics or worm medicines were used is immaterial. Such a class is not promoted because the public is much more fixated on 'antibiotic free', and 'hormone free', although these are of trivial importance.
Grass fed beef: Some countries are able to pasture their cattle outdoors year round without supplemental feed other than hay and silage. These animals will tend to have a fat profile close to the wild ancestral aurochs. Grass is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid).
An enzyme in cows' digestive system converts some of the alpha-linolenic acid to 'conjugated linoleic acid', which has proven health benefits in stabilising glucose metabolism amongst other positive effects. (CLA can also be made from linolenic acid, an omega-6, but grass has relatively little omega-6 relative to omega-3.) Grass fed beef has up to five times more CLA than grain fed beef. We evolved eating grass fed 'wild aurochs beef'. And the CLA it contained. The arguments against grass fed beef are purely consumer preference - consumers like the fat marbled within the muscle rather than on the outside of the steak. The reason is that the marbled meat cooks to a more tender and juicy product. The counter argument is that grass fed meat from selected breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, once properly aged, is indistinguishable from grain fed animals. As a side note, fat on the outside of the steak can be trimmed to reduce calorie intake, whereas the marble fat of feedlot produced steak can't be removed. The other apparent minus for grass fed beef is that the fat is creamy to yellow colored, and consumers like to see white fat. The counter argument is that the fat is yellowish because it contains healthful caretenoids from the grass, and that white fat is 'unnatural'!  In fact, a 1997 study found that the Beta-carotene content of steak from grass-fed animals was 64 mg per 100 grams, but only 36mg/100g in feedlot steak.
Yak/Cattle hybrids: When the Yak, a Himalayan bovid, is crossed with the domestic cow, the result is an animal with very lean meat, with what fat there is said to be high in stearic acid (a fat generally not considered damaging) at around 25% vs 10% for cattle, and high (40%) in monounsaturated fats, mainly oleic acid and its variants. Additionally, it is relatively low in palmitic acid at about 25%. Palmitic is currently considered an undesirable fat from the health perspective. Grassfed, 'naturally' grown yaks and hybrids would be the most natural form of this most suitable meat.
The Grassfed Meat Page. JJJJ An easy to read summary of the nutritional profile of grassfed versus grain finished meat with particular reference to USA. It discusses the relative fat contents of meat produced under the two production systems, relative differences in Omega-3 content and CLA content, and what that may mean to health.
Yaks and hybrids JJ A page at a game ranch site selling Yaks and hybrids, and including some very nice photos.
Hormone Free: Some producers use a 'Quality Mark' which guarentees the meat is 'hormone free'. Cattle in the United States, but not not Europe, are often administered a natural growth hormone to make them grow faster and put on more weight - up to 20% more. Growth promotants are sometimes used for cattle destined for the domestic market in New Zealand. The hormone used is an additional dose of exactly the same hormone the animal produces itself naturally, so there are no human health implications. While some claim that meat grown faster with hormones is somehow 'pumped up' (whatever that means) there is no good reason to pay any attention to whether or not the animal had extra hormones injected.  About all that can be said is that with grain fed steers, at least,  implanted steers have been shown to have a higher saturated fatty acid to unsaturated fatty acid ratio than non-implanted animals, but total fat amount per steak was the same as non -  implanted animals. It is not a food safety issue. It is a niggly 'I don't like the idea' issue. That said, feedlot finished steers have been shown to have up to a third more fat content in some cuts than a comparable grass fed steer, don't have as much carotene in the fat, less vitamin E, and the omega-3 content declines the longer they are in the feedlot).
Antibiotic Free: Antibiotics may be used at critical stages of the lifecycle (to prevent calves getting potentially lethal gut diseases, for example). There appears to be no risk to human health from the break down products of antibiotics used to cure sick animals or prevent disease at critical stages of a calves life. The same types of antibiotics are used in humans. The ethical issue is whether antiobiotic use helps breed antibiotic resistant bacteria -it does, and so does over prescribing antibiotics to humans. But it is not a food safety issue.
The premium part of the animal, chock full of vitamins and minerals, especially B group vitamins. In virtually all hunter gatherer societies, liver is the choice part of a dead animal of whatever kind. In New Zealand the livers of animals older than 2 years may not be sold. This is because the phosphate fertiliser historically applied to New Zealand soils had a higher cadmium content than that used in other parts of the world. The cadmium accumulates in the liver, and can exceed maximum reccomended levels as the animals get older. Calves liver is 'milder' in taste anyway.
Brains contain relatively large amounts of the essential w3 fatty acids 'EPA' and 'DHA' (beef fat is very approximately half saturated fat and half monounsaturated fat and with only a few percent polyunsaturates- but the fat in brains is about a fifth polyunsaturated, with the rest somewhat evenly split between saturated and monounsaturated fats. These fatty acids are fairly unstable, and easily destroyed by heat. Luckily, brain is a delicate tissue, and needs only brief cooking. There is a huge food safety issue in the UK (and maybe Europe) on the safety of eating brains due to the outbreak of the incurable disease 'BSE'. The causal agent is associated with nervous tissue such as spinal  cord and brain. Personally, in spite of 'official' assurances, I would let a lot of water go under the bridge before I ate cattle brains in the UK or Europe. Given the 25 to 30 year gestation period of this disease, I would be very cautious about eating brains anywhere, unless I was an older person who would have already been well and truly exposed to the causal agent already.  Calves brains are far preferable to adult beef brains.
Bone marrow
Bone marrow is rarely eaten in the West, except in parts of France. And even there, it is becoming uncommon. Bone marrow has monounsaturated fat (about 75%) as well as saturated fat. It is a very nutriotionally 'dense' source of food. In fact, one scientist has suggested that humans were able to survive and thrive in Africa in part due to the ability to scavenge bones and crack them open with stone hammers to extract the marrow. Some people eat marrow raw, when it has a firm texture, and some heat it until it has a butter-like consistency. Note: bone marrow is different from so called 'spinal marrow', which is biologically a continuation of the brain tissue. Eating 'spinal marrow' carries the same food safety dangers as do brains (see above).
Hamburger (USA only)
Once the choice cuts have been removed from a cattle beasts carcass (usually grain fed), there remains the fatty bits that have no real market. To make use of these parts, premier lean grass ranged beef is imported, ground, and added to the fatty pieces. Range fed beef has more of the beneficial 'conjugated linoleic acid' content in it's tissue (derived from grass), and this content is, for some reason, increased when the meat is broiled/grilled. One study showed an almost fivefold increase in ground beef after it was grilled, so it is likely the same will occur in broiled/grilled hamburger. For very active people, this is a very good food. As an illustration of how the processed urban diet can be modified to re-capture more of the benefits of whole natural food, researchers at Michigan State University have found that the 'cherry burger', a hamburger compounded with about 11% sour cherries, has far fewer of the potentially cancer-causing compounds known as HAAs  (heterocyclic aromatic amines), and slows down the oxidative deterioration of the natural fats that causes discoloring and texture change. As well as being moister and more tender.
Ground beef (USA), Mince (UK, Australasia)
Made from the cheaper, more fatty /'gristly' cuts of feedlot or range fed beef. There are usually regulations governing how much fat can be present in product labelled 'lean/premium mince'. Mincing/grinding is a useful form of pre-mastication.  As stated, broiling/grilling seems to increase the beneficial 'conjugated linoleic acid' content of meat -  an almost fivefold increase after broiling/grilling was noted in one study.
Beef -all about it.JJJ Everything about beef from the Canadian Beef Industry's 'Beef Information Centre' . Ageing beef, value for money cuts, freezer burn, grades, color of the meat, eating it raw or rare.
Red meat and iron -JJJJ The Canadian Beef Industry promotes red meat for it's iron content. Good tables comparing foods. Note the importance of vitamin C when eating non meat sources of iron.
Guar, Bos frontalis  JJJJ A very good page describing the distribution and habits of this South Asian and partly South East Asian wild cattle. Photo.
Banteng, Bos javanicus JJJJ A very good page describing the distribution and habits of this South East asian wild cattle. Photos.
Chicken Gallus gallus hen, poultry
Originally domesticated in China, the red jungle fowl has been associated with humans, and particularly with village life, for at least 4,000 years. The male is a rooster, the female a hen, and the newly hatched babies are chickens. Selective breeding and scientific feed formulation means that todays newly hatched Gallus gallus will be heavy enough to kill and eat in only 6 or seven weeks, not much out of 'chickenhood'. As a result, the general name for these birds is changing to 'chickens', whether they are truly one or two week old chickens, or adult breeding birds. The chicken is pretty much an omnivore. It eats insects, seeds, leafy greens, fruits - just about anything that comes it's way - it is a small, feathered pig, but unlike the pig, bits of the chickens body can be eaten before it is even dead. In the form of eggs.
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
Birds in general have been a valuable food resource in all sorts of climates and environments. When we could catch them, these 'reformed dinosaurs' provided a useful protein package, altho' their fat content was very low, except at certain times of year. The modern chicken is pretty much the same as the ancient jungle fowl, except it 'lays on' muscle very much faster, the muscles are from a developing young bird and so little exercised they are soft ( = 'tender'), and the fat content is both much higher (as if it were living in an unending 'season of plenty'-about 15gram fat/100gram edible portion) and probably of a different compostion. If a chickens fat composition reflects, to a greater or lesser degree, the kinds of fats it eats, than commercial chicken feeds compounded with soya and/or corn meals should give a higher omega-6 content, the absence of grasses and herbage, and possibly insects (altho' the omega-3 content of insects such as grasshoppers hasn't been investigated) should artificially lower the omega 3 content, and where 'spent hydrogenated fats' (from fast food premises or restaurants) rather than grass fed beef tallow is used, than the fat will probably have higher saturated fats and less monounsaturated fats. Where the feed is compounded totally from natural sources - ground up grass fed beef, alfalfa, wheat by-products, barley-by products, grass fed beef or sheep tallow (fat), some soya and maize, rice grain milling by-products and so forth, then the fat composition will more closely approximate the wild animal, and you can eat the fatty skin without guilt (as part of your normal daily calory intake for your lean body mass and activity level!). Unfortunately, there is no class of chicken which is certified as being fed a mimicked  natural diet. To try to ingest an evolutionarily natural fat profile but still eat chicken, you will need to either eat skinned breast meat, which is very low in fat, or eat 'organic' chickens, ('organic' being the de facto standard for chickens fed a mimicked natural diet) and supplement with omega-3 tablets or omega-3 rich fish.
The amount and type of amino acids which make up the protein content of eggs are considered to nearly exactly match the amino acid profile the human body needs. In fact, other foods are measured against eggs, which is scored notionally as '100'. Compared to eggs, the flesh of the chicken that produced it comes in at 64, fish at 70, beef almost the same at 69, and so on. Our African homeland has the greatest number of species of bird of any continent. These little protein packages don't run and don't fight, and children are skilled at finding them. Eggs have been a most valuable resource for us gatherer-hunters over the millenia of our evolution.
Today's commercially produced eggs fat content is about 21% as essential fatty acids (the ones the human body can't manufacture, but needs, so must obtain from food). In commercial battery house eggs almost all this (20%) is omega-6, and only 1% is omega-3. It would be useful if the omega-3 content were higher (at least 4 times higher), or the omega-6 content lower. The ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in wild jungle fowl eggs hasn't been investigated. But the ratio in 'free ranging' domestic fowls has.

 “In 1986, we published our findings on purslane, indicating that it is the richest source of Omega 3 fatty acids of any green leafy vegetable yet examined... On the Ampelistra farm in Greece, purslane is plentiful and grows wild; the chickens make a feast of it, along with insects and lots of fresh green grass, supplemented with fresh and dried figs, barley flour, and small amounts of corn. We were therefore interested in the Omega 3 fatty acid content of the eggs from these hens.  As we expected, the eggs contained substantial amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids.”
Dr. Simopoulos  and Dr. Norman Salem, an article in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Substantial amounts in fact! The Greek egg had an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1.3 to 1, whereas a “supermarket egg” had a ratio of almost 20 omega-6  to 1 omega-3.

The question remains, do eggs have a very high omega-6 and low omega-3 ratio because of the high omega-6 content of some of their feed components and the lack of acccess to insects and herbage? Common sense says they do. Eggs contain some of the beneficial 'conjugated linoleic acid' that is found in grass fed meat, but do they contain as much as wild jungle fowl eggs do? These questions are almost totally irrelevant to feeding the masses; but very relevant to human health. Guess you can't have both? That's what these pages are about!
Our ancestors did not agonize over the 'cholesterol content' of eggs. They simply wolfed them down before some other family member demanded a share! The modern egg/cholesterol scare was started by a flawed 1965 study. Cholesterol expert Dr. John Allred, professor of nutrition at Ohio State University, points to the many clinical studies done on humans in the last ten years which have demonstrated that cholesterol in eggs has very little effect on a normal healthy person's blood cholesterol levels.
Uncooked hen's egg white contains conalbumin, a protein which binds to iron. In a diet including red meat, this is no problem. Raw egg white also contains 'avidin', which binds to the B vitamin biotin, and can interfere with the metabolism of other B-vitamins. But it has been estimated that you would need to eat 20 raw eggs per day (!) for several weeks to create a biotin deficiency. Again, no problem.
Most natural modern production methods:
Organic chicken: In some countries, such as the USA, it is currently illegal to put a label on a dead chicken saying it is 'organic'. In the case of the USA, this is because the US Department of Agriculture want to regulate (regulate means 'make regular'- some uncertified 'organic' products are decidely irregular in the view of official 'organic' certifying bodies!) the use of the word 'organic'. So it has to decided to define what 'organic' means-which may not be what the 'organic' movement, whose word it is, says it means!(see our opinion on this issue). Farms themselves, however, may be certified as being 'organic'. The certifying is done by the relevant organic association or organisation of the country. So chicken or eggs from a certified 'organic' farm may be regarded as 'organic' chicken or 'organic' eggs. Typically, this means no chemicals are used on the farm, feed grain is organically grown ( of all chemical residues), the diet is often supplemented with mineral rich seaweeds and naturally occurring mined minerals. So 'organic' will often mean the environment and feed is free of all chemicals, and antibiotic 'growth enhancers' are not fed. These are food safety issues, and the fat profile is not necessarily any closer to the wild animals fat profile than any other broiler house chicken. But, all things being equal, it is more likely to be. The 'organic' belief system seems to include a wider concern for 'more natural' conditions. Accordingly, broilers are more likely to have access to pasture and sunlight (industrial broilers in temperate and warm temperate areas usually see direct sun twice-once as they are wheeled into the sheds as hatchlings, and once when they are transported to the slaughterhouse. Otherwise, lighting is artificial and subdued, to keep the animals quiet and not waste energy).
So called 'organic' chickens may-or may not-be additionally 'free range' or 'free roam'.
Free range chicken: This is a highly variable term. The essence of it is that the chickens walk around outside on pasture. The variables are:
How often do they 'free range outside the shed? Every day? Once a week?
For how long? One hour? Four hours? Half a day?
How many chickens actually manage to get outside? How many egress holes are there for how many (thousand!) chickens? How big is the pasture yard they are all trying to fit into? Practically, how often would any one bird get outside? And for how long?
What are they free ranging on? A post rain mud yard? Pecked over, dung supressed grass? Fresh pastures? Mixed grasses and pasture 'herbs'?
Again, there is no carefully written and regularly enforced standard. Again, the purview of an official 'organic' certifying body has become the de facto mechanism to tend towards meaningfulness when a grower claims to sell 'free range' chickens.
Free roam chicken: In relation to broiler chickens, this is, in my opinion, a wonderful piece of euphimistic 'marketing speak', designed to allay the concerns of animal welfarists. It usually means the chickens "are free to move about in the building". Well, so long as the lights are on, of course they are free to move over to the feeding and watering stations. But they grow so rapidly that by the time they are ready to be harvested, they have very little room indeed to 'freely' move around. Whether you think there is anything wrong with that is your own value judgement. But in the normal commercial broiler shed context, do not necessarily infer that the chickens are wandering around in spacious surrondings or have access to pasture. 'Free roam' for broiler chickens is not a useful term...
Eggs, free roam
...but for egg producers, it is. Most eggs are produced by 'battery hens' in fairly small wire cages. There is some strongly held opinion that such conditions are cruel. Whether or not battery egg production is cruel, most reasonable people would agree that enabling hens to freely roam within a building is better. However, this is an animal welfare issue, and makes no real difference to the nutrional value of the eggs. Hens eggs from farm yard chickens generally have a rich orange yolk, due to the natural carotenes they derive from the grass, herbage and clover they eat. Commercially produced eggs have to have some of the same nature identical chemicals added to the feed to create the same color. Is the battery hen's egg any less 'natural' in composition than the farm yard one? No one has done an analysis of a jungle fowl self feeding in the wild vs. a battery hen egg, but if there is any significant difference, I suspect it won't be great. But I may be wrong.
 Eggs, hens, free range
'Free Range' is evocative of hens wandering around outside, and coming into a shed to lay eggs with naturally richly colored yolks.There are very few commercial egg producers that operate this way. Again, 'free range' can mean many different things on a sliding scale of 'freedom'. To produce eggs on a commercially viable scale, free range hens are more usually kept in large houses of around 8,000 birds, fed inside, 'debeaked' (a small portion of the upper beak is clipped when still a chicken) to prevent pecking, and only allowed limited access outside. If all the birds had unlimited access at all times, under this version of free range, then the pasture would quickly become a quagmire. As with battery egg production, the sheds are lit to stimulate the secretion of egg laying hormones. There is insufficient green material available to the birds to allow a natural carotene coloring to the yolks, so carotenes still have to be added to the feed to produce a nice deep yellow or orange yolk. Do the hens have a more natural way of life? Definitely. Do the eggs they produce have a more natural nutritional profile? Personally, I doubt it..
Commercial Broiler Chicken Production in USA J An outline by the USA humane society, so somewhat partisan, and doesn't discuss feed components directly.

Sheep Ovis aries lamb (from birth to weaning at about 3 and a half months), hogget (a weaned lamb until about 1 year old, male or female), wether (a male animal whose testicle have been removed), ram, ewe, mutton (a sheep past hogget stage).
The ancestor of the domestic sheep is the South West Asian mouflon, or Urial, Ovis orientalis. The mouflon sheep, Ovis musimon, once thought to be the ancestor, is considered to be an early primitive domesticate that has returned to the wild. Other wild species, such as the bighorn, Ovis canadensis in western North America; and Dall's sheep, Ovis dalli in northern Canada and Alaska, have never been domesticated. If the dometicated Ovis aries had not been introduced to North America, then chances are the native bighorn and Dall's sheep would eventually have been domesticated by the indigenous people. The urial, Ovis vignei of Afghanistan and Pakistan; and the argali, Ovis ammon in eastern Asia have not been domesticated in themselves, altho' it is possible they may have contributed to the genetic makeup of some domestic breeds.
We first domesticated this wild animal about 10,000 years ago (400 human generations ago, if you count a new 'generation' as occuring every 25 years), possibly in the uplands of present day Syria or Iraq. With the pig, this is probably one of the very first animals the human animal domesticated.
Domesticated sheep are smaller than their wild ancestors, most have lost their horns, and there have been changes in wool, color, ear shape and size, and so on.
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
 We have been eating sheep ever since some of us migrated out of Africa. The ancestral sheep were probably not restricted to mountainous areas, and because of the sheep's ability to survive dry conditions, mountain and plain, heat and cold, we would have found it wherever we radiated to. Some people claim sheepmeat to be the least allergenic of all meat (for those very small numbers of people afflicted with food allergies). This may - or may not - be linked to our very long association with sheep.
Most natural modern production methods:
Organic Lamb: Grass fed animals that are not dipped, sprayed, or dermally dosed with insecticides are the closest to the animals our ancestors hunted. There is no one phrase that encompasses such a production method. The closest to it  is certified 'organic' meat. This goes beyond simply not applying insecticides, or giving medicines, it includes a philosophical regime prohibiting the use of 'artificial' fertilisers on the pasture.
Natural Lamb: The next best class would be soley grass fed animals that are not given insecticide dips. In many countries sheep can be attacked by blow flies hatching their maggots in the wool, especially near the rump. These 'fly struck' animals must be sprayed or dipped with insecticides. In the production of 'Natural lamb' these animals would be removed from the flock once treated. Very often 'natural raised' animals will also be refused medicines such as worm medicine, and will be removed from the flock if they need to be treated with antibiotics, altho' there is no good human health reason for this to be done. Growth promoting hormones are not used on sheep. Again, 'natural lamb' can mean different things according to who is producing and promoting it, as there are no universal and defined standards. Commonsense would suggest grass fed lamb, vaccinated against disease and treated against worms if required, but not treated with insecticides and not fed grain rations, would most closely mimic the qualities of the meat of wild living mouflon.
Grass fed Lamb: This is a bit of an tautology, as almost all 'lamb' is grass fed. Generally, once a lamb is weaned, and until it is one year old it is still regarded as being a lamb (altho' called a 'hogget' in Australasia), albeit a 40kg/88lb lamb! In parts of the USA, lambs that don't make sufficient weight to be marketed may be grain fed to bring them up to marketable size. The same is true of other countries when there are adverse conditions, such as prolonged drought. The marked flavor of sheepmeat doesn't develop until the animals start feeding on grass. People unused to sheep meat often modify the flavor with strong herbs such as rosemary, Rosmarinus officianalis, but once accustomed to the excellent sheep taste, no longer bother.
Milk fed Lamb: lamb until it is weaned at around 3 months or so. Those used to eating sheep meat regard animals killed at this stage as having no flavor!
Muscle meat
The sweetest sheep meat is said to come from the 'suffolk' breed. Flavor is influenced by the protein content of the pasture
(excess protein causing stronger and 'off' flavors), the kind of pasture (the grass 'cocksfoot' Dactylis glomerata giving the most neutral and nicest taste, 'canary grass' Phalaris sp. pastures tending to strong flavors) and the breed. There are also sheep grazed on salt brush and salt marsh (usually Merino) which give a particular and highly desirable flavor to the meat. This is usually marketed as a premium meat at a premium price.
Ground lamb (USA), Lamb Mince (UK, Australasia)
Rarely found, but as grass fed lamb is so high in CLA's, and grilling causes CLA's to increase manyfold, 'lamburgers' may be one of the most healthful meats!
Unobtainable unless you know a farmer-and help with the castration of the male lambs-'mountain oysters' are a rare connoisseurs treat, and, like most organ meats, highly nutritious.

The Natural History of North American Mountain Sheep JJJJJ An excellent and comprehensive page by the Canadian Wildlife Service describing the species and sub species of mountain sheep, their life history, feeding habits, distribution and history, and future in conflict with man.
Pig  Sus scrofa Porker (younger pig producing the tenderest meat), baconer (older pig with bigger back legs producing good sized hams)
The ancestor of the domestic pig was the wild boar which ranged from North Africa through Eurasia. We have not made the wild boar extinct, and are unlikely to. The wild boar was independantly domesticated in China, Western Eurasia, and possibly in other areas as well. We first domesticated this wild animal about 10,000 years ago. (400 human generations ago, if you count a new 'generation' as occuring every 25 years). No other wild pig (peccaries in South America, Warthog etc in Africa) has been found to be domesticable; with one minor exception. The Celebes Wild Swine, Sus celebensis, was domesticated in a small way in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and progeny from the hybrid of S. celebensis and S. scrofa was the main ancestoral line of the domestic pigs of Papua New Guinea. The pig, like us, is an omnivore. It could be left to grow on a combination of human provided scraps, and self foraging in the local area. Pigs can use food sources such as acorns, fern roots, grass, earthworms, and rotting meat that are unavailable or unattractive to humans. So there was little competition between us two omnivores. Even today, some pigs are fed 'garbage' - food scraps from restaurants and institutions,  past the 'use by date' dairy products, nuts, and bread from supermarkets, and like foods (the food scraps suitably sterilized by boiling, of course).
The same applies to chickens and pigs. Very few chickens and pigs have access to grass, and their fat profiles tend to reflect the grains and fats included in their feed.
The wild boar is a hard living animal, and it can become very lean when times are bad, and when the sow is feeding her litter. Wild boar in temperate forested areas do best and lay on most fat in autumn when nuts such as acorns are falling. Wild boar meat is variably lean, depending on the season. The overall average fat content of the muscle meat is about 4%. The average fat content of barn raised pig muscle meat (untrimmed) is 35%. Pigs are good grazers. It would be reasonable to assume pastured pigs (even with supplements) would have an internediate fat content. If you can get it/afford it, grass raised pork is the closest we can get to the wild animal. However, grass fed pigs is effectively non-existant, because while the pig is a very good grazer, it is an omnivore, and needs more concentrated sources of protein and carbohydrate than grass alone can provide.
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
 We have been eating pig species in Africa (in the East African uplands there was the 'forest bush pig', Potamochoerus porcus, and the woodland warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus, for example) and 'out of Africa' since our evolution as a species; altho' it is questionable how successful we would have been hunting a relatively small, but fast moving and dangerously tusked animal.
Most natural modern production methods:
Organic Pork:  The closest to wild pork is  certified 'organic' pork. This goes beyond simply not applying insecticides, or giving medicines, it includes a philosophical regime prohibiting the use of 'artificial' fertilisers on the pasture, and is hard to find. Any pigs, grass fed (which often goes with the organic concept) or not, will have been fed concentrates. In the case of 'organic' pigs, the meal would have been prepared from organically raised grains. The fat compostion of pigs can be changed perhaps more than any other animal according to it's food source. In the old days, pigs fed almost exclusively on whole maize often ended up with a very soft body fat, and had to be fed other grains for a period before slaughter to harden up the highly valued lard.
Discussion: Like all meats, pork is a good food, but as it cannot be soley grass raised, maize and soya beans in the feed may create an 'over abundance' of omega-6 fatty acids, and a relative undersupply of omega-3 fatty acids relative to the ratio best suited to humans. The problem is solved by using lower fat cuts, fat trimmed cuts, and supplement with omega-3 tablets or fish with high levels of omega-3, such as sardines.
African and Asian Wild Pigs descriptions and notes
The following further references are to pages on Brents Huffmans excellent 'Ultimate Ungulate' Site:

South East Asian Babirusa Babyrousa babyrussa
South East Asian Bearded Pig Sus barbatus
African Red River Hog Potamochoerus porcus
Eurasian Wild Boar Sus scrofa

Turkey Meleagris gallopavo
First domesticated in MesoAmerica from the flocks that roamed the North American continent and Mexico.
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
All birds, and most probably particularly gallinaceous birds, have been, and are, prey to the human animal.
Most natural modern production methods:
All the comments applying to chickens can be applied to turkeys, as they are raised essentially the same way. We don't regard the turkey as an egg producing bird, however. Presumably for historical reasons.

Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus Cony, ( Also Nesolagus sp., Pronolagus sp., Caprolagus.sp) Hare Lepus sp.
The domestic meat rabbit is derived from the common European and north African rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus. In South Africa, our ancestors may well have hunted the greater red rock hare, Pronolagus crassicaudatus, now found only in the Natal and Cape Province, as well as the still widespread Cape hare, Lepus capensis, and scrub hare, L. saxatilis.  Obviously, when we radiated out of Africa and turned left into Europe, we found our familiar rabbit and similar hare (the European hare,
L. europaeus, the largest of the hares). When we turned right into Asia we again found rabbits. There was an Asian rabbit, Nesolagus sp. (recently re-discovered and species yet to be assigned) in the forests of South East Asia, the related Sumatran short eared rabbit, N. netscheri; the Assam rabbit, Caprolagus hispidus, and others. No doubt Homo sapiens ate them all, as we diffused thru' the region.
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
The rabbit is the only rodent we in the West eat regularly (hares are extremely rarely available in the market). Yet bush rats and various savannah rodents would have been far more likely to have been caught and consumed (along with other small game) by our ancestors than the prestiguous 'big game' animals. Accordingly, rabbits ought to be a prized component of a re-constructed 'evolutionarily correct' diet.
Presumably because they were so abundant in the wild (thus the saying 'breed like rabbits'), rabbits were not domesticated for food until the middle ages.
Rabbits have extraordinarily little fat on them, about 2%. While domesticated rabbits are twice as fat, at about 5%, they are still lean eating.
Most natural modern production methods:
The only commercial meat rabbits are those that are caged and fed pellets. As the rabbit is an herbivore, the pellets are comprised chiefly of plant material, particularly alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and grains. As the rabbit is so extraordinarily lean, there is unlikely to be much compositional difference between the wild and the farmed versions.
Curiously, altho' rabbits can be in plague proportions in the warm temperate and temperate areas of Australasia, they are shot and poisoned rather than harvested for food.
Rare South East Asian rabbit JJ pictures and history of the recently discovered South East Asian rabbit.
Ducks have been domesticated with less enthusiasm than jungle fowl, probably because they are 'tied' to water, and because harvesting wild ducks is relatively easy compared to keeping them. The Chinese were probably the first to domesticate ducks, but the date is uncertain. The domesticated duck is largely derived from the mallard Anas platyrhynchos. The large and rather strongly flavored South American muscovy duck, Cairina moschata, was domesticated by the Aztecs.
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
There is little doubt that our ancestors exploited the 100 or so duck species of the world, whether through taking eggs or adult birds. The duck has good amounts of nutritious yellow fat at the right time of year, and a substantial amount of protein in it's breast meat.
Most natural modern production methods:
Young ducks are grown for the market in a somewhat similar fashion to broiler chickens; and like chickens, they can have quite a high fat content, especially under the skin. Again, the fat content (with a ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 of about 12:1) may not have the same fatty acid profile as the wild duck, but it is of no consequence as duck is such a passing small component of the average person's diet. Many people in North America and Australasia are more likely to eat wild duck than domesticated duck anyway.

Quail Coturnix sp.
These small birds range right across Europe and Asia, South East ASia and Australasia.
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
They will long have been food for humans (when they can be caught) as some of us radiated out of Africa. These birds are so small that they don't make much of a meal ( compared with their larger cousins, the partridges), but because they often form quite large groups, any effective trapping techniques may have caught useful numbers. Some species are migratory, and it is known that North African people have found birds recently arrived from Europe an easy prey. In fact, some exhausted birds literally fall out of the sky. A seasonal harvest for our North African ancestors.
Farmed quail have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids in their fat than farmed Turkey or Chicken, which makes them particularly desirable. Whether wild quail have even more omega-3 is a moot point, but quail, wth their predominant monosaturated fats, and their superior omega-3 content, are a bird of choice-for those who can afford them.
The comments about chicken eggs largely apply, except that quail eggs are usually available only as pickled eggs. Of course, these can only be an occasional item of comestation (like that word?!), partly due to espense, and partly due to the inadvisability of eating large amounts of pickled anything. Quail egg shells are too small, too erratic in prodution, and too thin shelled to appear as a regular grocery item. Too bad. A female Japanese quail will lay around 300 eggs a year.
Most natural modern production methods:
Quail can only be farmed in low cages, usually stacked in tiers in a warm building. This is partly due to the need to maximise the number of birds per square metre, given their tiny size, and partly due to the fact that quail that are disturbed have a defense mechanism of flying straight up-at speed. Birds raised in a high roofed outside enclosure tend to be able to pick up enough speed to scalp themselves when they hit the roof netting. Quail are fed compounded feed, as are broiler chickens, with the adults needing more vegetation (such as alfalafa) based feed than the young. Overall, farmed quail can probably be regarded as not veru far removed in lipid profile from wild quail.

Geese Anser anser and Cygnopsis cygnoides
The breeds of domestic gooose in the West are probably derived from the wild graylag goose, Anser anser. The large Chinese domestic goose is probably derived from the Chinese wild goose Cygnopsis cygnoid. Domestication dates are hazy, with the timing being "at least from Neolithic times".
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
Wild geese are fatty, especially in the autumn season, but nothing like as fatty as domestic geese. The reason, in part, is that most wild geese are migratory, and burn off the fat in their epic journeys. Our ancestors would have been as fond of geese as of duck; and goslings are both fat and tender, in contrast to the adult bird, which is generally tough. Because of their grass grazing habit, it is quite possible that their fats will include useful amounts of both omega-3 fats and possibly the healthful 'conjugated linoleic acid'.
Most natural modern production methods:
There is effectively no commercial production of geese. They are a bird of a fast disappearing peasant farming lifestyle. They are efficient converters of grain to meat, but most importantly, they are grass grazers. They can grow and fatten on grass and the insects they find for themselves, without any supplementary feed. Apart from the geese force fed on grains to create the fatty liver ('foie gras') beloved by gourmets (with deep pockets!), most geese will still be grass fed with some supplemental grains. Accordingly, they are likely to have a similar nutritional profile to the wild geese our ancestors ate. Again, many people will never eat geese unless they shoot a wild one themselves, or know a hunter.

Beefalo Bison bison x Bos primigenius (Plains Bison/domestic cattle hybrid)
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
Our ancestors killed and ate both the wild Aurochs and the European woodland bison (which was once widespread over all Europe - including parts of England- and Russia). Beefalo are a hybrid of the plains bison and cattle. The plains bison evolved from an ancestral European species (Bison priscus, the Steppe bison of the mid-Pleistocene - around about 800,000 years ago) which gave rise to the European woods bison, Bison bonasus, and which (B. priscus) also crossed the Bering Straits landbridge in ancient times to establish the Northern Forest and the well -known Plains bison lineages. They are therefore as natural a food for humans as the species from which they are derived.

Most natural modern production methods:
The comments under 'Cattle beasts' apply equally to beefalo. Beefalo are also 'grain finished' in many cases to lay down intermuscular fat for tenderness. For bison, grass fed bison have a ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 of 4, where 4 or less is considered ideal ( Simopoulos, A. and Robinson, Jo. 'The Omega Plan'. Harper Collins, 1998 ). Grain fed bison can have a ratio of 23.4. Clearly, grass fed is to be preferred where it is available.
 Beefalo  JJJJ meat from a hybrid between bison and cattle is significantly different from beef. This page from the Greater Michigan Beefalo Association has some interesting comparisions - including the claim that beefalo muscle meat contains vitamin C, where other domestic meats don't.
Buffalo, hunter gatherer preparation JJJJJ An excellent exposition of how buffalo were harvested and eaten, down to the last detail. This way of eating is likely the natural way of our ancestors, whether European or American Plains bison or other large grazing animal; no matter how revolting we urbanised peoples find it. Not suitable for young children.
European Woods Bison, Bison bonasus - JJJJ very good photographs of the herd in Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland.

<>Goat Capra hircus
Ancestor, the wild Bezoar goat, Capra aegagrus, of West Asia. We first domesticated this wild animal about 10,000 years ago (400 human generations ago, if you count a new 'generation' as occuring every 25 years), probably either in the Zagros mountains of present day Iran or in the Levant. The wild Bezoar goat is now rare.
 Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
 Goats are of as ancient lineage as sheep, and were hunted for food as sheep were, in Ethiopia, and North Africa, and in the Mediterranean and South West Asia.
Most natural modern production methods:
Goats are not grown for food in much number in the west, and those that are are often killed for export to Middle Eastern countries. Goats are invariably grass fed, and are as like their wild ancestors as can be. An ideal food for the urban hunter gatherer.
The Nubian Ibex  Capra nubiana JJJJ A very good page describing this goat from Northeast Africa and Arabia, including several excellent photos..
Wapiti deer, Cervus elaphus canadensis, ('Elk' in the USA, 'Wapiti' in Canada), were first domesticated in USA, UK, New Zealand, and Australia about 30 years ago (1 human generation ago).
Red deer, Cervus elaphus subspp, were first domesticated in UK, New Zealand, and Australia about 30 years ago (1 human generation ago).
Fallow deer, Dama dama, were semi domesticated throughout Western Europe by the last century, and first 'farmed' in UK, and New Zealand about 30 years ago (1 human generation ago).
The future of both these species as a newly domesticated animal is almost certain, in spite of their 'panicky' nature, the need for special 2 metre/6 foot high fencing, and in the rutting season, the danger stags pose to other stags and to humans. The reason their future as a domesticate is almost certain is that the antlers can be harvested for use as a tonic, and deer meat has in Europe culturally been regarded as a premium and elite product. The exclusive right of kings and princes, as it were.
Reindeer Rangifer tarandus tarandus, have probably been domesticated for the greatest length of time (maybe 3,000 years). The primary mode of domestication was (and remains) as a herd followed by nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples, although this is much truncated now, and even domesticated herds ranging in the wild are often given supplementary feed. Reindeer have been used as pack animals, as well as producing milk and meat. Reindeer farming (restrained on a farm, not wild-roaming) is relatively new, and there are only a few farms, mainly in Canada and in USA's Alaska. Most of these farms feed the deer on supplements compounded from various feed grains and alfalfa.
No other species of deer have been long term domesticated and farmed, although moose, Alces alces, have been said to have been domesticated for meat and milk 'with some success' in Russia..
Evolutionary suitability to human nutrition:
 The approximately 41 deer species of the world have been hunted by humans ever since some of us radiated out of Africa into 'deer country'-Eurasia and SouthEast Asia. For example, in China the spotted deer, Cervus nippon hortularum, was a commonly killed species; in the sub arctic, reindeer Rangifer tarandus tarandus, was the prize. Even today, the small remmnant ab-original population of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Siberia rely almost entirely on reindeer for food. The fat rich marrow is particularly prized (eaten raw) as are the internal organs, especially the liver. (A subspecies, the North American 'caribou', Rangifer tarandus caribou is a form of the European tundra reindeer).
The moose, Alces alces, (confusingly, known in Europe as 'Elk') evolved in northern Eurasia (from a much larger animal), and was common in both Europe and Asia, its distribution varying with the climate and vegetation of the time. It wandered into North America across the land bridge only recently, maybe around 10,000 years ago. 'Elk', Cervus elaphus, (not to be confused with moose, Alces alces!) evolved in the European land mass long before the rather recent evolution of humans. It drifted into North America when the land bridge was present (where it is sometimes known by the Indian name, 'Wapiti'), and the remaining European population drifted into several forms and sub species we now know as the 'red deer' - a common forest and upland browser.
Excavation of a prehistoric site in France dated 110,000 years ago showed deer as being the third most commonly eaten large mammalian food (after horse, most often eaten, and the aurochs). Deer are browsers of twigs and leaves as much as grazers, and they are totally unsuited to feedlot management. Thus, modern farmed deer meat is very similar to the meat our ancestors ate. As a general rule, deer meat has very little fat in it.
Most natural modern production methods:
Farmed deer is grass grazed, with occassional supplementary feed of compounded pellets. It can probably be regarded as near enough equivalent to wild deer flesh. Most people will have to hunt their own anyway (or, in North America, scrape it off their fender!).
Wapiti natural history - JJJJJ An excellent and comprehensive page by the Canadian Wildlife Service describing wapiti/North American Elk (Cervus elaphus), their life history, feeding habits, distribution, and future in conflict with man.
Caribou natural history - JJJJJ An excellent and comprehensive page by the Canadian Wildlife Service describing woodland and barren ground caribou, their life history, feeding habits, distribution, and future in conflict with man. Includes a picture and distribution map.
Moose natural history  JJJJJ An excellent and comprehensive page by the Canadian Wildlife Service describing moose (known in Europe as 'Elk')  their life history, feeding habits, distribution, and future in conflict with man. Includes a picture and distribution map.
Moose description and distribution JJJJ A good page giving basic facts on the moose and its distribution and subspecies. 2 very nice photos.
White tailed deer natural history - JJJJJ An excellent and comprehensive page by the Canadian Wildlife Service describing white tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus,  their life history, feeding habits, distribution, and future in dependance on  man to control their population. Includes a picture and distribution map.
Calimian deer  JJJJJ A very good page on a typical small forest deer of the tropics, in this case South East Asia. Similar kinds of forest deer exist in Africa. Includes a photo.
Muntjac JJJJJ A very good page on a typical small deciduous forest deer of less tropical areas, in this case East China.
Sika deer  JJJ Brief description and distribution of this East Asain deer. A good photo as well.
Horse, Equus spEquus caballus przewalski The horse evolved in North America millions of years ago.Various species crossed into Europe and Asia during the Pleistocene glacial periods when sea levels dropped so far that North America and Europe were connected. By about 75,000 years ago, various species and sub-species were well established in the grasslands of Eurasia. This animal and it's Asian relative was a major food source for European and Central Asian human ancestors at this time. In fact, at one stage, it was the predominant large animal eaten. In Upper Paleolithic Europe the horse was the animal most frequently featured on cave paintings, followed by the bison. The paintings are considered to be pictures of animals that the ancestors of the Europeans ate. Ironically, the horse in North America became extinct, possibly through hunting by 'Clovis' people around 11,000 years ago. A skeleton of Equus conversidens, a small North American horse species, has been found in Alberta, Canada, with cut marks on its bones, and a spear point found 500 metres away tested positive for horse protein residues.

Horse muscle tissue has substantial stores of glycogen, an instantly available form of carbohydrate energy. Presumably this is needed to power the horses flight reaction - it may run at speed for many kilometres to escape a predator. The result is that the flesh is both slightly sweetish in taste, and possibly a useful energy source. Apart from it not being as dangerous an animal as the Auroch, it was possibly easy to kill by panicking it over cliffs, or into pit traps. No wonder we seem to have preferred horse.
While the domestic horse derived from a undetermined wild ancestor(s) has thrived, the only still extant true wild species (i.e.not feral domestic horses), the Asian 'Przewalski horse', almost went extinct in historic times.
In spite of it's leaness, excellent nutritional value, and our long evolutionary history of eating this meat, very few Western people eat this ancestral food animal. In Europe, horse meat is only relatively common in Belgium, and to a lesser extent, Sweden and  and France (where specialist horse butcher shops were once common - the meat was primarily bought for its 'health giving properties', and was quite expensive. 'Healthful' or not, horse meat - like pig and bear meat - can carry the parasite that causes 'trichinosis' (Trichinella spiralis), and therefore it ought not be eaten raw).
Most natural modern production methods:
Grass fed horse meat would most likely have the evolutionary correct fat profiles. The wild horse ate grasses and bulbs, and lived in a fairly marginal environment, so it was probably only seasonally fat. When horse meat is available, it may have had some grain feeding, chiefly oats or similar high carbohydrate food, but probably was still chiefly grass fed, except where old or 'broken down' racehorses are used - often fed grains and pellets. Soley grass grazed horse meat would have the most natural biochemical composition of fats, but even in France, where horses are still sometimes raised as a meat animal, they may be 'fattened' off grass before slaughter. Some of the Belgian and French horsemeat is now imported from horse 'feedlots' in USA and Canada.
Przewalski Horse, JJJJ the wild species from which domestic horses were once thought to have arisen. This was the predominant source of meat for our European ancestors in part of our evolutionary history. Few people eat this meat animal today. One page fact sheet giving history, description, and prospects for the future. Some nice photos.

Przewalski Horse, from the Oklahoma State University 'Breeds of Livestock' site. Very good information on the history of the discovery of this breed, and information on it's genetic relationship to the domestic horse. Some very good pictures, as well.
Paper Reading-list of books & scientific papers to buy or find at the library (links to internet sources of the book or paper are included where available)
Koizumi, I., Y. Suzuki, et al. 1991. 'Studies on the fatty acid composition of intramuscular lipids of cattle, pigs and birds.'
Journal Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 37(6): 545-54.
Wendorf, F.;  Schild R.1994. 'Are the early Holocene cattle in the eastern Sahara domestic or wild?'
Evolutionary Anthropology 3(4): 118-128
Corrections and comments please! This information is derived from a variety of sources, and where there are errors of fact, I would appreciate being told! email to meat corrections

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The information in this site is largely the personal opinion of the author, although it is written in good faith. It is up to the reader to criticize, read alternative opinions and assertions, and come to an independent view. Do not rely on anything in this site being current, correct or factual. Any use of the word 'guide' is a guide to one side of the argument, and should be understood as such.

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