Consuming between 2 and 4 pounds of steak daily, adherents of this new and extreme diet challenge everything that plant-based eaters believe in.
The word 'carnivore,' as we were taught in school, usually refers to a small group of animals, both present-day and prehistoric, that subsisted entirely on a diet of flesh. Think of carnivores, and animals like Tyrannosaurus rex, African lions, and sharks will come to mind; but now another animal has voluntarily added itself to the list, to the horror and doubt of many of its fellow species.
Enter the carnivorous human, a baffling phenomenon that is still small, yet gaining attention, both supportive and not. Proponents of carnivory claim that eating only meat, offal, and eggs -- with absolutely no fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, or dairy -- offers tremendous mental and physical benefits.
Shawn Baker, an orthopaedic surgeon from Orange County, California, only eats steak, a staggering 4 pounds of it each day. He switched from a diet that included salads, spinach, dairy and nuts to pure carnivore 18 months ago, and told the Guardian that his overall wellbeing has improved drastically.
"My joint pain and tendinitis went away, my sleep became excellent, my skin improved. I no longer had any bloating, cramping or other digestive problems, my libido went back to what it was in my 20s and my blood pressure normalised."
Others claim the all-meat diet boosts mental focus, clarity, and productivity; that it has enabled them to achieve feats of physical prowess previously unattainable; and that it has simplified their lives. Baker doesn't have to plan meals; he only asks himself how many steaks he wants. Michael Goldstein, a "bitcoin and meat maximalist" from Texas, says,
"Grocery shopping takes all of ten minutes, most of which is standing in the checkout line. I spend little time thinking about food. I only need to eat once or twice a day (no snacking or cravings). Basically, it’s the greatest productivity hack."
Productivity aside, it is difficult to reconcile such a diet with its impact on the planet. The scientific evidence is mounting against industrial meat production and the numerous ways in which it degrades the planet, from destruction of natural habitats and loss of biodiversity, to requiring massive amounts of water for very low returns and widespread contamination of water sources, to dangerous methane emissions from the vast quantities of poop.
Nor do the carnivorous adherents prioritize the purchase of higher-quality meat (or at least meat from animals raised in conditions considered more natural or ethical), despite the fact that it comprises their entire diet. The Guardian article cites a software engineer from New York City who "will sometimes eat four to six quarter-pounder burger patties from McDonald’s for lunch." Goldstein references the grocery store, where most meat sold is produced in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and says he spends $400 per month on steak. Based on my limited knowledge of grass-fed steak prices, $400 would not go far at his consumption rate of 2-2.5 pounds per day -- perhaps a week at best.
Excessive red meat consumption has been linked to heart disease, inflammation in the gut, diabetes, and even cancer. But even if fears of pending illness are not sufficient to deter the new carnivores, the environmental argument should. It begs the question, what responsibility do we have to ourselves, to fellow humans, and to the planet to make dietary choices that sustain, or, better yet, regenerate our world?
Everything we do on a daily basis has an effect, and our choices add up. Animal agriculture is estimated to be on par with transportation when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions (some say it's more), and we have a responsibility as conscientious citizens to do our best to reduce our individual footprints. Eating a carnivorous diet has no place in a world that strives to distribute food more evenly, alleviate hunger, and slow climate change.