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Sacred Cow: A Conversation with Robb Wolf

We had the pleasure of discussing some of our core passions and beliefs with a like minded expert in the field and leading ancestral living advocate - Robb Wolf. Here's what happened.

Meet Robb Wolf

Robb Wolf is a former research chemist turned award-winning, bestselling author of The Paleo Solution and Wired to Eat

He is also co-author of Sacred Cow, alongside registered dietitian and sustainability advocate, Diana Rodgers.

Robb's health journey and career came to fruition following his own personal experience with ulcerative colitis.

Finding conventional advice and treatment ineffective, he began to explore an ancestral health approach which ended up reorienting both his personal and professional life.

Fast forward a couple of decades and Robb has transformed the lives of millions with his research, books, podcasts and seminars.


Sacred Cow: Where it Began

Sacred Cow the movie has received international praise and recognition - sparking up a much needed conversation about the case for better meat.

The seed for Sacred Cow was first sown when Robb and Diana found themselves on the opposite side of accepted wisdom for a whole spectrum of important health topics.

Despite their knowledge, expertise, extensive scientific research and even clinical experience - the nutritional principles they knew to be best for optimal health seemed to be hard to swallow for the majority.


Going Against the Grain

Pro-meat discussion was not only misunderstood by the wider public, but was also chastised by health authorities, the food industry and environmentalists.

Robb and Diana knew that there was an argument for animal based diets and the benefits of an ancestral health model, not just for the individual but also from a global health perspective.

Together they co-authored Sacred Cow the book, and went on to produce Sacred Cow the movie. You can learn more about the Sacred Cow Project and join the conversation below.

🐄 Sacred Cow: The Case for (Better) Meat

 

A Conversation with Robb Wolf and Hunter & Gather Co-Founders Amy & Jeff

Hunter & Gather co-founders Amy and Jeff are passionate advocates of a diet which includes quality animal protein such as Grass Fed, Pasture Raised and Organic meat.

They're also huge believers in a lifestyle based upon an ancestral living template - which is inspired by how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived thousands of years ago.

You can learn more about the benefits of ancestral living in our article below.

👉 Adopting ancestral hacks to benefit a modern life

Like Robb and Diana, Amy and Jeff believe in the case for eating better meat  - for the health of the planet and both its human and animal residents.

Here are some of the key topics which came up when Amy and Jeff interviewed Robb Wolf to discuss all of the above.


Climate Change & The Sustainability of Eating Meat

One of the biggest discussion points when it comes to eating meat is sustainability.

We've all seen the headlines suggesting that the meat industry is a key contributor to climate change - and that the environment would begin to repair if we stopped eating meat.

It's easy to get sucked into the hype around plant-based diets and the environment, but dig a little deeper behind the headlines and the conversation gets a lot meatier.

 

Carbon Emissions & Cows: What's the problem?

You've probably heard through the grapevine that the potent farts of grazing animals releases methane into the atmosphere, which accelerates carbon emissions on a global scale.

What isn't so widely communicated is that whilst methane may be a potent greenhouse gas, it has a half life of just 5-10 years in the atmosphere - compared to around 100 years for carbon dioxide, if not centuries.

Methane produced by animals is a completely natural part of the carbon cycle and has been for thousands of years.

"Really well managed grazing lands actually put more carbon underground than what they release back into the atmosphere." - Robb Wolf

This makes farming vastly less harmful to the planet than other human activities such as transportation, which utilises sequestered carbon that has been underground for hundreds of millions of years.

Pulling this stored carbon to the surface before burning it for fuel is about as far from the natural carbon cycle as you can get!

 

Farming, Land and Biodiversity

It is commonly argued that land used for grazing animals - and to produce crops used to feed those animals - is harmful to the environment and surrounding biodiversity.

However, Robb explains that the evidence has not supported this so far - and we're talking over several thousand years, not just one recent study.

Records have shown that farms have been owned for between one and two thousand years with the same lineage, yet the land has not been destroyed in those areas - arguably the very definition of a regenerative system.

Systems which involve sunlight, biodiverse grasslands and ancestral living have withstood the test of time to improve biodiversity of landscapes - rather than deplete them.

 

Is Growing Crops More Efficient than Raising Meat?

We often hear that land used to raise animals for meat is very inefficient, and could be put to better use by growing crops instead.

The idea is that by comparing calories in animal products vs those in crops e.g. grains - you can get a lot more calories out of a section of land with crops that you can with animals. However, it is not as simple as that.



"Humans live on and utilise only a quarter of the land available - out of which a lot is not suitable for growing crops, but is only suitable for animal agriculture." - Amy


So whilst this might be the case for getting the most calories out of a system, it is simply not possible to just repurpose land for another use. Not to mention, there's far more to human health and nutrition than calories alone.



Plant-Based Food: The Future for us, the planet and its animals?

The overarching narrative when it comes to diet and lifestyle is that a plant-based diet is the better choice for us, the planet and the animals.

This is one of the themes explored by Robb and Diana throughout Sacred Cow - both in the movie and more in-depth in the book.

Understanding the facts and details underlying this claim is imperative to make better informed dietary choices. Let's take a look.


HUMAN HEALTH & NUTRITION

Ethical and environmental issues aside, plant-based foods are often perceived to be healthier than animal-based foods.

However, they are certainly not like-for-like in terms of nutrition. Plant-based meat alternatives are usually an incomplete source of protein, are heavily processed and don't contain the spectrum of beneficial nutrients you'd find in meat.

In comparison, meat is nutritionally dense, provides all amino acids and is potent source of incredibly bioavailable vitamins and minerals. If people don't eat dense animal proteins there will be far greater nutritional deficiencies and people will subsequently overeat.

For example, with meat around 200 calories will provide a spectrum of nutrients including complete protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

To echo a similar amount of just some of these beneficial nutrients, a meal of beans and rice would require much bigger portions amounting to around 800 calories.


" We have no issues with calories, but rather as a nation we are overfed and undernourished" - Jeff


Feeding an ever-growing population is not just about a lack of calories, it is a problem of nutrient deficiency and access to nutrient-dense foods.



What is so bad with meat, if anything at all?

The double whammy of misinformation around plant-based foods is that not only are they healthy - but meat is not healthy.

Jeff recalls a startling headline claiming that eating bacon or one egg had adverse effects on health comparable to smoking a certain number of cigarettes.

Modern day and epidemiological research has found seemingly worrying links between eating meat and poor health outcomes - at least so it would seem.

These kind of claims are understandably very influential on a population level. But does correlation imply causation? Or is it that those who eat bacon are more likely to have a number of confounding lifestyle factors which are the true root cause of poor health - as with many diseases of modernity?



SUSTAINABILITY & THE ENVIRONMENT

Plant-based foods are marketed as far more sustainable and planet friendly than foods which contain animal products.

This often piggybacks onto wider sustainability claims such as animal agriculture destroys land, raising meat is inefficient and so on.

However, Robb explains that creating plant-based foods is far less environmentally sustainable than we're led to believe. Here's why.

 

Thermodynamically Inefficient: Producing plants as a source of protein is actually thermodynamically inefficient - with research already showing that far more energy is used to produce plant-based proteins than is used to produce meat.


Hydroponics & Lab-Grown 'Meat':
Lab-grown meat and plants promise to reduce the reliance on livestock and crops for the sake of the environment. But they do not have a natural energy source as meat does with sunlight- so what is the economical and environmental cost of the energy needed for lab-grown meat and plants?


Calories vs Nutrition:
 Reducing meat intake and increasing intake of plant-based foods would largely mean prioritising calories over overall nutrition - resulting in an overfed and undernourished population - and further contributing to diseases of modernity.


Global Food Security:
With worldwide food supply issues only worsening and an ever-growing population, it is not a good idea to cull animals and end farms which have been working to effectively feed the planet for thousands of years.

 

ETHICAL & MORAL CONSIDERATIONS

For most people who choose not to eat animal products, there is a significant moral element which involves not wanting to harm or kill animals purely for their consumption as food.

As you would maybe expect, vegan and vegetarian foods don't actually come with the premise that "no animals are killed." It may be surprising to learn that even when animal meat is not eaten directly, that does not mean that animals have not been harmed or killed in the process of producing that food, even if the label says vegan.

It is common for both small and larger animals to be killed in the process of food production - even for plant-based products.

The harming of small animals such as mice may not seem as striking as harming pigs and cows, but these are still complex mammalian animals with a similar intelligence.

With ethical considerations and morals driving the decision to adopt a more plant-based diet, this is something which should be more widely discussed.

 

Why is the narrative of Sacred Cow not conventional wisdom already?

We hope that the interview and article have helped to give an invaluable insight into the argument for eating better meat.

Having explored this in detail you're probably now wondering why the topics discussed aren't echoed in mainstream conversation.

To close off the interview on this thought, Robb explained that far more research is needed to untie and pull apart the widely perceived claims that a plant-based diet is better than one which includes animals.


"What we are faced with is a mini PHD dissertation in economics, thermodynamics and evolutionary biology - to even begin to have a conversation about these claims." - Robb Wolf


Essentially, accepting the notion that “meat is unethical” is far easier than exploring the science which explains how eating meat is better for us and the planet.

     

    Sacred Cow: What's Next?

    Whilst our chat with Robb was absolutely invaluable, we only got the chance to touch upon the surface of the issues discussed - under which there is an exponentially expanding iceberg to chip away at and learn from!

    With experts like Robb and Diana leading the way in much needed research, gathering unequivocal evidence to support the case for better meat - and communities such as ours getting behind them to bring these issues to mainstream attention - we are confident that the proof will be in the pudding in years to come.

    Let's keep talking, keep learning, keep educating and keep shouting from the rooftops why all of these things matter - and how accepting this will undeniably improve health in the modern world.


    Keep Learning 👇

    📚 Book - Sacred Cow: The case for (better) meat

    🎥 Movie - Sacred Cow: The case for (better) meat

    🧐 Robb Wolf's website - The Healthy Rebellion

    🐄 The official Sacred Cow Website

    🎧 The Healthy Rebellion Radio Podcast with Robb Wolf

     

    All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.

    It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.

    We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.

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