Chewing on bones is not considered cool. In fact, it is considered to be bad manners in many cultures. Yet one thing has been found in just about every place where Paleolithic people used to live—a big pile of bones, cracked open.
In addition to this, every meat eating animal chews on bones. Since animals never do anything without a reason, and know how to get great nutrition from their natural food, I thought there must be something to this. So I put my inhibitions away and did the natural thing. I chewed on the bone of a rare, barbecued, grassfed, Porterhouse steak.
Was it good? No. It was great. It was fantastic. It was satisfying. It tasted so good. It made me happy. And, when I was done, I had a huge, wonderful, comfortable feeling of satisfaction, in a way that was new, yet felt so familiar.
The Blessings of Bones
Meaty bones are full of nutrients. Not only is there the bone itself, full of minerals, there is the meat that is right next to the bone. That meat is saturated with nutrients from the bone, and has unbelievable taste, texture, and flavor. There is an old saying, “The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat.” That saying is true. I tasted it.
There is also the fat next to the bone, which is rich, tasty, and so satisfying. The fat from grassfed animals is very nutritious, containing vital nutrients such as the perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), a known cancer fighter that also promotes muscle growth and burns fat. Both omega-3s and CLA diminish to almost nothing after the typical stay in the feedlot, which is why grassfed meat is by far our best source of them. See Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products.
And there is the bone marrow. It is almost universally accepted that all those bones found in piles at Paleo sites were cracked open for the bone marrow, one of the most nutritious substances known.
When you chew on the bones, your teeth and saliva cause minerals to enter your mouth from the chewing process, and this is the tastiest way I know to get vital minerals.
Any way you look at it, the bones of grassfed animals are nutrient-dense, to say the least.
The Chewing of the Bone
Just before I started chewing on the Porterhouse bone, I was wondering if there was a right or wrong way to do it. Not to worry. My mouth and teeth knew exactly what to do. I gently bit off and chewed the delicious morsels of rare meat, white fat, and everything else that would come of the bone. My teeth gently chewed on the bone itself. The taste and satisfaction was so wonderful it is hard to describe. A wonderful feeling of contentment came over me as I chewed on the bone, enjoying the taste and nutrition it gave. The glorious flavor of hot bone marrow permeated the meat and fat, giving it a fantastic, satisfying taste. I chewed slowly, savoring every magnificent morsel. It felt so right, so natural. So familiar. I finally understood why the dogs I used to have were so happy to have a real bone.
It took awhile. When I was finally done, I felt healthy, satiated, and utterly satisfied. I also felt very happy.
Why is bone chewing considered bad manners? My guess is that the custom was created to stop people from fighting over the bones, since there often would not be enough to go around.
Chewing on bones is a good thing, for nutrition, taste, and the sheer pleasure of it. I cannot think of a more Paleo way to eat.
The question of what Paleolithic people actually ate is hard to answer, and the Paleo and Primal communities are divided. One of the biggest controversies is whether Paleolithic peoples ate lean meat and had little fat in their diet, or whether they ate all the animal fat they could get, and plenty of it.
There is some evidence, in the form of bone piles in caves, and there is the research of Dr. Weston A. Price, who actually met and studied the diets of traditional peoples who lived completely by hunting and gathering.
It appears that hunter-gatherers, whether in Paleolithic times, or in the twentieth century, prized animal fat as one of their most crucial foods, and ate as much of it as they could get.
The Evidence for Lean Meat
When the Paleo eating ideas were first expressed, the belief was that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate lean meat, not fat. One of the strongest reasons to support this theory is that the meat of wild game is much leaner than the meat of domestic animals. The old hunters ate wild game, which has lean meat. While this is true, the fact is that wild game animals, especially older animals, actually have plenty of fat, especially in the late fall, when they put on extra fat to prepare for winter.
The fat is not in the meat, but in a huge layer of fat in the back, and in the internal organs, and in the bones, in the form of marrow.
The other basis for thinking that early peoples ate lean meat appears to be based on the common false belief that animal fat is unhealthy. Actually, fat from grassfed and pastured animals is a vital nutrient as seen in the article The Skinny on Fats.
The Evidence for Eating Fat
Some caves have been found that were occupied by early hunter-gatherers. Along with pits showing the use of fire, there is almost always something else—a bone pile. The bones are those of wild animals, and the bones have been split open. It is universally assumed that the bones were split open so the hunters could eat the bone marrow. In addition to being one of the most nutritious foods that can be eaten—bone marrow is almost 100 percent animal fat.
Dr. Weston A. Price met and studied several peoples who got all their food by hunting and gathering. This was in the 1930s. One of the peoples he studied lived in the far north of Canada, and got most of their food from hunting, as gathering was impossible during much of the year. The diet of these people had never changed in the memory of the tribes, and so could have been the same in very early times.
This native people preferred to hunt older animals, because these animals had more fat. They ate liberally of the back fat and the fatty organs, as much as they could get. They had perfect teeth and no disease, even though they were deprived of all plant foods for most of the year.
The Inuit, who lived even further north, valued the fat of sea mammals, game animals, and fish above all other foods. They would throw the lean meat to their dogs, and eat the fat and organs themselves. They would often eat pure animal fat, in addition to the fatty meats. It is likely that their traditional diet had been the same for uncounted thousands of years. These people were also free of tooth decay and had no chronic illnesses.
The traditional diet of the Native Americans was recorded when they were contacted by Europeans, and it is clear that the hunting peoples ate as much animal fat as they could get, and valued animal fat as a survival food. The Native Americans who lived on the Great Plains lived mainly off the bison herds.
Now, bison is a very lean meat. But bison carry a huge amount of fat in their humps, and the hump was the most prized part of the bison. The Native Americans of the Great Plains made most of the bison into a survival food called pemmican, which would keep indefinitely without spoiling. Pemmican was one-third dried lean meat, one-third dried fruit, and one-third bison fat, mostly from the hump. It was very nutritious.
These are just a few examples, and I could provide many more. In fact, it appears that every hunting people ever studied ate plenty of animal fat from their prey.
If you want to eat a diet similar to those of Paleolithic peoples, you would do well to eat plenty of animal fat from grassfed animals and wild game, in my opinion.
By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat and Tender Grassfed Barbecue
Grassfed bison meat is a healthy, basic human food that is valued by the Primal, Paleo, and Price movements. photo credit: puroticorico
The question has arisen recently on various blogs about whether the teachings of Dr. Weston A. Price are compatible with the Paleo and Primal movements. A similar question has been raised as to whether the Weston A. Price Foundation and its members are hostile to the Paleo and Primal movements.
I have studied Dr. Price’s work for years, so much so that my copy of his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, has literally fallen apart. I have been a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation for years. I have followed a Weston A. Price style diet for over six years. I have read and studied almost every article on the vast website of the Weston A. Price Foundation. I have designed my cookbooks to be completely compatible with the teachings of Dr. Price. I have strongly advocated the Weston A. Price style of eating on my blog, and still do.
Though I am a member, I do not speak for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Nobody speaks for the Foundation except its officers, officially designated spokespeople, and board members. I speak for myself.
I consider the teachings of Dr. Price to be compatible with a number of Paleo and Primal diets.
I support, respect, and admire the Paleo and Primal movements.
We have so much in common. We are all looking for an alternative to the horrible modern diet which has destroyed the health of so many people. We all reject modern processed foods in favor of real food, food that humans have thrived on for uncounted years. We are all trying to base our diets on the wisdom of our ancestors. So many of us have had amazing health benefits from following the food wisdom of our ancestors. We are natural allies. We should unite politically to protect our access to real food. We should support, encourage, share what we know, and learn from each other. And many of us have been doing exactly that.
The Many Diets of Doctor Price
As many of us know, Dr. Price traveled the world for ten years, visiting and studying various peoples who were eating the traditional diets of their ancestors. Each one of these traditional people had relatives who were eating a modern diet in a nearby town or city, so Dr. Price was able to compare the teeth and health of those who ate traditional food to those who ate modern food. Dr. Price found that the people eating their traditional diets had perfect teeth, despite having no dental care, and were free of the modern chronic diseases that cripple and kill so many people in modern cultures, both then and today. In other words, they had no cancer, no heart disease, no birth defects, not arthritis, no asthma, no allergies, no tuberculosis, none of the modern chronic diseases. They were so much healthier than we are, in so many ways. Yet, the relatives of those people, if they made the terrible mistake of eating modern foods, lost their teeth, and suffered from all of the chronic modern diseases, unlike their cousins who ate like their ancestors.
No two of the diets studied by Dr. Price were alike. There were peoples who ate traditionally prepared grains and dairy, along with meat and vegetables. There were peoples who ate meat, dairy, and vegetables, but no grains. There were peoples who ate only the animals they hunted, and ate no dairy, grains, or vegetables. Most of these peoples ate wild seafood, but some had no access to it. All of these peoples were healthy and free of chronic disease, with perfect teeth. And they had essentially no modern medical care, and no dentistry. So we know for a fact that all of these ancestral diets worked wonderfully for human beings.
Yet, all of these diets had something in common. They all ate meat, and they all consumed large amounts of animal fat, and/or fish fat. They all fermented various foods, a process that both preserved foods and increased the nutritional value. They all had sacred foods, foods that they valued above all others. These sacred foods were rich in animal or fish fat, including such items as organ meats, fish eggs, and butter. None of these peoples ate modern processed foods, even the kinds that were available in the 1930s.
So you can follow the research results of Dr. Price, and eat or avoid a wide variety of foods. You do not have to eat grains. You do not have to eat dairy. As long as you eat real, unmodified food, and eat plenty of natural animal fat, and avoid modern processed foods, you are on the path. You can also add in traditionally prepared grains and/or dairy, and still be on the path. It depends on how you respond to various foods, what you can get, how much work you are willing to put into it, and the condition of your body. The choice is yours, and I respect your right to make it.
The Many Diets of Paleo and Primal
There is no single Paleo or Primal diet. There are dozens of variations. Some allow some dairy and/or grains. Some do not. These diets are constantly evolving and changing as more is learned, a healthy and vital process that is great for the movement. Yet, all of these diets seek to eat the foods that our ancestors thrived on, and look to the wisdom of our ancestors in choosing food. Many of them seek to eat foods similar to those eaten before the advent of agriculture. No one knows for sure what Paleolithic people ate. We can make some pretty good guesses, based on what people without agriculture or herds have eaten in recorded history, and based on what some of the peoples studied by Dr. Price ate. Some of the details of what we do know are surprising. For example, some people who had no dairy animals ate animal milk. They did so by killing female animals, and eating the milk they found in the body. They would also kill young animals, such as bison calves, and eat the milk they found in the digestive system of the animal. We know that the Native Americans did this, and there is no reason to believe that any people who lived by hunting did not do the same. My point is that ancestral eating covers a huge range of foods.
I have spent a huge amount of time lurking on various Paleo and Primal blogs, and reading a huge number of articles. It is clear to me that no one in the movement actually wants to dig in the earth for bugs, or grab a spear and hunt for mammoth. The focus is on eating the foods of our ancestors, the foods we have eaten for a very long time, the foods that our bodies are accustomed to, the foods that we thrive on. That is a wonderful goal, and I share it.
What Does the Weston A. Price Foundation Actually Do about Paleo and Primal?
I am speaking only from my own observations, as I do not speak for the Weston A. Price Foundation. As I see it, the view of WAPF has changed with the evolvement and change of the Paleo and Primal movements.
The initial book by Dr. Cordain advocated a low-fat diet, which was totally opposed to the teachings of Dr. Price, and the book was not well received for that reason, and others. But many in the Paleo and Primal movements understand the value of traditional animal fats, and even Dr. Cordain has backed off that position. One of the things I love about these movements is the willingness to learn and change as more is discovered. And these changes in position have had an impact.
I think it is the most recent actions of WAPF that are most relevant to the issue. In March 2012, my friend Sarah Pope, a member of the board of the Weston A. Price Foundation, attended the PaleoFX12 convention is Austin, Texas, as a representative of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Sarah took part in a panel discussion, had a wonderful time, and had her picture taken with some Paleo leaders, such as Robb Wolf and Nora Gedgaudas. She wrote two positive blog posts about the conference, and mentioned how the Paleo movement “has much in common with the nutritional principles of Dr. Price.” It is clear that the hand of friendship was extended and accepted. And that is exactly the way it should be.
The Paleo, Primal, and Price Movements Are Already Learning from each Other
Anyone who reads a number of Paleo blogs knows that many Paleo people like the teachings of Dr. Price and WAPF, and have adopted some of the traditional methods of food preparation taught by WAPF. In fact, I have seen a great deal of praise for Price and WAPF methods on many Primal blogs and forums. Conversely, many Price followers have learned from the Primal and Paleo communities and changed their diets. I have three good friends who have followed a WAPF diet for years. They have experienced great health benefits, but have had some bad problems at times. All three of my friends have modified their diets by adopting some Paleo principles, including avoiding grains, and have had wonderful results with their customized “Price-Paleo” diets.
I myself have adopted some Paleo and Primal ideas in what I eat, and the results have been great!
All of us are individuals, we are all different, and what works for some may not work for all. But friendship between the Paleo, Primal, and Price movements benefits all of us.
I am grateful for the Weston A. Price Foundation, whose priceless knowledge enabled me to save my life and restore my health. And I am grateful to the Paleo and Primal movements, which have inspired so many people to reject SAD and adopt ancestral eating, and has taught me some valuable lessons.
As interest in Paleo and Primal Diets continues to expand, one question continues to come up—what did our Paleo period ancestors actually eat? While there is no conclusive answer, we can be assured that one food was right at the top of their list—bone marrow.
Bone marrow is a soft, fatty substance found inside bones. It contains all the nutrients and substances that the body uses to build, repair, and maintain the living bones, from the inside out. There are a number of caves that show long evidence of human habitation, going all the way back to the Paleolithic period. All of these caves contained ancient fire pits. And all of these caves contained the remnants of large piles of bones. The bones that were found were animal bones. Almost without exception, they had been cracked open, and every trace of the marrow removed. This is the most direct evidence we have of what Paleo people actually ate.
Wild animals also value bone marrow. Large predators will crack open the bones of their prey, and eat the marrow. Hyenas, which are scavengers rather than hunters, have incredibly powerful jaws that are perfect for cracking even large bones open so they can get at the bone marrow.
The healthy peoples studied by Dr. Weston A. Price also valued bone marrow, when they could get it. Some would crack open the bones and eat it raw, most would simmer marrowbones in their broths, and others would extract the marrow and use it in all kinds of dishes. Bone marrow was an important component in traditional European cooking, with many different ways of preparing it, some of which were quite complicated. Marrow dumplings were a favorite throughout central Europe.
Dr. Price once designed a diet for a group of very poor children who went to school at a mission in Canada. These children were of native background, and usually ate modern, cheap, high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods. They had terrible teeth, poor attention spans, stunted growth, and all kind of health problems. They did very poorly in their studies. The school did provide lunch. Dr Price devised a lunch plan for them that centered largely around a meat dish he designed. This dish contained a large amount of vegetables and meat broth, and a substantial amount of bone marrow. Broiled rare meat was finely chopped and added to other ingredients. Not only did the children’s teeth and health improve substantially, but they began to excel in their schoolwork. There is a recipe for my version of this dish on page 120 of Tender Grassfed Meat.
Old-time physicians would prescribe eating bone marrow to strengthen the teeth and bones, to recover from injury, and relieve rheumatism and other bone problems.
Most people are intimidated by the thought of cooking bone marrow, but there is an easy solution. My friend, Sarah Pope, of the Healthy Home Economist blog, has come up with a method of cooking bone marrow that is so easy and delicious that it defies belief. Here is a link to Sarah’s video that explains her easy method and demonstrates it. You will not believe how easy it is.
Sarah likes to serve it on toast, which is traditional in Europe, but you do not have to eat grains to enjoy this most nutritious and delicious of foods. You can eat it right out of the bone, with a small spoon (there used to be spoons designed specifically for this purpose), or you can spread it on a nice hot piece of grassfed steak or roast, which was also a tradition all over Europe. This is so delicious that I do not even know how to describe it. And bone marrow is one of those foods that really satisfies, being loaded with nutrients.
I only recommend bone marrow from the bones of grassfed animals. This was the kind of marrow our ancestors ate, and I have always found grassfed animals to be totally superior when it comes to nutrition and taste.
The idea behind the Paleo diet makes a great deal of sense. For tens of thousands of years, humans have been eating the foods available during the Paleolithic period. Our bodies have adapted to use these foods and easily digest and process them. Our bodies know how to use the nutrients in these foods, and how to dispose of the waste in these foods.
But what is the Paleo diet? What did Paleolithic peoples really eat?
The Paleo diet is generally agreed to consist of foods that were only available during the Paleolithic period, before agriculture and the keeping of domestic animal herds had been developed. All grains, dairy products, all modern processed foods and oils are excluded. Wild meat, fish, roots, shellfish, berries, fruits, eggs, some tree nuts, vegetables, and edible fungi such as mushrooms are included.
Some say that the Paleo diet should be meat-heavy. with an emphasis on lean meats. Others say it can be mostly fruits and vegetables. Some say it should be high-fat, and others say it should be low-fat. But what did the Paleolithic peoples really eat?
A true Paleolithic diet was discovered and recorded by Dr. Weston A. Price, the great food researcher. In 1933, Dr. Price visited a native people living in the far north of Canada, far from the sea. These people were eating the same diet their ancestors had, consisting only of foods that were readily available during the Paleolithic period.
These people had no agriculture, and no herds. They were so far north that they were deprived of all fruits and vegetables for most of the year. They were far from the sea, and the rivers were so frozen that there were no fish. In fact, they ate very little other than the wild animals they hunted, often moose.
They ate not only the meat of the animals, but the organs, and the fat, especially the fat. Meat was always eaten with fat. They also ate bone marrow, chewed on the bones, and used the bones in cooking. The animals they ate were mainly herbivores, grass-eaters, so they were eating grassfed meat and fat, and the organs of grassfed animals. And just about nothing else.
Dr. Price found that these people were in excellent health, strong, happy, and vital. Though the temperature would often be seventy below zero during the long, cold winters, these people had learned how to keep warm and well-fed. The women would give birth quickly and easily, to healthy children who were free of birth defects. They had no dentists, and no cavities. Despite the extreme cold, nobody had arthritis. They did not have heart disease or cancer. They did not have diabetes or any of the chronic diseases so common in the modern world.
Dr. Price wanted to know why they did not get scurvy, a disease caused by the lack of Vitamin C that causes teeth to fall out, and eventually results in death. Dr. Price learned that they got the Vitamin C they needed by eating the adrenal glands and second stomachs of the animals they hunted. Scientific research later confirmed that the adrenal glands of grassfed animals were the richest known source of Vitamin C, containing far more than any fruit or vegetable. These native people knew what part of the animal to eat, so they could get the nutrition they needed. In fact, they got all their vitamins and minerals from the fat, organs and bones of the animals they hunted.
These people were so free from crime that nobody locked their doors, and nothing was ever stolen.
After Dr. Price left these people, he traveled south, and studied the native peoples he met on the way. Many of these people had adopted modern food like jam, sugar, syrup, and bread. The native peoples eating modern foods were riddled with disease, many suffering from crippling arthritis. Tuberculosis, cancer, and tooth decay were very common.
Dr. Price’s research described a true Paleolithic diet, and the wonderful health of the people who followed it.
While this is not the only Paleolithic diet, it shows how beneficial a true Paleolithic diet can be.
By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
The Paleo diet has been adopted by many people, and the numbers are growing. The idea that we should eat like our ancestors makes complete sense, as our bodies have evolved to eat and process the foods they used over tens of thousands of years. While there are different variations of Paleo diets, one thing is true for all of them—grassfed meat is ideal, especially when barbecued.
What is Paleo?
I did not know about the Paleo diet when I wrote my first cookbook, Tender Grassfed Meat. As I followed news of my book on the Internet, I came across a number of comments on Paleo websites that praised my book and talked about how it was great for people following a Paleo diet. These comments inspired me to learn about Paleo.
The Paleo concept is both simple and profound. The idea is that we should eat the same foods that our distant ancestors ate, before agriculture was developed. The argument is a powerful one—agriculture is only a few thousand years old, but humanity has existed for tens of thousands of years, or much longer.
The foods eaten by humanity over these tens of thousands of years included the meat and fat of ruminant animals, the meat and fat of other animals such as wild boar, the meat and fat of a huge variety of birds, wild fish, and seafood. Nuts, berries, wild roots, and plants were also eaten. Meat was eaten on the bone whenever possible, and bones were cracked open for their marrow, and formed the basis of early broths. Because humans have been eating these foods since the beginning, they are ideal for our bodies, since we have evolved to eat and digest them.
The food of agriculture, such as grains and dairy, as well as all of the modern processed foods, are new to our bodies and can cause problems with digestion and absorption, as well as allergies and other problems.
Therefore, a true Paleo diet would avoid all modern foods, and many traditional foods, including all grains and dairy.
I personally eat lots of dairy, but only in its traditional forms. Humans have been eating traditional dairy for about ten thousand years, and my body does fine with it. I avoid most grains, and find that I can easily do without them. I avoid all modern processed foods. But the food I enjoy and crave the most is Paleo—grassfed meat and fat, cooked in front of burning coals.
But it is not enough just to eat meat and fat. Modern industrial meat has a totally different nutritional content from the meat eaten by our ancestors. Grassfed meat and fat is as close as we can get to the meat that nourished our ancestors (with the exception of wild game).
The Price–Paleo Connection—Modern Examples of a Real Paleo Diet
Dr. Weston A. Price, spent ten years studying the diets of the traditional peoples who were free from the chronic diseases that plagued the modern world, such as tooth decay, heart disease, asthma, cancer, allergies, birth defects, and just about every chronic modern illness. He did not read reports or studies, but actually travelled to where these people lived and met them, taking detailed notes on what they ate and how they lived.
Three of the healthy peoples studied by Dr. Price were eating a Paleo diet, in that they had no agriculture and no dairy. They lived completely from hunting and gathering. Their traditional diets had not changed for many thousands of years. These peoples included Alaskan Eskimos (Inuit), Australian Aborigines, and Canadian Native Americans.
When these peoples ate their traditional Paleo diet, they were healthy. When they ate modern foods, they were riddled with all kinds of chronic disease, and died in large numbers from diseases such as tuberculosis.
These peoples all ate the meat, organs, and fat of grass-eating animals, as well as other animals. Those who lived by the sea also ate huge amounts of wild seafood and fish. While all of these peoples gathered and ate a variety of nuts, berries, and plants, their diets focused heavily on meat, organs, and fat, both from land and sea animals. All of the animals they ate were eating a species-appropriate diet such as grass and meadow plants for herbivores.
Grassfed and Paleo—a Perfect Match
Most of the foods eaten by early humans are not readily available to us. But we can find and eat foods that have a similar nutritional profile. The major food of these people was the meat and fat of animals, especially ruminant animals. We can get an almost identical set of nutrients by eating plenty of grassfed meat and fat, as well as the organs of grassfed animals.
Grassfed bison meat, from bison grazing their natural habitat, is just about identical with the bison that was eaten by early humans.
Grassfed beef is very similar, even though the breed and characteristics of the animals have changed from the wild varieties available before agriculture.
Grassfed lamb and goat also have a similar nutritional profile.
Pastured pork, from pigs who have been allowed to root in the forest like their wild ancestors, is another meat that is close to the meat eaten by early humans.
Grassfed Barbecue and Paleo—an Even Better Match
While the peoples studied by Dr. Price ate some of their meat raw or fermented, much of their meat was cooked, and it was almost always cooked in front of a fire.
I do not know if any nutrients are enhanced by the barbecue process, but the taste certainly is. The mouthwatering smell and taste of charcoaled meat appeals to most people on a primal level. The smell of meat roasting in front of a fire, the flavor added by the burning coals, is one of the oldest human pleasures, one that has been enjoyed for ages.
By barbecuing grassfed meat in a traditional manner, we can enjoy this primal taste, as did our ancestors.
This article was taken from my upcoming book on grassfed barbecue.