Weekend Diversion: Mmmmmm… MEAT!

As someone who’s spent a lot of time in a University setting, one of the thing that often shocks me is the number of vegans that are out there. Why is it shocking? Because you need meat for proper nutrition. Now, I thought this was common knowledge, that humans are omnivores and that eating other animal products was the best way to get many of the essential nutrients your body needs. Plus, meat is delicious, and when I’ve gone a long time without eating it, my body physically feels better when I finally have some again.

But apparently, it isn’t common knowledge, because a vegan couple starved their baby to death by feeding it a strictly vegan diet. And to make matters worse, there is some really poor misinformation out there from reputable-looking sources. Take a look at keepkidshealthy.com and what they have to say; it’s completely bogus! Additionally, leading vegetarian websites have fabricated information about eating animal products being unhealthy for you. Why do I say that?

Because scientific research shows that vegan diets harm children. Is meat-eating really more unethical, as some claim, than malnourishing either yourself or others?

Let’s take a look at the science itself:

  • Children in Kenya were fed their normal diets, with three possible supplements; one group got 60 grams of meat, one group got a cup of milk, and one group got the caloric equivalent in vegetable oil.
  • All groups gained, on average, an extra 400 grams of body weight compared to the no supplement groups.
  • The meat group showed an 80% increase in upper arm strength, the milk group showed a 40% increase, the vegetable oil, no effect.
  • Finally, the children with meat grew up stronger, larger, and more intelligent as based on mathematics and reasoning tests.

The conclusions of all of these studies? Meat makes kids big, strong, and smart. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to get all of these effects by adding all the proper vegan supplements to a vegan diet, but if it is, we don’t know what they are. So eat meat, and be happy, healthy, strong, and intelligent.

Or, you can deny reality and be crazy. I’ve made my choice:

…what’s yours?


  1. #1 Rhiannon
    January 2, 2009

    Oh Ethan, I’m disappointed. Are you saying that a study showing that eating meat on top of an inadequate diet is better for you than eating oil on top of that diet proves something about whether vegan diets can be healthy? That’s not good science..

  2. #2 m.d.
    January 2, 2009

    I agree with Rhiannon, that is a highly illogical conclusion! Furthermore, it is obvious that a reduction in farming is quite necessary if the human race is to survive.

    “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” ~Albert Einstein

  3. #3 ethan
    January 2, 2009

    The studies on whether vegan diets can be healthy are very controversial. The answer is pretty definitive that vegan diets without supplements will leave you with certain deficiencies that are impossible to alleviate. But animals also provide us with a whole lot of nutrients, many of which we know and some that we’re not sure of.

    As for whether a typical vegan diet is better than the diet of a typical “civilized” person that includes meat, I wouldn’t be surprised if vegans are more health conscious. But I’m pretty positive that for developing children, raising them vegan is one of the poorest decisions, healthwise, that you can inflict upon them. I agree that a reduction in farming is preferable and probably necessary, but the root of this problem is overpopulation. Good luck addressing that one.

  4. #4 Rhiannon
    January 2, 2009

    I just think it would be more helpful to discuss a study that actually compares vegan diets to ones including animal products, instead of this completely useless one comparing oil to milk and meat. I’m not arguing that a vegan diet is necessarily healthier than a non-vegan one, just that the converse isn’t true either. The only supplement I’m aware of that isn’t available in a vegan diet at all is B12. I’d be curious to see which studies you are referring to, both on deficiencies and on vegan diets for children.

  5. #5 Tom
    January 2, 2009

    The book “Animal Vegetable Miracle” mentioned a study of Indian vegans who had moved to England. Back in India, the vegans had been healthy but they developed megaloblastic anemic after moving to England. The reason? There was too little insect contamination of their new diet to provide sufficient nutrients! It is simply not possible to obtain all necessary nutrients on a strictly vegan diet without supplementation. And even with supplementation the vegan diet will be suboptimal.

  6. #6 ethan
    January 2, 2009

    That is awesome, Tom! Thanks for that reference and that very informative story from the book!

  7. #7 Rhiannon
    January 3, 2009

    “even with supplementation the vegan diet will be suboptimal.”
    Do you have anything to back that claim?

    From a quick google search it seems that megaloblastic anemia is caused by a B12 deficiency. B12 is produced by bacteria and, as your story suggests, was available in a plant-based diet until relatively recently (through contamination). Its role and the need for B12 supplements is known; it is not very complicated to take a tablet every week.

    There are large numbers of healthy vegans and vegan-from-birth children out there. Surely this shows that it is possible to be healthy on a vegan diet? Again, I’m not saying vegan diets are necessarily better for you, just contesting the claim that you need to eat meat for proper nutrition.

  8. #8 Richard
    January 3, 2009

    All veggies and no meat makes Rich a dull boy. To all those vegetarians and vegans: Are you going to eat that steak? No? Cool, I’ll eat it. Thanks!

  9. #9 ethan
    January 3, 2009


    As luck would have it, I just picked up a copy of “Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World”. I will let you know if I learn anything as I get through it.

    Nutritionally, I know there are combinations of grains, beans, nuts and vegetables that can give you all of the nutrients (except for B12) and amino acids that we know of that our bodies need. The problem is that although these combinations exist, they are expensive, hard to find, and really cut down on the flexibility in your diet. You have to do a lot of research, a lot of work, and a lot of ingredient-seeking in order to have a healthy vegan diet.

    Or you can eat some meat. Not a lot, but one cow can provide all the necessary meat nutrition to feed two families of four for an entire winter.

    I think in terms of what it’s reasonable to expect people to do, it’s important to inform them of the nutritional benefits to eating meat and how many other things you need to do instead if you choose not to.

  10. #10 m.d.
    January 4, 2009

    How can we control overpopulation? That is a tough one, yes. We can start by all doing our small part. My current partner and I have agreed we will not have children if we are to marry although I am confident a vegan diet can be healthy for a child. That is one way to let two birds live without throwing any stones. Granted I am just one person but I am also certain that circles of influence do ripple….


  11. #11 Niels
    January 6, 2009

    Ultimately, the discussion boils down to the following Bose-Einstein condensate: How complex a neural network is one willing to destroy in order to obtain the building blocks for ones own protein synthesis? While I´ll be hard-pressed to snuff the inner life I assume present at the neural complexity level of pigs and dogs, say, others may hold different beliefs as to when consciousness begins (Descartes, for instance, believed that non-human animals and rocks share the same degree of inner life). Yet others may claim that the existence of consciousness in a particular organism is of no importance in determining whether or not that organism deserves moral consideration. Anecdotal evidence suggests that to the lions share of people, belonging to a particular species, race, demography, ideology or pyjamas cult, is the sole parameter determining the right to moral consideration. And seriously — why would anyone even consider revising such sound and historically cemented principles ? Cheers 🙂

  12. #12 Rhiannon
    January 7, 2009

    Hi Ethan,

    There are things to be conscious of when choosing a vegan diet, but protein (amino acids) is not one of them. Grains and legumes contain the essential amino acids and don’t actually have to be eaten at the same time to be absorbed and used by the body. Things that require an adjustment of the food pyramid we were taught as children are calcium and possibly omega-3s, both of which are available in plant sources which are neither expensive nor hard to find. (It seems like you already know about the environmental costs of animal products, which are only not reflected in their monetary cost to the consumer because of government subsidies).
    The question of what it is reasonable to expect of people is a different one from whether it is possible to be healthy on a vegan diet. For instance, I consider your initial claim that you need meat to be healthy and that that is common knowledge to be unreasonable. As for the moral implications of an individual’s actions, we each have to live with our actions. Knowing, of course, that killing sentient creatures for food is unnecessary…

  13. #13 ethan
    January 7, 2009


    The protein depends entirely on what type of diet you’re going to consume. For myself, personally, I strive for a caloric intake that’s about 50% carbohydrates, 20% fat, and 30% protein. This is very different from what the USRDA recommends, but is pretty close to what the UK recommends for someone of my build and activity level.

    I know of no vegan foods that are 30% protein except for tofu and/or pure soy protein, which my body doesn’t deal with well and which I don’t like the taste of in large quantities. So I would have to either find a way to deal with a primary protein source that I don’t like or sacrifice the nutrition that I want. I never said it’s impossible to be healthy on a vegan diet, but I do believe that no matter what vegan diet *I* were on, I would be both less happy and less healthy than I am with my current diet.

  14. #14 Jim Jones
    March 11, 2010


    Strange that if you asked vegans why they ARE vegans, at least 50% will tell you in some shape or form that it is “incorrect” to eat animals (based on who knows what). Is your argument is based on the welfare of the animal?? Science?? Hello?!? Lets take a time-out:

    Do you know how that brain of yours got so big, juicy and complex?? Well a long time ago there were two types of humans: those who killed and ate RAW meat and those who killed and ate COOKED meat. Those who ate cooked meat EVLOVED into the humans you know today. The other ones died off into the fossil record. End of story.

    So your vegan?? You plan to raise you kids vegan? Your whole family line is vegan?!? Your going to either: (i)evolve into another type of human (probably a smaller bodided, smaller brained species) or (ii) die off in the genetic pool. Meat has, and will always be a cornerstone of higher animal life. Its funny your acestors ate tons and tons of meat to get you to this point only for you to use that brain into thinking that meat is not beneficial to you.


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