The nutrients of meat

Meat and meat derivatives have for centuries been one of the most important foods for human nutrition. The type and amount of meat consumed in the past has been conditioned by several factors (religion, social status and supply), but there is no doubt that the consumption of meat has played a key role in the development of human civilisation.

For example, the development of the brain and its function was only possible thanks to an omnivorous diet, which provided a lot of energy and specific nutrients typical of meat, such as vitamin B12. The human digestive system is typically omnivorous, and has developed capabilities and enzymes useful for the assimilation of animal and vegetable foods. Precisely the development of the brain and the social relationship with hunting related practices have contributed to the evolution of intelligence, the development of language skills and the ability in planning, cooperation and socialisation.

Homo sapiens is thus a perfect example of an omnivorous species. Only later did the environmental constraints, such as the need to support a high population density, accompanied by cultural adaptations (dietary restrictions and taboos, usually incorporated in religious commandments), transform meat into a relatively rare commodity for most people in traditional agricultural societies.

A return to a higher consumption of meat in the world began in Europe and North America with the acceleration of industrialisation and urbanisation during the second half of the 19th century: the past 100-150 years, have recorded the fastest form of evolution than in all previous history: people in a short time grew taller and saw an increase in longevity. Not only have health care and medical knowledge improved, but also nutrition has played a key role. In the second half of the nineteenth century there was still a widespread Italian dietary problem.

A substantial differentiation in weight and height was seen, that depended on the economic and therefore nutritional availability (especially in availability of meat and other noble foods): a 17 year old poor man had the height of a wealthy 14 year old ; at 19 the poor man had the height of a rich 15 year old and the height difference between a poor and a rich 19 year old was in average 12 cm.

In general, a balanced diet that includes foods both of animal and vegetable origin, fosters harmonious growth, but removing any one of the forty or fifty essential nutrients makes the body stop growing: only iron deficiency during the first years of life and its development can lead to a reduced linear growth and a reduction in the IQ of a boy with respect to his potential.


The Sustainable Meat Project

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.