USA History

USA History

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January 1, 1805

Nina Teicholz

The Big Fat Surprise

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Lewis and Clark discover that wild hunted game can be too lean for use.

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"Even Lewis and Clark reported this problem during their travels in 1805: Clark returned from a hunting party with forty deer, three buffalo, and sixteen elk, but the haul was considered a disappointment because most of the game "were too lean for use." That meant plenty of muscle meat but not enough fat. 


-Nina Teicholz - The Big Fat Surprise - page 18


Cap. Lewis went to hunt & See the Countrey near the Kamp he Killed a Butfalow & a Deer Cloudy all day I partly load the emptv Perogue out of the Boat. I killed 2 Deer & the party 4 Deer & a Buffalow this we Kill for the Skins to Cover the Perogues, the meat too pore to eat. Cap. Lewis went on an Island above our Camp, this Island is ab! one mile long, with a great perpotion Ceder timber near the middle of it.

January 1, 1845

The Chainbearer.

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“I hold a family to be in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel,”

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The Chainbearer.


The Chainbearer; or The Littlepage Manuscripts is a novel by the American novelist James Fenimore Cooper first published in 1845. The Chainbearer is the second book in a trilogy starting with Satanstoe and ending with The Redskins.[1] The novel focuses mainly on issues of land ownership and the displacement of American Indians as the United States moves Westward.


Indeed, for the first 250 years of American history, even the poor in the United States could afford meat or fish for every meal. The fact that the workers had so much access to meat was precisely why observers regarded the diet of the New World to be superior to that of the Old. “I hold a family to be in a desperate way when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel,” says a frontier housewife in James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Chainbearer.

Like the primitive tribes mentioned in Chapter 1, Americans also relished the viscera of the animal, according to the cookbooks of the time. They ate the heart, kidneys, tripe, calf sweetbreads (brains), pig’s liver, turtle lungs, the heads and feet of lamb and pigs, and lamb tongue. Beef tongue, too, was “highly esteemed.”



May 15, 1850

American Vegetarian Society is established

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Rev. Metcalfe describes the tenets of the American Vegetarian Society

The Rev. William Metcalfe on taking the chair, addressed the Convention in a few appropriate remarks, expressive of the objects of the Convention. So far as he was informed, he believed the objects contemplated to be, to promote a knowledge of the principles, and an extension of the practice of a Vegetable Diet in the community; - to induce habits of abstinence from fish, flesh and fowl, as food; and secure the adoption of a principle which would tend essentially to promote a "sound mind in a sound body." 


He observed that the subject was one of a deeply interesting nature. The preservation of health, and the attainment of longevity were objects of desire with every human being, whatever might be the tenure by which life was held. The subject of diet was confessedly one of interest to all, and one on whichall ought to have an accurate knowledge, especially as to its main principles, and their more immediate personal application. He had long ago laid aside the use of the flesh of animals, and had confined himself to the products of the vegetable kingdom. "It was nearly forty-one years since he had made use of any kind of flesh-food. He had raised a family, some of his children being present; and he had children and grandchildren who had never tasted flesh. The consequence of that system of dietetics had been altogether satisfactory. As a general thing they had enjoyed good health - better in fact, than their neighbours. When the yellow fever broke out in Philadelphia, in 1818, his residence was in the immediate vicinity of its appearance. He visited families afflicted with that disease, and yet neither himself nor his family were affected by the epidemic. The same exemption was experienced during the cholera of 1832 and 1849. All those facts went to confirm more fully, the sentiment in favour of vegetable food, long ago embraced, that the diet best adopted to health - best adapted to the true enjoyment of life, and to the development of all the higher powers of our nature, was that known as the Vegetarian Diet (Applause). 


They had met there to endeavour to form a Vegetarian Society, composed of individuals favourable to the adoption and dissemination of principles advocating the Vegetable Diet. It would be for that assembly to consider whether it would be well to organize an association of that kind then, or not, and to act accordingly. Some discussion followed these remarks of the President.


  1. That comaprative anatomy, human physiology, and chamical analysis of different animal and farinaceous substances, uniteldly proclaim the position, that not only the human race may, but should, subsist upon the productions of the vegetable kingdom.

  2. That the Vegetarianm principle of diet derives the most ancient authority from the appointment of the Creator to man - when he lived in purity and peace, and was blessed with health and happiness - in Paradise.

  3. That though the use of animal food be claimed, under the sanction of succeeding times, it rests only on the permissions accorded to man in his degraded condition, and is a departure from the appointment of the creator.

  4. That if any man would return to Paradise and purity, to mental and physical enjoyment, he must return to the Paradisaical diet, and abstain from the killing and eating of animals as food.

  5. That there is found in the vegetable world every element which enters into the animal organization; and that combinations of those elements in the vegetable kingdom are best adapted to the most natural and healthy nourishment of man.

  6. That the approbation of man's unsophisticated and unbiassed powers of taste, sight, and smell, are involuntarily given to fruits, farinacea, and vegetable substances, in preference to the mangled carcases of butchered animals.

  7. That flesh-eating is the key-stone to a wide-spread arch of superfluous wants, to meet which, life is filled with stern and rugged encounters, while the adoption of a vegetarian diet is calculated to destroy the strife of antagonism, and to sustain life in serenity and strength.

  8. That as there are intellectual feasts and a mental being into which the inebriate can never enter, and delights which he can never enjoy - so there are mental feasts, and a moral being, which to the flesh-eater can never be revealed, and moral happiness in which he cannot fully participate.

  9. That cruelty, in any form, for the mere purpose of procuring unnecesary food, or to gratify depraved appetites, is obnoxious to the pure human soul, and repugnant to the noblest attributes of our being.

  10. That the evidence of Linnaeus, Sir Richard Phillips, Franklin, Sir Isaac Newton, John Wesley, Swedenborg, Howard, Jefferson, Rouseau, Akenside, Pope, Shelley, Sir John Sinclair, Arbuthnot, and a host of others, living as well as ancient observers of nature, testify to the truth of vegetarianism.

  11. That in the vegetarian cause, a new field of exercises is opened up to the moral reformer, in which he is most earnestly and cordially invited to become a co-worker with truth, by adopting its teachings in the government of his own life, and by diffusing its principles in all his efforts for the elevation of his fellow man.

  12. That we will personally interest ourselves in promoting the circulation of publications calculated to advance our cause - such as the London Vegetarian Advocate, the water cure and phrenological journals of New York, and all publications having for their objects the promotion of a knowledge of the laws of our being.

  13. That we hail with great joy the progress of the vegetarian cause in England, where large societies exist, which, in one or two instances, embrace nearly five hundred members.

  14. That it is advisable to organize State and local vegetarian societies wherever practicable, with as littel delay as possible - lecturing and diffusing facts and principles in the science of man.

January 1, 1851

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Family of five allots 2 pounds of meat a day.

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A food budget published in the New York Tribune in 1851 allots two pounds of meat per day for a family of five. Even slaves at the turn of the eighteenth century were allocated an average of 150 pounds of meat a year. As Horowitz concludes, “These sources do give us some confidence in suggesting an average annual consumption of 150–200 pounds of meat per person in the nineteenth century.”


About 175 pounds of meat per person per year! Compare that to the roughly 100 pounds of meat per year that an average adult American eats today. And of that 100 pounds of meat, about half is poultry—chicken and turkey—whereas until the mid-twentieth century, chicken was considered a luxury meat, on the menu only for special occasions (chickens were valued mainly for their eggs). Subtracting out the poultry factor, we are left with the conclusion that per capita consumption of red meat today is about 50 pounds per person—or only a third to a quarter of what it was a couple of centuries ago.

January 1, 1857

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Trappers discover how a meat-only diet requires fat.

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"In the winter of 1857, a party of trappers exploring Oregon's Klamath River who came to be stranded "tried the meat of horse, colt and mules, all of which were in a starved condition, and of course not very tender, juicy." They consumed an enormous amount of meat, from five to six pounds per man each day, but "continued to grow weak and thin" until, after twelve days, "we were able to perform but little labor, and were continually craving for fat."


-Nina Teicholz - The Big Fat Surprise - Page 18

Ancient History

Books

The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body

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December 11, 2012

The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body

In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America

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November 12, 2013

In Meat We Trust: An Unexpected History of Carnivore America

Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection

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May 25, 2021

Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection