Meat digestion – fresh and raw or medium rare.

“If a dog team is worked hard daily for two weeks and fed with fresh fish caught under the ice and frozen without opportunity of becoming high, that team will lose weight and show definite signs of wear and tear.  If the team is fed with hung or high fish, they will be as good at the end of that time as the start, and often will have put on a little weight.”

-quote from a cool book Duck Dodgers sent me about digestive enzymes. 

“High” doesn’t mean psychedelic, but rather letting the meat sit for a time so as to allow it to tenderize, or “pre-digest.”

One study showed that protein breakdown, measured by desmin degradation, increased by roughly 33% if the meat was removed from the cow 24 hours after slaughter (“conventional”) instead of immediately after (“rapid”) (King et al., 2003).


King 1 


Another gem from the enzyme book:

“According to the law of Adaptive Secretion of Digestive Enzymes, organisms eating these partly digested ‘high’ foods will need to secrete fewer enzymes.  And the energy so saved may well be the very ingredient explaining the stamina and high energy levels experienced by Eskimos and other peoples on these rations…

The secret of the good health of the carnivorous Eskimo is not that he eats meat, but that he forbids his personal enzymes to digest all of it…”

The theory is that one might benefit by letting meat age a bit as opposed to eating it while it’s still warm…?  this doesn’t seem to be what Jeff Leach found during his stay with the Hazda – the hunters would eat some of their kill fresh and raw, on site.  Maybe it has to do with the environmental factors like temperature, the type of animal, or if they’re hungry?  Another point of incongruity, as Duck mentioned here, fresh raw meat may retain some proteolytic enzymes which help you digest it.  So there’s no wrong way to do it? …fresh and raw meat may be easy to digest because some of the meat’s own enzymes help out; aging also helps to tenderize it.  And simply letting it rot seems to work for Derek Nance.


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In any case, this is somewhat in line with a “Paleo” dietary recommendation: avoid foods high in protease inhibitors (eg, some grains).

Or just cook it: in this study, rhea muscle meat was frozen either immediately after slaughter, or 5 or 28 days of aging at 4C (Filgueras et al., 2011).  In vitro digestibility was assessed in cooked and raw samples by adding a cocktail of gastrointestinal proteolytic enzymes.


The Rhea, a flightless bird which resembles an ostrich.

The Rhea, a flightless bird which resembles an ostrich.


As expected, cooked meat was more rapidly broken down:


I’m not exactly sure why aging didn’t enhance the rate of proteolysis… for the time being, I’m chalking it up to a nuance of the assay.  Or perhaps the aged meat had indeed underwent some degree of degradation, but the intact proteins still remaining were proteolyzed just as quickly regardless of aging…


The original Rhea, a Greek Titaness.

The original Rhea, a Greek Titaness.


And while I’m pretty sure the digestive process in snakes is quite different from our own, or that the food tends to rot (or “auto-digest”) a bit in their gastrointestinal tract, this study was interesting (Boback et al., 2007)  – the researchers compared the thermic effect of feeding rats, intact raw or cooked beef, and ground raw or cooked beef, and showed that, to no surprise, rats and intact raw beef took significantly more energy to digest than ground cooked beef:


Snakes 1


Viewed another way:


snakes 2


It’s hard to say if this has any relevance for humans, but protease supplementation might help out some who stand to benefit from “the stamina and high energy levels experienced by Eskimos.”



Effects of a protease supplement on eccentric exercise-induced markers of delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage (Beck et al., 2007)

In this crossover study, the participants were assigned to receive protease supps or placebo and underwent eccentric exercise, which is well-known to induce “delayed-onset muscle soreness” (DOMS), or when you’re really REALLY sore 2-3 days after strenuous exercise, eg, downhill sprints (but they used a much less strenuous form of exercise in this study: forearm flexor).  The effects of protease supplementation were modest, but statistically significant reductions in strength loss were observed.

In another study, where downhill sprints was the actual intervention, similar results were observed (Miller et al., 2007).  It wasn’t a crossover study, but the exercise intervention was much better.  And here is why DOMS makes you want to stay in bed all day:




“…And the energy so saved may well be the very ingredient explaining the stamina and high energy levels experienced by Eskimos and other peoples on these rations…”  Most people attribute the benefits of protease supps to anti-inflammation, but who knows, maybe “the energy so saved” is part of this as well.

Protease supps even worked in children with recurrent obstructive bronchitis (Lanchava et al., 2005).

And at least one researcher thinks it may have to do with the gut microbiota:  “Where do the immunostimulatory effects of oral proteolytic enzymes (‘systemic enzyme therapy’) come from?  Microbial proteolysis as a possible starting point.” (Biziulevicius 2006)

I honestly don’t know if there’s a real connection between dogs eating “high” fish, Eskimos eating pre-digested meats (or those with intact proteolytic enzymes), athletes taking protease supps, Paleos avoiding grains, etc., etc.

Alternatively, this could also just be another face of the fast vs. slow proteins in bodybuilding culture.  Bollixed.  Ha!


calories proper


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  • Dustin Sikstrom

    I’ve made and eaten high meat (grass fed liver) and actually was able to tell a difference. Placebo? Possibly. You get pretty psyched up biting into something that smells like a garbage can. But I think there is something to the bacterial aspect of consuming rotten meat. If paleo types argue day in and day out for fermented plants, why not fermented meat? You’re after bacteria right? There is minimal risk when kept exposed to air and kept cold, the two conditions that “good” bacteria thrive under (at least the ones that love to eat meat) and the two conditions deadly bacteria cannot stand (E. coli, staph, salmonella). Cold with oxygen.

    Maybe this explains why I was at my leanest when eating only 100% raw steak for a month, with added raw suet to keep up my energy needs.


      fermented liver?! the garbage aroma is a bit of a turn off, but I’m curious how you made it. Starter culture?

      • Dustin Sikstrom

        Nope. Just put the fresh raw stuff in a jar with some of the blood to keep it from drying out (dried out is called the “old shoe” method because it gets tough and eventually grey/white/green mold grows, that apparently people eat and it tastes like cheese) and put in in the fridge or somewhere cold. Every 1-3 days you can open it and give it a burp to expose all the meat to oxygen again, more frequently causes it to age faster. After about 4 weeks you get the effect of what it’s named after: high. Not literally high, but more like a stimulant or mood lifter. No salt or anything. It tasted like… imagine the bacteria that yogurt produces, but from meat. Almost a good kind of sour. My dogs sure enjoyed it. They were my indicators of whether or not it was okay to eat. It is said by the raw community that dogs have a better instinct and sniffer than we do and they can tell if there are dangerous bacteria in there by the smell of it. Eh, IDK what I think, but I had them smell it and they loved it. I tried small bits and then went bigger and bigger. Definitely *not* comparable to delicious salami.

        Aajonus Vonderplanitz was the one who popularized high meat as he stayed with the eskimos for a while and ate their high meat. He was basically the guru of the raw meat world. Too bad he died.

        I think there may be a bit of a protective effect eating raw meat with bacteria compared to cooked meat with bacteria. I think this same concept of more difficult to digest makes your body produce more acid which would likely kill any harmful bacteria. But then in the same concept… could the good bacteria survive the more harsh environment? It blows my mind that *any* bacteria survives stomach acid.

        Speaking of fecal bacteria from your other post, apparently if an animal is given antibiotics or sick or they have something else occurring in their system which degrades the bacteria, they will seek and consume poop to replace the bacteria. Talk about yummy. :/

        • Like a canary in a coalmine!

          “It is said by the raw community that dogs have a better instinct and sniffer than we do and they can tell if there are dangerous bacteria in there by the smell of it.”

          This takes it to a-whole-nother level…

          • Wenchypoo

            I feed the strays around here a raw diet of mixed bison/chicken livers and egg yolk. Most of the time, they clean the plate (flowers and all), but there are a few times when they won’t touch it.

            Must be bad eggs or something.

        • “could the good bacteria survive the more harsh environment?”

          Usually not, or at least not very well. That’s why prebiotics are much more effective in shifting microbial populations in the gut. I think is one of the reasons fermented foods work well is because they are both pre- and pro-biotics… if I had to take probiotic pills, I’d definitely take them with GOS, RPS, or some sauerkraut, et al.

        • under no conditions would I “seek and consume poop to replace the bacteria.”

    • DuckDodgers

      Dustin, I think you are definitely on to something when speaking to the bacterial action. Raw meat is full of an enormous variety of glycans (really, many raw foods are). And while humans typically can’t cleave or break down glycans, bacteria *specialize* in foraging glycans:

      However glycans tend to be indigestible sugars (polysaccharides, oligosaccharides, tetrasaccharides, etc. etc.) and other complex compounds. In effect these glycans in raw foods are prebiotics and the bacteria secrete enzymes to liberate these glycans (they would be difficult or perhaps impossible to break down without those bacteria, unless destroyed or denatured through cooking).

      And these prebiotics may simply bacteria food or — in the case of plant compounds like polyphenol glycans — bacteria food that gets broken down into metabolites that alter our bodies and our flora in ways we don’t understand.

      So, this is probably more than simply predigestion. This may very well be about the “metabolites” from that predigestion! But, I suspect we will never fully understand it.

  • Danny J Albers

    Ive eaten fresh kill, hung, aged raw, aged cooked, blued, dry aged, wet aged, rare, medium, well done.

    Never once have I experienced this high or added energy beyond what ketosis normally provides.

    Seems pretty speculative.

    Inuits eat a lot of boilded meat and fish too which apparently is also amazing for improving digestibility.

    But one thought on digestibality never escapes me, I used to assist to change colostomy bags and never once did I see undigested meat in them, only plants. And these people obviously have gut issues.

    • “Seems pretty speculative.”

      I agree. *Very* speculative… just loved the way it was so poetically phrased in the book.

      “And the energy so saved may well be the very ingredient explaining the stamina and high energy levels experienced by Eskimos and other peoples on these rations…”

    • DuckDodgers

      Danny, I believe “high meat” takes months and up to a year to get the full effect. Wikipedia says that “Igunaq” is prepared in the summer and consumed the following year.

      Here’s an interesting video of how it’s done in jars, if you dare:

      • Wow.

        would be VERY interesting to see an AmGut on this guy.

        • Michael

          Oh lol, “don’t try this at home,” “extremely dangerous,” … Yeah, that must be why he he died from a fall after decades of eating like this. Oh wait, that doesn’t make any sense.
          Reminds me of the Vice article on the guy that only ate raw meat for 5 years.

  • Sort of topical but not exactly, anyhoo Lex Rooker had a good rant about our sissy culture being worried about freezing/cooking/aging/decaying/dirtying/etc of meat a few years back, well worth a read.

  • didn’t experiment with raw meats so far, would be interesting to see the differences in tastes. I think the “feeling” would be also different…I’d think of going fresh raw meat first and then do the “aged” ones

    • “fresh raw meat” is pretty hard to get, unless you’re hunting it yourself!

  • Esmée La Fleur

    My body responds significantly better to raw meat than it does to cooked meat, and it digests a lot better too. Also, the longer meat is aged, the more histamines it contains. Some people like myself cannot eat foods high in histamines, so high meat is out of the question.