Welcome to You Are What You Eat…or Are You?, a mini series about the ways that we project our identities through food.
One of the most popular memes on the r/RawMeat subreddit depicts Jesus sucking a long, anxious drag on a freshly lit cigarette. “God watching us set meat on fire after creating it as the perfect fuel for humans,” reads the caption. Is the oven sacrilegious? That’s the foundational principle of this community. Modern diets have been corrupted by an elusive cabal of global industrialists—Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Big…Beyond Burger?—and the only way to live in accordance with nature, as God intended, is to chow down on a veiny slab of uncooked beef.
The denizens of r/RawMeat seem to skew young and male, and their forum unfurls like a pamphlet for a profound new epicurean crusade. One post showcases a dinner of slimy minced liver; another derisively refers to those who prepare their meals as “food burners.” Men have flitted through countless different questionable nutritional movements and fitness motifs to crack the code of peak performance. But after the dust has settled, and the drums of whey protein have been cast aside, these guys decided that the truth was writhing right in front of them the whole time.
“I wouldn’t call myself a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t trust everything,” says Alex, a 19-year-old from Sweden who is a frequent poster on r/RawMeat and withholds his last name for “safety purposes.” Alex pivoted to a raw diet last year. “Just think about it: If everyone was healthy and in good shape, why would we need hospitals? Medicine? Healthcare?”
It’s difficult to know how large the raw meat community is. I’m certainly not the only person who’s slurped down a gristly cube of horse sashimi during a trip to Japan. (Grassy and gamey. Not bad, honestly.) And beef tartare can be found in any millennial-courting French bistro in the country. But the boys of the subreddit are far more fanatical about their allegiance to the diet than us casual participants. R/RawMeat has about 1,600 subscribers, and new posts go up once every couple of days. Most of them reiterate the dogma that uncooked food is better for our bodies and our brains; that untempered animal blood makes us strong, virile, and free of disease; and that mainstream dietary philosophy, which espouses basic food hygienics, is thoroughly wrongheaded. One must open their third eye to indulge in the raw meat lifestyle. After that, who knows what you might see.
“I suffer from pretty severe anxiety and depression. Whenever I eat a lot of raw food in my diet, that decreases. I get much more content with my life and focus,” adds Alex. (It’s worth noting here that no formal nutritional studies or professional dietary advice have revealed or advocated a relationship between eating more raw meat and feeling smarter, stronger, happier, or healthier.)
Immerse yourself in the community, and you will witness all sorts of eccentric epicurean choices. Mostly we are talking beef; raw poultry or pork isn’t nearly as popular. Sometimes the adherents chow into something relatively conservative—like, say, an uncooked skirt steak—while other times, the cuts for dinner time are far more esoteric. Fully unvaccinated beef, for instance.