Yes, we can eat raw meat. Aside from delicacies like steak tartare there is also an establishment known as a “sushi bar” that specializes to some extent in raw animal protein - you may have noticed these have become quite popular in recent years.
Yes, we can eat raw meat.
There’s a chance of getting sick from cooked meat, you know. Or salad - a couple years ago there was an outbreak of E. coli from contaminated raw spinach. There are plant origin food that are toxic if NOT cooked/processed as well - tapioca, gingko nuts, almonds (one or three raw ones won’t kill you, but a lot could), pokeweed, guinoa, manioc, taro… but darn if people don’t eat them.
Cooking does kill off bacteria, parasites and can denature some toxins. It can also break down fibrous foods (hence the practice of simmering tough meats for hours, and for cooking some vegetables thoroughly) to make them easier to digest. However, cooking by itself will not make *everything *safe to eat.
It’s healthy if you have to do hard, physical labor in an arctic environment to survive, as opposed to sitting on your ass watching TV all day. The “Eskimo diet” was never entirely raw meat, they did know what fire was, after all, and did eat cooked food as well as raw. Nor was it ever entirely meat, they did gather what wild plant foods were available during short summers. Arctic explorers of European and African descent who lived among them during explorations were able to eat a traditional Inuit diet without problem and suffered no ill effects. These folks were burning 5,000 or more calories a day to keep warm while working outside, under those conditions you need a lot of fat for the energy it has.
Arctic meat still has parasites and bacteria. And the Inuit also had a practice of burying and fermented some of their meat which definitely upped the bacteria count. And sometimes they got sick from a bad batch.
Historically, Inuit had little in the way of contagious disease, as their communities existed in small numbers and had little contact with the larger world. This meant they never developed genetic resistance to crowd diseases so when contact was made easier the Inuit died in droves, like other such isolated groups. These days, alcoholism and drug use kills a lot of them off early, not their diet, and it wouldn’t surprise me if smoking was common in their communities. You have to account for everything in the environment, not just food.
Not these days, at least not in the industrial world, or at least the “classic” ones like trichinosis aren’t. Modern beef in the US does have enormously high levels of E. coli, though, due to modern farming practices. When I was a kid salmonella in eggs was rare - now it’s common, again, due to modern farming practices, so in that respect meat is in some ways less safe now than it used to be.
Bad things you can get from meat: bacteria (E. coli, etc.), prions (Mad Cow Disease), toxins produced by bacteria (botulism), parasites (tapeworms, etc.) Of those, only bacteria and parasites were a real concern historically - botulism wasn’t an issue until we started canning meat, and Mad Cow Disease comes from the stupidity of feeding ground up sick sheep and cows to cows, which ARE herbivores and shouldn’t be fed meat anyhow. And cooking won’t help for Mad Cow or botulism toxins.
Again - plants aren’t perfectly safe, either. Things like oxalic acid, aflatoxins, and cyanide precursors all exist in this or that plant species, some of which we eat routinely. Cooking will render some plant toxins safe but not all. St. Anthony’s Fire or egotism is a disease from sick rye plants that can maim and kill, for example, and cooking the rye won’t help you if the rye is contaminated.
So, saying a food source is potentially illness inducing is no argument for vegetarianism, as plant origin foods are also potentially illness-inducing.
No one ever saw a bacteria until the 1670’s and the invention of the microscope.
The “germ theory” of illness wasn’t proven until the mid-19th Century.
We have ample written records and evidence of people cooking food prior to both those points in time. As no one prior to the 1600’s knew about bacteria obviously we were cooking meat prior to acquiring that knowledge.
Yes, we are able to process meats. I don’t know what you mean by “to what extent?” Meat is generally considered a low residue food meaning after our digestive tract is done with it there’s not a lot left to emerge from our nether regions. Plant fiber, which we don’t digest, is actually less efficiently processed.
The intestines allow the blood stream to absorb nutrients from food, so what it does to our blood is allow it to acquire various nutrients such as fat, amino acids, and minerals. You actually do NOT (normally) absorb proteins from your digestive tract, proteins are broken down into amino acids, absorbed, then reassembled into new proteins by your body. So no, you’re not receiving “lots of proteins”, you’re receiving lots of amino acids.
Keep in mind ALL food is a foreign substance you are introducing into your body, and food of any origin can be a problem if not properly processed. That is why your body has a liver and kidneys, to neutralize and remove toxins from your bloodstream, some of which arrive with the food you eat. That is why you have an immune system, to deal with bacteria, viruses, and parasites that might arrive with your dinner. We didn’t suddenly acquire these when our ancestors started eating meat, we’ve had them all along.
Or we’re omnivores, able to eat meat but not required to do so.
Probably the closest thing to the truth - as omnivores we should be eating a varied diet and over reliance on any one type of food is probably a bad idea.