Paleo Diet vs. Permaculture Diet vs. Feralculture Diet

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(Andrew) #1

feralculture dietary principles synthesis: version α.0.1

The Paleo Diet® is comprised of almost 100% neolithic foods. The Wild Diet is based on ~90% domesticated foods. And the Bulletproof® Diet confers almost zero resistance to acute lead and/or copper trauma. The “just eat real food” (JERF) camp defines “real” as the foods they say humans should eat and “food” as things that are “real”. It seems we have an Orwellian doublespeak thing going on in the world of ancestral health. One notable exception would be the SAD [diet, if you’re not averse to redundancy], which probably does contribute significantly to depression.

Of course there are things to be learned from the “grocery store paleo diet” framework (one mustn’t say Paleo Diet, lest being sued is on the to-do list). I’ve learned a lot from the likes of Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Hamilton Stapell (he referenced me in one of his talks, so clearly he’s a genius), WAPF, and many others online and in-person at the Ancestral Health Symposium and Paleo(f)x. The paleo 2.0 concept articulated by Dr. Kurt Harris is worth a revisit. So… please don’t take any of this as bashing anyone so much as paying homage to good ideas that can be taken farther.

A paleolithic dietary framework

  • Foods that drove human evolution (animal fats and proteins) and those that drove the evolution of pre-hominin ancestors (various plants) are both more likely to contribute to optimal health, and less likely for human bodies to react to them as toxins.
  • Animals have the ability to fight physically and run away as defensive strategies. Plants (generally speaking) do not have these capabilities, and on average use chemical defense mechanisms to thwart predation more often and more acutely than animals. This principle may be used as a heuristic for deciding what is or is not “food” for humans.
  • All things we may masticate and ingest exist on a spectrum from healthy to toxic along multivariate axes. There is no such thing as food.
  • According to the work of geneticist Spencer Wells, the human genome that has undergone the highest level of selection in the last 10,000 years are the (several) genes relating to lactase persistence (ability for adults to digest lactose, a milk sugar). Rather than a hint at mysteries with the human genome, his work shows that this is a bracket within which genetic changes have occurred. Also of note is that the ability to metabolize lactose is persistent in all pre-adult humans, so this genetic change is a relatively simple issue of “flipping a genetic switch”. We can therefore be skeptical of claims that humans have evolved adaptations to food X or Y in the recent past.
  • Archaeological evidence shows that humans in the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) likely only consumed seeds from annual grasses (“grains”) infrequently.
  • Wild humans and modern foragers all know that grains are generally extremely difficult to harvest and prepare to levels sufficient for human consumption. If other plant and animal sources of calories are available, grains are not part of an optimal foraging strategy for humans.
  • Not only do humans benefit from evolutionarily appropriate diets, but other animals do as well. The paleo framework implies paleo², wherein humans benefit from (at least) 2 degrees of paleo analysis, what we eat, and what what we eat eats.
  • Many modern farmed foods (eggs, honey, etc.) tend to be rare in wild ecosytems, and removing this natural limit may lead to negative health outcomes in grocery store culture.
    A permaculture dietary framework

Dr. John Kitsteiner has posted some preliminary thoughts on what a permaculture diet might consider, primarily based on the ethical principles, and how that might relate to human health. After attending his talk at Permaculture Voices (PV1), I came away very much appreciating his thought process. This graphic is his summary, but I think we can intuit more about diet from permaculture than it illuminates:

As originally intended by Mollison and Homgren, the ethics of permaculture imply many things that aren’t explicitly stated. Perhaps we could tease out a few that relate to diet:

  • In wild ecosystems, the ratio of perennial plants is much higher than what we find at grocery stores.
  • In wild ecosystems, the ratio of perennial plants is much higher than what we find at farmer’s markets.
  • In wild ecosystems, the ratio of perennial plants is much higher than what we find in most gardens.
  • “Produce all your own food” says nothing about the content of a garden or what is or is not more or less “human food”.
  • Toby Hemenway has moved toward interpreting permaculture as more akin to horticulture as traditionally practiced than agriculture or modern gardening in his conceptualization of “liberation permaculture” (audio).
  • Following the principles and ethics of permaculture nudges us toward biodiversity, and particularly toward perennial polycultures and away from monocultures.
  • Wild ecosystems include complex relationships of plants, animals, and other forms of life which convert sun, minerals, and one another into life. Things eat what nourishes their plant and animal bodies, not what an ideological system predicated upon reified thoughts and feelings of human whims, aka the anthropocentric notion of “morality”.

A feralculture dietary synthesis and extension

  • Feralculture is, by our situation in a particular historical context, a rejection of the monocultural paradigm, and seeks to move everything toward wildness. This is not a new idea, and we follow a tradition of many individuals and groups who found societies based on agriculture lacking across millennia.
  • The feralculture concept embraces the implied concept in the paleolithic dietary framework—that wild foods are closer to paleolithic foods than any domesticated plants or animals—and works to increase wild foods in our diets.
  • Feralculture embraces the concept that the optimal implementation of permaculture principles includes designing ourselves out of systems, thereby decreasing their dependence on humans, and decreasing human dependence on other humans in turn.
  • We recognize that wild ecosystems have been damaged by monoculture (including those labeled “organic” or “sustainable” agriculture).

Actionable Actions

Least Worstest (paleo-ish)

  • Cook your own food
  • Buy individual ingredients
  • Eat plants, and limit seeds.
  • Eat animals, including organs such as heart and liver.
  • Focus on variety whether considering plants or animals. Wild humans generally eat hundreds of species of plants and animals. Most grocery stores are limited to dozens of domesticated species, and hundreds of chemicals.


  • Eat processed or pre-prepared foods
  • Mentally reduce animals to “meat”. Aside from ethical considerations, eating only muscle tissue limits the range of vitamins, minerals, etc. in animal products.
  • Assume that having some adaptation to milk means that milk is necessarily healthy for adults. The picture is more complicated than: lactase persistence = yes/no.

Good (paleo-er)

  • Get to know local farmers from which to purchase organically grown plants.
  • Paleo². Source domesticated meats locally, and select those eating evolutionarily appropriate diets.
  • Eat a dandelion if you see one, and it’s not been decorated by a canine, and it’s not been sprayed by Monsanto® Green Death Sauce™.


  • Eat significant quantities of grains, if any.
  • Eat factory farmed animals.

Better. (permaculture + paleo-ish)

  • Start a garden and grow as much of your food as possible
  • Plant trees all over the place. Black locust? Apple? Don’t ask me, I don’t know what you’re into.
  • Integrate domestic animals into your the nutrient cycles of your garden and yourself.


  • Be limited by the monocultural bias of the culture we’re immersed in.
  • Let the ultra-domesticated ideology of veganism nor a culture that insists all land and life is a “resource” for human utilization override your potential as wild animal.

Best. (feralculture + wild)

  • Increase hunting skills and opportunities
  • Increase plant knowledge and foraging opportunities
  • Use permaculture to instantiate regenerative systems that feed themselves, and not only humans
  • Initiate a stepped plan to move away from monoculture and domestication, and toward the wild.


  • Set artificial limits in your adventure toward wildness, and the wildness of other life.
    This is by no means definitive. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions…

Paleo Diet
Are rewilding and minimalism the same thing?
Owning the Land: a blessing or a curse - Hunter-Gatherer perspective
(Kevin Tucker) #2

I’ve personally taken a lot from Nora Gedgaudas’s Primal Body, Primal Mind approach. I think there are elements of what could be considered a Feralculture Diet that override any ethical or reactive elements of “Paleo”/“Primal” diets. When it comes down to it, I’d eat the shit out of starches if I was living closer to my ideal when they were available.

But, I think Nora’s take on a Keto-Primal diet really shines in the sense that it’s a response to circumstance and upbringing that the SAD and its allies bring about. There’s a clear delineation between “this is what nomadic, IR hunter-gatherers ate” and seeking out permanent or long term ketosis that is a vital intermediary step in constructing any kind of hierarchy of Paleo-inclined dietary guidelines.

We have a lot of repair to do to our bodies and minds, so there’s a gap between what a feral hunter-gatherer diet and what a contemporary escape-plan diet might look like that overrides some aspects of your more practicality based outline here. I don’t think it’s a huge thorn in the side of things, but it does add another element to the discussion.

That said, “Paleo” does need a good boost of ecological foundation. That’s sadly missing. Considering the prevalence of animal fats that can be attained locally, the sheer mass by which Paleo*dieters and marketers rely on palm oil should be a massive embarrassment and it pathetically is not.

(Andrew) #3

At the 2014 iteration of PaleoFX, I had to be that guy in the audience from the sustainability panel who chimed in along the lines of: “This is a paleo conference, ostensibly promoting a hunter-gatherer diet and its implications, and everyone on this panel is talking about farming. Considering farmers basically wiped out the hunter-gatherer way of life…”

I don’t remember where I went from there, but it was super uncomfortable. It would be cool to show up at real-world gatherings of that community and not feel like a total outsider by talking about actual hunter-gatherer lifeways. Though I must admit that the rewilding ethos has infiltrated that community, and was even represented in other talks and panels. I missed the 2015 event, and perhaps things have moved even farther in that direction.

It was somewhat encouraging that at least one of the panelists did agree that we should definitely be talking more about hunting, and how to get people into it.

(Victoria) #4

It’s a shame that the american food industry is one of monocultures (and how I can rant about how terrible monocultures are, but I’d just be ranting at the choir). I remember hearing that there was a lot of research done down in Georgia at the Land Grant School (I believe) on using Honey Locusts in pasture land. They selected Honey Locust with small (or absent) spikes and high pod production, and got really impressive yields ( grass->beef and honey locust pods), but then there was a change in management and they decided that Georgia should focus on peaches so they chopped down all the Honey Locust. All those beautiful trees with small spikes and lots of pods are gone, and if you look for Honey Locust trees you usually can only find ornamentals that have big spikes and small pods. sigh

Have you seen Damnation? Seems like an appropriate watch for people of our ilk (especially @andrew with his packrafting ways). Free the rivers and allow Wild Salmon to recover (and then eat delicious, amazing, wild caught salmon).

(Andrew) #5

Haven’t seen it. I remember some passages in this where they talk about coming across dams in the middle of nowhere on the coast of BC and Alaska that are no longer serving any purpose, and feeling moved to dismantle them. Good read.

(hilary b) #6

Oh yeah, @andrew, I remember the 2014 ‘sustainability’ panel. Damn that was weird. I was up there with a bunch of annual/monoculture farmers, and I kept trying to steer the conversation beyond food, but soon realized it wasn’t gonna happen with the other panelists up there, and that the audience was probably not ready for much more than a 101-level glimpse into the world of “sustainability” in any case. Most ppl come to paleo to lose weight, and getting them to start seeing all the other ways in which an ancestral perspective can help them and the world around them is a loooooong process.

I was glad you raised the permaculture question, and I know I didn’t go into full-on AP rant mode when you asked it; in the split-second I had, I wasn’t sure how I could address the issue while not seeming (to the sustainability newbies in the audience) like I was gratuitously and randomly blaming all the nice farmy people on the panel for the downfall of humanity. I mean, sweet home-grown tomatoes and plump little piggies never hurt anyone, right? :smiley:

Fortunately, the 2015 sustainability panel was a lot better! Most of the other panelists were a lot more permie/AP/rewildy in their thinking, and the panel went much further and deeper. There were some moments of audience cheering, suggesting that some ppl were ready to accept these ideas, at least hypothetically. I felt a definite shift from 2014. Obviously the diffusion of a rewilding ethos into the paleo community has barely begun, but I do feel a growing receptivity. Ironically, there’s much more receptivity to these ideas in the paleo community than I’ve found in ‘sustainability’ circles; there are a lot of reasons for this, but it’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds. The PFX organizers are definitely hip to this stuff, which gives me (some) hope.

(Andrew) #7

Is the panel you’re referring to the one Lierre Keith was supposed to be on, and that I was an alternate on, but wasn’t paying attention? Missing out on that propaganda opportunity was a bummer.

(hilary b) #8

yeah, I was really bummed that she wasn’t there! I was so excited to have a fellow radical feminist to riff with, broadening the convo waaaaay beyond food. I didn’t know you were an alternate; i guess you didn’t either, till it was too late. Wish you’d been up there too. Could’ve had a critical mass to steer the convo beyond the pastoral ideal…

(Andrew) #9

Yeah, I’ve scored hundreds of pounds of free fat from local butchers who would otherwise throw it away. Doesn’t work everywhere, but there’s still a lot of good free stuff out there for those who don’t fear… DUHN DUHN DUHNNNNNN… saturated fat.

(js290) #10

Yeah, I use to collect the fatty parts of the brisket from a local BBQ joint. They said they couldn’t sell the fatty parts. Unfortunately wasteful and unsustainable.

What are your best tips for getting cheap/free animal fats?
(Andrew) #11

It would be cool to collect a bunch of tips on how people are getting cheap/free animal fat that would otherwise be “waste”.

@primalwar @js290

(Kevin Tucker) #12

Shared in the other thread. Praise the lard.

(Tim Beal) #13

Nourishing Traditions, I have the book but have not listened to Sally Fallon giving a lecture. Btw, I have very poor teeth.

(Inge Leonora Den Ouden) #14

Interesting discussion.
In my opinion it all depends on our ‘perspective’ on humans, animals, nature, Earth, the Universe.
I see it all as a creation we are part of, and therefore need to preserve. In every part of life we have to be aware, conscious. We need to know the effects of our actions. The way we eat, the way we get our food, as well as the way we get and treat all other things we use and everything else we do … we need to think very well (meditate) before we act.
For me this way of thinking leads to what can be called ‘permaculture’. The word ‘feralculture’ is strange to me; it implies ‘wild’ at one side and ‘culture’ at the other side. In my opinion ‘culture’ is ‘not wild’, but ‘tamed’ :wink:

(Andrew) #15

So are you saying that our hunter-gatherer ancestors 200,000 years ago were tamed, or that they didn’t have culture?

(Kevin Tucker) #16

That is exactly what I thought a permaculturalist would say.

(js290) #17

Historically, wild humans are exterminated for the “benefit” of tamed humans.

Toby Hemenway - Clash of cultures HG vs agriculture

(Inge Leonora Den Ouden) #18

Maybe the way I wrote this was unclear. I think it’s my view on the word ‘culture’. I see this by the question of Andrew here ‘… or that they didn’t have culture’. No, that is NOT what I mean.
To me the word ‘culture’ means: a habit, a way of living / acting, developed by (a group of) humans. So ‘cultural’ is not ‘natural’. To me ‘natural’ is ‘wild’. The hunting-gathering people had/have their culture. They have a certain way of life, their habits, traditions, their art, stories, etc. They do not have ‘agriculture’ in the sense of sowing, planting, growing crops. They ‘harvest’ from wild nature. But they, themselves, are not ‘wild’, they have their culture!
When I said ‘tamed’ I meant: not wild but developed; there is ‘a culture’. People always have and always had a culture, since the very first beginning of humankind. Hunting-gathering people make use of the wild nature as a part of their culture. They are not ‘wild’.
(The only people who are wild are those very rare ‘wolf-children’ and alike, who are raised and educated by wild animals. At least that is my opinion.)
Because the word ‘feral’ means ‘wild’, in my view it’s a contrast to the word ‘culture’. So ‘feralculture’ is a contradictio in terminis.

(Andrew) #19

It seems to me that assuming the position that there never was a wild human precludes much consilience on this particular question.

“Feral” doesn’t mean “wild” per se, and implies something domesticated that has moved toward wild, or has become wild. The recognition of our domestication through a hyper-mediated culture is actually why we use “feral”. In that sense, I think it nicely escapes the entire question of paleolithic cultural taxonomy.

Even if it didn’t, I like contradiction. It makes people think and invites discussion.

(Inge Leonora Den Ouden) #20

Thank you Andrew, for explaining. I did not know the word ‘feral’ (my language is Dutch), so I looked it up in the dictionary. there it said ‘wild’. Now you say it is a domesticated (animal) moved toward wild, I did some more searching (wikipedia) and yes, you are right. So the meaning of ‘feralculture’ changes completely for me. Now it makes sense! It’s about modern ‘domesticated’ people who go ‘back to nature’ in their way of living.

But still I like the word ‘perma-culture’ more. ‘Perma’ (permanent) implies ‘everlasting, all-inclusive, whole’. Permaculture (as a word, not as a theory or a system) includes all: nature AND culture, humans, animals, plants, minerals, everything from microcosmos to macrocosmos, from the beginning and going on for ever …

I think this will invite some more discussion :wink: