A Sea of Grass

A lot of scientists, thinkers, and writers who concern themselves with food like to point out the ubiquity of certain items. The documentarians who made King Corn pointed out that over 80% of all the products in an American supermarket contain corn, or are made from corn (maize).

That number is a little lower here in Europe (because few governments subsidize corn like the United States) but let’s follow along in a similar thought experiment that is valid whether you live in Africa, Asia, America, or Europe.

Instead of thinking about corn, consider this: how many food products in your supermarket contain, or are made from, grass?

If your immediate answer is “zero”, I don’t blame you for thinking that way :) We often associate grass with the green short-bladed plant that cows eat, not humans. But plants are divided into families, and one is called a “true grass” (Poaceceae in the Latin).

True grasses include all cereals, such as:

  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Corn (maize)
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Sugarcane
  • Rye
  • Sorghum

Now that you know that cereals are grasses, let’s eliminate them from the supermarket. So that includes not just all the corn products, but all of the wheat and flour ones too (cookies, bread, crackers, rice, etc). Not much left, is there?

Wait! Almost all alcohol, whether beer or spirits, is also made from grasses as well. So remove all the beer, whiskey, vodka, and gin as well.

Now it’s time to consider meat. Almost every creature (including insects) can be eaten by humans, but most of the time humans prefer the flesh of:

  • Cows
  • Pigs
  • Goats
  • Sheep/Lamb
  • Chicken/Turkey
  • Rabbit

Every single one of those animals (when farmed) is fed on grasses, so let’s toss them out of our imaginary supermarket as well. Furthermore, since dairy products are made from grass-eating cows (or goats or sheep), we’ve got to also remove all the milk, cheese, and yogurt as well. And since eggs come from chickens, we have to eliminate those as well (along with mayonnaise and other items made with eggs).

The shelves are looking a little bare in this supermarket now! My goodness, what’s left?

  • Fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Some vegetables

Now isn’t that interesting? We’re looking at an almost textbook definition of what raw food enthusiasts recommend as the ideal diet. But I am not using this essay to promote the raw vegan lifestyle, as I’ll address that elsewhere. My point here is that if you eliminate foods that are either 1) grass or b) from grass-eating animals, then you have almost nothing else left.

Which leads to me to what is my point here today, that modern humanity is completely dependent on grass. If you are what you eat, it’s likely that you’re about 99% grass. Now isn’t that interesting?

Not only that, but if you look at the diet of the closest living relatives of humans – apes (sometimes just thought of as “monkeys”), you just might be startled to realize that they eat no grasses in their diet (in the wild).

Hmmmm…. we just might be starting to get somewhere with this :)