Eat Like Your Ancestors? Not Me!

Perdue’s Harvestland brand, best known for its chicken products sold in grocery stores, used to have an advertising campaign entitled “Eat Like Your Ancestors.” The campaign featured vintage-appearing photography and promoted the antibiotic-free brand that promised to provide all-natural food.

Harvestland, launched in 2006, is the number-one brand of antibiotic-free chicken in the U.S., and the brand’s other lines (which also include certified organic chicken products) are also seeing strong growth, according to Perdue.

“We all romanticize about how our predecessors lived,” notes Via creative director Amos Goss. “While we may not want to get rid of our smartphones,” when it comes to food, “most people would like to go back to a time before over-processed became the norm.”

You can

I have to commend Perdue for launching and publicizing a line of foods without antibiotics or other poisons. The health of their customers obviously is important to the company. However, I do have to question their marketing slogan of “Eat Like Your Ancestors.”

From what I have learned about the diets of my ancestors, I don’t want to eat like that! To be sure, they didn’t suffer with antibiotics. However, from what I have been told and have read, my ancestors ate natural foods… that is, naturally hi-fat, high-cholesterol, and high salt foods.

My older relatives have described the foods they were served as children by my grandparents and great-grandparents. A bit of reading reveals the common diets of earlier generations throughout the U.S. and Canada and perhaps elsewhere.

In the days before refrigeration and before canning was popular, most meat and many vegetables were preserved by the use of salt… a lot of salt. These were then stored in a root cellar or any other place that was cool.

Salt pork was one of the basic food groups of our ancestors. It was used in most everything, from baked beans to all sorts of vegetables. As a child, I remember occasionally eating fried salt pork as the main course at dinner and was told my grandparents did the same only perhaps more often. I shudder to think of the salt and fat (or cholesterol) levels I consumed. I believe my ancestors at fried salt pork much more often than I ever did.

As a child, I lived on a small farm where we had our own cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals, along with a large garden. My family ate real (high-fat) butter, cream, and lots of other high-fat foods. I well remember that one treat I enjoyed was drinking fresh buttermilk. I cannot even imagine how much fat was in a glass of fresh buttermilk!

We grew most of our own vegetables but most of them were canned and stored for later consumption. Canning appears to be quite healthy but I am told that earlier generations salted their vegetables and meats. I am sure the sodium levels were out of sight, contributing to high blood pressure and other circulatory problems: heart attacks, strokes, and more.

My mother reported that, as a child, her family had lots of fresh fruits all summer when those products were in season, but nothing through the rest of the year. Fresh fruits were not available in the off-season while canned, not fresh, vegetables were available year-round. Living in a northern climate, she only saw bananas and citrus fruits at Christmas time.

“Eat Like Your Ancestors”??? Count me out! I want to be healthy.

I am glad to see Perdue switch to antibiotic-free chickens but I question their advertising slogan of “Eat Like Your Ancestors.” I hope to eat BETTER than my ancestors!

What non-healthy foods did your ancestors eat? Do you want to eat like your ancestors?


Dick –See below 1 cup Whole vs Buttermilk nutrient comparisons. The only reason it is called buttermilk is because they let the milk “clabber” which makes it a little thicker — but actually it has significantly less fat and is generally considered a lot healthier for you.

1 cup Whole Buttermilk
Total Fat 8g 5g
Saturated Fat 5g 3g
Trans Fat 0
Cholesterol 24mg 20mg
Sodium 98mg 211mg
Total Carbs 13g 13g
DietaryFiber 0g 0g
Sugars 13g 13g
Protien 8g 10g

Calories 146 137g
(from fat 71 44)


    True. But the homemade buttermilk I drank as a child had lots of small pieces of butter floating in it. That had to be full of fat. I suspect the numbers you quoted are for today’s commercially-produced buttermilk.


Darlene Scotti-Tribou May 29, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Our ancestors’ daily physical activity (growing and harvesting their own food, tending their own animals, chopping their own wood, manufacturing their own clothing and most items in their homes, etc.) required them to have higher calorie requirements than we need in today’s sedentary society. So, in all fairness to our ancestors who lived near self-sufficiency, their bodies– as long as they were reasonably healthy– would have been better equipped to utilize the nutrients and efficiently burn off the calories in their fat-laden diets than most of us do today. (Dick, congratulations on becoming a vegan and that it has been a positive step in ensuring good health for you! Perhaps you could sometime write about how a vegan manages meals during hectic travel schedules like yours?)


    —> Dick, congratulations on becoming a vegan and that it has been a positive step in ensuring good health for you! Perhaps you could sometime write about how a vegan manages meals during hectic travel schedules like yours?

    With some minor difficulties.

    Most restaurants offer vegan options these days. The only exception seems to be steak houses. However, the restaurants near the St. Charles, Missouri, location of the NGS conference two weeks ago, seemed to be an exception. They had a few vegetarian meals but nothing vegan.

    My rule of thumb when traveling is, “When in doubt, look for a Thai restaurant. They always serve vegan meals.” Luckily, I have always loved Thai food. However, there were no Thai restaurants near the NGS conference location in St, Charles. However, in my 2,500+ mile cross-country drive, I easily found vegan meals everywhere else I looked.


    I read somewhere that unlike today’s roughly 2000 calorie recommended adult need that about the time of the late 1700s the basic adult dietary need was 5000 calories.


You are in error about the buttermilk. I used to make butter in a jar when I was little by sloshing the milk back and forth in the jar. It kept small hands and children busy, and it was fun to watch the butterfat clump as it sloshed. I liked making it so I could drink the left overs – the buttermilk.
The flecks of butter left in the buttermilk was just butter that wasn’t clumped and that would vary with maker.and put it in a clump you would have very little butter..
Washing the whey out of the butter was also fun.
Give me REAL buttermilk any time. It is not poison. Neither is butter poison, but that junk they call oleomargarine, is poison.

Do you eat eggos? Read the ingredients in that and then tell me it is better than what a chicken can give you. Eggs were a mainstay in our ancestors diet.two eggs and a few slices of bacon every morning.

You need fat in your diet in order to get the nutrients from other sources.

We have also been provided with canine teeth -that was for a reason, too.

We, as a modern day culture, want our food to be made in a chemistry lab and not the way Mother Nature privides..


    —> Do you eat eggos?

    Never. Also, no dairy products, no chicken, no bacon, no beef, and no fish. My needs may not be typical, however. I do not recommend my diet for everyone. After years of ignoring my diet, I was diagnosed as a diabetic several years ago. After bad experiences with prescription drugs that are commonly prescribed for diabetics, I threw away all the drugs and went to a vegan diet. My blood sugar readings today are lower than they were when I was taking the drugs. I also feel much better than I used to. It seems the drugs gave me several undesirable side effects, all of which have now disappeared. However, each person’s metabolism is different. What worked for me may or may not work for you.


All fats are not bad, it’s the over consumption of “bad” fats that lead to disease. Fats from grass-fed livestock actually contains good levels of omega 3. Eating over-processed, high sugar foods should scare you more than eating a pat of grass-fed butter.®-ebook/dp/B00BR3SKME/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1432987968&sr=8-5&keywords=Know+your+fats


There is one other note about dairy fats, however, in that the calcium in dairy products is a strong binder of those fats which means quite a few of them are carried through your system rather than absorbed into it. (For a quick example see:


Good for you becoming a vegan! Much healthier than being a meat eater. I’m a vegetarian (do eat eggs, cheese, fish.) I, too, was recently diagnosed with diabetes, but so far haven’t had to take any meds – just diet-controlled. Cut waaaay back on sugar which isn’t as difficult as it would seem. We gotta do what we gotta do and as you said, “What works for me may not work for you.” Cheers!


Please consider some wider reading about “eating like our ancestors” in light of your diabetic remission. Current research recognizes the role of healthy fats, a grain-free and sugar free diet, and adequate animal protein from free range/grass fed animals and wild caught fish in protecting us from a host of modern diseases. You will find important information on the dietary connections of heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s (now being called “type 3 diabetes”), the autism spectrum, and others. You’ll read about how the current method of cholesterol testing is erroneous as an indicator of heart disease. You’ll find out why “healthy whole grain” is an oxymoron and salt isn’t such an evil force. You’ll see that a vegan approach is better than some, but not the best for your brain and body. An entry point into the literature would be two credentialed M.D.s whose pioneering work grew out of years of mainstream practice that convinced them modern medicine’s drug- and symptom-based approach was a disservice to their patients. They looked for root causes and found ones that will surprise you. Their works are a lay person’s entry point into the scientific literature: Dr. David Perlmutter’s two books are:

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers

Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life

Dr. Robert H. Lustig’s book is:

Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease

These authors have their detractors (the grain industry, the soy industry, the drug industry), but I have to tell you that my social and business circle of highly educated and notoriously skeptical scientists has universally benefited from Perlmutter and Lustig’s advice in improving a range of diseases (including diabetes) as well as in reducing the “general complaints of aging.” such as aches, pains, and insomnia. Please give these authors a chance to convince you that there’s more to the “eating like our ancestors” story than you might imagine.

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    —> Please consider some wider reading about “eating like our ancestors” in light of your diabetic remission.

    Good suggestion! Since being diagnosed as a diabetic, I have read more than a dozen nutrition books and hundreds of articles on the web and some number of magazine articles. I still am not a medical expert but I certainly have learned a lot in recent years about nutrition for diabetics. I am still reading and learning as well.


ALIDA VANBRONKHORST May 30, 2015 at 1:25 pm

You need to CHOOSE the ancestor –longliving, clearminded, etc AND the year–since readers are of diff generations. Residence & job also may be factors. Modern choices are greatly affected by govt standards which vary wildly for diff products, as well as producers choices to go cheap instead of pure. I do not envy the vegetarians in my family but none are really interested in food!!!!!


These discussions about food are drifting off topic. When I wrote the article, I focused on the nutritional value of the foods our ancestors ate, including high levels of salt, fat, and cholesterol, along with the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables were not available year-round. I also mentioned that I am now a vegan.

With 20/20 hindsight, I now regret mentioning my own diet. The replies to the article have mostly been about vegan or vegetarian diets versus the normal American diets. In fact, I consider the idea of being a vegan or a vegetarian to be interesting but that is a side issue and is not relevant to the article concerning the foods our ancestors ate. I have now removed that one sentence from the above article

Let’s stop posting articles here about vegan or vegetarian or other diets and focus on our ancestors’ diets.

If anyone cares to continue the discussion about alternative diets available today, I can easily set up a separate discussion board for that or for any other topics that people here might wish to discuss.

Thank you.


I am 76 years old and I well member what my ancestors ate. It was so good tasting! Food now days is better for you, but pretty tasteless. I have a couple old recipe books that belonged to my mother and the ingredients would make you hair curl . . . everything called for lard and using the directions of the day, it’s a wonder everyone didn’t die of salmonella poisoning or botulism, at the least. My grandmother was a great cook and most of my ancestors lived into their 80s and 90s, but I don’t know why remembering what I ate as a child at Grandma’s. (Sure tasted good . . . . .


I wonder if the ancestors we should be copying are those from many generations ago–those whose evolution resulted in us and those whose physiology was adapted for what they ate. That is the way I try to eat–no sugar or only a few times a year when they could find a bee’s nest; no animal fat as wild animals have little fat–only in the offal; little fruit and that fruit with almost no sugar (unlike the fruit we now have developed with tons of fructose); fish as many of them lived near rivers, lakes, and the sea; meat rarely as it was hard to get; and mostly plant roots (and some stems and leaves and grains and plant fats) that the women would use as the staple. That’s what our bodies are designed to be able to utilize.


The diet of our ancestors turned on whether or not they were poor people. In the mountains of eastern Ky, beans were the protein for the poor and the first green thing to emerge in the spring was creasey greens, which I finally found in an organic seed catalog after years of hearing about them.


Thank you for this article. I have to say the catchy-title caught my eye and I read. I was also inspired. I am the Director of our Family History Centre and I am always looking for ways to get our congregation more involved in their Family History. So borrowing your title, we are having an “Eat Like Your Ancestors” pot-luck in July. Everyone uses one of their ancestor’s recipes to make their contribution and then the recipes are complied and distributed to those who would like copies. Thanks for helping inspire a great community event!


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