I was arguing with a friend:

I said: The Yulin festivals cannot be condemned by western culture, as we also kill animals in equally cruel ways.

She said: It isn't just that the killing is cruel, but it doesn't help us, as humans do not derive the same essential amino acids from consuming these less traditional meats (e.g. dogs, cats, etc) like they would from consuming more traditional meats (e.g. cow, pig, goat, etc) She cites her father, a geneticist, as her source.

Question one: Are my friend and her father correct? Does the consumption of a less traditional meat (e.g. cats, dogs, etc) provide fewer essential amino acids than the consumption of traditional meats (e.g. cows, pigs, chickens, etc)?

Question two: My friend also made a comment about veganism and vegetarianism (I am a vegetarian), stating that for the same reason as her and her father's above comment, people who exclude meat from their diet need to use supplements. Is this correct, or would it also be possible to just vary diet to obtain these essential amino acids?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is a big difference between amino acid production and essential amino acids. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jun 24 '16 at 1:29
  • $\begingroup$ Edited. Sorry about the lack of clarity. $\endgroup$ – XaNaX Jun 24 '16 at 1:35
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how there could be significant differences in amino acid composition between Cattle or Pigs and Cats or Dogs. They are all mammals, and therefore relatively closely related. The major proteins should all have similar sequences. This paper might have better information, but it's paywalled. Besides, if you only judge meat by whether or not it has the perfect mix of amino acids for human consumption, then humans would have the best meat because they already contain everything a human needs in the right proportions. $\endgroup$ – user137 Jun 24 '16 at 4:43

There is a difference between animals in their requirements for amino acids. For example, cats need high amounts of taurine (and can't make it) and when fed diets lacking enough can go blind. This is why vegans trying to feed vegan diets to their pets can be very bad for the pet. Animal proteins have sufficient taurine for the cat.

However, the meat of a cat or dog is just as a complete source of protein for humans as any other meat. All essential amino acids are there in sufficient ratios. Suggesting otherwise by her father suggests some confusion between the dietary needs of cat vs. the nutritional value of the cat to another predator.

Your second question is easily answered by looking up essential amino acids. Wiki is plenty sufficient to get the gist Wiki Link. In short, most plants don't contain the full complement of amino acids that humans require (and can't make on their own). So to get this full complement, it requires eating multiple plant products that together contain the required amino acids.

From Harvard School of Public Health

Protein is built from building blocks called amino acids. Our bodies make amino acids in two different ways: Either from scratch, or by modifying others. A few amino acids (known as the essential amino acids) must come from food.

Animal sources of protein tend to deliver all the amino acids we need. Other protein sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, lack one or more essential amino acids.

Vegetarians need to be aware of this. People who don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products need to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new protein.

  • $\begingroup$ Good info, but are there sources? Thanks $\endgroup$ – XaNaX Jun 24 '16 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ Animal meat is generally animal meat. I could find nothing about essential amino acid composition between different kinds of animal meat. You can find lots of differences in fat content and some differences in mineral content based on the species, but that isn't your question. $\endgroup$ – akaDrHouse Jun 24 '16 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ One more thought about her father. Cats do have a genetic difference that doesn't allow them to make taurine from other amino acids. This may be what he was thinking of, as humans and most animals do have this pathway. However, as mentioned above, this has no bearing for the consumer of the cat as food. $\endgroup$ – akaDrHouse Jun 24 '16 at 17:30

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.