An interview with Derek Nance, the man who says he fixed his digestive health problems by eating uncooked fat and organs.
My night at Derek's place. This is him showing off the contents of his basement fridge. All photos by the author
When I was traveling the US a few years back, I met a guy in Kentucky who claimed to eat nothing but raw meat. As Derek Nance explained to me, he'd grown up with a mystery stomach ailment that persisted until he turned to a particularly hardcore variety of a paleo diet. Once he started eating nothing but raw flesh—scarfing down internal organs for vitamin C and noshing rancid scraps to boost his immune system—all his problems faded away. He'd even started brushing his teeth with animal fat. So I wrote this article on my night with Derek and his vegetarian girlfriend (seriously) and went on my way.
It's now been a few years and I was wondering about Derek. I gave him a call and it turned out he'd just finished a sort of meat tour through Europe. He said European meat sucked, so we talked about good meat, internet attention, and how my article lost him his job.
VICE: Hey Derek, you're still eating raw meat?
Derek Nance: Yep, I've even found a few people who can keep animals for me. I barter, trade. Sometimes I use Craigslist.
But last time we spoke you were working as a butcher?
I was, butchering for farmers. But after your article came out, this German TV show wanted to film me on the job. And the farmers were country people and afraid of the negative publicity. I called in one Monday when the German TV troupe was with me and my boss was like, "Here's your check, you're done." I was only getting paid minimum wage anyway. I was just there to learn.
I'm so sorry to hear that!
No I'm glad how things turned out. It started with Facebook. I didn't know the article had been published but I was getting all these foreign people from all over adding me, who I'd never met and didn't know. Then I got not only phone calls but offers. There's several documentaries now, it was just outrageous. I did a series called A Million Ways to Live, and featured the raw meat diet. The BBC, too. I also got an offer from Galileo, an internet variety show in Germany. They came over here and bought me a ram, but it got loose and we lost it.
That's insane. I don't think either of us expected that reaction. So tell me how you're doing now. How was the meat in Europe?
Well I'm in Kentucky, it's the bluegrass region. The soil here is good and the taste of meat is far and above anything in Europe. I was under the impression they have higher food standards over there but actually, it's sort of a police state. Like in England you can't get lungs anymore, even though traditional haggis is made with lungs, they don't let you have them. I was trying to find animal fat, because my diet consists of a lot of animal fat, but everything there is super lean. I trekked around London, finally found a halal shop, and they were trimming all their fat off. I tried to buy the fat but he was like, We don't sell fat, it's trash. Finally I insisted and he gave me a little bit, but the taste of it wasn't so good.
Can you describe how it tasted differently?
Low-quality meat has an element of sourness that's hard to describe. Grazing animals naturally pick out the types of plants they need to balance themselves. But most animals don't get to forage and only get one or two kinds of grass. This overburdens their organs. I've tasted these cows and they just don't taste good. I'm really particular. I eat animals that have a good clean pasture to forage from, a variety of species that they can choose from.
I understand you also went to France to meet one of your heroes?
Yeah, meeting Ingre was my primary mission. She's from Norway, 38 years old, and she's been on this diet for about nine years. She's 90 percent carnivorous. She'd go out and collect oysters, get like 100 of them in an hour, and eat ungodly amounts of them. She's absolutely gorgeous, strong, and full of life. Really exuberant qualities.
How does she live?
She lives on a horse farm to get the open air. She doesn't like the artificial life, so she sleeps with the windows open in the open air. She goes for a cold dip in the morning. She eats a lot of fish primarily, fish head smoothies.
Did you have a fish head smoothie?
No, but we did eat some whole fish heads. They were pretty crunchy.
What was the mission? To learn from her?
I'd never really gotten the chance to hang out with any others of my kind. She has this spirit about her, a universe-will-provide kind of energy. There's so much about that spirit that you can't get from an internet forum. You just have to experience it for yourself.
Do you think you've got some of that spirit?
I hope so. I'm feeling great. Of course there are ups and downs. I have four kids, spend a lot of time trying to take care of them. Plus life on the farm with a bunch of animals, I do get run down. But I recover easily and feel a lot better than I ever did before this diet.
So what's on next year?
We've got a lot to do with the backyard. Make a sauna. Might go to New Zealand or somewhere. Maybe Australia and go after a wallaby. They seem a little chubbier around the waist than kangaroos.
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